UNDER THE PINK
A huge success in some circles, and still unknown to others, (y'know - TOP 40 fans), Amos showcases more of her considerable vocal and piano talents. Along the lines of her previous Little Earthquakes and Crucify EP, Under The Pink has oodles of good stuff.
Tori is certainly a one of a kind performer. She was a piano master before she was ten years old. Her delicate, operatic voice can lull you into a dreamy peace or sting you with gut wrenching truth. She knows rock 'n roll, too. She's covered Zeppelin's "Thank You" and Curt Kobain's "Smells Like Teen Spirit." Combine all of that with her incredibly sensual charisma, clean production and fine backing musicians and you've a winner. The first single "God" (that reached No. 1 on Billboard's Modern Rock Tracks chart and actually entered the Hot 100), is a quirky, scratchy number that I started to really appreciate only after about 20 listens. The irreverent lyric, "God sometimes you just don't come through, do you need a woman to look after you" is classic Tori. Other standouts (that I liked upon the first listen) are the catchy but vague "Past The Mission," the keep-your-chin-up "Pretty Good Year," "Cornflake Girl" and the very hard-hitting, soft and sorrowful piano-led "Icicles," which deals with child molestation.
Superb voice, piano, songwriting and mood setting production make Tori Amos' Under The Pink a captivating work.
The CD booklet contains all lyrics and is a soothing, computer enhanced graphic study in gray and white. And in her acknowledgments, Tori thanks Apple Computers: "It's Bitchin' what these things can do." (Alan Sheckter)
MUSIC FROM THE MOTION PICTURE BACKBEAT (*** ROCK ***)
Producer extraordinaire Don Was orchestrated a post-modern "supergroup" to perform 12 two minute classics that act as the soundtrack for Grammercy Pictures new film, Backbeat. The film examines the early, early Beatles circa 1961 (with special attention given to Stu Sutcliffe, the first bass player), when they were unruly young punks in the Hamburg, Germany club scene.
Instead of using old Beatles tapes, the movie's director Iain Softley went with this updated band, whose energy and talent breathes new life into some old favorites. They are excellent, fiery, fun, high speed adaptations.
The band is Afghan Whig Greg Dulli on most lead vocals, Don Fleming on guitar and backup vocals, Nirvana's supreme power drummer Dave Grohl, REM's Mike Mills on bass and backup vocals and even lead vocals on Bo Diddley's "Roadrunner." Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore also plays guitar to round out the Backbeat band. Soul Asylum's Dave Pirner does lead vocals on my favorite track, Eddie Cochran's 1959 unforgettable "C'mon Everybody."
All other songs on this album are super. They include "Long Tall Sally," "Twist And Shout," "Good Golly Miss Molly" and "Please Mr. Postman." The whole CD is only 27 minutes long, but the content is all killer and no filler. (Alan Sheckter)
MUSIC FROM THE MOTION PICTURE BACKBEAT (*** JAZZ ***)
This Backbeat CD is quite different from the previous one. Instead of two minute hard rockin' Beatles ditties, this CD is all jazz, and consists of seven tracks that are produced and composed by Don Was. Was also plays bass in this great lineup featuring Terence Blanchard on trumpet, David McMurray on sax and flute, Eric Reed on piano, as well as "Buster" Marbury and Luis Conte on drums and percussion.
Why two CDs of totally different music? Well, the movie is about "the fifth Beatle," Stu Sutcliffe (who gave the Beatles their name and early look), and Stu had two separate loves; the rock 'n roll he made with Lennon and the Beatles and his love for art. This CD represents the art side. Sutcliffe was quite a competent artist, and the CD insert displays six reproductions of his abstract art. On the CD itself, the music is a spontaneous, impressionist jazz sound that embodied the sound of that era, the early sixties, as opposed to the club scene rock of the other Backbeat CD. Nicely done. (Alan Sheckter)
The Brand New Heavies
(Delicious Vinyl/East West Records America)
My favorite local radio station has a feature they call "Funky Friday," where folks call and fax their requests for a special hour of funk on Friday afternoons. They play Sly and War, Digable Planets and other funky sounds; old and new. Well, one week they could simply play this new Brand New Heavies CD for the entire hour and it would be a fine show.
Self-produced and recorded in London, Brother Sister is the third album from the Heavies, who formed in 1985. The band now consists of Atlanta-born lead vocalist N'Dea Davenport (who among her influences are Aretha, Chaka Khan and Minnie Riperton), and three Englishmen Simon Bartholomew, Andrew Levy and Jan Kincaid on guitars, drums and keyboards. The result is a very pleasant, cohesive, medium-tempo, soft-party sound. Davenport's Afro American voice and the instrumentation of the Englishmen is interesting, and they mix well. There are 14 tracks, and all are strong. One has a reggae style, one has a killer sax solo, and all have a nice, easy "funk 'n soul" sound for the nineties. (Alan Sheckter)
SINGS LIKE HELL
Besides "singing like hell," Peter plays acoustic guitar, harmonica and piano on this nice, old-time, bluesy collection of traditional songs. They include "Rovin' Gambler," "Wells Run Dry" and "Down In The Alley." Case also gives us Blind Lemon Jefferson's "Matchbox Blues," Jesse Winchester's "How 'Bout You" and Roy Orbison's "Down The Line." He gets a little help with drums, bass and violin here and there, but it's mostly Peter covering all aspects of this soothing and well-produced collection. (Alan Sheckter)
The CD itself is fire engine red with thickly furred black cat claws coming out from the center like a wagon wheel. Nice design. But that's not what you spend your CD-allowance on. Ya wanna know about the music.
