Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Concert Review: The Lost Crusaders at the Loving Cup Cafe, Brooklyn NY 1/11/09

Alana Amram & the Rough Gems opened, bringing a welcome sunny summer feel to a raw, nasty winter night. The latter half of their set was a soaring, fun mix of upbeat, major-key country-inflected songs. On Blackest Crow (it’s on her myspace; it’s got the same melody as the old Irish standard Rye Whiskey), they took a stark tune and made it a big anthem, bringing up half the crowd to gather around the various mics onstage and sing. Amram’s a fine singer, projecting strongly with a high, clear voice and an excellent band behind her including electric guitar, electric piano and pedal steel. She gets extra props for playing a twelve-string and managing to keep the thing in tune.

 

The sound in the back gallery, which had been absolutely pristine for Amram, took a sudden nosedive when the Lost Crusaders hit the stage, and it took a few songs to get everything right. But bandleader/harmonica player Michael Chandler and his tight backing unit (rhythm section, guitar, organ and a baritone sax player who doubled on keys on a few songs) didn’t let the late hour or the technical difficulties phase them a bit, barreling through an intense, high-energy set of twelve songs that proved their repertoire considerably more extensive than just the songs on their excellent debut cd Have You Heard About the World (reviewed here last year). Their songs are classic 60s style gospel delivered with a manic garage rock feel. Chandler (formerly of pioneering cowpunks the Raunch Hands) is a natural frontman and makes what he does look easy: the only indications that he was working hard were the sweat pouring down his face and the roar from the speakers. A lot of gospel involves testifying to the crowd, but other than just a brief ten-second interlude toward the end of the show, Chandler simply let the music summon the spirits. Didn’t take long for that to happen, with a pummeling version of the lickety-split I Don’t Ask Why. The bouncy I Don’t Believe You began with a tastily portentous Link Wray style intro. Chandler then invited Amram up for a duet on two songs, the first a sweetly swaying version of Arthur Alexander’s soul ballad Love’s Where Life Begins.

 

Predictably, nobody was dancing (this was Williamsburg, after all – forget about dancing, just cracking a smile in this part of town will earn you glares of disapproval). Until finally a couple of gay guys went up front and that finally loosened everybody up. Music like what the Lost Crusaders plays resonates in your muscles, the best thing you can do is not to fight it and just let it move you. The high points of the set were a roaring boogie number capped by a volcanically noisy guitar solo (the first of only two of the night for these guys) and a sprint through Where Did It Go, a straight-up gospel number from the latest cd. Watch this space for upcoming shows; in the meantime the band has a couple of free downloads on their myspace that you should get your hands on before they disappear.

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January 13, 2009 Posted by | Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Concert Review: The Chicana Gypsy Project at Drom, NYC 1/11/09

Casualties of global warming, the band had spent the previous two nights in the Madrid airport courtesy of an unexpected snowstorm. They touched down at Kennedy with little time to spare before the show, sans baggage and instruments. In a stroke of true class, the management at Drom rushed to rent instruments (the upright bass, violin, two guitars and drums must have cost the club a bundle). To the band’s credit, they shook off the fatigue and, in their American debut, played a rousing, inspired show. The Chicana Gypsy Project’s shtick is gypsy versions of pop songs from both American and latin music. Singer/dancer Maria Bermudez told the crowd that she’d made it “from the barrio of Los Angeles to the barrio of Santiago,” which made sense, given what was on the program. Whether twirling and providing clickety-clack rhythm with her tap shoes or singing  in a casual, soul-inflected style with just the hint of grit, she made a compelling presence in front of the band. Behind her were two men singing backup and clapping along furiously, along with acoustic and electric guitar and a tasteful acoustic rhythm section. Overall, the feel was like a hipper version of the Gipsy Kings.

After a big, dramatic dance intro, the band brought it down with Summertime, then brought it back up again after the first verse, alternating fiery flamenco flourishes with torchy blues. Moondance was pretty straight up, with a soulful, unadorned blues solo from the electric guitarist. The violinist then came up to join the band on the jazz number Think of Me, adding an eerie edge in contrast with the smoothness of the melody as the band veered from tango to swing and then back again.

George Benson’s This Masquerade was faster and bluesier than the original, with nice solos from the acoustic guitar and violin. Round Midnight was the vocal version, given an almost southwestern gothic feel early on with tremolo guitar before morphing into a fiery flamenco dance. A couple of ranchera ballads alternated similarly between anticipation and gusto. The best song of the night was their closer, an original, a rousing rock en Espanol stomp capped by a scorchingly frenetic yet tastefully bluesy electric guitar solo. For a laugh, they segued briefly into Tequila, complete with vocals. With a rare combination of accessibility and imagination, this band has a high ceiling as a touring act here in the states. One suspects they may be back soon, watch this space.

January 13, 2009 Posted by | Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , | Leave a comment

CD Review: La Fleur Fatale – Night Generation

A big, ambitious effort by Swedish rockers la Fleur Fatale, part retro garage, part big anthemic Britrock, 90s style. Think Oasis, middle of the decade, when they were still putting out good tunes (and ripping off the Beatles at every turn), or Brian Jonestown Massacre in a particularly lucid moment. La Fleur Fatale distinguish themselves from those two bands by ripping off as many and probably more old groups than the both of them combined, but then that’s a garage rocker’s job, to evoke the guitar-fueled glories of bygone eras. By that yardstick, la Fleur Fatale succeed smashingly, with tunesmithing that’s consistently good and often downright excellent. The production does a good job simulating the big-room sound that was all the rage toward the end of the major-label era.

Three of the songs here work off a simple riff-driven melody given the atmospheric treatment a la BTM, the cd’s first cut opening with a suspicious similarity to the Strawbs’ Queen of Dreams (hey, at least these guys really know their source material). I Wanna Be Adored isn’t a Randi Russo cover; rather, it’s a plaintive, mostly acoustic pop ballad. Children of Neon Lights works a Lady Madonna style piano intro followed by synthesized flute into a neo-Oasis anthem. Sunshine Underground has galloping bass and big slashing chords a la Pete Townshend flying over a mellotron, again building into a catchy third-generation Beatles chorus. With its California Dreaming style 12-string guitar intro, Swift Flash of Mind builds to a propulsive, bounding minor key vamp. The oddly titled Gigantic Boredom isn’t boring at all, bright with a 60s folk-rock feel and Farfisa organ,and a nice Strawberry Alarm Clock style solo. The cd winds up on a 90s vibe with another Oasis ballad, a glammy second-generation riff-rocker and a midtempo piano pop song.

Throughout, the musicianship is excellent: everybody in this band can really play. Lyrically, it’s pretty much what you would imagine – give the band credit for singing in unaccented, clearly understandable English. Best thing about this cd is that it’s free, download it here
and enjoy!

January 13, 2009 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment