April 2002: Outsight
Outsight brings to light non-mainstream music, film, books, art, ideas and opinions
Ratings are (1) = :(, (5) = :)
A COOL MILLION
American Composers Forum Received $1 Million as a McKnight Endowment Grant for its Innova Recordings Label and Recording Assistance Program. "The McKnight grant is a tremendous vote of confidence in Innova and the artists we serve," said label director Dr. Philip Blackburn. "This endowment will enable us to serve more artists, increase our staff, and remain at the forefront of recording and distribution technologies. Commercial labels are narrowing their artistic focus in order remain profitable. We maintain faith in the artists and their visions, so this grant definitely helps us buck the trend in the recording industry. Innova works in partnership with artists to guide them through the complexities of releasing a CD, and provides them with the technologies and industry relationships to create awareness. "Innova connects non-mainstream artists to new audiences using distribution technologies now common in the world of popular music, but strikingly absent from the world of classical and new music," Blackburn explained. Five Web radio stations, Liquid Audio MP3 tracks, printable music scores, multi-media enhanced CDs and a variety of purchasing options are among Innova_s offerings. DVD releases are also in the works. "Innova pushes the boundaries of contemporary music unlikely to find support in the conventional record industry," said Forum executive director Linda Hoeschler, "New releases are selected for the integrity and originality of the work, the artist_s willingness to support and promote the work, and the technical quality of the sound recording." Artists who publish with Innova can receive a low-interest loan through the Forum's Recording Assistance Program with no money down. They retain 100 percent of the net profit, full artistic control and all rights to their work. Founded in 1975 by the American Composers Forum, Innova Recordings currently offers more than 75 titles. Visit them on the web at http://www.innova.mu. One representative and fascinating new recording on the label is Thomas and Beulah by Amnon Wolman and Rita Dove. Composer Wolman united with poet Dove to provide a performer on a digital acoustic piano and a soprano a cycle of recitatives for a neo-operatic biography of U.S. Poet Laureate Dove's grandparents. A multimedia portion of the disc provides 15 minutes of video along with complete texts, scores and background information on this theatric work.
The Voodoo Glow Skulls signed to Victory Records and VGS vocalist Frank says, "We are very excited about this! Victory is one of the few independent labels out there that still maintains punk/hardcore credibility." The band went into the studio to record on February 25 and plans are underway to release a new album in June. As yet untitled, VGS promise the new release will showcase their trademark combination of Latino ska punk rock. Watch http://www.victoryrecords.com for summer tour dates.
BACK INTO THE FIELD
Strapping Fieldhands return to the scene with their first album in five years. The Philadelphia band's announcement of the release of The Third Kingdom marks first new studio album since 1997's Wattle and Daub. The Third Kingdom is out on Strapping Fieldhands' own Omphalos Records label. Through Omphalos, the Fieldhands released their debut LP, Discus, which SPIN called one of 1994's "Ten Best Records You Never Heard". For this release, Omphalos Records has obtained national distribution with Big Daddy Music Distribution. The band has retained a steady following and critical acclaim for its unique "pastoral psych" sound. After disbanding in 1997, the Strapping Fieldhands regrouped in 1999, writing new material and recording. Tour resumed last year, looking to take their skiffle and '60s freakbeat back to the masses. The Third Kingdom will be available in record stores May 2002. Strapping Fieldhands will tour the U.S. extensively this spring and summer.
SOULFOOD is a shrinking-world electronica project that produces mystical, trans-cultural 'ethnotechno' as aesthetically superior independent productions. Drawing primarily from indigenous cultures, these electro-ambient-folk visions are soothing as they are ethnic. On Guitar Meditations (SOULFOOD Music), guitarist Billy McLaughlin joins SOULFOOD for a tranquil blending of acoustic guitar and synthesizer meditations. McLaughlin is a lauded jazz guitarist for this reflective aural experience aimed at setting the mood massage, meditation and yoga. Another pairing is Inlakesh with SOULFOOD on Entering Dreamtime (SOULFOOD Music). Inlakesh (http://www.inlakesh.com) is a didgeridoo duo that brings two styles and excellent technique to this sonic exploration or Aborigine mysticism and Tibetan traditions. They also combine with DJ Free of SOULFOOD's synthesizer's ethnic percussion for a sound experience rich in rhythms. Go direct to the wellspring of these fantastic visions at http://www.SOULFOODmusic.com.
NEW WOMEN ON DISC
Gretchen Lieberum offers jazz vocals and subdued trip-hop on her Brand New Morning. Already hugely successful on MP3.com, this eminently listenable recording should take her farther as a rare example of 'haute hop.' However, I would really like to hear her in an acoustic jazz setting...Louise Goffin (http://www.louisegoffin.com) offers her own mix of quality vocals and hip electro sounds on Sometimes a Circle (Dreamworks). Here the forward-moving, slippery, quick-paced beats lend a brisk, horizontal motion to the vertical soaring and floating of Goffin's effective pop vocals. Goffin is the daughter of '60's husband wife singing duo Carole King and Gerry Goffin...Ja, a.k.a Janice Franco, is a smooth, multi-lingual jazz vocalist. In an acoustic jazz setting she performs Brazilian and jazz standards on Passion of My Soul (BAP Records; http://www.cdbaby.com/jamusic). Important in this production is the subtle but effective percussion from BAP Records founder Larry Fratangelo, a journeyman world-class percussionist. Delivered in a classic style, this album recalls the popular success of peerless American jazz talent and fresh Bossa Nova rhythms that first fused in the '60's. Ja delivers this material in Portuguese, Italian and English...The success of Katrina Carlson's Apples for Eve (Kataphonic Records) released September 11, 2001 was closely tied to the Kenneth A. Carlson film Go Tigers! (http://www.GoTigersFilm.com) released September 14. The tragic events of that time did nothing to help neither the film nor Carlson's record. Classically trained for opera, Carlson exudes technique on this album of radio-ready pop songs. Also a film and television actress, Carlson is surely well acquainted with ups and downs of show business and is already working on a sophomore release to include Goo Goo Dolls members and other musical guests...Erin O'Hara finds in West African polyrhythms a shifting, constantly interesting unique rhythmic bass for the ebullient, fun Indestructible Joy (Mother Trucker Records; http://www.erinohara.com). This Irish singer has a rich voice and gives us dark, sincere tones and bright, glistening upper register singing. Guitarist Tom Gavin joins Erin on this sophisticated folk-rock album... A tough and triumphant rock sound comes from Marianne Pillsbury on The Wrong Marianne (http://www.mp3.com/mariannepillsbury). Full of vigor and energy, thee songs are pure fun even when Marianne defiantly proclaims, "I'm not your layaway girlfriend." This 5-song DIY EP promisingly presages her full-length due out this spring on Bondage Records, San Francisco... Singing and playing acoustic guitar in her rock trio Katie Garibaldi delivers her 13 originals on After the Storm (http://www.katiegaribaldi.com). Sung softly and sincerely, these are fine songs on the third album from a hard-working adolescent alt-folk artist charming her way with sad and celebratory love songs delivered with authenticity and melody... There's a sad, majestic beauty to Nina Nastasia's songs, like a slow-moving distant funeral march against stark landscape. On The Blackened Air (Touch & Go), here second Steve Albini-produced album, Nina surrounds her self with musical talent that works with David Bowie, Indigo Girls and even Cirque du Soleil. This large, talented ensemble present varied and understated arrangements of cello, viola, accordion and more behind her dark and direct vocals and guitar... Gothic darkwave electronica serves as the background to medieval-styled vocalist Regan providing a slow-melt dance track for fetishists public and private. After a college career in Classical music, she has turned her talents toward the dark side on The High Priestess (High Priestess Productions; http://www.the-high-priestess.com). Producer Nick Launay (http://www.Launay.com) has worked with Kate Bush, Killing Joke and more. These are a good starting point for appreciating the seductively sinister beat music...