This is the fourth power-rock release from the band. Strong voiced vocalist Tyson Meade had a hand in writing all 12 tracks, many written together with guitarist Trent Bell. There are good melodies, relevant lyrics and plenty of sonic guitar passages and earnest drumming from these Oklahomans. The vocals can clearly be heard in the mix over even the most powerful instrumental passages, and that's a good things. Good solid rock cuts include "Pop Heiress Dies" (fine harmonies on the vocals, great guitar licks), the Gin Blossomy no frills rock sound of "Silver Millionaire" and the opener "Sore On The Floor" whose shrieks and double-time drumming are sure to wake the neighbors. There are more mellow moments, like "Loneliest China Place," and excellent English-sounding pop song that includes banjo and piano. More subdued is the sadly-sung, simple acoustic "Soldier On My Shoulder" that could bring depression to even your brightest day. Substantial effort. (Alan Sheckter)
UP TO OUR HIPS
(Beggars Banquet Records/Atlantic)
This, the third album from the British pop-sters was produced by Steve Hillage. Their first album, 1990's Some Friendly was a #1 album on the British charts, as they were at that time, the band that originated the danceable, melodious, mind-expanding Manchester sound. Their new album is a solid collection of ten neo-psychedelic, high-spirited songs led by the soulful vocals of Tim Burgess. Strong tracks include the very catchy single, "Can't Get Out Of Bed," slide guitar-filled "Jesus Hairdo" and acoustic "Autograph." Crafty English pop with broad appeal. (Alan Sheckter)
Dinner Is Ruined
LOVE SONGS FROM LUBRITORIUM
(Raw Energy Records)
These "love songs" are an eclectic collection of 12 various dissonant sounding tracks. Toronto's Dinner Is Ruined are four fellows, who beside the standard bass, guitar, drums and vocals bring piano, organ, mandolin, banjo, violin, bowed upright bass, cello, dictaphone and a bunch of brass to the table. Songs run the gamut, from the harsh opener "Carnival Of Sole" to the soft acoustic "Snowhite." Others fall somewhere in the middle, like the haunting, slightly off-key (on purpose) "Afro-Am Pile," and the satirically news-like narration of "Basic Training." Another interesting track is the anti-meat message of "Harry The Burger Man." There are a couple of haphazard instrumentals, too. Interesting set. (Alan Sheckter)
WHEN I GET OFF
(Voxx, Bomp Records)
This is an 18-track assemblage from Boston's DMZ, a band that existed in the mid-1970s. I tried to find the significance of this recording, but couldn't. The liner notes, written by bandleader "Monoman" (Jeff Conolly) have a smug, boastful air about them as he explained that DMZ, a New York Dolls inspired band was more vital and authentic than the Sex Pistols, Ramones and the Stooges. I hear rough and undisciplined rock in these 1976 and 1977 recordings, but nothing that sounds so vital, not to mention being so important as to have a reissue CD 17 years later. Oh well. Maybe if you grew up in the Boston club scene and were somehow enamored with DMZ then, you may be inclined to procure this rough CD. (Alan Sheckter)
Cool new stuff from baby-faced songwriter/vocalist/guitarist Francis Dunnery. A vast array of styles are represented in this collection of easy-going, yet hip and fashionable tracks. The lead track and single "American Life In The Summertime" is a catchy, strumming number, "Homegrown" (about family, not herb) is a fine example of soft white funk, and "Fade Away" has a distinct reggae flavor. Great lyrics and an overall musical quality that'll give you a peaceful, easy feeling. (Alan Sheckter)
Colin Gregory, the main force of England's The Dylans leads the band (with a partially new lineup) on 12 tracks. High spirited and hard rocking, as on the single "Grudge," these guys can cook. A bit of psychedelia, a bit of rave and a bit of pop make a nice mix of post-modern sound. (Alan Sheckter)
Billy Eli & Lost In America
SOMETHING'S GOING ON
(Music Lane Records)
P.O. Box 3829, Austin, TX 78764
This self-produced debut album by Billy Eli and friends is another example of the growing national reputation of product emanating from Austin, TX. Walking the line between rock and country, Something's Going On combines a tight, American moderate-rock sound and vocal treatments that are somewhat reminiscent of Tom Petty or John Mellencamp, with a true Texas-sounding lead guitar twang, courtesy of Jordan Egler. Billy Eli plays acoustic and other electric guitars and sings all of the songs. Egler, Eli and drummer Phil Achee are the central figures in this nine-song CD of easy going rocking song. There are several strong selections including the title track and "Compared To What," which was a finalist in this year's Austin Songwriter's Contest. Check it out. (Alan Sheckter)
MARVIN THE ALBUM
What a charming album! Even the LP's name is cute! The Australian four-member band Frenté, led by the charismatically pretty voice of Angie Hart formed in 1988. They received a readers' poll new group of the year award from Rolling Stone Australia. Now, the big push in the States. Hart's voice is clear and has a calming innocence to it, especially on the two-minute cover of New Order's "Bizarre Love Triangle." Other standouts include "Labour Of Love" and "Ordinary Angels." I still don't know if it's adult alternative or pure pop, but I like it. (Alan Sheckter)
(Play It Again Sam Records/Epic)
Front 242 has been on the musical scene since 1981. Their style has been aptly labeled as "electronic body music." They keep their blend of heavy techno/industrial textures coming with 05:22:09:12 OFF. Their second release for the calendar year 1993, this CD proudly displays the instrumental and production talents of band members Daniel B. and Patrick Codenys. The 16 tracks (there are two bonus tracks), fit together very well, each with a different electronic groove within the same broad genre. Big-sounding drums lay down a beat that the keyboards and other computerized instrumentation follow. Electronically altered female vocal passages here and there, on "Crushed" for example, add to the mix. Very inventive music without even one dull track, make Front 242's latest a killer collage of images and sound, perfect for today's post-modern dance floor. And if you are not one to groove on the dance floor, just sit back and "feed your head." (Alan Sheckter)
Frankie Goes To Hollywood
BANG!... THE GREATEST HITS
Remember the "Frankie says..." slogans? Yeh, me too. I snickered when I first saw this one, but there are plenty of goodies here to make it a winner. The band, whose name was inspired by Frank Sinatra's move into the movie industry, is most famous here in the States for their 1984 techno-dance-rock hit "Relax" as well as their follow-up hit, "Two Tribes." They are both here as is the original 12" New York mix of "Relax." Another minor hit, "Welcome To The Pleasuredome" is also here as you might expect.
The surprise to me are the inclusions of three fine covers. First is a respectful, easy version of the 1965 Gerry And The Pacemakers "Ferry Cross The Mersey." Also included is a funky, orchestral rendition of Edwin Starr's 1970 hit "War" and even Springsteen's "Born To Run." Check it out! (Alan Sheckter)
Jerry Garcia/David Grisman
NOT FOR KIDS ONLY
Not For Kids Only is a joyous, sparkling, one of a kind collection from old folkies Garcia and Grisman. They playfully and skillfully run through 12 American classics, many of which can be traced back over 100 years.
Though the album's title refutes it, these cute, playful arrangements are aimed at little folks. But parents of the little folks will certainly want to listen along too. Songs include "Jenny Jenkins," complete with jew's harp accompaniment, Elizabeth Cotten's oft-covered "Freight Train" and the classic "Teddy Bears' Picnic." Also included are "A Horse Named Bill," in which Jerry sings whimsical lyrics to the tune of "I Wish I Was In Dixie," and the ageless "Arkansas Traveler," kind of a combined fiddle tune and comedy skit.
Garcia sticks to acoustic guitar and lead vocals while Grisman adds his world class talents on mandolin, banjo and backing vocals.
The CD states that all proceeds from the publishing of these songs will go to the Carousel Fund, a California organization dedicated to assisting families with children who suffer from a catastrophic illness. All artwork is by Jerry Garcia. Not For Kids Only is a great album to put on where both kids and grown-ups are present. (Alan Sheckter)
The Golden Palominos
A HISTORY (1982-1989)
This is an essential 2-CD collection for anyone with an infatuation with and/or curiosity about the "virtual rock group," the Golden Palominos. Each CD clocks in at over 70 minutes. A steady lineup for the band really does not exist, except for anchor percussionist and composer Anton Fier, bassist Bill Laswell and guitarist Nicky Skopelitis.
The big feature of the Palominos ever-changing, experimental, technologically inventive assemblage are the big names that have been "in the band" over the years. How's this for contributors: Richard Thompson, Michael Stipe, Syd Straw, John Lydon, Jack Bruce, Sneaky Pete, Matthew Sweet and T-Bone Burnett? They are all here.
You get six songs from the self-titled first album, eight from 1985 LP Visions Of Excess, nine from 1986's Blast Of Silence and six from their fourth album, A Dead Horse (and you can't beat that one - sorry, couldn't resist).
From the inventive electronic sound of 1983 through the soft acoustic ballads of 1989, you get Palominos in one neat package. (Alan Sheckter)
The Hair & Skin Trading Company
Formed in 1991 and named after an old warehouse in London, TH&STC offer their second full-length release. The three piece band, which consists of guitar, bass, drums and vocals, make quite a lot of music. Not to be fenced in to the parameters of any particular category, the band lays down complex rhythms and augment the ever changing moods with guitar and vocal layers. Sometimes hypnotic, as on the soft, numbing vocal passages of "Loa," sometimes psychotic, as evidenced by the searing, sonic guitar on "Machine Gun," there are numerous sounds and ideas to absorb. But beware, if you aren't careful, the songs within may sneak past your ears and influence your spirit and psyche. (Alan Sheckter)
The Julianna Hatfield Three
BECOME WHAT YOU ARE
Casual radio listeners may think that Julianna Hatfield came out of nowhere with the love/hate sibling single, "My Sister." Not so, top-40 breath! While still a teen, Hatfield was in another trio, The Blake Babies. They lasted from about 1986-1990, until they faded away.
Become What You Are is Hatfield's second album since. The other two of the Hatfield Three are long-time chum and bassist Dean Fisher as well as Todd Philips on drums. The CD is 12 tracks of crafty, energetic, catchy pop, each clocking in at 2½ to 4½ minutes, the classic length of a single. Hatfield plays all guitars, sings and wrote all of the songs. And cool songs they are. Suitable for teens and olders alike, Julianna's sweet Susanna Hoffs/Belinda Carlisle voice adds an easy-to-relate-to innocent charm to her songs, without the bubblegum image those other two vocalists offered.
Hatfield is bright and clever and her personal observations of the world (she grew up in a nice suburban Boston town) find their way into the lyrics of her songs. Most of the lyrics are quite literal and not made to be cloaked in a curtain of mystery.
The first track, "Supermodel," starts off instantly with the oh-so-true lyric, "The highest paid piece of ass, y'know it's not gonna last, those magazines wind up in the trash." She goes on to make the mocking comment, "$5000 a day is what they pay my baby for a pretty face." Other notable tracks of observation and angst are "Feelin' Massachusetts," the more mellow single "For The Birds," the intense, serious rocking "A Dame With A Rod" as well as "Spin The Bottle."
I like Julianna Hatfield's songs. They are easy to take, have relevant, modern, MTV-generation-life-in-America messages and come with snappy band accompaniments. (Alan Sheckter)
THE MADCAP ADVENTURES OF THE AVOCADO OVERLORD
The Hatters new album has a totally lovable avocado on the front, a photo of the band relaxing outdoors on the back, and 13 tactful and exciting rockers on the inside. Adam Hirsh is the lead vocalist, guitar picker and chief songwriter. The band formed in Philadelphia in 1988 and later relocated to New York, where they've gained a large following, mostly as a result of intense live shows. Having come up the ranks like the Spin Doctors and Blues Traveler (John Popper of Blues Traveler lends a harmonica passage to the cool tune, "Sip Of Your Wine"), the band got Atlantic's attention - hence this major label debut.
There are a lot of ingredients in the Hatters sound. Allman Brothers, Skynyrd and Black Crowes sounds can all be heard. That's not to say that the Hatters don't stand out on their own, 'cause they do. Powerful ballad "I Could Be The One," cucumber-cool, funky "Dig The Ribbit" and the finale "When I Write My Last Song" (which also appears on the band's 1993 EP Live Thunderchicken) are all winners. Very talented musicianship is the key factor in making the Hatters impossible to overlook. (Alan Sheckter)
Frontwoman Mary Timony leads the Boston trio on six tracks of dissonant, moody excellence on the band's first EP (oops, there's a one-minute 7th "bonus track" of carnival-like instrumental strangeness at the end).
Their enthralling sound is not soothing and poppish, but then that's not what they're after. Ex-Dumptruckers Brian Dunton (bass) and Shawn King Devlin (drums) lay down exploratory, fuzzed-out layers of rhythm that Timony rides on top of with her ominous guitar and Liz Phair-like voice. She conjures up an image of a sweet spoken girl with a knife behind her back that she's not afraid to use. Timony wrote the six main songs and sets the moods with her emotional, bold lyrics:
and watch me like TV,
you wanna hold me,
collect me like rubies,
talk about me like a movie.
You're so dirty.
Along with the captivating guitars, deep lyrics and Mary's foreboding voice is Helium's ability to stretch out instrumentally. None of the songs are rushed and each seems open to even longer improvisational live jamming. Their recent shows with Pavement must've been something to behold.
Emotion, beauty, talent, moodiness, humor, sarcasm and cohesiveness help describe the awesome, one-of-a-king trio Helium. (Alan Sheckter)
James was formed in Manchester back in 1983. They jumped onto the British new wave pop scene with a folky sound that many critics and other musicians embraced. They've had success in England all along, and that prosperity has now saturated America. Laid was produced by legend Brian Eno. In fact, James and Eno recorded enough material for an additional double album of experimental, industrial jamming (to be released- someday).
Laid is easy on the ears. Singer Tim Booth's tenor vocals ride atop the often-present acoustic strumming and quiet electric slide guitars. Group co-founder Jim Glennie's strong bass, Mark Hunter's subtle keyboards and David Baynton's "power drums" fill out the irresistible sound. The title track and first single "Laid," a joyous piece of English acoustic pop, has scored high with American modern rock and adult alternative audiences. Other standouts are "Sometimes," which is filled with acoustic guitar strumming and the upbeat "Low Low Low" ( for which folks had lobbied to be England's 1994 World Cup soccer theme). There are moody pieces as well. The quiet "Lullabye," brooding "Dream Thrum" and whispering personality of opening track "Out To Get You" are all strong, emotional tracks. Very inventive music combined with quite fresh production, make this a winner with broad appeal. (Alan Sheckter)
FOR YOUR OWN SPECIAL SWEETHEART
Driving, high-decibeled guitars, bass and drums, combined with vague but overall negative lyrics of despair and angst describe the sounds of Jawbox.
