Outsight brings to light non-mainstream music, film, books, art, ideas and opinions
LADIES OF JAZZ
Dynamic and versatile vocalist Mayra Caridad Vald?s has a warm and ebullient album available, La Diosa del Mer (Jazzheads Records; http://www.jazzheads.com). This goddess of jazz song is sister to Cuban jazz pianist Chucho Vald?s and there is a strong Latin jazz feel to this album, as on "Drume Negrita." However, the sax lead on "Mambo Influenciado" is an arty, angular melody that suggests as much in common with the No Wave school on this varied and sophisticated album? Pixyish Eden Atwood also mixes exotic styles on her vocal jazz album Waves: The Bossa Nova Sessions (Groove Note; http://www.groovenote.com). Including the classic "Girl from Ipanema," this album is tropical warm and moonlight soft. A stand out track is her Bossa take on the Lennon-McCartney song "Fool on the Hill"? On Kelly Sings Christy (CMG; http://www.chasemusic.com) Julie Kelly uses patient and precise phrasing in delivering a selection of songs also sung by June Christy. Christy is know for her cool, Billie Holiday-esque delivery, but Kelly's is much brighter as she delivers her renditions of songs Christy recorded with the Stan Kenton Orchestra? Riding a Zephyr is the vocal jazz Soul Note album from Judi Silvano, solely accompanied by pianist Mal Waldron. Waldron was in Billie Holiday's band for her final two years. She gives her music a tasteful sprinkling of scat on a collection of delightful originals from the duo?
CHILDISH WITH ENGLISH
Learning and lullabies for children is the focus of a trio of recordings from John English from Two Cougars Productions. This folk singer uses guitar (mostly) with an ad hoc children's choir from several schools on 3,2,1 Let's Have some Fun! More Learning Songs for Children. This album features such traditional children's favorites as "Froggy Went A' Courtin'" and "The Ants Go Marching". The discs predecessor is 3,2,1 Let's Have some Fun! Learning Songs for Children. Featuring folk songs for the young from North America and England. English directs these learning-enabling songs at children up to the ago of 7 and is part of a structured program he presents as teacher training seminars, school residency programs and participatory musical performances. After such a cerebral workout, the little ones may want a nap and English offers an excellent soundtrack to this restful slumber in Night Bear Lullabies. The 15 lullabies presented delicately on acoustic guitar are from the world over.
D.R.I. SIGNS TO BEER CITY RECORDS
Milwaukee's Beer City Records announced the official signing of legendary crossover band D.R.I. Beer City will reissue the band's back catalog in CD-enhanced form beginning with Dirty Rotten LP. The disc will include songs from their 1983 demo sessions and two radio interviews from 1982 where the band can be heard playing songs from their first bedroom recorded demo as well as live songs from one of the band's first gigs. The enhanced portion of the CD will contain a video of the band's CBGB's show in 1984, a photo album/scrap book from 1982-1984 and a screen saver. The band's later releases will also be reissued and will contain bonus tracks and video footage as well. D.R.I. will release a brand new CD sometime next year.
STEVE SORTOR, 1953-2002
Detroit musician/songwriter Steve Sortor died in Scottsdale, Arizona November 17 of apparent congestive heart failure complicated by diabetes. Steve was a founding member of The Sillies, Flirt, The Roommates, Nikki Corvette, as well as The Mutants. He was also in Harlow with Wally Palmar, later of The Romantics. Best known as a drummer, Steve also played guitar and bass and was an accomplished singer. He co-wrote the song "Break Loose" on America's Most Wanton (Scooch Pooch), the new album from The Sillies CD. Poor health and an auto accident forced Steve into living in a group home several years ago. Virtually all of his personal possessions were lost at that time, including his collections of Detroit rock & roll memorabilia and a portable sound and lighting system, each worth thousands of dollars. His longtime friend Doug Podell of Detroit rock station WRIF-FM provided Steve with CD's and moral support to the end of his days and was often mentioned by Steve as his best friend. His bandmates, friends, and former girlfriends remember Steve for his dry wit and easygoing manner. At one time, he was Detroit's most in-demand drummer and was a full time member of up to three bands simultaneously. His work lives on in the recordings of the bands mentioned above and in the hearts and minds of the people who knew and loved him.
SOUNDS OF THE NORTHLANDS
Including three new tracks, On Reflection (Gadfly) from Eliza Carthy and Nancy Kerr compiles tracks from four of the duo's albums. Each grew up in musical families and this compilation of mostly early work is a fiddle-focused combination of instrumentals and duets varying from soulful English folk to vivid technical displays? From Bukkene Bruse we get Norwegian vocal music with a typically Celtic feel on The Loveliest Rose (NorthSide; http://www.noside.com). Recorded in an Oslo church, this warm and intimate recording features traditional Norse Christmas melodies and the voice of Annbj?rg Lien? Also yuletide is A Winter's Night: Christmas in the Great Hall by Ensemble Galilei. Available at www.maggiesmusic.com, this 16-track disc presents instrumental renditions of some chestnuts along with noel melodies from Scotland and Ireland as well other Gaelic Christmastime tunes from Galicia? More from Maggie's Music is Bonnie Rideout Scottish Reflections. Rideout is one of the premier Scottish fiddlers of the day, but this album is now mere exercise in technique and flash. The instrumental album features her on fiddle and viola and is a tranquil, reflective album for unwinding in a Highlander style?
24 HOURS OF TG
24 Hours of TG is a deluxe Throbbing Gristle CD box set with a release date of December 10. Mute prepared this project in association with all the original members of Throbbing Gristle and founders of Industrial Records: Chris Carter, Genesis P-Orridge, Cosey Fanni Tutti and Peter Christopherson. 24 Hours of TG celebrates the 25th Anniversary of the Industrial Records. For details of this release visit http://www.mute.com/tg for updated pictures of the box set as it is built. The 24 individually packaged CDs that make up this box set covers the majority of Throbbing Gristle's live output and is remastered by Chris Carter. The box set will also include a wax sealed file containing new and unique items and information provided by all four members of Throbbing Gristle. The collection is presented in a high quality handmade case. It is also the first time all four members have collaborated and communicated in 20 years. A new Throbbing Gristle compilation will be released in 2003.
Kranky toils away in Chicago releasing great independent and experimental rock for those in the know. Among the excellent albums from the label is the new opus from Low entitled Trust. Recalling Spacemen 3 filtered and ready for easy consumption, Low is melodic slowcore, of an incredibly focused nature. They are probably the only quiescent reflective rock band that draws such adjectives as "intense?" Low themselves helped records two albums with Jessica Bailiff. Now Bailiff strikes out on her own as it were with her third album, this one self-titled and on Kranky. Bailiff combines a dreamy, folk-rock vocal style with sonic experimentation that borders on ambient noise? Beside this excellent disc from established artists, Kranky offers debuts like Model 91 from Christmas Decorations. Far from being seasonal, this Brooklyn duo uses such nostalgic tools as primitive sequencers and a melodica to produce what they call "ambient punk." Their minimalist, directed instrumentals hide a beguiling complexity? loscil offers a concept album on Kranky named Submers. This is the Vancouver band's second album and each track is named after a submarine. These echoing, slowly pulsing sounds draw the listener in and build to the final track dedicated to the ill-fated Russian nuclear sub, Kursk. Their album is characterized by the latent power and foreboding pressure of the innately malevolent aquatic depths? From Keith Fullerton Whitman, we have Playthroughs. Keith restricts his source to guitars, be they acoustic, electric, "or otherwise." However, one they were on his laptop, anything went. Whitman took over half a year to us erring modulators, granular shuffling algorithms and more like delays and effects to create the ghostly album that owes a lot to such minimalist as Terry Riley and Steven Reich? Also available on Kranky is Out Hud. Their new album is S.T.R.E.E.T. D.A.D. The album is hip, slick art funk. The Brooklyn band cut their teeth on the punk rock circuit and occasionally this album of hipster glide will erupt into a noisy outburst, but coming from Out Hud it all makes sense?
