sábado, 15 de abril de 2017

Stephen Bruton - What It Is 1993

Long before launching a recorded career as a singer/songwriter, Stephen Bruton had amassed a daunting résumé. He had served as a sideman/guitarist, songwriter, or producer for such industry notables as Bonnie RaittDelbert McClintonBob DylanRay Wylie HubbardHal KetchumChristine McVieT-Bone BurnettWillie NelsonWaylon JenningsPatty LovelessJimmie Dale Gilmore, and Alejandro EscovedoBruton grew up in Ft. Worth, Texas, the son of a jazz musician and record-store owner. He got his first big break when Kris Kristofferson tapped him to fill a vacant band slot in the early '70s. After working with an impressive array of artists for over 20 years, Bruton released his first solo album in the early '90s. Later that decade, he signed to New West Records, the home of such Americana talent as Billy Joe Shaverthe Flatlanders, and Delbert McClintonBruton's fourth release, Spirit World, a mixture of blues, country, and rock & roll, came out in early 2002, followed in 2005 by From the Five. Sadly, Bruton died at age 60 from complications of throat cancer at the home of T-Bone Burnett in Los Angeles on May 9, 2009; Bruton and Burnett had been working together on the film Crazy Heart, an Academy Award-winning vehicle for actor Jeff BridgesBruton and Burnett co-wrote much of the music for the film, and Bridges' Bad Blake character was in fact inspired by BrutonBruton's death came shortly after he completed his work on Crazy Heart, and the film was dedicated to him. AMG.

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The Mother Hips - Part Timer Goes Full 1995

The second album from the Mother Hips, Part-Timer Goes Full and was the first for American Recordings and was released in 1994. The disc continues the guitar-driven roots rock of their debut Back to the Grotto by mixing country, folk, pop and soul together. Part-Timer Goes Full was the band's first attempt to further their sound, but hardly as drastic as The Green Hills of Earth. "We tried to use Beggar's Banquet-era Rolling Stones as a model for the instrumentation," says guitarist and vocalist Tim Bluhm. The Mother Hips use piano and horns on several songs in this set. The standout track is "Bent Carousel" which the band claims is their mix of Leonard Cohen's "Suzanne" and John Sebastian's "Stories We Could Tell." AMG.

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Old & In the Way - That High Lonesome Sound 1996

Twenty-one years after the first album Old & In the Way came the second, an amazing development for a group that existed for only nine months and about 30 gigs in 1973. That High Lonesome Sound, like its predecessor, Old & In the Way, was drawn from the group's stand at the Boarding House in San Francisco in October 1973. And like that release, it combined traditional bluegrass material, in this case standards like "Orange Blossom Special" and "Uncle Pen," with interpolations from the world of rock & roll ("The Great Pretender") and new originals that touched on contemporary issues (Peter Rowan's "Lonesome L.A. Cowboy," a comment on the Southern California country-rock scene of the time). Old & In The Way was a great crossover album, largely because the bandmembers had enjoyed careers in rock, especially banjo player and singer Jerry Garcia, moonlighting from his day job in the Grateful Dead. What was less-well-known was that the group had real roots in the music, as Neil V. Rosenberg pointed out in the second album's liner notes. Four of the five members had experience in bluegrass, and two had been members of Bill Monroe's Blue Grass BoysOld And In The Way was a hybrid, but it was far more bluegrass than rock. AMG.

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Stephen Bruton - Spirit World 2002

Famed producer and New West recording artist Stephen Bruton plays a warm, inviting brand of acoustic rock on his 2002 release Spirit World. His feet wade through the streams of blues, country, and American trad rock equally, with a heavy accent on the Hammond B-3 organ reminiscent of a Texan version of the Wallflowers' good natured pop/rock. While there is nothing wrong with the album, the songs don't necessarily explore any new ground, so all of the songs feel comfortable, but not necessarily compelling. AMG.