The Washington DC quartet's latest release kicks off with two compelling, kick-ass tracks, "FF-66" and "Savory," (a new arrangement of a previously recorded tune). Other songs range from the more sedate (but nevertheless powerful) "Cooling Card" and the excellent Alice In Chains-sounding drone of ballad "Green Glass," to the very up-tempo, chaotic "Jackpot Plus!" and pounding "Chicago Piano." A fine post-punk package. (Alan Sheckter)
(Wax Trax! Records)
KMFDM (initials for a German phrase that roughly translates into "No pity for the majority") have been around for about ten years. Their style is a mix of speed metal and industrial metal with some electronic hardcore (as in "Lust") thrown in. Led by Sasha Konietzko on vocals, percussion and programming, and En Esch on vocals, percussion and guitar, the band also boasts two more guitarists on this album. Some good musical and lyrical ideas (as in the single "A Drug Against War"), KMFDM blasts a breakneck paced bundle of songs in your face. To their credit, there are legitimate constructive observations and concerns expressed in Angst's lyrics, not just negativity. Still, I don't know why it is still fashionable to have all lyrics sung in that forced, gravelly, Linda Blair-in-the-Excorcist-voice that metal bands often use. (Alan Sheckter)
Veteran guitarist/songwriter Billy Coté and Manhattan's ex-busker Mary Lorson are the songwriters and driving forces of Madder Rose. Panic On, the follow-up to their highly acclaimed debut is great. Lorson's lovely voice is a natural for sweeping, soothing songs like "Almost Lost My Mind" and "Car Song," and also fits rockers like "Drop A Bomb" and the bass-laden "Ultra Anxiety" quite well. Other good tunes are the Sundays-like "Panic On" and 90s-psychedelic "What Holly Sees."
Great alternative pop-rock with a pleasing variety of moods. Oh, and keep the CD player on for the haunting weirdness of track 99. (Alan Sheckter)
The Maltese Goddess
THE MALTESE GODDESS
Now for something completely different. The Maltese Goddess is "a cosmic movie in 3-D sound." ZBS urges you to listen on headphones to completely experience a new dimension in audio delights.
The actual story involves Ida, who's father has just died. She goes to Philadelphia to close down his detective agency, but when she sees his notes on his last case (involving a stolen statue called The Maltese Goddess), she chooses to take on the case. Ida gets involved with a cult where she is initiated with poisonous snake venom that causes hallucinatory visions and contact with the spiritual world.
Interesting idea for the CD medium. Reminds me of mystery stories I used to hear late at night on AM radio as a kid. Pretty cool. Call ZBS for info on other supernatural journeys around the world with Indiana Jones-type Jack Flanders and Ruby, the Galactic Gumshoe. (Alan Sheckter)
SO TONIGHT THAT I MIGHT SEE
This is the latest from that most excellent 90s soft-psychedelic rock band, Mazzy Star. Along with the dark and erotic voice of Hope Sandoval, soft guitars, tambourines and drums move along nicely at a slow to moderate pace. Excellent tracks are "Fade Into You," whose intro is a dead ringer for Dylan's "Knockin' On Heaven's Door," "Mary Of Silence" that has the eerieness of Jim Morrison's "The End," and the tribal spaciness of the title track. Along the same audio pace and volume as the Cowboy Junkies. It's a nice, relaxing mood enhancer. (Alan Sheckter)
FREEDOM KNOWS MY NAME
Melanie's back! She's the folk singer who's been around since the early days of the Fillmore and who became a star after she performed solo at Woodstock. Melanie got the audience at Woodstock to light candles and matches. It became a concert tradition that she is rarely credited for having started. Melanie had a huge hit with "Brand New Key" in 1972 and then took some time away from touring to raise children.
Along comes this jam-packed CD which contains background vocals by all three of Melanie's now-grown children. It's on her husband's record label which means she was able to record exactly what and how she wanted. Freedom contains nine songs plus six bonus advance tracks from her next release. Included are superb renditions of Jimi Hendrix's "Purple Haze," Cheryle Wheeler's "Estate Sale" and "Arrow" and Bob Dylan's "Hard Rain." A few of Melanie's new originals are destined to become classics including "In My Rock And Roll Heart," "Live Coal" and the title track.
If you remember Melanie, or simply enjoy passionate, soulful singing and lyrics that ring of honesty, be sure to check out this disc. (Netta Gilboa)
John Michael Montgomery
KICKIN' IT UP
As a rule, Gray Areas doesn't look at country music. But, since John Michael Montgomery's current LP sneaked up to #1 on the Billboard overall Top 200 Albums Chart (as well as an extended period atop the Country Albums Chart), and since this CD crossed my desk, I thought I'd give it a listen.
There are ten well-produced, danceable songs of love and life with Montgomery singing the lead vocals. Popular singles like "I Swear" and "Rope The Moon," both slow, syrupy acoustic ballads, as well as more upbeat songs work because of the backing band (which all include pedal steel guitar and fiddle). Still not my cup of tea, but if you want to be up close with the latest country artist to cross over into the pop world, get Kickin' It Up. (Alan Sheckter)
IN MY TIME
Musselwhite is a blues master most well known for his accomplished harmonica, and on In My Time, he proves that one leg is definitely rooted in the blues of days gone by.
Born in Mississippi before moving to Memphis and then Chicago, Musselwhite earned legendary blues status by crossing musical paths with many masters, such as Otis Rush, Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Big Joe Williamson and others.
Turning 50 this year, Musselwhite also proves that the other leg is directed to the present and looks to the future as one of the primary torchbearers of traditional American blues. On In My Time, Charlie also plays guitar on four of the 16 tracks, and also eloquently and soulfully provides the albums vocals.
Opening number "Stingaree" highlights slide guitar and "Brownsville Blues" exhibits Musselwhite's blues guitar talents. Harmonica virtuosity is all over the place too, as on Sonny Boy Williamson's "The Big Boat" as well as on "Watson's Excellent Adventure" and on the happy sounds of "Movin' And Groovin'." His excellent performance on closing gospel number "Bedside Of A Neighbor" is also moving.
Great harp, songwriting, song adaptation and a solid backing band make Charlie Musselwhite's In My Time a classy high water mark that blues enthusiasts will enjoy for years to come. (Alan Sheckter)
OVER THE EDGE VOLUME 5 - CROSLEY BENDIX RADIO REVIEWS
(Seeland Records/Universal Media Netweb)
Over The Edge is a weekly radio show broadcast in the wee-hours on Berkeley, California's KPFA since 1981. It's a strange experimental show, featuring Don Joyce and his spoken word performances about eclectic topics, combined with sound effects and real-time audience participation.
This album, which Negativland produced themselves, is their first on Seeland after a rocky courtship with the SST label. Crosley Bendix is the fictitious "cultural reviewer and director of stylistic premonitions for the Universal Media Network.
This album is a collection of his eccentric radio spots. The ten selections range from three to eleven minutes and cover the years between 1984 to 1993. Crosley Bendix comes across like a combination of narrators Andy Rooney, Paul Harvey and Garrison Keillor. Though Negativland usually releases busy, intricate works with lots of electronic noise and sampling, this somewhat one-dimensional product provides many, many cultural insights that might just rub off on you! (Alan Sheckter)
An oroboros is a snake that bites its own tail, symbolizing continuity as well as change. The band has been together for about 15 years. Changes have come, yet the importance of the music and the "oneness" with their fans has remained constant. This CD was recorded live on a club-date tour in early 1993. From their hometown of Cleveland to Breckenridge, CO, they lay down their energetic, post-Dead Head neo-psychedelic sound. Talented guitar picking, as in "The River Runs" and "Can't Blame It On Anyone," satisfying vocals and solid bar-band sound drumming make for an exciting and accessible collection of songs. Guitarist Jim Miller and keyboardist Mike Bradley wrote virtually all of the songs, and the album is arranged in Miller/Bradley alternating order. Good stuff.
