Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Album of the Day 9/17/10

Every day our 1000 best albums of all time countdown continues all the way to #1. Friday’s album is #865:

Agent Orange – Living in Darkness

Agent Orange have made a thirty-year career based on this one album, almost by accident. The LA surf-punks’ 1980 debut ep Bitchin’ Summer was well received in the scene, so the following year Posh Boy Records brought them into the studio to do a full-length album…and the guitar amp broke. Short on time and equipment, frontman Mike Palm ran his guitar through a bass amp turned up to the point of distortion, and a new sound was born. Through a wall of eerie fuzztone sustain, the band play fast and desperate. One by one, they rip through one Dick Dale-tinged punk smash after another: Bloodstains; Too Young to Die; A Cry for Help in a World Gone Mad; the brutally cynical No Such Thing; a woozily murderous cover of Misirlou; the absolutely exhausting, somewhat epic title track (reputedly drummer Scott Miller was at the point of collapse by the time they finally got a take they were satisfied with); and the band’s signature song, the ridiculously catchy Everything Turns Grey. If you see this on vinyl, grab it: it’s worth something. Otherwise, the version to get is the 1991 Rhino reissue which also includes the band’s searing, iconic covers of both Pipeline and Mr. Moto. The band still tours. Here’s a random torrent.

Advertisements

September 16, 2010 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Christian Howes Puts a Bluesy Spin on Violin Jazz

Calling your new album Out of the Blue, especially if you’re a string player, is pretty much akin to calling it A Love Supreme if you play sax. But no matter: jazz violinist Christian Howes plays it with an admirably purist sensibility, other than the occasions when he really digs in and delivers what sounds like a distorted guitar solo. And he does it with his own signature, melodic style. Jazz violinists inevitably get compared to either Stephane Grappelli or Jean-Luc Ponty, and to his credit Howes seldom sounds much like either one. You have to go back in time for guys like Stuff Smith, a bluesman, a style Howes reaches for more frequently than not here. The band behind him includes Robben Ford on guitars, Bobby Floyd (who wrote Knock on Wood) on organ and piano, Tamir Hendelman taking over on piano on several tracks, bass duties split between Kevin Axt on upright bass and Ric Fierabracci on bass guitar, with Joel Rosenblatt on drums.

The opening track, Fingerprints, is Wayne Shorter’s Footprints (via Chick Corea), moving from propulsive funk to astringently sweeping swing and a rippling Hendelman piano solo, Ford maintaining the vibe marvelously. A swinging version of Fats Domino’s I’m Walking is the one place where Grappelli comes to mind, Floyd going deep into the blues, Ford shifting from incisive to spiraling, with a soaring solo out. And was that a Hank Williams quote? Horace Silver’s Cape Verdean Blues emphasizes sway, syncopation, and straight-up bluesiness, Howes building to a graceful spiral down and deep into the shadows after Hendelman’s graceful cascades. Nicking a phrase from the Sister Sledge kitschfest Tell Me Something Good, Gumbo Klomp works a funk vamp, the Crusaders as done with violin, Ford reminding of his early glory days with Jimmy Witherspoon. The title track, a Jeff Lynne classic (just kidding – it’s an original) is warmly gospel-flavored, a feast of shifting textures, Rosenblatt playfully impatient and bustling underneath.

Sharon Hendrix guests on vocals on the torchy soul/blues Seek and Ye Shall Find. A shuffling, fusiony funk groove, Bobby’s Bad is a vehicle for some colorful Floyd work and a metallic solo out by Howes. Hendelman and then Ford turn a purist version of Sing Me Softly of the Blues over to Howes, who scurries and then shoots it across the bar to Floyd, who’s only too glad to join the fun. They wind up the album with the rhythmically tricky When Will the Blues Leave and a minimalistic, distantly ragtime piano-and-violin duo version of Sweet Lorraine. Blues fans may enjoy this as much as the jazz crowd. It’s out now on Resonance.

September 16, 2010 Posted by | jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Revolver’s New Album: Chamber Pop with a Bullet

French trio Revolver’s new album Music for a While sounds like something straight out of the Rive Gauche, 1969 but with smoother, digital production, heavily accented English and period-perfect psychedelic pop songwriting and arrangements. But it’s anything but cheesy. Guitarists Ambroise Willaume and Christophe Musset and cellist Jérémie Arcache play pensive, catchy chamber-pop and folk-pop songs with occasional Beatlisms and blithe harmonies that conceal a frequently dark undercurrent. Don’t confuse this with Belle and Sebastian.

The opening track, Birds in D Minor sets the tone with its brooding folk-pop melody and doomed, crescendoing chorus with Velvets strings: “Birds in my mind, guns to your head, that is how I want to play.” The swaying kiss-off anthem Leave Me Alone maintains the tone, followed by the familiar minor-key ba-ba-ba pop of Balulalow, which wouldn’t be out of place in the Bedsit Poets catalog. Back to You is McCartneyesque with its tricky rhythm, its theme shifting agilely from guitar to piano. The blistering garage rock swing of the simply titled Untitled 1 evokes the great French-American art-rockers Melomane.

Do You Have a Gun is Jimmy Webb meets Donovan meets Jarvis Cocker, a wryly deadpan, mellotron-infused account of a pickup scenario gone down the chute. The carefree, country-tinged Luke Mike and John ups the satirical ante, a scathing travelogue whose crew of spoiled brats on the road hope to find “the dharma way of life.” A Song She Wrote shuffles stiffly on a faux-New Order indie beat until a very funny interlude; Get Around Town is a jaunty, biting minor-key garage rock number, possibly alluding to police brutality. The album winds up with the morosely bopping piano pop of Untitled 2 and the regret-tinged, cynically swinging It’s All Right. This one’s for both fans of the classics (the Zombies’ Odessey and Oracle) and the obscure (Damian Quinones).

September 16, 2010 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Jared Gold Gets Out of Line

Remember that scene in American Splendor where Harvey opens the review copy of the album he’s just received in the mail, looks at it and then says, glumly, “Oh. Another organ-and-tenor record?” These days, organ-and-tenor records don’t grow on trees anymore, and this one’s hardly ordinary. The title of organist Jared Gold’s third and latest album Out of Line seems to be tongue-in-cheek because there’s a definite continuity here – he really sets a mood and keeps it going. From the wicked minor-key soul riff of the opening track to a barely recognizable soul-infused, Grant Green/Jimmy Smith style version of the old bubblegum pop hit La-La Means I Love You, he and the band here – Chris Cheek on tenor sax, Dave Stryker on guitar and Mark Ferber on drums – establish a warm, nocturnal, retro 60s groove and stay with it.

Preachin,’ a matter-of-factly midtempo soul/blues tune has Stryker casual and sometimes wry, followed by similarly genial bluesiness by Gold. The title track is a subtle bossa shuffle, Gold sun-speckled and summery yet hinting at unease. Their version of Stevie Wonder’s You Haven’t Done Nothin’ is more of a blues-tinted slink than straight-up funk, Stryker’s wah guitar chilling in the back, Gold bringing a late 60s psychedelic chordal feel to the groove. The pretty ballad It Is Well works a gentle handoff from Cheek to Gold, who’s really in an atmospheric, psychedelic mood by now. They follow that with the laid-back, swinging shuffle Down South, both Stryker and Gold lighting up the ambience with incisive, vibrant solos. The Stone Age, a jazzier take on a Bill Withers-style groove, takes it up as high as they get on this album. Stryker raises his lighter amiably, Cheek sails off into the clouds and Gold finally punches out some gritty Jimmy McGriff-style funk.

They close with an updated, funkified version of Skylark. This is a great late-night disc with an especially intimate feel (the organ’s Leslie speaker has been close-miked: you can actually hear Gold’s fingers moving nimbly across the keys). It’s out now on Posi-Tone, who seem to have a franchise on retro lately.

September 16, 2010 Posted by | funk music, jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Album of the Day 9/16/10

Every day our 1000 best albums of all time countdown continues all the way to #1. Thursday’s album is #866:

Sham 69 – That’s Life

The second and best album by these first-wave British punks, from 1978. Their 1977 debut Tell Us the Truth was raw to the extreme, half of it recorded live and clocking in at barely a half hour. This one is a concept album, a day in the life of a dead-end blue-collar London kid. Thirty years later, it’s as powerful and vivid as it was when it came out. Stuck in a stupid office job, the kid still lives at home with his dysfuctional family, none of whom get along and always seem to blame him for everything that goes wrong. The early songs set the scene, frontman Jimmy Pursey playing the wry, fatalistic but ultimately indomitable role to the hilt. Of course, the kid eventually gets fired, as chronicled in the catchy, Kinks-inflected title track. The songs really pick up when everybody goes off to the dog track (in Win or Lose, fueled by lead guitarist Dave Parsons’ insanely delicious, judiciously screaming chordal work), and then the pub: Hurry Up Harry is a cockney punk classic. As the night goes on, the kid gets drunker, strikes out with the cynical girls who hang out at his local in the hilarious Reggae Pickup Pt. 1 and 2 and finally comes face to face with a Sunday Morning Nightmare in one of the greatest and most evocative punk songs ever written. Even the period references still resonate: he’s horrified that his brother looks like John Travolta and his sister like Olivia Newton-John. And the slower songs, like the organ-fueled Everybody’s Wrong, have a genuine plaintiveness. The band didn’t last much longer; after a disappointing follow-up album, Hersham Boys (whose only standout track was the classic If the Kids Are United), the band broke up, Pursey disenchanted with the Nazi punk crowd who had strangely glommed onto the group and made their live shows literally dangerous. Parsons would go on to play briefly with Steve Jones in the short-lived punk supergroup the Sham Pistols; bassist Dave Tregunna joined the Wanderers with Stiv Bators and then continued on with him in the Lords of the New Church. Pursey has soldiered on with a completely different, vastly more pop version of the band for decades but little to show for it. There is however a Sham 69 album in the Live and Loud series and although the sound is a bit dodgy, the performances are first-rate.

September 16, 2010 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment