Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

CD Review: Easy Star’s Lonely Hearts Dub Band

This is the third classic album playfully covered by the all-star New York-based roots reggae crew the Easy Star All-Stars, after Dub Side of the Moon and Radiodread. Basically, what they discovered is you can take pretty much anything and make reggae out of it and it’ll sound good. Consider: Shinehead took the odious Seals & Crofts hit Summer Breeze, changed the lyrics, retitled it Collie Weed and…a classic! Thankfully, this album demonstrates far more craftsmanship and subtlety. In fact, in a lot of ways it’s actually better than the original. The band is vastly tighter and the production is far more focused yet brimming with little touches that are often laugh-out-loud funny, much in the same vein as Brian Jonestown Massacre or XTC’s lovingly spot-on parodies of 60s psychedelia, issued under the Dukes of Stratosphear pseudonym a little over 20 years ago.

 

At the end of the opening theme, in lieu of McCartney’s satirical voiceover, a toaster delivers a brief Rasta benediction. From there, the producers have completely mixed up the tracks, but it’s still a fun ride. Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds has bright, melismatic Frankie Paul loverman vocals with ringing guitar that pays homage to the original. Getting Better features the Mighty Diamonds on vocals, sounding as good as ever, slowing it down from the original’s farcical stomp. The only drawback is that the original’s silliness was its selling point: rearranged this way, it’s a nice poppy reggae song, nothing more.

 

Fixing a Hole features none other than Max Romeo on vocals, a hilariously apt choice considering his notoriously disingenuous claim that his big hit Wet Dream was actually about a leaky roof! This one gets deliciously spacy echoes of vintage Scratch Perry. She’s Leaving Home gets a soulful, rather sultry vocal treatment by a newcomer, Kirsty Rock over a fast rocksteady beat. Without missing a beat, the bass drops out and the reverb kicks in when you least expect it. For the Benefit of Mr. Kite has the English Beat’s Ranking Roger on lead vocals, bringing it up doublespeed from the spacy dub first verse and then back again just as fast.

 

Within You Without You has a sitar and Matisyahu doing his best cantorial impression, and he actually doesn’t embarrass himself, with a vivid string section playing much of the original sitar part. When I’m Sixty-Four begins with a trombone call and goes on for over five minutes, Sugar Minott on vox, a showcase for the excellent horn section featuring the nucleus of the Burning Brass, baritone sax virtuoso Jenny Hill and trumpet goddess Pam Fleming, with an understatedly woozy dub breakdown.

 

Lovely Rita has Bunny Rugs and U-Roy, the latter taking it back to 1972 or so with his best Dread in a Babylon-style off-the-cuff nonsense. Good Morning Good Morning is the weakest track here, Steel Pulse sounding slick and uninspired like they were on their studio albums from the 80s rather than mining the classic, dark, heavy sound they’ve recently rediscovered with a vengeance. Surprisingly, the Sgt. Pepper reprise is next, followed by A Day in the Life. Done with an insistent Ras Michael style riddim, it has Michael Rose of Black Uhuru and Menny More sharing vocals, the band holding perfectly steady as the orchestra rises to a crescendo, the final piano note oscillating dubwise for just as long as George Martin’s fist-on-the-strings. A Little Help from My Friends has Luciano on lead vocals, and it might be the best song he’s ever done, thanks to the band’s inspired performance. Right now the whole album is available for streaming at imeem. Caveat: after the first song, don’t forget to refresh the page, otherwise you’ll be assaulted by a loud audio ad. And make sure your popup blocker is working.

 

Since this crew seem to have dedicated themselves to covering one iconic artist after another, we’d like to suggest a few ideas. Dread at the Apollo would be James Brown covers, preferably recorded live, uptown at the same place – hey, it would be a short train ride for most of the musicians. The Man in Red, Gold and Green would be Johnny Cash songs. And to give the lady performers a chance to flex, how about Fox Confessor Bring de Herb? That would be Neko Case, yeah mon!  

Advertisements

April 14, 2009 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Song of the Day 2/17/09

Tuesday’s is #526: The Beatles – Blue Jay Way

Full disclosure: when we inherited our alltime top 666 songs list in its embryonic form from our predecessor e-zine, there were a lot more Beatles songs on it then than there are now. In tweaking and updating the list, the ultimate consensus was  to give as much space as possible to lesser-known artists who might pique your interest far more than hearing for the umpteenth time how great the Fab Four were. In fact, in order to keep the list at a total of 666, we jettisoned pretty much every well-known, overplayed oldies radio song we could find. But we couldn’t get rid of this one, George’s hypnotic, psychedelic one-chord salute to nonconformity. “Please don’t be long, please don’t belong.” Best song on the vastly underrated 1968 Magical Mystery Tour album, whose cd sales earn the remaining Beatles zero royalties and therefore without exception should be downloaded for free rather than purchased.

February 17, 2009 Posted by | lists, Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music, music, concert | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

CD Review: Bellman Barker – Anise Anisette

This album bounces. A lot. Washington, DC retro popsters Bellman Barker love their 60s British Top of the Pops hits and really have a way with big catchy hooks and harmonies. If you like the Kinks, Beatles, or the Move before they started morphing into ELO, get this album. It starts out with Charles Kil, a bouncy Kinks-ish song with a catchy ba-ba-ba chorus and an old analog synthesizer in places. The guitars go nuts, then they bring it down to just the vocals on the last verse, then the guitars get all big again. The next cut Molly Maroon is driven by fast piano chordal work: it sounds a lot like something the Jayhawks could have done during their Sound of Lies period.  In Their Defense is the closest thing on the cd to the Move, and it’s great, with its rattling drums and clanging, sixtiesish guitar arpeggios sounding like they’re running through an old Vox amp, just at the point where they break up into distortion. Nice big drum pileup on the highway at the end. I Do I Do reverts to sound of Molly Maroon with a lot of piano harmonizing with the guitar. The album’s final track is a surprisingly quiet little fragment. This is a wonderfully catchy, throwback album, an auspicious debut that ought to get the band plenty of college radio airplay. If they sound anything like this live, they’re definitely worth seeing.

January 31, 2008 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments