Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Song of the Day 10/25/08

Every day we add a new song to the alltime top 666 (at the top of the page, to your right), counting them down all the way to #1. Today’s song is #640:

 

Gruppo Sportivo – PS 78

“Hey Johnny.”

 

“Huh?”

 

“Do you remember PS 78?”

 

“Uh uh.”

 

A sarcastic faux cheerleader anthem from the legendary Dutch new wave satirists, 1979, with peppy organ and girlie chorus, chronicling a bunch of spoiled brats with “rich daddies and big tits” being Ugly Americans during their summer in Europe. Deezer is the only site that seems to have it. If you want the vinyl, look for 10 Mistakes at your local used vinyl store but be careful, only the European version has the song.

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October 24, 2008 Posted by | Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music | , , , | Leave a comment

CD Review: Devi – Get Free

The debut cd by this Hoboken, NJ power trio is a throwback to the 80s when the major labels were still signing good bands. This album has pretty much everything a band ought to deliver: catchy, melodic songs, gorgeously soaring vocals from Debra their frontwoman/guitarist, killer musicianship and a centerpiece that’s a genuine classic. But first and foremost this is a feast of good guitar: incisive, wickedly smart solos, contrasting textures, and dynamic shifts that run the gamut from slyly amusing to harrowingly beautiful. While the rhythm section clearly has a fondness for prog-rock, they keep things tight and terse

 

The cd kicks off with Another Day, replete with Runaways-style bad-girl sensuality. The second cut, When it Comes Down, a concert favorite, starts pensive and apprehensive, slowly crescendoing to a long, thoughtful, bluesy solo reminiscent of Robin Trower when he was good way back in his Procol Harum years. It ends with a hook that sounds straight out of a Nektar art-rock suite, but is actually original to the song. In case you might assume that the cover of Runaway here is a throwaway, don’t – it’s got the one of the best solos on the cd. Howl at the Moon, which follows, has the feel of a hit single, its catchy minor-to-major melody spiced with tasteful acoustic slide guitar against washes of organ.

 

The next song, whose title is the chemical formula for heroin, builds from pensive to crunchy and metalish riff-rock capped by long solo that starts out thoughtful and takes its time getting ferocious before ending gentle and acoustic. By contrast, Demon in the Sack starts out fierce and hardcore before its riff-rock chorus, poking fun at gender stereotypes and sexual politics. The high point of the cd is Welcome to the Boneyard, a wrenchingly beautiful ballad sung from the point of view of a ghost whose body lies buried in the smoking pile of rubble at Ground Zero after 9/11, vocals soaring against gorgeously watery guitar chords.

 

The cd’s title track echoes the brooding feel of When It Comes Down, with strikingly textured acoustic and electric guitars. All That I Need is a showcase for sweet slide guitar plus some nifty electric piano to change up the mood a bit. Love That Lasts begins sad and bluesy with clarinet from jazz great Perry Robinson and finally turns into something like a reprieve for the band: forced to behave like purists for almost the entire duration of the album, there’s a long, relaxed blues/metal guitar solo and finally the drums go totally apeshit, John Bonham style. And then it ends with a neatly melodic Steve Harris-like hook from the bass. The cd closes with a richly guitarish cover of The Needle and the Damage Done, its long outro layered hypnotically with multiple guitar tracks, as captivating as what the Church did on The Maven. This is a deceptively intelligent cd: as accessible as the melodies, the vocals and the songs are, at heart it’s a kick-ass rock cd that screams out for high volume and headphones. Although it promises to captivate just as many singer/songwriter fans as headbangers. Definitely one of the year’s very best, and available for the pittance of $5, DRM-free at cdbaby. Watch this space for a cd release show.

 

October 24, 2008 Posted by | Music, Reviews | , , | 1 Comment

Concert Review: Englewinds at Trinity Church, NYC 10/23/08

Yesterday at Trinity Church, the environmentally-conscious wind, piano and percussion sextet Englewinds put on a show that was as captivating as it was cutting-edge. Celebrating their tenth anniversary, the group features a new environmental theme every year. This year’s is the monarch butterfly, which relies on milkweed for a place to lay its eggs. With milkweed in decline, the next stop on oboeist Sarah Davol’s intinerary after the show was to meet with the NYC Parks department and try to convince them to let milkweed grow, literally on the fringes, of city-owned parks. As an aside, just think what might happen if, say, AC/DC would start a campaign to plant trees. You may think the idea is incredibly corny, but just imagine…

 

In any event, Englewinds proved to be first and foremost about the music. They opened with a brief and intriguing piece by Davol titled Long Road Back, opening brisk and springlike, picking up the pace with the highs of Marcia Hankle’s flute playing contrapuntally against the lows of Davol’s oboe and Maureen Strenge’s bassoon. The next work on the bill was a tongue-in-cheek partita by Douglas Townsend, who when given a chance to introduce it to the audience, revealed that he’d written it for music students with sufficient technique to play the simpler Beethoven sonatas. The way the group played it, it was clear that Townsend must have had a great time writing it: it’s a dead ringer for Beethoven, Tomoko Ohno’s darkly incisive, subtly textured piano foreshadowing and then joined by winds as the melody rises. Only at the end did she allow herself to cut loose, keeping the quick crescendo at the end of the third section terse and memorable. It was the kind of piece that a clever programmer on, say, WNYC could sneak into a set of Beethoven and nobody would know the difference.

 

Hankle played Katherine Hoover’s open-skies anthem Kokopeli solo, vivid and evocative. It’s an American Indian themed work: Kokopeli is something of a pied piper figure in Hopi mythology. Then the group provided a comic interlude with Dawn Avery’s Tulpe Interlude, getting some audience participation going as the oboe and bassoon each took on a persona, the oboe a graceful, fluid water turtle and the bassoon a big, clumsy box turtle. That the crowd didn’t prove all that good at following along was a blessing in disguise because a more vigorous response would have drowned out the music.

 

They closed on a high note with their clarinetist Monte Morgenstern’s composition The Flight of the Monarch Butterfly. As he told the crowd, the piece actually depicts the creature’s entire life cycle, from the eerie, confusion and eventual shock as it first leaves the cocoon, to a beautiful interlude introduced by stately piano chords, and ending on a sad, hypnotic, Messiaen-esque note, Ohno’s plaintive high notes ringing against gentle washes of winds. More groups should be doing what Englewinds are, raising consciousness in a way that’s compelling without being the least bit strident. Watch this space for further info on upcoming NYC area shows.

October 24, 2008 Posted by | Live Events, Music, New York City, Reviews | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Song of the Day 10/24/08

Yeah, one of the reasons we do this is to make sure we have at least something new to put up here every day. More reviews, fun stuff, etc. coming momentarily. And if you’re looking for the constantly updated NYC live music calendar, it’s here. In the meantime, as we count them down all the way from #666 to the greatest song of alltime (the list is at top right), here’s #641:

Nick Cave – The Mercy Seat

Potently sardonic anti-death penalty art-rock anthem originally recorded in 1985. “And anyway I’ve spoiled the fun with all these looks of disbelief,” the wrongfully condemned man in the electric chair tells the witnesses. The best version available may be a recent one: there are scores of live takes floating around the usual places (Nick Cave fans are obsessive and generous with their files). Considering the vigor and intensity of Cave’s recent shows, look for something new.

October 24, 2008 Posted by | Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music | , , , , | Leave a comment