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quarta-feira, 29 de março de 2017

Paul Simon - One-Trick Pony 1980

Though it was released to coincide with the opening of the film One-Trick Pony, which Paul Simon wrote and starred in, the One-Trick Pony album is not a soundtrack, as it is sometimes categorized, at least, not exactly. If it were, it might contain the Paul Simon song "Soft Parachutes" and other non-Simon music featured in the movie. Instead, this is a studio album containing many of the movie songs, some of them in the same performances (two were cut live at the Agora Club in Cleveland). The record is not billed as a soundtrack, but a sleeve note reads, "The music on this Compact Disc was created for the Paul Simon Movie 'One-Trick Pony.'" Anyway, if Simon was in fact writing songs for Jonah, his movie character (as seems true of songs like "Jonah," "God Bless the Absentee," and "Long, Long Day"), he intended that character to take a somewhat less considered lyrical viewpoint than Paul Simon generally does, but to be even more enamored of light jazz fusion than Paul Simon had been on his last album, Still Crazy After All These Years. Tasty licks abound from the fretwork of Eric GaleHiram Bullock, and Hugh McCracken, and the rhythm section of Steve GaddTony Levin, and Richard Tee is equally in the groove. This is the closest thing to a band album Simon ever made, and it contains some of his most rhythmic and energetic singing. But it is also his most uneven album, simply because the songwriting, with the exception of the title song and the ballads "How the Heart Approaches What It Yearns" and "Nobody," is not up to his usual standard. Maybe he was too busy writing his screenplay to polish these songs to the usual gloss. (It can't have been than Jonah wasn't supposed to be as talented as Paul Simon. Could it?) In any case, though the album spawned a Top Ten hit in "Late in the Evening" and may have sold more copies than the film did tickets, it remained a disappointment in both artistic and commercial terms. AMG.

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Oingo Boingo - Dead Man's Party 1985

Returning after a two-year recording hiatus (during which bandleader Danny Elfman recorded a solo album), Oingo Boingo forsook the excesses of smart-aleck humor and quirky production that had led critics almost universally to dismiss the band's first four albums. The sound is still maybe just a bit too uptight and over-determined, but the horn charts are more focused and sophisticated, and Elfman has matured considerably as a lyricist. Alongside such typically oddball fare as the title track and a surprise hit song called "Weird Science" are the faintly paranoid "Just Another Day" and the frankly romantic "Stay," as well as a glorious Motown tribute called "Help Me." But "Weird Science" is what really brings things to a close with a bang -- though it reverts somewhat to the band's earlier indulgence in wacka-wacka sound effects and willfully crazy production technique, it's also one of Boingo's most satisfying pop songs ever. Overall, this is perhaps the first Oingo Boingo album to hang together really well as a whole. Recommended. AMG.

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I Mother Earth - Blue Green Orange 1999

I Mother Earth's third record is notable for being their first with new vocalist Brian Byrne taking over for longtime frontman Edwin, but since brothers and primary songwriters Jagori and Christian Tanna remain the creative force behind the group, Blue Green Orange will feel familiar to longtime fans. The quartet is more musically adventurous than their '90s Canadian alternative rock counterparts, and Blue Green Orange places a greater emphasis on extended instrumental sections and complex arrangements -- something the band would explore further on their next album, The Quicksilver Meat Dream. Less restricted by former vocalist Edwin's diverging creative input, the Tanna brothers have distanced themselves from post-grunge and delved into spatial jam rock territory. The increased use of African percussion on "All Awake" and the Santana-esque epic "Summertime in the Void" show off their impressive musical chops (especially the understated bass playing of Bruce Gordon), although their propensity for long pieces has somewhat dulled the visceral edge found in the Edwin incarnation of the group. Edwin may have also been the main proponent of more compact, pop-driven singles, since there isn't an obvious rock radio single among the album's 11 compositions. The only exception is the out-of-place rock ballad "When Did You Get Back from Mars?" which is the one instance where the hoarse-throated Byrne gets first billing. AMG.

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Grateful Dead - In The Dark 1987

The Grateful Dead's last lineup returned intact for In the Dark, an album that ironically thrust the band back into the spotlight on the strength of the band's lone Top 40 single, "Touch of Grey." Fans had long mused that the Dead's studio albums lacked the easygoing energy and natural flow of their live performances, and In the Dark does come close to capturing that lightning in a bottle. Jerry Garcia, who apparently had to relearn the guitar after a near-fatal illness, approaches his instrument recharged, while his voice (a beneficiary of the extended hiatus?) shows some of its original smoothness. Of his four songwriting collaborations with long-standing lyricist Robert Hunter, "Touch of Grey" is far and away the best. "When Push Comes to Shove" and "West L.A. Fadeaway" use familiar blues-based riffs that lack the pair's often-contagious chemistry, and "Black Muddy River" has one foot firmly stuck in mawkish MOR terrain (although Garcia can be dealt a free pass here in light of the song's real-life implications as an attempt to make his peace with the world). What pushes In the Dark past the band's also-rans are two terrific songs from Bob Weir and John Barlow, the cheerfully cranky "Hell in a Bucket" (co-written with Brent Mydland) and the cautionary tale "Throwing Stones." Rarely have Weir's songs sounded so effortless; punctuated by Garcia's guitar, they have more in common with the upbeat, flavorful sound of past Garcia/Hunter compositions than the pair's own work this time out (a rare case of role reversal). In the middle of it all is a country-rock song from Mydland, "Tons of Steel," that sounds oddly out of place. Although the album is unmistakable as the work of the Dead, much of it recalls the punchy, pungent production of Dire Straits' recent work. It's not the second coming of the Dead, but a more entertaining epilogue you couldn't ask for. AMG.

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North Mississippi AllStars - World Boogie Is Coming 2013

Although they have mixed elements of hip-hop and alternative rock into their repertoire, the North Mississippi Allstars are really at their best when they blow out the rust on the kind of Mississippi folk-blues numbers they learned firsthand from the likes of R.L. BurnsideJunior Kimbrough, and Othar Turner. Essentially a swampy, rootsy power blues duo comprised of brothers Luther Dickinson (guitar, slide guitar, vocals) and Cody Dickinson (drums), the sons of legendary Memphis producer and musician Jim Dickinsonthe Allstars have always had one foot in the traditional cane and drum bands of North Mississippi, another in the electric modal drone version of the blues practiced at local juke joints and house parties, and yet another in the grand rock power stomp style of Led ZeppelinIt all added up to a powerfully original and yet somehow traditional-sounding version of 21st century blues-rock that had them sounding like no other band. After five albums of such fare, each a ragged, back-porch, Deep South boogie fest, the brothers went on hiatus in 2009 after the death of their father. When they came back together and re-entered the studio, they took one of Jim Dickinson's favorite blessings, "world boogie is coming," as a project title, and began laying down tracks in a loose, ambient manner, leaving in bits of background conversation, footsteps, wind, rain, whatever sounds happened, then flew in archival field recordings of Turner and Burnside and built from them, aided by friends and fellow musicians Lightnin' MalcolmDuwayne Burnside and Garry Burnside (R.L.'s sons), Kenny BrownAlvin Youngblood HartShardé Thomas (Turner's granddaughter), Chris ChewSid Selvidge and Steve SelvidgeRobert Plant (on harmonica), and others. The end result is NMA's masterpiece, each track a fascinating blend of old and new, a seamless, chugging look at Mississippi country-folk-boogie, with Luther's jagged, commanding guitar riffs and haunting slide runs sewing everything together, while Cody's powerful, thundering drums march everything across the landscape. The version of the traditional blues "Rollin 'n Tumblin" here is a pure sonic blast that straddles two centuries at once, while "Boogie" sounds like a giant electric marching band stomping across the land. NMA's version of Junior Kimbrough's "Meet Me in the City" here almost sounds like power pop, but filtered through a rustic moonshine filter. Every track here is like that, roaring into the 21st century sounding big, urgent, and huge, but so grounded in the local folk-blues tradition that each track seems to carry imprinted DNA that says boogie all over it. World boogie is coming? It's here, and these guys boogie like the world has no choice but to surrender to the fact. AMG.

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quarta-feira, 15 de fevereiro de 2017

Anouar Brahem - Astrakan Café 2000

The Tunisian oud genius has done it again. Anouar Brahem has issued only five records under his own name over the past decade, each more adventurous than the last, without compromising his original vision: for the music of his region to meet with the other music of Africa and Asia and create a delirious sound that is equal thirds past, present, and future, along the precipice of historical lineage. For Brahem there is no attempt to synthesize the globe, or even the sounds of the East with those of the West. He is content in his knowledge that sound is infinite, and that his tradition, as it evolves and expands into a deeper pan-African/trans-Asian whole, is more than large enough for a master musician to rummage through in one lifetime. Astrakan Café, the follow-up to his brilliant Thimar, is a smaller-sounding recording that reaches farther into the deep crags of the Balkans. With Barbaros Erköse on clarinet and the Indian and Turkish percussion stylings of the professor of somber precision, Lassad HosniBrahem's oud enters into a dialogue, musically, that has never before existed (though he has collaborated with both players previously). Erköse is a Turkish clarinetist of gypsy origin. His low, warm, rounded tones are consonant with the oud. Erköse plays equal parts music of the Balkan and Arab worlds with a tinge of the ancient klezmorim whispering their secrets through his horn. Despite the journeying these musicians do here, they never stray far from the takht, a small ensemble capable of improvising to the point of drunken ecstasy. Listening through Astrakan Café, you can hear the gypsy flamenco tied deeply to Indian ragas and even a kind of Eastern jazz. But there is no hyperactivity in it, no need to cram as many traditions as possible into one putridly excessive mix that expresses nothing but the novelty of the moment. Astrakan Café has many highlights: its two title tracks that have their roots in Russian and Azerbaijan music; "Ashkabad," which is an improvisation on a melody from the folk music of Turkmenistan; "Astara," a modal improvisation based on love songs from Azerbaijan; "Halfounie," a segment from a Brahem-composed soundtrack inspired by the medina or marketplace in Tunis; and "Parfum de Gitanie," which takes a fragment from Ethiopian sacred music, slows it to the point of stillness, and waxes lazily and jazzily over the top, with the oud and the clarinet trading syncopated eights. This is deeply personal, profound music. It is also highly iconographic, with timelessness woven through every measure. The only "exotica" on Astrakan Café is its "otherness" out of space and any discernable era. The tempos are languid and full of purpose, the dynamics clean and clearly demarcated, the tones and modes warm, rich, and linear. This would be traditional music if a tradition such as this -- which is original, though adapted from many sources on inspiration -- actually existed. Highly recommended. AMG.

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The Wrong Object - After The Exhibition 2013

Five years after 2008's Stories from the Shed, Belgian avant jazz-rockers the Wrong Object return as a remarkably changed band with a new outlook to match on the 2013 MoonJune release After the ExhibitionMichel Delville remains a guiding force, a highly creative electric guitarist who composed or co-composed six of the album's 11 tracks, but he and drummer Laurent Delchambre are the only returning bandmembers -- the Wrong Object are now a sextet featuring saxophonist/clarinetist Marti Melia, saxophonist François Lourtie, bassist Pierre Mottet, and keyboardist/vocalist Antoine Guenet (Univers ZeroSH.TG.N). In addition, guest vibraphonist/marimbist Benoit Moerlen (GongGongzilla) performs on over half the tracks. With the previous lineup's very capable trumpeter (Jean-Paul Estiévenart) and tenor saxophonist (Fred Delplancq) replaced by two diverse reedmen, Guenet and his widely diverse keyboard voicings, and Moerlen and his crisp tuned percussion, the Wrong Object have a much more varied instrumental palette, and they don't waste their new potential for an instant. In its sax-fueled riff-centric moments and with the density, complexity, and unpredictability of its compositional touches -- which never drag down the music's forward momentum -- the band sometimes recalls the '90s Belgian band X-Legged Sally, and that should be considered a high compliment. They don't bother with a slow buildup either, bashing out the assaultive jazz-metal opener, "Detox Gruel," like a cross between XLS and King Crimson's "Larks' Tongues in Aspic, Pt. 2," and the moment when "Jungle Cow, Pt. 3" threatens to segue into Led Zeppelin's "Immigrant Song" also pushes the requisite rock buttons. But these interludes are merely one façet in a wildly diverse set mixing tight avant-proggy arrangements with jazzed-up harmonics and energetic solos. The Wrong Object have previously melded Balkan/Eastern European/Middle Eastern elements with creative jazz (e.g., "Honeypump Riff" from 2007's Platform One), and After the Exhibition's "Spanish Fly" and "Yantra" tread similar ground. For standout improvisations, note the latter track's showcases for Melia's low-down blurty bass sax, Guenet's burning, swooping keys, and, after Delville's segue of bursts and roars, the high-flying marimba/soprano sax dialogue between Moerlen and Lourtie. Even the collective improv "Jungle Cow, Pt. 1" is densely packed with sounds; free-form but not meandering, it's a perfect entry into the "Jungle Cow" suite's later angularities, rhythmic shifts, and fiery soloing. But the biggest surprise is "Glass Cubes." The eight-and-a-half-minute track begins with Guenet's piano and features vocals from the husband-and-wife team of Guenet and Susan Clynes evoking a mysterious, even magical mood -- their harmonizing suggests the heyday of Caravan over 40 years previously. As Clynes' powerful voice cuts through the wailing saxes at the song's conclusion in an exuberant 9/8 meter, "Glass Cubes" is anthemic yet freewheeling, a Canterbury-style reinvention with a fresh, invigorating 21st century spin. Concluding the album with "Stammtisch," the most purely Zappa-esque number and yet another highlight, merely reinforces the notion that After the Exhibition is the Wrong Object's most diverse and arguably strongest outing thus far. AMG.

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