Maybe Serpent's Dance, Oroboros' fourth album will propel them to new successful heights. (Alan Sheckter)
PARTNER / SILENT NIGHT HOLY NIGHT
539 Queen Anne Avenue North, Suite 151, Seattle, WA 98109
I'm lookin' at Partner's first two CDs. Both were released in 1993, both have parental advisory explicit lyric warnings (nothing too outrageous, just the occasional four-letter word) and both are adorned with a small pot leaf.
Darik Peet plays a searing Eddie Van Halen-style lead guitar on tunes such as "What Is The Meaning?" on the Partner album. Vocalist Dana Anton belts out the lyrics with her deep, powerful, rock 'n roll voice. There are straight ahead rockers, like the Allman Brothers-sounding "Never Give Up" as well as slow, bluesy instrumentals such as "Opus I," both on the first CD. The second CD is a bit more refined, as in the opener "Firefly," but still has lots of punch and energy.
There are some neat covers, too. The first CD contains Eric Burdon's "When I Was Young" as well as that Golden Earring FM classic - "Radar Love." Silent Night Holy Night has a kick-ass rendition of The Crazy World of Arthur Brown's 1968 hit - "Fire."
You can also find contact info for the ACLU (just say "NO" to censorship), the pro-hemp group WCDPR and "Party Smart," an education project from the Beer Drinkers of America. (Alan Sheckter)
CROOKED RAIN, CROOKED RAIN
Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain is the follow-up to Pavement's widely acclaimed 1992 release, Slanted & Enchanted. Principal songwriter, guitarist and vocalist Stephen Malkmus leads the band on 12 original medium-tempo fervent, impassioned songs. It's obvious that these guys could crush you with sheer volume and power if they wanted to, but it seems their feeling on that is "What's the point?" Instead, Pavement uses a more lazy approach while still exhibiting plenty of slow-rocking, melodic layers of sound. Not afraid to offend and speak on their own terms, Pavement's newest package is full of evocative thoughts and instrumentation.
Tracks include the dissonant and passionately vocalized "Stop Breathin'," the raging, hammering sounds of "Unfair," the (possible tribute to Bill Graham or at least his old concert hall) "Fillmore Jive" and "Range Life," where Malkmus snubs Smashing Pumpkins and Stone Temple Pilots by name. Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain has the fine balance of being a little off-center, a little avant-garde, a little warped, with a lot of good guitar and lyrics. What more could you ask for from a rock and roll album? (Alan Sheckter)
MARTINIS & BIKINIS
This is the third album singer/songwriter Phillips has put out on Virgin and it was produced by T-Bone Burnett. Seductive, yet intelligently challenging, Sam Phillips and her beautifully clear, soulful voice take you through 13 well-produced tracks. The last song is a spacey cover of John Lennon's "Gimme Some Truth." "Baby I Can't Please You" is a catchy number that criticizes one who is quite judgmental and narrow minded. "The Same Changes," which partially resembles a Beatles song with its guitar hook, really hits on Phillip's philosophy. The chorus chants: "Circle of changes, the world around you, the same changes, hold on to the voices inside you..." Sam says that although we constantly will be experiencing change in our lives, you need something of your own to hold on to, be consistent with and not let outside voices influence that. Great philosophy! "I Need Love," the first single is a wonderful expression of her desire for real, true love.
A soothing melodious voice, excellent production, instrumental accompaniment and beautiful, philosophical lyrics make Martinis & Bikinis a winner. (Alan Sheckter)
THE DIVISION BELL
Pink Floyd specializes in concept albums, and this one's no exception. It's about communication and the inability of many to communicate with others they once cared for.
We were sent this release on cassette and initially I was disappointed not to have the CD. I brought it to my car and found the auto-reverse feature a huge plus. The songs on The Division Bell flow into one another well and the lyrics have such similar themes that they could be almost interchangeable. This release is so good, I ended up buying the CD too.
Many people criticize Floyd for the loss of Roger Waters. The Division Bell is fine without him, and I don't anticipate playing another cassette in the car for a while. (Netta Gilboa)
Rise Robots Rise
Here's a collection of science fiction-inspired songs falling into the combined category of pop, high-tech and funk. The overall effect is kind of a musical theater with small melodies within melodies, multiple samples and barely detectable vocals in between the printed above-ground lyrics.
Mainly the work of the duo Joe Mendelson and Ben Nitze, Spawn features contributions of more than 20 musicians that add a myriad of musical ideas. Tracey Amos' smooth vocals add a lot to most of the songs. "Big" is a wonderful, easy-going shuffle of grooving funk, the single "The Bottle" is an interesting mix of styles. My favorite, the ending track "Rosalee," goes back and forth in a lovely contrasting mix of nicely picked guitar measures, fast-paced funk and tender female vocals.
The robots have risen. Listen for yourself. (Alan Sheckter)
Tenor saxophone player extraordinaire Sonny Rollins' illustrious career has spanned over 40 years, rubbing elbows and brass with folks like Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, Max Roach, John Coltrane and others. Rollins provided the sax for the successful 1981 Rolling Stones hit "Waiting On A Friend."
On his latest release, Rollins stretches out on seven classic instrumentals with an enjoyable ensemble featuring trombone, piano and drums, as well as acoustic and electric bass. From the familiar melodies of "Where Or When" (a #1 hit for Hal Kemp & His Orchestra in 1937), to the soft sounds of "My Old Flame," every inch of this CD oozes the class and character of the sax-master. Each track is a winner including Rollins' own "Times Slimes" and the final piece, Duke Ellington's tender "Prelude To A Kiss." (Alan Sheckter)
Counterparts, which peaked at #2 on the Billboard album chart, is the 19th album from this fortysomething Canadian power-rock trio. Followed for 20 years by a continually growing core of fans, Rush may be the most unnoticed supergroup out there.
Old fans will certainly embrace Counterparts as the band puts their signature sound to 11 new songs. Rush's instantly recognizable sound comes from Geddy Lee's clear, tenor voice, (though drummer Neil Peart writes the lyrics while Lee and guitarist Alex Lifeson write the music), and Geddy sounds as fresh as ever. The album moves along smoothly with tracks like "Cut To The Chase" ("...young enough not to care too much about the way things used to be; I'm young enough to remember the future, the past has no claim on me..."), "Alien Shore" and the instrumental "Leave That Thing Alone."
The CD insert is one of the best I've ever seen. It opens nine-fold, has all of the lyrics and lovely graphic blow-up quotes from each song on one side, while the other is a mind-blowing array of subliminal phallic and sex symbols and other wondrous you-make-sense-of-it-yourself images.
Though it breaks no new musical ground, Counterparts is another successful notch in Rush's illustrious belt. (Alan Sheckter)
AIN'T ENOUGH COMIN' IN
(This Way Up/Mercury)
Chicago bluesman Rush has been doing it for 40 years. He's written such blues all-timers as "I Can't Quit You Baby." Idolized by such contemporaries as Jagger, Clapton and John Mayall (who respectfully made Otis' "All You Love" the opening track on their classic Blues Breakers album). On Ain't Enough Comin' In (his first studio album in 16 years), Rush kicks out some new songs as well as remakes of tunes by Albert King, Sam Cooke, BB King and Ray Charles. A great backing band including Little Feat keyboardist Bill Payne, Buddy Guy bass player Greg Rzab, and ex-Bonnie Raitt guitarist Johnny Lee Schell spell "first class" all the way. Great new effort which ensures Rush is still a contemporary blues force, not lost in the past. (Alan Sheckter)
These hard rockers from San Diego incorporate guitar, bass and drums into their four-member band. The fourth member is lyricist and singer John b. who brings a powerful, yet not overdone voice to the table. The seven song CD is 28 minutes in length, but it's full of forceful action. How about a cross between Stone Temple Pilots and Black Sabbath for a description? "Frustration" is a good, relentless rocker, and "Everyone Except For Me" contains lyrics of angst, perhaps concerning this major label release. John b. sings:
Gone tomorrow but here today,
And we're behind you, don't let us down
Good, honest rock 'n roll. (Alan Sheckter)
What used to be considered a cult/novelty act has now drawn international success and attention. Opening for Nirvana on their recent tour, the female Japanese trio's "Ronettes meets the Ramones" sound has been successful with live audiences, rock critics and musicians alike.
This is the second album Shonen Knife (named after a Japanese pocket utensil) has recorded for Virgin. The first, Let's Knife, which decorated the girls with plenty of praise, consisted of new versions of their favorite previously released independent label songs.
The overall sound and spirit of this 1994 CD is fun. The three women from Osaka have influences that include 60s Motown and surf music combined with late 1970s new wave. While laying out a driving beat on most songs ("Johnny, Johnny, Johnny," "Brown Mushrooms" "Cobra vs. Mongoose"), the girls sing about easily analyzed subject matter with a bit of cutsie-pooh to make the listener inclined to have fun rather than solemnly mulling over brooding lyrics.
Not that Shonen Knife are simply trying to be cute. There are certainly messages in their surf punk/pop sound. "Little Tree," a very melodic ditty, contains the observation that "a great big caterpillar was eating the leaves of the tree" in her garden. It then touches on the larger picture of saving forests of trees from bulldozers. Another song, "Concrete Animals," initially seems to be a silly tribute to those cement animals found in zoos and parks, but actually grows into an anti-vandalism message.
Other tunes are fun and carefree. The catchy "Catnip Dream" bounces along with the idea that "catnip is a kitty cat drug," "Tomato Head" is simply a reference to singer Naoko Yamano, who drinks a lot of tomato juice, and "Brown Mushrooms" is merely about the search for the finest restaurant mushroom.
A fine alternative pop album combining high energy, cheerful instrumentation and the beautiful singing voices. (Alan Sheckter)
OUT ON THE STREET
Pianist, singer, long-time producer John Simon offers up Out On The Street as his debut release on Vanguard. With a little help from his friends, he has created a great bunch of songs. They all highlight the adult pop sound of his piano and his smooth vocals.
Probably the best feature of this CD are the guest appearances and the very varied song styles. The opening number, "Two Ways O' Looking' At The Same Thing" with its brass section come off like a John Philip Sousa jamboree. "Rock And Roll Is An Open Wound" is next, almost a New Age-type song featuring the accomplished John Hall on guitar and the Band's Garth Hudson on synthesizer and accordion. The third tune, the clever and playful "Overpop," deals with the topic of overpopulation in a jazzy way: "Pop. Pop. There's another pop. There's another pop. Everybody's porkin' it. Won't someone put a cork in it?" The title track is excellent, and reunites an association with the Band that dates back to the mid-1960s when he produced the Music From Big Pink LP. Levon Helm and Rick Danko lend a hand on vocals and mandolin.
After 20-plus years of producing records for Simon and Garfunkel, Janis Joplin, Blood, Sweat & Tears and Steve Forbert, John Simon has now, as a performer, given us a nice mix of fun and clever music. (Alan Sheckter)
SLEEP'S HOLY MOUNTAIN
We get a lot of CDs at Gray Areas world headquarters. They attract our attention in different ways. To be honest, what grabbed me to this one initially was the cover. Robert Klem's abstract black and white paisley design with a gray, red and black psychedelic "SLEEP" as its central focus caught my eye. The back cover has the three band members, Chris Hakius, Matt Pike and Al Cisneros amongst simulated pot leaves with one of 'em toking up. Okay, that tells me something about their attitude.
Now, for the CD inside. Yep, pot leaves adorn the actual disc, a nine song collection of heavy, cerebral, Metallica on Indica music. Powerful, especially Cisneros' persistent, methodical bass, Sleep has a strong sound. From the 45 second, bluesy guitar instrumental "Some Grass" to the chugging opener "Dragonaut" and full, churning sound of "Aquarian" and the sonic title track, Sleep deserves to be heard. (Alan Sheckter)
Smart Brown Handbag
SMART BROWN HANDBAG
(Stone Garden Records) 213-292-0133
Brothers David and Jeff Steinhart played and recorded as a band called Pop Art in the mid to late 1980s. Now, with Lynn Norton on keyboards, the trio has becaome Smart Brown Handbag. There are 12 melodic, acoustic and soft electric pop songs here. David states that song lyrics and classic literature have similar qualities. He's been "inspired with the challenge of telling a three minute story with lyrics and melody." And he does, without the need to turn up the volume to achieve intensity. Let Smart Brown Handbag's sift Californian sound spread East. It'd be a good thing. (Alan Sheckter)
Already a Seattle success before Eddie Vedder and Kurt Cobain turned that city into a holy musical Mecca, Soundgarden has, in 1994, put out their best and certainly most successful album, Superunknown. A follow-up to 1991's strong Badmotorfinger, Superunknown is huge- 15 songs at 70 minutes.
It came out of the blocks with a lot of hype. Fans were able to call an 800 number two months before its March release and preview excerpts of four songs. A&M also released blue, orange and clear vinyl versions of the album to spark even more interest. Upon release, Superunknown quickly went to #1.
The content of the album is certainly no let down. Bassist Ben Shepard and drummer Matt Cameron lay down superb rhythmic layers while lead guitarist Kim Thayil cooks and Chris Cornell's commanding vocals bring it all home.
The first single, "Spoonman," written about Seattle's "Artis the Spoonman" (he plays spoons as an instrument and appears on the song) is not my favorite. Nor is the classic-rock, somewhat Zeppelin-ish title track, though don't think for a second that either are slouches. I loved the moody, dark "Head Down" and "Fell On Black Days" (the fuzzed-out bass on that one melts in your mouth). Then there's the more pop-ish track "Day I Tried To Live." My fave though is the infectious "Black Hole Sun," which I find depressing and uplifting at the same time and has really stuck with me.
All in all, a great entertaining combination of songs. Tour dates from Australia and Japan to Europe and big-time US tours accompany Superunknown. (Alan Sheckter)
Steady Rollin' Bob Margolin
DOWN IN THE ALLEY
Excellent, honest, straight ahead, talent-laden blues from track one through 15 describe Down In The Alley. Margolin, a veteran of the Boston blues scene, was asked to join Muddy Waters' band. He accompanied him on nine albums and played along side him in The Last Waltz film. Since he went solo in 1981, bluesman Margolin has played about 200 club dates a year. He's played with Stevie Ray Vaughan, Johnny Winter, John Lee Hooker and Etta James.
On Down In The Alley, he combines his vast blues experience (especially his love for the Chicago blues sound) on a varied array of top notch stuff. The Opener, "Boogie At Midnight" has a foot-stompin' swing to it. "Brown Liquor," is a painfully slow blues ballad about the most common blues topics, drinkin'. Margolin drones, "Bartender, bartender, bring me brown liquor in a dirty glass; I need to forget about my past." You can almost feel the splinters in his barstool. "Tough Times" (a duet with 1950s Chess recording artist John Brim), has a steady beat, harp sections and bluesy vocals very reminiscent of Muddy Waters. The title track has the feel of an old, old Reverend Gary Davis gospel/blues ditty. Admirable effort! (Alan Sheckter)
Long-time "King of All Media" Howard Stern intern John Melendez has rocked for years in small clubs in the Mid-Atlantic region. This is his major label debut and John thrusts 12 moderate metal songs at us.
Of course there is some humor including song titles like "Get Off My Lawn" (to his dog or his girl?), and "I'll Talk My Way Out Of It" (about excuses and lying). There is a bit of the Stern freak show with a three-legged man and an armless woman part of the CD package.
The music is competent, yet uneventful and though there are some strong, meaningful tracks, I don't thing Stuttering John is headed for superstar status. (Alan Sheckter)
Sugar Blue's latest is a collection of swinging, jazzy blues numbers highlighted by Sugar's super harmonica.
Those who've seen Sugar Blue live are left in awe as "he bends, shakes and spills flurries of notes with simultaneous precision and abandon." I was left in awe simply listening to the CD. Sugar's been around for about 20 years now, his resumé including: 1985 and 1989 Grammy awards, appearances with Muddy Waters, B.B. King, Lionel Hampton, as well as work with the Rolling Stones on several records, most notably, the harmonica on the 1978 #1 hit, "Miss You."
On Blue Blazes, along with a great backup band, the Harlem-born Sugar Blue Whiting belts out the blues harp and sings on his own tunes, "Out Till Dawn" and "Country Blues." Excellent covers include Sonny Boy Williamson's "Help Me," Willie Dixon's "Back Door Man" and of course, a splendid version of Jagger & Richards' "Miss You." Great Modern blues rich with traditional influences. (Alan Sheckter)
Shimmer, produced by GGGarth Richardson (Rage Against The Machine, L7), is the major label debut from the New York underground hard-core band, Surgery. Formed at Syracuse University in the mid 1980s, Surgery has moved in the same direction as their ex-label mates, Helmet. Both bands started at Amphetamine Reptile Records, then signed major label recording deals.
Led by vocalist Sean McDonnell, Surgery is a dual-guitar band who uses distortion and feedback as a rather tedious beginning to quite a few songs. There is some relief from the "standard" punk sound, however. Tracks like "Gulf Coast Score," which offers a straight rock sound, and the pseudo-blues song "Low Cut Blues" offer a needed respite from the New York hard-core assault. Shimmer is a good album if you're into the repetitive underground sound, but if you're looking for something new, Shimmer has nothing to offer. (Jeff Downing)
FORCE OF NATURE
The robust and raucous "Queen of the blues," Koko Taylor comes through in a big way on her latest release. Behind an excellent band featuring the gifted Criss Johnson on bluesy lead guitar, and a six-piece horn section on several tracks, Koko Taylor belts out vocals with her raspy, booming voice.
There are three Taylor originals on this 14 track, 65 minute CD, "Spellbound," "Put The Pot On" and the autobiographical "63 Year Old Mama." Superior remakes include "Born Under A Bad Sign" with Buddy Guy contributing guitar and co-vocals on this version dedicated to the memory of Albert King, and an bang-up blues remake of "Hound Dog" in memory of both Elvis and Big Mama Thornton. The opening track, "Mother Nature," which features Carey Bell on harmonica is also excellent.
The Grammy-winning Taylor continues to captivate audiences both in concert and on CD, putting her signature on countless blues numbers. In her words, "I'm your 63 year-old mama, feel like I'm 21; I'm your red-hot mama and my life has just begun." And how! (Alan Sheckter)
Therapy?, a Belfast-based trio reveling in the success of their "Screamager" video on MTV, have released their second full-length album on A&M Records, Troublegum. A sound fusion of metal, industrial and grunge, Troublegum releases 15 tracks of unrelenting hypnosis. From songs about self-hatred ("Screamager"), to lyrics like "I'm gonna crawl inside you and die" ("Knives"), and the outstanding, updated cover of Joy Division's "Isolation," Andy Cairns, Michael McKeegan and Fyfe Ewing have created the ultimate album for those in search of a definitive combination of all the heaviest musical styles of today. Therapy? is a "must have" for any serious music collector. (Jeff Downing)
LETTERS FROM JOUBEÉ
A superb guitar instrumental CD from end to end, Letters From Joubeé (pronounced jo-bay), highlights legendary musician Artie Traum's signature adult-jazz guitar virtuosity. With roots in the New York music scene as a folk-style fingerpicker with his brother Happy Traum, Artie is rich in experience and talent. He gets to stretch out and show us the genius of his guitar techniques. Other musicians along for the ride are no slouches. Joining Traum are jazz pianist Warren Bernhardt (currently with Steely Dan), bassist Tony Levin (touring with Peter Gabriel), Whitney Houston percussionist Bashiri Johnson, two members of Asleep At The Wheel and several others. Though Letters From Joubeé is a sophisticated instrumental album, it's bright, clean production makes it easy to listen to. A good mood enhancer. (Alan Sheckter)
Don't have much background information on this one, but it's a six-song (one bonus track), 21-minute CD of competent medium to heavy rock. Satisfactory, but not dazzling instrumentation and lyrics make this worth listening to, but don't spend your grocery money on it. The title track and bonus track, perhaps called "Sleeping Under A Mushroom Cloud" are standouts. Cool CD art, too. (Alan Sheckter)
EIGHTEEN INCHES OF RAIN
(Eastern Slope Records/Vanguard)
This is the first release in three years from cowboy/musician Ian Tyson. With roots that date back to early 1960s folk duo Ian & Sylvia, and involvement in bands such as the early 1970s Great Speckled Bird, Tyson's been around for a while. He's also spent lots of time on his Rocky Mountain foothills ranch.