Through the Eyes of the Dead Uncut
Season of Mist/Music Video Distributors
Philip Anselemo, lead vocalist for Pantera, is also the guitarist in death-and-splatter metal band Necrophagia. He talked vocalist Killjoy into re-forming the group in the mid-1990s after he presented Killjoy with music he had written on the road for a new vision of Necrophagia. The group's work in the mid-1980s proved to help build the foundations of unbound, gore metal that is as much aligned with Herschell Gordon Lewis films as it is with any form of hard rock. This DVD combines those elements by presenting their grindcore sounds to a string of gory and diabolically sexual videos. Definitely for the mature and the jaded, the DVD includes such bonus videos as their Cannibal Holocaust homage and "They Dwell Beneath," their Manson meditation tape for honing homicidal tendencies. (3.5)
Bill Braggs, Director and Producer
Waterfall Home Ent./Eclectic DVD
Subtitled 30 Years of Time Travel and Beyond?, this DVD looks at the history of 35 years of "Dr. Who" through comparison and remembrances of the seven different Doctors as that role has changed its actors. This includes interviews filmed for this release with Sylvester McCoy, Peter Davidson, Colin Baker and the now deceased Jon Pertwee. Photographs shows span all seven of the Doctors. Each Doctor began with a distinct unbalance and then helped to shape the depiction of the Time Lord as they found themselves in the forceful forward motion of a series borne of its own weight and created under budget and schedule constraints as well as the fact that BBC studios turned off the lights at the appointed time whether shooting was finished or not! Among the behind the scenes footage is segments from the episodes "The Smugglers", "The Abdominable Snowmen", "The Demons" and the unfinished Tom Baker story, "Sahada" presented in a separate feature. Behind-the-scenes views continue with senior production personnel interviews such as those with director David Maloney and producer Phillip Hinchcliffe as well as former BBC head of serials and drama, Shaun Sutton. Two Doctors comparing notes, as do two of the numerous assistants, is among the interesting angles on over presentation of the multi-faceted history of this innovative and adored sci-fi programs. (4)
John Lennon: The Messenger
Waterfall Home Ent./MVD
This DVD is packaged with an audio CD of John Lennon's words, mostly covering his views on peace and his efforts to promote that. Those words can be heard on the DVD, as well, which focuses on the songwriters career after The Beatles and especially the events of his tragic assassination at the hands of confused gunman Mark David Chapman. Running just under an hours, seldom hear audio and footage comes much from time spent in Australia. Just as his sudden end is the subject of much analysis here, so is that previous dramatic change the breakup of The Beatles considered. A handsome 32-page booklet includes many black-and-white pictures. (3.5)
The Magical Worlds of The Lord of the Rings
Subtitled The Amazing Myths, Legends, and Facts Behind the Masterpiece, this book was obviously put together with the audience in mind that has been only now exposed to Tolkien's work through the latest film treatment. For instance, the final chapter discusses Frodo's actions in Mordor and since Peter Jackson, at least, has not put his vision of this on the silver screen, the chapter is segmented off as a "spoiler." Author David Colbert knows how to do these books, as he wrote the successful The Magical Worlds of Harry Potter. However, even the would-be Tolkien scholar and hardcore fan with well-worn and well-known copies of all the books will find this tome interesting. The index, bibliography and glossary make for handy entrances to the book, laid out like an encyclopedia. Colbert initially places the Tolkien mythology into the greater sphere of ancient European and Near Eastern mythology. This is pretty tenuous and could be good fodder for heated debate among those that appreciate Joseph Campbell as much as J. R. R. Tolkien. The inspiration from Tolkien's knowledge of ancient English and North European lore is well-trodden ground for the initiated, but this presents it in an easy to read manner with plenty of line drawings that will be entertaining for any reader, whether they just saw the movie or can quote Gandalf chapter and verse. (4)
Log Cabin Pioneers - Stories, Songs & Sayings
Mel Bay Publications
As one would expect from a Mel Bay book, Log Cabin Pioneers includes easy playing music for the amateur guitarist or pianist, or for not difficult playing on any treble clef instrument. Captured in less than a dozen measures, the accessible melodies have simple keys and no chord more difficult than a 7th. Several verse of lyrics accompany these songs. However, such music is just the songs of "Stories, Songs & Sayings." The text is strewn with colorful aphorisms from the pioneer period. Examples are "Better a lame donkey than no horse" from 1854 and the undated bit of meteorological advice, "don't stand in the sun if you have butter on your head." The stories come in two varieties. We get homesteaders' tales, like "The Shrinking Britches" and a swindle worthy of Huckleberry Finn, "What has 4 Eyes, 3 Heads, and 2 Tails?" But, we also get the stories of the songs and pioneers themselves. The stories of the people cover their fashion, building techniques and more - including methods to hide a still. Stories of the songs give the reader insight into the history and meaning behind "Darling Cory", "Mary of the Wild Moor" and more. All this material is arranged topically by section: Cabin History, Pioneer Construction, Log Cabin Music, Whiskey Making, Cabin Kids, Home & Cooking, Pioneer Beauty Secrets and Log Cabin Ghosts and Lore. More entertainment and information can be had in the pioneer slang glossary that defines such obscure archaisms as explatterate (to crush or mash) and "light and hitch" (come and visit). (4)