KING CRAB RECORDS
Mick Turner is one of The Dirty Three and with Will Oldham plays in Bonny Prince Billy and Marquis de Tren. Turner joined with Dirty Three bandmate Warren Ellis in forming King Crab Records in 2001. Right off, Ellis takes the opportuntity to make available his 3 Pieces for Violin. This is music originally created for Canadian dance company The Holy Body Tattoo. Around a tango theme, Ellis composed very rhythmic; entrancing music that Ellis admits is a deconstructed, transmogrified collage of tango elements. Created while musing about the floor-sounds made by tango dancers in a studio, this is the first solo release from Ellis who also performs in Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds. Also on the label is Prepare to Die from Nate Denver's Neck. The group actually initially formed briefly in London in 1967. This reunion album made over 1999-2001 is an electro-folk effort with strange, primitive electronics, a heavy metal heart and a bemusing, child-like sense of humor. Rounding out a triumvirate of releases on this ambitious label is the Observatory EP from Bud Early. Tentative, but not pensive, this reflective, impressionistic album is full of bright imagery supported by a sparse rock trio and gentle, rolling rhythms.
Nine Inch Nails was the critics' choice as Best Tour of the Year in Rolling Stone magazine. Trent Reznor's Nothing Records capitalizes on that success with two recordings. And All That Could Have Been (Nothing/Interscope) is 16 tracks recording during that lauded Fragility 2.0 tour. Captured raw and arena-sized, this is the 100-lb hammer-sack industrial rock that made Nine Inch Nails a byword in heavy music: "Terrible Lie," "Head Like a Hold," "Starfuckers, Inc." and more. There is also a special companion CD Still And All That Could Have Been. Besides being available in stores with the previously described recording, this second CD can be had singly at http://www.nin.com/still. This continues the live aspect, featuring four NIN tracks recorded live, but especially "deconstructed." That is, they are performed minimally, minus the bombast and thunderous deliver Reznor is know for. For comparison purposes, there is only one common track, "The Day The World Went Away." An excellent augmentation of the live disc, this album showcases the melodic success of Nine Inch Nails compositions, delivered as the real songs they are and not just amplified catharsis. A must for the hardcore fans, Still includes new vocally track, "Ann All That Could Have Been" with four new instrumentals.
JEWS WITH REDUX
Jews with Horns is perhaps the most energetic and exciting of albums in The Klezmatics' discography. This funky East-meets-West fusion was a 1995 pioneer in the rising popularity of spirited klezmer music aimed at a wider audience. This was a successful, attention-getting disc for the group and features such special guests as Marc Ribot on electric guitar and the inimitable Moxy Fr?vous with backing vocals. Two years after this 1995 release, the group followed up with Possessed. This is more reflective, a more mature klezmer soul album that shows another facet of the sophisticated ensemble. The heart of this album is the inspiration provide by Tony Kushner's play A DYBBUK: Between Two Worlds. Kushner also provided such moving, sephardic English lyrics as
"Let us in!
Let us tell you where we traveled
How our hopes our lives unraveled
How unwelcome everywhere we've been."
Once again Moxy Fr?vous is on hand along with such other guests as Adrienne Cooper and John Medeski on Hammond organ. Rounder Records re-issued both discs this year.
Jumping the Line
"Jumping the Line" is a hobo phrase for "riding the rails," or hitching a ride on a freight car. It also brings to mind crossing boundaries, maybe even switching sides. Herrick has done both. Beginning life as a rail-riding hobo, Herrick developed an awareness of the plight of the downtrodden and eventually became not a member but employee of the American Communist Party. Herrick was hard-working element of the Party and an able union organizer and cell initiator. Willing to put his life on the line in backing his beliefs, Herrick traveled to Spain with the Abraham Lincoln brigade to fight the fascists in the Spanish Civil War. Comintern, the International Communist Party, hoped this effort would lead to a home for Communism in Spain. While Herrick's soldiering was brief (he quickly took a bulled to the neck, nearly crippling him), the Communist atrocities and double-dealing there made him see the Party in an entirely different light. Returning to the States an anarchist at heart, Herrick had a wife to support and was tied to the Party for a paycheck. His outspokenness about the Stalin-Hitler pact led to his dismissal and his full emergence as an anarcho-social democrat. Appearing in these pages as Herrick formalizes his distrust of all power is such figures as Emma Goldman, Cole Porter and Herrick's former employer Orson Welles. This fascinating work is historically enlightening and a textbook in the formation of practical anarchism from an adventurer-author struck from the same mold as George Orwell. (4)
Backcomb 'n' Beat: Dream Babes, Vol. 3
Continuing their examination of classic girl group sounds of the '60's, this volume focuses on the years 1964-1969. These were the years that also gave us the birth of psychedelic rock and these singers, while dulcet and innocent in voice, are swathed in heavy, beat music harder and more mysterious than vocal pop of today. The singles collected here are British independent productions, the creations of Joe Meek, Mark Wirtz, Mike d'Abo and more. This was a productive time for girl groups and this disc collects such excellent material as Sylvan's death disc "We Don't Belong," Glenda Collins (Meek's premier girl singer) and the harmonies of the Scots singers in The McKinleys. All this and more is exquisite material crowded off the charts during a fertile period for girl group production. (4)
Loaded: The Brassed up Funked out Club Sides
Tom Jones albums, like any vocal pop star of the 60's and 70's are very mixed affairs, a potpourri of then-current styles taking a shotgun approach to hitting the charts with any one formulated track. This collection culls together the most energetic, hard soul cuts to put together a mythical pure-funk album from the dynamic maestro of blue-eyed soul. Toughening up the sound here is Jones' regular guitar hand, Big Jim Sullivan. This hard rock pioneer was tutor to Jimmy Page and Ritchie Blackmore gives the selections the necessary punch. Jones' choice in soul covers - "Lodi," "Polk Salad Annie," "Venus," "Witch Queen of New Orleans" and more - show his knowledge of the obscure and the grinding potential of the popular. Parallel to Elvis Presley in his overt sexuality and his ability to incarnate electric blues styles, Tom Jones presents a charged sound experience on Loaded. (4.5)
Too Pure/The Beggars Group
Hefner always takes great care in their sophisticated indie rock albums that resonate with the suggestion "would that the entire genre realized this potential." Each track is crafted with lo-fi adeptness to be the equal to anything else in the field. Certainly skilled in production and arrangement, these songs breathe beyond technique to full-lunged deliveries from the entire body of underground sounds. Darren Hayman, songwriter and organizing principle of this group referenced Joe Meek and Lee Perry as guiding spirits on this particular album. Thus we find joining their intelligent use of distorted guitars and tasteful horn harmonies, deep beats marking loping rhythms. The effect is not unlike Gary Numan's early experiments with Tubeway Army or Kraftwerk with guitars.. Combined with their easy, even breezy, delivery, this collection of Hefner songs is a memorable and hallmark opus. (4)
Sleeping On Roads
4AD/The Beggars Group
A master of the understated, "sublime" approach, Neil Halstead earned critical acclaim with a half-dozen albums spread evenly between Slowdive and Mohave 3. These tracks came about during the recording of the third Mojave album. Having broken with his girlfriend, Halstead ended up recording solo material while sleeping in the studio. Despite such a genesis, these tracks are not excessively maudlin. Halstead revisited the material over time with different musical friends and the material obviously brightened as it grew, thought there is plenty of the achey-breaky heart here. Also, because these songs were done outside of a band setting and studio-borne, there is more done here production-wise to affect the final sound than other Halstead projects. There is also a less Americana feel than those other projects, though an English folk sound can be detected woven in with the healing, introspection and sonic experimentation. (4)
Disc Lexia, 1707 33d Ave., SF, CA 94122
On III c, President's Breakfast provide funky-jazz sounds with dub production. However, the fun and free sounds bear a serious message. The theme of this album and delivered through the spoken word portion of this funky beat kaleidoscope is death row in America. These readings come from Kevin Cooper and Mumia Abu-Jamal, both 'live from death row.' A bevy of guest artists, including Don Byron on "clarinet, toothbrush" and Miya Masaoka on "koto, angles," fully dress this music for its courtroom appearance. This recording includes a lengthy exploration of John Coltrane's "Love Supreme" through the arranging of guest keyboardist Dred Scott. (3.5)
This is the club remix album of Volume 1: Piercing the Veil, the debut collaboration album from free jazz bassist William Parker and percussionist extraordinaire Hamid Drake. Black Cherry is also the first non-jazz release on AUM Fidelity, though it could not be said to be devoid of jazz. For, even as Organic Grooves bends the tones of the Parker-Drake sound, Organic Grooves adds in very jazzy keyboard and guitar lines. Mixing well with Hamid's ethnic percussion, on Black Cherry the group trades in an "afro-cosmic" sound of rooted, electro-jazz sonic divination. (4)
Putumayo Presents Mississippi Blues
Putumayo World Music
The great Mississippi is a long and varied river. The river at one point is entirely unlike the same body of water miles away. On this blues compendium, Putumayo travels us up and down the river to hear the varied blues sounds that grew up along the banks of the mighty Mississip'. While identified with Chicago blues and Detroit's Motown Records, Luther Allison was born in Widener, Arkansas and began his career in that state. On this album with such artists as Ike & Tina Turner and Bobby Bland we heard the most developed, urban sounds to spring from rural roots watered by the Mississippi. Known for some sophisticated electric blues of his own, harp master Junior Wells was born in Memphis and got his start in the same Arkansas stomping grounds. His contribution to this disc, "Come on in this House" is direct from the Delta. More rooted sounds come from the primitive guitar greats John Lee Hooker and Artie White and folk-blues legend Mississippi John Hurt. More Memphis representation comes from the city's namesakes barrelhouse pianist Memphis Slim and pre-World War II maven of blues song, Memphis Minnie. (3.5)
Blue Dandelion Records
Eleanor McEvoy, one of Ireland's popular singer-songwriters, already has put recordings out on Columbia and Geffen. With that experience and accessibility, Eleanor creates a warm, personal independent recording and treats us to some of the violin playing that earned her a seat in the National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland. Eleanor's poignant, folksy songwriting richly accented by Brain Connor on Steinway piano has previously been found suitable for production by Emmylou Harris, Marty Black and Phil Coulter and more. Full of accurate hooks expressive observations; Yola is fully matured folk-rock from a talented veteran. (4.5)
Take it to the People
Estrus Records, POB 2125, Bellingham, WA 98227
The CD version of the album contains the LP tracks with four bonus cuts culled from their out of print debut 7" on Estrus. Coming all the way from the bustling port and market town of Yokkaichi, Japan, Gasoline delivers primitive American rock-n-roll with all the screaming, over-modulated fury of the typhoons that have been known to strike Yokkaichi. High priest of such potent garage rock Tim Kerr engineered the whole glorious mess at his Sweatbox Studios in Austin, Texas. This captures Gasoline primed and ready to deliver their intense rock-n-roll on a 2001 summer tour to the U.S. Here they demonstrated the energy they were prepared to 'take to the people' in the promised land of unrestrained hard rock that they have so deeply incorporated. This electric nightmare blues mixes well with Jon Spencer and Speedball Baby. (3.5)
Total Sound Group Action Committee
Party Platform...Our Schedule is Change
Estrus Records, POB 2125, Bellingham, WA 98227
In this dynamic, energetic garage rock combo ace skronk engineer and guitarist Tim Kerr and rawk vocalist Mike Carroll. They form a smashing, effective core to this group, as they did in Poison 13. In their unrestrained aural assault they blast through a number of explosive originals and a fiery but still joyfully rollicking version of Small Faces' "Happy Boys Happy." Key on this track is the vigorous, pumping Hammond organ and as on many other tracks the group backing vocals and shrill whistle. This is sonic excitement. (3.5)
Small Stone Recordings, POB 02007, Detroit, MI 48202
Medusa Cyclone provides a swirling, psychedelic headspace of sophisticated space rock ideal for headphones escapism. Central to the group is organizing principle and creative font guitarist Keir McDonald. With occasionally other musicians along, this disc opens asteroid-strong, but has sea-foam-delicate episodes, like the faintly Western "El Mar Caribe." The varied textures and intricate arrangements make Tangier exotic as Tangiers and a spicy blend of diverse styles to boot. (4)
The Best of Tim Hardin: The Millennium Collection
This retrospective of the legendary singer-songwriter features Hardin's original versions of "If I Were A Carpenter" and "Reason To Believe." "If I Were A Carpenter" provided Bobby Darin with his last Top 10 hit while Johnny Cash and The Four Tops also rode it into the Top 40. Rod Stewart made "Reason To Believe" famous. However, we can here hear Hardin's own delivery of these classic songs as he, the author, intended their delivery and the effect is magical. Taken from Tim Hardin 1, Tim Hardin 2 and Tim Hardin 3: Live in Concert, these powerful, poetic examples of a late '60's master singer-songwriter are blueprints for the art form. Hardin was one of the natives found on the shore of the continent of man-with-acoustic-guitar discovered and exhausted in the '70's. Along with this is the politically incorrect but fun and bluesy "Smugglin' Man." (4.5)
Steve Morse Band
Split Decision is a masterful album of instrumental hard rock from veteran guitar ace Steve Morse (Dixie Dregs). Morse won five consecutive awards as "Overall Best Guitar Player" by Guitar Player's Reader's Poll. He eventually had to be excluded from voting to give other guitar-slingers a chance. This chop-laden disc is just the sort of peerless Morse fare that won him such accolades. This ninth album from Steve Morse Band is in diptych fashion, with a first half generally upbeat and bold and a second half more reflective and relaxed. (3.5)
26 Days on the Road
The TwangBangers are a country-rock super group of some mighty, singing guitar players. These honky-tonk heroes are the legendary axemaster Bill Kirchen, Redd Volkaert who backed Merle Haggard in The Strangers, barroom baritone Dallas Wayne and steel guitar master Joe Goldmark. Each veteran gets his chance leading this fine array of talent, whether on one of his own originals, or just hard country classics as "I Got A Rocket in my Pocket" or "Rockabilly Funeral." One such signature tune is Bill Kirchen performing "Hot Rod Lincoln." The nine-and-a-half live version includes Kirchen running the guitar style spectrum from Speedy West to The Sex Pistols, including the Rays, the Kings and more. This is basically a live album recorded during the tour. Three tracks are recorded in the studio by a reunion of the group: "In Memory of a Memory," "Truck Drivin' Man" and "Wacky Walk." (4)
This is the expanded reissue of Steve Earle's classic debut opus. This 1986 release was rooted in honky-tonk for this 'hard-core troubadour,' but also foreshadowed tough alt-country of the next decade. While acclaimed in the '80's, it is still tough and fresh with a lively voice about from this survivor songwriter and performer. This reissue includes the original artwork and, as a bonus track, the live favorite from Earle, his version of Bruce Springsteen's "State Trooper." Steve Earle especially wrote liner notes for the seminal, digitally remastered album that launched two Top Ten country hits ("Goodbye's All We've Got Left" and the title track) and went gold.
MEGAWAVE Records, POB 15219, Lansing, MI 48901-5219
47UMa is a wildly scintillating world pop party from track to track. There is an interesting axis of solidity here as singer-guitarist Gail Baker carefully, but never coldly, enunciates each word with superior technique. She strikes a delicate balance between mechanical precision and giving into the tropical ecstasy inspired by this ebullient music.
Screaming Bloody Live
At least tolerance of the use of "faggot" as a demeaning descriptive is required for access to this album. Getting past that self-marginalization by the group one is presented with some of the most unrestrained, solidly delivered hardcore country on the planet as on "Guns A Blazin' " and "Ten Pounds of Shit in a Five Pound Bag." Again, the content of such songs as "Fuck All Y'All" and "Wifebeater" would make it easy to write all this off as meaningless redneck rock, but hear their versions of "Six Days on the Road," Roky Erickson's "Two-Headed Dog" and two Ramones songs and you will know this group is a warts-and-all boar-charge of backwoods punk rock. (3.5)
A Thousand Petals
Text, Post Office Box 1114, New Brunswick, NJ 08903-1114
Short wave radio and travels through Turkey were some of the sources for the sounds manipulated on this album. Dreams became the sources for the piece names. As one would expect, this subtle collage of sounds, fading to white noise if you do not give it fair attention, is fleeting, understated and dream-like. A maenad was a frenzied priestess whipped to an ecstatic summit during the Bacchanal. These experimental, ambient sound collages are like the half-remembered, surreal dreams of a strange sleep resulting from the exhausted slumber of such orgiastic, Dionysian rituals. Maenad uses suitably exotic and detached soundscapes to affect this. (3)
Roberto Iolini, operating out of Sydney, Australia, presents strange computer compositions on Iolini that occasionally break into crystalline Classical passages reminiscent of the chamber pieces he composes. Clear joy combined with the sophisticated rhythms of Twentieth Century Music can be heard in "Zimbabwe." Inspired by Zimbabwean rhythms, this piece bears an affinity on that level to "Dumisana Maraire" on Kronos Quartet's Pieces of Africa. From this ethnic celebration the spectrum here also includes an except from Vanunu, the opera co-written by Iolini in homage Mordachai Vanunu, the nuclear scientists that divulged Israeli nuclear secrets. The mix of electro-acoustic experimentation and neo-classical sophistication makes for not overly complex, but fascinating listening. This is a collection of compositions from Iolini, mostly composed for reasons other than this album. (4)
Steel Water Light
Steel Water Light
This unique collaboration of Roberto Musci, Chris Cutler, Jon Rose and Claudio Gabbiano focuses on silent movies about cities at the century's start. The confused, urban sound of such growing cities presents itself here. Also, we are exposed to the peculiar, enwalled psychology of the metropolitan denizens. The three classics at the root of this project are De Brug (Joris Iven, 1928), Regen (Joris Iven, 1929), and Manhatta (Paul Strand, 1921). Backward loops, disembodied voices and Jon Rose's violin improvisations effectively convey the otherworldliness those past landmarks would strike us with today. (4)
Mod City is an encompassing document of mod rock sound stretching from 1962 to the mid-'80's. This stretches the spectrum from the early, proto-ska blue beat sound of groups like Rupert and The Red Devils to the R&B-ska fusion of Tich Turner's Escalator from the '80's. This CD package documenting the growth and variety of mod sound includes eight previously unreleased tracks, including a live "Teenbeats" from seminal mod group The Teenbeats. Guitarist Ray Fenwick (The Spencer Davis Group) compiled this collection and besides producing many of the tracks provided numerous classic photos to the packaging. (4)
Mickey Finn's T-Rex
In 1997 original T-Rex band members Mickey Finn and Paul Fenton commemorated the 20th anniversary of Marc Bolan's demise on stage at a specially organized show with Marc's son Rolan. Studio-recorded in late 2001, this CD pulls from the set list the group used on their successful shows across Europe. Added to these core members other solid veteran players and you have not a tribute band, but a reincarnation of the group with a solid, punchy sound presenting the classic songs like "Telegram Sam" and "Jeepster" benefiting from modern production. (4)
Holiday in Dirt
New West Records
Holiday in Dirt is a compilation of rare and previously unreleased solo material from Stan Ridgway. Ridgway's former group Wall of Voodoo sprang from a B-movie soundtrack company and the mature, sophisticated material from Ridgway presents film-like plots lyrically. Ridgway sees himself "telling a horrific tale over a simple, beautiful melody." His cinematic, film noir topics as on the chilling "Operator Help Me" mark Ridgway as an effective, compelling creator of dark urban tales. (4.5)
Michael Fagien founded Jazziz magazine while in medical school and thus pioneered the now ubiquitous combination of a CD and periodical. Culling selections from his personal library and using that distribution network as a springboard, Fagien produced this CD, subtitled A Tribute to the Spirit of America, as a reaction to the September 11, 2001 attacks. As Fagien observes, "music heals." This disc also raises money for The American Red Cross. Pat Metheny opens the disc with "A Map of the World" exploring the physical U.S. landscape. Through the disc "Kindness of Strangers" (Leni Stern), "Swing Low Sweet Chariot" as performed by Cyrus Chestnut, and the Appalachian vocals of The Wayfaring Strangers and more explores the American landscape on many levels. (4.5)
Now or Never
Static Records, 17215 Mack Ave., Detroit, MI 48224
Punk power-pop from No Alternative launches off this CD with the vigor, enthusiasm and musicality that should come from every successful indie rock group. "Reflection" and "Tonight" resound with anthemic power that still exists after repeated listening. Similar to classic Green Day the pop-punk trio preceded this debut with as string of demos and EPs.
Long Ride on a Short Bus
Static Records, 17215 Mack Ave., Detroit, MI 48224
This is the swansong of quirky jazz-rock ensemble Twitch. Upon disbanding after 11 years of creating engaging, humorous and sophisticated rock the group leaves us with a final document of their weird and wonderful vision. The innovative trio deftly combines witty and cartoonish humor with sudden stylistic and tempo changes that keep their music engaging and interesting. This is like King Crimson on nitrous oxide. Best summing their unique eccentricity skillfully delivered is the group's own motto: "weirdoes are your best entertainment value." (4)
James Mathus & His Knockdown Society
On National Antiseptic Mathus mixes bubbling swamp boogie like "Call Your Dawgs Off" with ominous sounding Delta blues like the mysterious "Take a Ride with Me." A founding member of Squirrel Nut Zippers, Mathus invites us into a backwoods juke joint where aboriginal rock forms amalgamate in corn liquor-fueled juke joint laboratories. Running a spectrum of sounds that sprung up along the Mississippi, James Mathus rearranges the building blocks of American music into a raw and ready rural Southern party disc with a big electric sound that Buddy Guy wanted to capture when he had Mathus record on Sweet Tea. (4)
The Arena Rock Recording Co., 68 Greenpoint Ave., 4th Fl., Brooklyn, NY 11222
Like Neil Young The Boggs got their start busking on subways and street corners playing electrified folk rock. However, that is where the similarities end. Instead of CSN&Y-like catchy vocal melodies, the group goes in for enthusiastic caterwauling to the accompaniment of the high-pitched sounds of mandolin, Autoharp and banjo. Stylistically, there is a strong similarity here to other folk maniacs The Holy Modal Rounders. The group plays the earliest forms of Americana with the abandon of punk rock in songs written by vocalist Jason Friedman that could be wild and eerie discoveries on old mountain music 78. (4)
Jonathan Jackson, Jr.
Prisons on Fire: George Jackson, Attica & Black Liberation
The release of this CD marked the 30th anniversary of the Attica prison revolt. Held together by the voice of Jonathan Jackson, Jr., son of Marin County courtroom gunman Jonathan Jackson, this CD tells the stories about the origins the modern prison reform movement in the proactive violence pre-CONINTELPRO California. Leading up to the decades-long legal battle for the Attica survivors, Prisons on Fire presents us with archive audio and the voices of former Black Panther Chief of Staff David Hilliard, the Attica Brothers, James Baldwin, Harry Belafonte and more. (4)
Wise and Otherwise
The acoustic blues on this album comes from Harry Manx playing slide guitar, banjo and mohan veena. Veena is the 20-string creation of Vishwa Mohan Bhatt. George Harrison is the only other artist to have studied under Bhatt and received a veena from the master in appreciation of evident talent. Recorded in 20-hours, this album has a beguiling precision and perfection about it that would suggest significantly greater time spent. Manx' relaxed and natural blues style is a tranquil and serene series of meditations framed in mellow acoustic blues and harmonica-accented vocals. Along with the excellent originals, Manx includes such covers as "Crazy Love" (Van Morrison) and Hendrix' "Foxey Lady" transforming them into artful ballads. (4.5)
So Long of a Journey
Since forming in 1978, Hot Rize was the flagship bluegrass group through the next decade. This is a recording of the group's 1996 reunion concert in front of a loyal audience at the Boulder Theatre. After two decades of making music together, these shows in front of a home audience capture the group at the peak of their skills. Only one member even knew the recoding was being made, preserving a fresh and natural performance. The 20 songs here, more than one for every year of the group's longevity to that point, represent originals and traditionals by the quartet in a classic, even nostalgic, purist style. This is also the last recording made of the group long developed four-part harmonies and vocals before the death from leukemia of guitarist Charles Sawtelle. (4)