Friday, September 29, 2006

Electric Wizard- Barbarian

The barbarian has been slain.

I'm hitting a regional metal show tonight. While two or three of the bands on the bill are compelling, none specialize in my favorite flavor. Slow, heavy stoner metal melts my mind. Electric Wizard's Dopethrone is the ultimate example. It's pure evil. Three of its songs run over ten minutes; "Barbarian" is six minutes and 23 seconds of head-crushing oppression. The band shares more of its sinister sludge at MySpace.

Viewing the video of Joe Tex lip-synching this this disco classic might be the only possible way to revive yourself after receiving an Electric Wizard beatdown.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Tony Bennett- Lost In the Stars

We're all lost now.

Tony Bennett has received as much ink as Paris Hilton the last couple weeks. The music press is fawning over the 80-year-old's new duets album. A big part of Bennett's charm is his overwhelming sincerity. He smiles as he sings. That's why my favorite Bennett performance is this 1962 reading of Kurt Weill's bitter "Lost In the Stars." Hearing the perpetually cheerful Bennett crack on this existential poem tears me up. Oh, that's some guy named Kenny Burrell on guitar.

I slobber all over Mardo in this live review.

I haven't purchased The Flaming Lips' At War With the Mystics because I've been waiting for this forthcoming deluxe version. I love hearing production-oriented bands like Super Furry Animals, Queen and the Lips in 5.1 surround sound.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Roman Numerals- Msr. Control

Out of control.

The Roman Numerals are "the" band in their hometown of Kansas City. They've recently been cover boys for both the Pitch and the Star's weekly entertainment section. As the band puts it, they engage in "creative revisionism." So echoes of Joy Division and the Cure abound, but those bands never sounded quite like this. The Roman Numerals will perform in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Chicago in coming months. "Msr. Control" and "Can We Trust Your Architect" can be downloaded at MySpace. My favorite song on the new album, "The Rule of V," streams there as well. Blue Collar Distro sells it here.

I'm giddy with anticipation for the new Hold Steady album, Boys and Girls In America. Stereogum posted a link to a podcast in which Craig Finn plays five of his favorite songs from his teenage years. And this site offers a new song. It sounds less like Springsteen and more like Seger. "Night Moves," indeed.

As much as I enjoyed the big show headlined by Chris Brown three nights ago, I keep thinking about the thousands of teenage girls enthusiastically rapping along to wildly inappropriate songs like this by Juelz Santana and this by Lil Wayne. I also love them, but I'm not an impressionable 15-year-old.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Etta Baker, 1913-2006


Etta Baker's soft, soothing guitar work reminds me the gentle sense of well-being provided by the music of John Hurt and Elizabeth Cotten. Her generous spirit comes through just as loudly as her actual music. She was 93 when she died Saturday. This hymn is from Baker's fine 1991 One-Dime Blues.

St. Louis blues legend Henry Townsend has also passed. He was 96. I featured Townsend in this space four months ago. I'll repost the MP3.

I had a great time seeing Chris Brown, Ne-Yo, Lil Wayne and four other acts on Sunday night. My initial post-show impressions are here.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

H-Town- Knockin' Da Boots

Playtime is over.

I’ll see Chris Brown and Ne-Yo headline a package show tonight. Also on the bill are Dem Franchize Boyz and Lil’ Wayne. I’m eager to see if the crooners’ performances offer any indication of their prospects as pop superstars. Both young men are currently riding high, but it remains to be seen if they’ll enjoy the career longevity of their heroes Usher, R. Kelly and Michael Jackson. H-Town is an unfortunate example of hopefuls that were almost instantly supplanted by new talent. This slow jam from the Luke Campbell proteges was one of the biggest hits of 1993. Thirteen years later it’s like they never existed.

My pals Shannon and Matt issue a great new release on their Drama Club record label Tuesday. The Changes are a Chicago indie pop band. I'm especially partial to the gems at "One O'Clock" and "Five O'Clock" on this groovy Ecard.

Retail music industry veteran Corky has entered the music blogging world with Desolation Row. He's still tweaking a few things, but you won't want to miss his list of the top songs by The Rolling Stones. Hey, where's "Happy"?

Friday, September 22, 2006

Royal Trux- The Sewers of Mars

Down the drain.

It should come as no surprise to those familiar with Neil Hagerty that he came off as a jerk to a journalist in this recent interview. It's part of his madcap charm, I suppose. He and his current band, Howling Hex, are in my town Saturday night. I've only bothered to see the guy perform once, with Royal Trux, in Toronto, and that was probably enough. Even so, the broken-down Stones vibe on this most unlikely major label disc is very compelling. The sleazy "The Sewers of Mars" is a narcotic anthem worthy of Mott the Hoople.

It turns out that I'm not the only guy who is impressed by Tool's popularity. Zac Sally of Low paid tribute to the band in the Village Voice. My review ran yesterday in the Kansas City Star.

News just broke on this very disturbing story about covert surveillance at the Lawrence, Kansas, Wakarusa Festival.

Danny Flores, the voice and the sax behind the Champs immortal "Tequila," died Tuesday. This brief story hints at a fascinating life.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Don Walser, 1934-2006

We'll miss you, Don.

Don Walser was doing an in-store performance the very first time I visited Austin's Waterloo Records. It must have been around 1990. I bought this CD that day. Walser made countless people smile with his life-affirming traditional country & western music in the tradition of Tex Ritter and the Sons of the Pioneers. The yodel heard to good effect here was his trademark. Subsequent recordings featured significantly better production, but this self-released effort has a certain charm. Walser died yesterday. He was 72.

Chico Hamilton- Another Time For the Blues

Time has passed.

I was delighted by this morning's wonderful NPR feature on drummer Chico Hamilton. He turns 85 years old today. Even though he's seemingly done everything and played with everybody in the jazz world, he's too often overlooked. An extended Hamilton solo sets the off-kilter tone for this piece from 1999's Timely before Eric Person gets a chance to impress his boss.

Have you seen this this surreal footage of Tom Jones goofing around with Sly Stone? It's a mind-bendingly bad trip.

St. Louis bluesman Bennie Smith has died.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Gilberto Gil- No Norte Da Saudade

Go buy it.

The true test of music's brilliance comes when you're listening to something and think, "Why do I even bother to play to anything else?" That happens a lot with much of Gilberto Gil's work. Listen to how the giant of Brazilian music fuses native sounds, Bob Marley's magic and African guitar tones on 1977's Refavela.

Guitarist Al Casey has died.

The Junior Boys show disappointed me last night. My impressions and a photo are here.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

James King- Lonely River

It's dry.

I'm considering driving up to Lincoln, Nebraska, in a few weeks to camp out at this bluegrass festival. It'd be a great chance to clear my head by getting smelly and doing some pickin' 'n' grinnin'. One of the headliners, the James King Band, plays bluegrass the "right" way- pure, high and lonesome. "Lonely River" is from the 1993 album These Old Pictures.
Here's a gift for the DJs out there. At my request, my internet pal Tony sampled this classic line from a local television news broadcast. You're welcome.
The absurd "Love Reality" by Reggie and the Full Effect is a sure cure for the blues.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Junior Boys- First Time

The time has passed.

While Junior Boys are technically an electronica act, in their hearts they’re a pop group in the tradition of ABC and the Pet Shop Boys. The Canadian duo strike this delicate balance to great effect on So This Is Goodbye, their second full-length album.

Songs like "First Time" and "Count Souvenirs" could be mistaken for classic MTV favorites from the ‘80s. And the desperate "When No One Cares" rivals the work of acclaimed songwriter Stephin Merritt, although his work with Magnetic Fields has never enjoyed such effective production. Junior Boys’ sparse, forward-thinking aesthetic gives their music plenty of room to breathe.

Kansas Citians will have an opportunity to decide whether Junior Boys are a retro pop act or electronica innovators when the duo performs at The Record Bar Tuesday night.

Bill Caldwell- Eternal Triangle

An eternity has passed.

I was pleased to see several of Kansas City's premier musicians on stage when I entered a jazz cafe last night. Megan Birdsall and Gary Sivils were leading a band of familiar faces but I didn't immediately recognize the guy on sax. He was wearing a Chiefs shirt and looked a little haggard. But when he took his first solo it was as if Sonny Rollins had stepped onto the stage. Only then did I realize the man with the burly sound was Bill Caldwell. I hadn't seen him play for several years. Caldwell shares this 1993 date with Everette DeVan.

Former Texas Governor Ann Richards died last week. While attending a Raul Malo showcase at SXSW a couple years ago, I was startled to see her sitting on the floor of the packed room. She clearly was a true music lover.

My reviews of recent Tool and Dr. John concerts are posted here.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Marianne Faithfull- It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels

Good luck, Marianne.

Marianne Faithful's country album is all but forgotten. Faithless, from 1978, was her first release since the '60s and it wasn't until a year later that Broken English shattered popular and critical perceptions about her. Recorded with Joe Cocker's band, Faithless isn't entirely awful. Her stab at the Kitty Wells standard featured here has a certain woozy dancehall charm. She also has her way with Dylan's "I'll Be Your Baby Tonight." Faithfull was recently diagnosed with breast cancer. As you send positive thoughts her way, you might visit the lovely MySpace account someone compiled for Faithfull.

Tim Finn of the Star humorously recollects an odd encounter with James Brown at his music blog. James may still be carrying a torch for former Kansas City resident Marva Whitney.

Stereogum features an intriguing analysis and lively discussion of Microsoft's new line of MP3 players.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Bluesiana Triangle- Life's a One Way Ticket

We're all gonna die someday.

Bluesiana Triangle did little to dispel the common adage that most supergroups fail to fulfill their potential. The collaboration between Art Blakey, David "Fathead" Newman and Dr. John should have been lustrous. All three giants were immeasurably versatile and soulful musicians. Even so, their out-of-print album from 1990 is merely very good. If I get a chance when I see him tonight, I'll ask Dr. John for his appraisal of the project.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Dracomagnet- Souped-Up Monte Carlo and Feathered Hair

Later, Kansas.

The only statement more reckless than "I'm opening a record store," is "I'm starting a record label." I doubt that Hairball Records ever made a dime, but it did a fine job of documenting the Lawrence, KS, scene of the early '90s. This label compilation includes artists like Chubby Smith, The Eudoras, Todd Newman and even William S. Burroughs. Dracomagnet's contribution is a great example of the grinding sludge that dominated regional rock clubs at the time. Cough It Up: The Hairball Story is out of print, but it can literally be purchased for a penny.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Cibelle- City People

The city people locked their doors.

The Shine of Dried Electric Leaves was released in May but it's only now entered my top ten releases for the year. Although the Brazilian artist encrusts her music with crackles, wheezes and bleats, it's actually traditional Música Popular Brasileira at its core. Even Cibelle's collaboration with freak-folker Devendra Banhart on a Caetano Veloso cover is conventional. The video is charming. Antonio Carlos Jobim and Elis Regina would approve. Cibelle starts a 15-date tour of the United States this week.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Lonnie Johnson- There Is No Justice

There is no music.

I haven’t immersed myself in Bob Dylan’s new Modern Times yet. But my initial reaction to a few of its songs was to think that Dylan was deliberately conjuring the sound and feel of Lonnie Johnson. It’s quite possible that Dylan’s always been emulating the great blues guitarist, vocalist and songwriter. On this 1932 recording, Johnson exhibits clever wordplay, social commentary and phrasing that should sound immediately familiar to Dylan’s fans. And just like Dylan, Johnson kept playing for decades. This video at YouTube probably dates from the mid-‘60s. Good call, Bob.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Doug Sahm- On Bended Knee

Goodbye, friends.

I've spent a lot of time thinking about my friend Ron since his death last week. Ron possessed a rare blend of charm, kindness and a constant urge to flout convention. One of the few people I've met who shared these traits was Doug Sahm. Doug's chatter and obsessive enthusiasm for music were reminiscent of Ron's. I can easily imagine this song playing in Ron's record store, with Doug's spoken introduction sending Ron and his staff scurrying to their Bobby Charles section. Ron would have realized that S.D.Q. '98 was out of print and priced it accordingly.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Oliver Sain- St. Louis Breakdown

It's broken down.

Not everyone can be Ike Turner. Turner and Oliver Sain were born a year apart in Mississippi. Both men became prominent St. Louis-based musicians who occasionally worked at Sun studio in Memphis. While Turner crafted a golden ticket with Tina, Sain had small hits with "Bus Stop," "Booty Bumpin'" and "Party Hearty." He namechecks Rufus Thomas and James Brown on the title cut of this seemingly out-of-print compilation, which is loaded with similarly soulful, funky treasures. St. Louis' Vintage Vinyl probably has a few copies for sale.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

The Blazers- Nobody Told Me

The rockin' is over.

I've been giving "just another band from east L.A." a lot of thought in anticipation of the new Los Lobos release next Tuesday. I revere their electronic experimentation and even happily tolerate their increasing jamband tendencies. But sometimes I miss the old sound- music that's anything but affected. That's one of the many reasons I love The Blazers. It may be unfair, but the Blazers will be forever tagged as Los Lobos' little brothers. Their catalog is an underrated treasure. The Pete Anderson-produced Just For You seems to be out-of-print, but plenty of copies are available at bargain prices here.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Dewey Redman, 1931-2006

Goodbye, Mr. Redman.

Jazz saxophonist Dewey Redman died Saturday. He was 75. He was perhaps best known for his work with Keith Jarrett and with the group Old & New Dreams. He was also Joshua Redman's father. Redman's solo on this 1992 date showcases his tough, burly tone and is a great example of Redman's rare ability to play both inside and out. The soulful piano solo is by Charles Eubanks.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Pip Pyle, 1950-2006


Progressive rock drummer Pip Pyle died Monday, August 28. He was 56. Pyle is heard here in a 1975 tape by National Health. Bill Bruford later filled the drummer chair for the band. Pyle also worked with Gong, Hatfield and the North and many other acts associated with the "Canterbury scene."

Friday, September 01, 2006

The Four Lads- No Not Much

Not much left here.

Imagine life in America fifty years ago. The Korean War had ended. Eisenhower was in the White House. Most citizens hadn't yet heard the initial shots fired by musical revolutionaries Ray Charles, Chuck Berry, Little Richard and Elvis Presley. The tidy harmonies of The Four Lads were one of the most popular recording acts and "No Not Much" was one of the biggest hits of 1956. Weird, huh?