Benny and the Jets
Benny and the Jets
Benny and the Jet has long been an institution in the greater Detroit area. (Yes this is the same band Elton John sings about.) With warmth, humor and great rock sensibility, Benny et al give us oldies hits like "Last Kiss" and "Sunspot Baby." Benny is an oldies scholar and his deep knowledge of the music and music sensibility allows him to easily slip in new, allusional lyrics along with performing seamless medleys live. Their originals are in the same vein, but with more of a hard rock edge like the acerbic and cutting "Dumb Girls" that leads off this album. (4)
Rebirth of Heavy
Bully Magazine/The Music Cartel
The Music Cartel did this excellent compilation, mostly of stoner rock, in conjunction with Bully Magazine. Sixteen groups, with a track each, populate this budget-priced compilation with heavy, reverb-laden rock of this highest quality. Standouts on the comp are Sons of Otis, Natas (from Argentina), Stinking Lizaveta and Fireball Ministry. (3.5)
Freed from Words
Mark Winges work does not use words, but is not instrumental, per se. Winges uses the human voice as an instrument in his choral works, instead of drawing from merely lyrics and phrasing as his palette his instead relies on screams and whispers, throat singing and whistling along with recitative and lyrical singing. Use of a children's choir and adult singers varies the timbre of this neo-classical opus. The a cappella creation runs a gamut of feelings and settings from the witches' sabbath of "Magic Strings" to the linguistic deconstruction of the alyrical title track. (4.5)
Roberta Piket & Alternating Current
I'm Back in Therapy and it's all Your Fault
Thirteenth Note Records
Pianist and composer Roberta Piket, steps out of her successful acoustic form with the electric project Alternating Current on I'm Back in Therapy and it's all Your Fault. Her combination of a vintage Wurlitzer electric piano with an array of effects pedals makes for a warm, personal sound on this instrumental album. (3.5)
Tipsy Remix Party!
This Tipsy remix gathering brings together many artists in the fields of noisy experimentation and instrumental pop to pay tribute the cocktail-electro genius of Tipsy duo Dave Gardner and Tim Digullia that first captivated record collectors with their hip party soundtrack Trip Tease (Asphodel, 1996). Gardner himself curates this sonic museum of Tipsy interpretation. Among the fourteen artists are Matmos (a stand out with "Schatzi a Go Go"), Optiganally Yours, The Bran Flakes and High Llamas. (5)
Terry Bozzio/Billy Sheehan
Nine Short Films
This is a power duo: drum-meister Terry Bozzio contributes his percussion array along with lyrics, vocals and keyboards to the accompaniment of journeyman bassist Billy Sheehan on basses and baritone guitars. Bozio's lyrics are presented in the CD booklet and they tell a tale of murderous violence and a lonely, forlorn desperation. The rumbling, complex rhythms of the music echo the nightmarish content like background thunder to a malevolent storm. (4)
Shipwreck Day: A Knw-Yr-Own Compilation
Featuring much interesting talent from K Records like The Microphones, Little Wings and Calvin Johnson, Shipwreck Day is a rich collection of the lo-fi folk-punk sprouting in the Pacific Northwest. There has long been a connection between the label and K Records, which continues in the line-up for this their sixth compilation. All the artists supplied exclusive tracks for the collection, so you cannot find this material elsewhere. (4)
Dim Stars, Bright Sky
Artist Direct Records/iMusic
Jakob Dylan, Aimee Mann and Juliana Hatfield are among the guests along to help create this beautiful album by a gifted singer-songwriter that arose from West Cost punk to recreate himself in this mold. Touched as his music is with a heartland feel, the string bass, pedal steel and organ frame songs of crystalline beauty and Americana beauty. (4)
My Home Must be a Special Place
David Massengill collection of acoustic folk songs is a warm and personal recollection of his Tennessee roots. The New York City-based folk artists has long been regaled a pure in form even in his "fast folk" work, but combined with this genuine and rooted content there is an authenticity with the technique that delivers a winning combination. Based on nostalgia rekindled when he went home to care of his ailing father, My Home Must be a Special Place is a superb, rooted contemporary folk opus. (4)
Penetrations: Sonic Explorations in Sexuality
John Latartara uses an episodic approach of explicit, revelatory interviews about sexual discovery and practice with postmodern music that could be called neo-classic. This music itself at times offers positively jarring sonic eruptions as on "The Perverse Implantation." The digital and acoustic music that frames these monologues and a sexual field recording with a prostitute mirrors the tenderness and the rudeness, the awkwardness and the naturalness of extra-border sexuality. The varying moods and textures of the music allow for a point of distraction. Listeners can be detached from the spoken deliveries, or engaged by them, by choice. (4.5)
The Laura Blackley Band
When a Woman?
From Blacksburg, VA and now in Asheville, NC, Laura Blackley offers a strong, leather-and-lace Southern folk-rock. With a proud, bluesy voice she leads her group through tough, soulful country rock. (3.5)
McLusky Do Dallas
Beggars Group/Too Pure
The spastic post-punk hard rockers in this trio offer a sputtering, explosive music akin to Alice Donut, No Means No and the cathartic Amphetamine Reptile sound. There is also crazed country punk element that recalls Glen Meadmore or Slim Cessna's Auto Club. Steve Albini did the recording, which was appropriate. This explosive debut from the British group suggests the Brits are once-again selling back to us revved up versions of our own sounds. This time it is a dangerous blend of The Jesus Lizard and early Sonic Youth. (4)
Time Bomb High School
In the Red
This is an especially melodic release for the record label that normally purveys some of the most caustic of revival garage rock. The spectrum runs from the punk-pop of The Ramones to the song-oriented Roky Erickson. Well-balanced between what will get you rocking and what will get you humming, this rooted rock band from the variegated influences that abound in Memphis is built around frontman Greg Cartwright formerly of The Oblivians. (3.5)
East to West
Side One Dummy Records
This California neo-punk quartet has a tautly balanced sound that recalls the shrill, treble-punk of middle-period G.B.H. The opening cut "Bright Lights, Big City" is an anthemic piece with a rallying chorus and a motive, horizontal feel. The same could be said about the following cut "These Old Feelings" in this end-to-end solid album. The group vocals add punch and switching the lead vocals between the members adds dynamism and life to this album. "Hometown" and other tracks evidences a strong Oi feel with real tight song structure making it a rival for the best Still Little Fingers material. (4.5)
Spring Heel Jack
Released as part of Thirsty Ear's prestige new jazz line The Blue Series, this is Spring Heel Jack in the study with a bevy of British jazz players. This includes Evan Parker (saxophones), Kenny Wheeler (trumpet/flugelhorn), Han Bennink (drums) and Paul Rutherford (trombone). Sophisticated post-electro rock and innovative jazz have been flirting for years. This is a structured cross mapping of the genres and the result is a volatile, many-legged jazz beast of impressive bearing. Also on the disc is Matthew Shipp on Fender Rhodes as well as Jason Pierce of Spiritualized. (5)
Arrange and Process Basic Channel Tracks
Scion is a duo made up of Pete Kuschnereit, a.k.a Substance, and Rene L--we, a.k.a. Vainquer. Both are previously known for their Chain Reaction releases and are here re-working back-catalogue pieces from the Basic Channel label, hence the CD's name. This means artists such as Cyrus, Phylyps, Quadrant and Octagon/Octaedre. Mostly originally issued as 12" vinyl. Each piece on this CD is two to four Basic Channel sources transmogrified by Ableton's "LIVE" audio software into new ambient techno creations. Mark Ernestus and Moritz Von Oswald, the duo behind the original Basic Channel concept, drew upon Jamaican dub roots as well as Detroit techno in their original sonic alchemy. These sources still reverberate in the new mesmerizing electro-minimalism put forth on this CD. (3.5)
This live album is the first album of all-new material to come from the German electronic pioneers in two years. Beside new material, the group portrays a new sound incorporating post-classical choral elements and ethereal female voices. This is Tangerine Dream's vision of Dante's "Inferno." In that choral element is Iris Kulterer, who also performs on percussion and kettledrums marking this album as the first recording with a live drummer since Force Majeure (1979). Of a crystalline and pristine beauty, Inferno is sonic stained glass. (4)
Daughters of the Sun
This shrinking world fusion of pan-ethnic sounds is derived acoustically and layered into an enticing global reverie. Lead vocalist Nana Simopoulos is accompanied for the third release in a row by Indian sarangi master Ustad Sultan Khan. This is a very fitting union, the sarangi and Nana's smooth, enticing vocals in Greek, English, Yoruba and Hindi. Indian music culture has honed the sarangi as an ideal accompaniment to the human voice through its imitative qualities. Such is the mechanics of the instrument is that it produced voice-like phrasing. This acoustic world music is highly sophisticated and includes a bevy of talented players on a wide array of instruments. (4)
Event and Repetitions
Pinhas is a French guitarist, electronic musician, and composer Richard Pinhas. Dubbed the Father of French Electronic Music, forcefully brought that nation into the area with violent fusions of electronics and guitar in the 1970s. This is still his modus operandi on Event and Repetitions, but here the pieces performed live on guitar and direct to digital recorder offers tranquility and serene, floating experimentalism that shows Pinhas has mellowed with age like some of the fine wines of his country. However, these organic sounds sound more like synthesizer creations then guitar. This is due to the use of the system Pinhas has been developing for electronic processing to use in performing live solo guitar concerts resulting in disembodied pieces of a protean nature. (4.5)
Since being founded in 1979 by saxophonist and main composer George Cartwright, Curlew has become a changing line-up foundation for sophisticated post-rock. Among the luminaries on this retrospective is cellist Tom Cora (Skeleton Crew, The Ex, Nimal). This is more than a reissue of the North America LP featuring Fred Frith (Henry Cow, John Zorn's Naked City) on bass. There are bonus tracks recorded live in 1983 with Nicky Skopelitis on guitar as part of the pre-North America lineup. This magnified reissue of Curlew's 2nd LP documents the masterfully and at times savagely adventurous avant-jazz project during their early years of pushing the electric jazz envelope. (4.5)
Chip Taylor & Carrie Rodriguez
Let's Leave this Town
TMG/Lone Star Records
Knowing that Chip Taylor write the "Angel of the Morning" as well as the Troggs hit "Wild Thing," one can be prepared for the excellent songwriting on this album with singer-fiddle player Carrie Rodriguez. Because of the recent version of "Angel of the Morning" by Shaggy, Taylor now has written the longest string of #1 hits in U.S. music history. However, on this recording Taylor takes us back to a pristine, rooted folk song with the emerging talent Rodriguez that he discovered at the South by Southwest music festival. This shining example of country-folk brilliance exquisitely unites Carrie's natural charm and raw talent with the elegant, experienced songwriting one should expect from master of the art Chip Taylor. (5)
After progressively changing his lo-fi indie folk-pop into funky indie rock, Beck makes a quantum leap into mature song writing with Sea Change. This sparse and moody album relies heavily on melody and lyrics, doing so successfully. Taking a cue from Led Zeppelin and their In Through the Out Door, this album comes in four different covers; perhaps further proof that for Beck it is now really about the art. There still the Beck element of hip dance beats, but on "Paper Tigers" they are sublimated behind the broad-stroked string arrangement and the song is better for that. Sea Change marks a turning point into a new level of sophistication. (4.5)
This compendium of artists on the Projekt roster is subtitled "an ethereal/darkwave compilation." However, that only tells half the tale. There is also the uproariously funny Goth-pop of Voltaire ("When You're Evil") and the neo-period sound of This Ascension ("Mysterium"). This sampler contains the entire spectrum of post-Goth sounds coming out of the varied record label. (3.5)
The Official Story
Fringe Element Records
This all-female trio performs a rugged, vintage Goth sound like a trebly equivalent to Siouxsie & The Banshees. This debut is refreshingly primitive and nostalgic. Beside the interesting tonal qualities of this clamorous noise-punk, The Syndicates offers its sociological views aiming for a "breakdown of the political/personal dichotomy" as they work past their "complex sexual identities" and "class backgrounds" to find union as a spirited combo with radicalized lyrics. (3.5)
Travelling Without Deodorant: The Best of Joe Hall (1972-1988)
Cordova Bay Ent.
This compendium of 21 tracks offers samples from all albums of Joe Hall, the Canadian humorous and bluesy-folksy singer-songwriter. Hall's humor knows little in the way of boundaries. "Eva B." is an imaginative tale of Hitler serenading his love Eva Braun to come escape with him to a Caribbean hideaway in the style of a calypso-polka. Nearly all of Hall's tracks seem to reference pop genres and songs that have crested and long since disappeared below the surface. For instance, "Flip City" is a funny inspired by the '60s surf hit "Surf City" (and other surf pop), this time about an insane asylum. Devilishly funny, the wicked grin expressed in these songs recalls the sense of humor heard on Mothers of Invention albums and (especially on "(Sitting in the) Bell Tower") the Rocky Horror Picture Song Soundtrack. Interestingly, the full-mouthed vocal stylism gives a European feel to the songs, as if Peter Gabriel were as inspired my Mad Magazine as he were by world music. It is whispered that he has obscure German origins and hearing this enunciation and another stab at those wacky Nazis on "Lulu (Let's Go Dancing)," it makes sense. Either way, these recordings go back to the early '70s gathering together not only material from the previous albums but (for those that are already in the know and have the records), previously unreleased live recordings from various locations around Canada. (4)
So Much Shouting, So Much Laughter
After much forgettable experimentation with hip-hop sounds, Ani largely returns to the music that was documented on the peerless Living in Clip. Like that album, this recording is a two-disc live compendium and it rivals its predecessor for excellence. Again through the personal pictures included in great number in the 28-page booklet, we seemed to be invited to join the band on a personal level in this set of music where Ani's charm comes through, as it does on her live shows. This captures here sextet on several locations through the 2000-2002 tours. The over two hours of music over two dozen tracks includes an easy twenty DiFranco tried-and-true songs, such as "Napoleon" and "Dilate." (4.5)
The Speed of Trees
This Ellis Paul's first new album since he released Translucent Soul (1998). Top-notch guitarist Duke Levine joins for this album. Along with the Paul wry and observational story-songs is a take on the newly discovered Woody Guthrie lyrics "God's Promise". Paul even boasts a Guthrie tattoo on his arm, so his allegiance to that artists is not sleight. Like Woody, Ellis rises above folk and even folk-pop stylism to use the most direct and unornamented of singer-songwriter traditions to deliver sophisticated and well-thought lyrics that can well change the thought patters of the listener, if not at least offer pure sympathy or absolute escape. Lucy Kaplansky and Jennifer Kimball make Guest appearances. (4.5)
Bell the Cat!
Tokuma Japan Communications
Pianist Fujii continues to work with her New York trio including Mark Dresser (bass) and Jim Black (drums). The group has reached such a sophisticated plateau with their group cooperation that they are able to achieve here pieces like the opening "Silence". This album is more of that - silence - than sounds as it really depends on the group's discipline and mutual reliance to construct a piece with more apertures and architecture. Black's drumming is definitely a standout here. Far from merely being a supporting percussive role, Black contributes structure and shape to these wise and witty avant-jazz pieces that blend classical elements. (4)
Steve Shiffman is a refugee from the collapse of Toronto band The 4-Star Movie. Shiffman later moved to New York City where he participated in the anti-folk movement that gave us Jennifer Lindsay, Lach and The Moldy Peaches. His eccentric but rooted pop rock singer approach recalls Smells Like Records artists John Wolfington and Chris Lee. This 5-song EP is a dark and sophisticatedly deranged lo-fi songwriter classic. (3.5)
The Flaming Stars
Sunset & Void
Alternative Tentacles Records
The Flaming Stars effectively recalls vintage, Bauhaus- and early Jesus and Mary Chain-style Goth Rock. The group could easily be believed to be an unearthed recording from a heretofore-unknown Goth Rock outfit. However, it is a contemporary band in the tradition of The Bad Seeds. The English group mixes pained, elegant lyrics delivered authentically with melodic piano and guitar matched by trashcan drums and some distorted guitar. These ragged rhythms could be sedated punk and the melodies could have been derived from low-budget Westerns. But, The Flaming Stars transcends such analysis to offer more than a mere fusion. John Peel highly admires this group led by Max D?charn? (Gallon Drunk), and that is a valuable recommendation. (4.5)
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