Recorded in Nashville, Eighteen Inches Of Rain offers 12 original songs, all written and sung by Tyson. Nice backing band consisting of guitars, keyboards, mandolin, fiddle, pedal steel guitar as well as bass and drums create pure, sincere, easy-paced Western moods. Strong tracks include "M.C. Horses," "Horsethief Moon" and the sad "Alcohol In The Bloodstream." Real American Western music. (Alan Sheckter)
BELOW SAN ONOFRE: San Diego and Tijuana Industrial/Tekno Compilation
(Panhandler Productions, P.O. Box 948571, La Jolla, CA 92037-9402)
Here's a 20-track collection of pulsating, contemporary industrial/techno tracks that range from quaintly simple to supersonically bizarre. Over a dozen groups are represented here from San Diego's Sweat Engine to Tijuana's Artefakto. In fact, all tracks are from groups that reside in the geographical area between Tijuana (and its thermonuclear plant) and San Onofre, CA (and its nuclear plant), and illustrates how "alternative, modern music, art and ideas flow easily across the border." Good background music for a hip boutique or music store. Y'know the kind where the employee has ghastly white face makeup, blood red lipstick and not the least bit of interest in serving the customer. (Alan Sheckter)
BEYOND THE CALICO WALL
P.O. Box 7112, Burbank, CA 91510
Okay you sixties fans of stuff like The Animals and The Amboy Dukes and other psychedelic garage rock, look out. Voxx brings you 20 terrific, obscure, unreleased 1960s musical adventures. These are not subdued folk tracks. They are "the wyldest, wyrdest, nuttiest freakouts of rock's flippiest decade. Only pure psychedelic mayhem."
Step inside and listen to Flower Power's chaotic "Mr. Olympus," The Pulse's horrific "Burntt Bradley," The Waterproof Tinkertoy's "Continuation." Raik's Progress' "Sewer Rat Love Chant," as well as covers of popular 1960s relics "In-a-Gadda-Da-Vida" and "I Had Too Much To Dream (Last Night). Some of these came from actual released albums, some from places as obscure as an Iowa City Salvation Army store. Still others are from long forgotten 45s from long forgotten labels. Whatta collection! A real scream! (Alan Sheckter)
MUSIC FROM THE MOTION PICTURE THE CROW
This soundtrack boasts an astounding, unprecedented line-up of today's hottest and most successful post-modern musicians. They were written to accompany specific scenes from Miramax/Dimension Film's The Crow. The movie is about love and revenge in the inner city, and the music on this soundtrack is a powerful supplement.
This is truly a who's who of today's cutting edge performers. The Cure open it with Robert Smith's trademark emotional vocals on "Burn." Stone Temple Pilots do a fairly subdued (with slide guitar) "Big Empty," and "Darkness" is classic Rage Against The Machine. Rollins is here too with the angry "Ghostrider," as well as NIN, who electronically perform a dreamy tune called "Dead Souls." Other contributors include Canada's sweet voiced Jane Siberry, headbangers Helmet and Pantera, the Violent Femmes, The Jesus And Mary Chain and others. An incredible collection! (Alan Sheckter)
THE SPECIALTY STORY
This massive 5-CD, 130 song box set acts as a powerful and wonderful reference material of an important era in American music. Specialty Records prospered in the late 1940s and early 1950s, and we hear songs that bridge the gap between the post-big band swing sound and rhythm and blues/rock 'n roll.
Besides the wonderfully reproduced sound of the music, the box set also includes a great booklet with previously unreleased photos, rare posters as well as lots of additional info and notes.
Little Richard (who many say is the real "king" or "father" of rock 'n roll is well represented here: "Good Golly Miss Molly," "Bama Lama Bama Loo," "Lucille." Other artists include Percy Mayfield, Clifton Chenier and Lloyd Price ("Lawdy Miss Clawdy"). Also appearing in this collection are Sam Cooke, who fronted the Soul Strirrers and Lou Rawls, who sang for the Chosen Gospel Singers. A very young Art Neville is also here.
Bridge the gap in your music collection with this priceless package. (Alan Sheckter)
Singer-songwriter David Wilcox offers a collection of 15 songs on Big Horizon, 13 original and two covers. With a nice acoustic sound that reminds me quite a bit of James Taylor, there are songs of internal emotions, like "Block Dog" (where he talks to and is obviously envious of the simple life of the neighborhood dog) and "Hold It Up To The Light."
Along with my favorite, the optimistic "New World" which has received airplay in the adult alternative radio world, Wilcox's wonderfully mellow remake of the 1965 Four Tops classic "It's The Same Old Song" is excellent. The other remake Wilcox chose to put on the album is a tune that is on my "all-time most hated 45s list." But putting aside my prejudice, he performs a nice, tender version of John Waite's "Missing You."
Big Horizon is not a blockbuster album that will blow you away with walls of rocking sound, but it is certainly not meant to be. David Wilcox does a fine job here of writing, arranging and singing cordial, confessional acoustic music. (Alan Sheckter)
FRUIT OF LIFE
I confess. I am deeply in love with Angela McCluskey, the Scottish-born diva, whose slightly raspy, seductive voice (somewhat akin to Maria McKee), is painted all over the canvas of this stirring and touching debut album. That canvas of beautiful sound also includes a bit of Celtic essence, with a contemporary accent. Angela's past experiences include film company publicity for numerous British entertainment companies. She is the principal lyricist, singing about human behavior and the way we treat each other.
Fruit Of Life is unique, alluring and phenomenal, prompting this reviewer to ask many friends, "Have you heard of the Wild Colonials? Here, check this song out..." The opening number, "Girl," about an obviously failing love relationship, finds Angela's enthralling voice, Paul Cantelon's violin, Scott Roewe's haunting bass and Shark's guitar (as well as an unnamed soft bongo tapper) conjure an image of a Middle Eastern harem, but in a contemporary pop incarnation. Once drawn in to the captivating opening track, beware. You'll listen to the entire free-spirited album straight through. The second track "Spark," is also of a slow, melancholy pace, but with a seductive honesty about the "spark" being gone, but the "love" living on. The first single, "Heaven And Hell" has more of the bongos and a soft melody accentuated by Angela's charming vocals.
Other interesting tracks are "Dear Mike," which Angela admits is written to Mike Scott of the Waterboys, "Philadelphia Story," where she sings "You're my Cary Grant" to the listener, and a remake of the Billie Holliday's "Don't Explain."
A remarkably mesmerizing, enthralling and hypnotic first effort. Can you tell I like it? (Alan Sheckter)
US Label: King of the Pacific, P.O. Box 1141, Santa Monica, CA 90406-1141
Zoogz Roft really is a different kind of music. No, really. Most tracks can be loosely categorized (we reviewers love to categorize, don't we) as instrumental jazz/rock. The music has class, is intriguing, varied and exciting without being overpowering. Zoogz Rift himself, a big man in stature as well as talent sings and plays a great electric guitar. One instrumental, "In The Ultimate Scheme Of Things" is an easy-going, yet very electric number, as Rift is all over the fretboard with a distinct San Francisco, 1960s psychedelic sound, a la John Cipollina at his best. Other tracks, like "Villagers" and "Integrity" are laden with what I would call xylophones. Actually, instruments listed include marimba, mridunga and congas. Remember those classic Zappa tracks, where in between Frank's vocals, the band would offer peppy little instrumental passages featuring xylophones for a fun and special sound? You have that here. Lost of positive energy. I think Butthead would agree with me when I say, "These guys are cool." (Alan Sheckter)