Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Top Ten Songs of the Week 7/26/10

OK, we’re a little behind with this but we have not been idle: new NYC concert calendar coming August 1, the 1000 best albums of all time, not to mention 72 albums and two concerts to review. At least. In the meantime here’s this week’s version of what Billboard should be paying attention to: we try to mix it up, offer a little something for everyone, sad songs, funny songs, upbeat songs, quieter stuff, you name it. If you don’t like one of these, you can always go on to the next one. Every link here will take you to the song. As always, the #1 song of the week is guaranteed a spot on this year’s best 100 songs list at the end of December.

1. The Larch – Sub-Orbital Getaway

A masterpiece of catchy paisley underground rock dressed up in a skinny tie and striped suit. From the Brooklyn band’s best album, the brand-new Larix Americana.

2. Devi – When It Comes Down

The psychedelic rockers are giving away this live showstopper as a free download. Doesn’t get any more generous than this!

3. People You Know – Glamour in the Hearts of Many

Go Gos soundalike from the fun, quirky Toronto trio.

4. Wormburner – The Interstate

Long, literate highway epic: it’s all about escape. What you’d expect from a good band from New Jersey (they tore up Hipster Demolition Night this month).

5. The Fumes – Cuddle Up the Devil

Not the Queens ska-rock crew but an Australian band very good at hypnotic pounding Mississippi hill country blues a la RL Burnside or Will Scott. They’re at the Rockwood 8/26-27

6. The Alpha Rays – Guide to Androids

Ziggy-era Bowie epic warped into an early 80s artpop vein from these lyrical London rockers.

7. Fela Original Cast – Water No Get Enemy

A Fela classic redone brilliantly, from the Broadway show soundtrack – then again, it’s what you’d expect from Antibalas.

8. Iron Maiden – God of Darkness

This is the first Iron Maiden – bluesy British metal from 1969!

9. Darker My Love – Dear Author

Faux psychedelic Beatles – funny in a Dukes of Stratosphear vein. Free download.

10. Megan McCullough Li – Blood in the Water

Solo harp and vocals – creepy!

July 29, 2010 Posted by | blues music, lists, Music, rock music, world music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Concert Review: Brother Joscephus and the Love Revival Revolution Orchestra at Highline Ballroom, NYC 4/4/10

It was Karen’s birthday – after the band had serenaded her with a brief New Orleans groove, she got the memo and headed straight for the dancefloor. In less than a minute her entire party had joined her. Whoever she is, Karen may be thirty now but she’s still got the energy of a kid. Brother Joscephus and the Love Revival Revolution Orchestra could have kept everybody dancing for the entirety of their pretty lavish two-hour show had they not mixed in a handful of ballads. And what a show it was, an ecstatic eleven-piece New Orleans style gospel-soul band complete with horn section, rhythm section, two keyboards, guitar, two twirling backup singers, and Brother Joscephus (rhymes with Bocephus) out front with his gritty voice and acoustic guitar. Pianist The Right Reverend Dean Dawg led most of the band on a long, serpentine procession through the audience as the rhythm section grooved onstage, and after vamping around, getting the crowd going, they brought up Brother Joscephus just as James Brown’s band would have done circa 1964. Their sound, matched by their look (everybody in white, guys in hats, girls with matching parasols) is completely retro, right down to the scripted stage patter (replete with missed cues, which the band found as amusing as the crowd did). Two of the most memorable originals were straight-up tributes to the town where they get their inspiration: a joyously upbeat number where the band had invited all the little kids in the crowd up onstage to join them, soprano sax taking a delicious Dixieland-inspired solo; and the equally rousing Bon Temps Roulez, from their latest album (very favorably reviewed here).

Ironically, the best song of the afternoon, a spooky version of the absolutely noir, gravelly minor-key Midnight Move (also from the new album) didn’t resonate particularly well with the crowd. The covers were just as inspired as the originals: a blazing barrelhouse piano version of Jambalaya with a balmy tenor sax solo; a crescendoing When the Saints Go Marching In right before the band intros at the end, and an actually hilarious, completely over-the-top, perfectly modulating cover of Somebody to Love by Queen sung with carefree abandon by Seoul Sister #1 (she’s from Korea). Rev. Dean Dawg spun between his keyboard (and accordion, and glockenspiel) with pinpoint precision, signaling the changes as the women swayed and traded banter with the frontman while he worked the crowd (and laughed about it off-mic). But the choreography came off as Crescent City rather than Branson (except for that wretched Eagles excerpt during the band intros – guys, that’ll clear a New York room in seconds). For any band to play as inspired a set as this crew did is pretty impressive, all the more so when you realize that they took the stage just a few minutes after one in the afternoon – at what ungodly hour they soundchecked, we’ll never know.

Memo to the guitarist: dude, you’re too good to be going all modal and Wes Montgomery in the middle of a simple three-chord song like Jambalaya.

April 4, 2010 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Top Ten Songs of the Week 5/18/09

We do this every week. You’ll see this week’s #1 song on our Best 100 songs of 2009 list at the end of December, along with maybe some of the rest of these too. This is strictly for fun – it’s Lucid Culture’s tribute to Kasey Kasem and a way to spread the word about some of the great music out there that’s too edgy for the corporate media and their imitators in the blogosphere. Every link here will take you to each individual song.

 

1. McGinty & White – Rewrite

Bitter, brutal and clever but not too clever by half, this collaboration between lyrical songwriter/crooner Ward White and cult fave keyboardist Joe McGinty puts a vicious spin on classic 60s psychedelic chamber pop. They’re doing the cd release show for their new one at Bowery Electric on 5/21 at 11.

 

2. Benny Profane – Skateboard to Oblivion

For anyone who wonders what happened after the late, great British band the Room broke up in 1985, singer Dave Jackson and bassist Becky Stringer started this noisier, more jangly, slightly Nashville gothic unit with similarly edgy, potent lyrics.

 

3. The Dead Cowboys – Dear John

Continuing the saga – an important part of the secret history of rock – when Benny Profane broke up, Jackson and Stringer went Nashville gothic all the way with this act, happily still active in the UK.

 

4. Grand Atlantic – She’s a Dreamer

Vintage Oasis is alive and well…in Australia! You like anthemic? You’ll love this.

 

5. Naissim Jalal – Horia

Parisian-Syrian ney flute virtuoso. This is a beautifully pensive instrumental.

 

6. Buffalo – The Grange

Beating O’Death at their own game.

 

7. The Mummies – Mummies Theme

Sinister lo-fi garage rock. They’re on the Maxwell’s/Southpaw shuttle in June but all three shows are sold out…awww.

 

8. Hope Diamond – Costume Drama

Nice catchy dreampop, Cocteau Twins without the valium.

 

9. The Hsu-Nami – Rising of the Sun ’09

OMG, a ferocious metal instrumental band led by a virtuoso erhu (Chinese fiddle) player doing Taiwanese-inflected stomps. They’re at the Passport 2 Taiwan festival at Union Square at 2 PM on 5/24.

 

10. The Ramblin Dogs – You Let Me Down

Blues band. Albert King, Stevie Ray, Freddie King, you can hear all those influences but no Clapton. Sweet. They’re at Kenny’s Castaways on 6/17.

May 19, 2009 Posted by | lists, Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music, music, concert | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Concert Review from the Archives: Jimmy Rogers at Chicago Blues, NYC 3/9/95

[Editor’s note: from time to time we delve into the archives if we don’t have something brand-new to keep the front page fresh. Consider this an obscure alternative to “this date in rock – or in this case blues – history.”]

The band went on immediately at showtime, and they were good. The new keyboardist was the star of the show and took most of the solos. The white guy playing rhythm guitar had some unfortunate heavy metal tendencies but his Gibson’s sweet, sustained tone took the edge off. After the band had run through a few standards, Jimmy Rogers came up with his big, hollowbody Gibson and tentatively launched into Rock This House. He’s an uncommonly subtle, urbane player, fond of big, sustained jazzy chords: he doesn’t bear much resemblance to the guy who provided all that deceptively simple chordal work behind Muddy Waters back in the fifties. He rarely soloed, once trading off a few licks with the keyboardist, but that’s about it. The harp player who marred Rogers’ previous New York show at Downtime with his ridiculous ostentation was wisely kept in the background this time; the keyboardist stepped all over him every time he tried to solo. If that’s what it takes – other than outright firing the guy – to keep him in check, that’s what the band needs to do. After Rogers had been up there about 35 minutes, they decided to take a “break” which at this venue can mean a couple of hours, so it’s anybody’s guess if they ever came back or if there was anyone left at the bar when they did.

[Postscript: Rogers’ performance at this show was vital and energetic, at least as energetic as the relatively phleghmatic guitarist ever got; his death about about two years later came as quite a shock]

March 9, 2008 Posted by | blues music, concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Concert Review: Delta Dreambox at Banjo Jim’s, NYC 11/16/07

A killer show by New York’s best blues band. That’s right: blues band. Not a bunch of deaf, beerbellied baby boomers playing Clapton and Led Zep covers at earsplitting volume: this band plays like they stepped out of a whorehouse in a pre-code Mae West movie. Delta Dreambox is yet another one of Bliss Blood’s stunningly authentic old-timey bands, along with the irresistibly romantic Moonlighters, the irresistibly dark, haunting Nightcall and her swing jazz side project Cantonement (which seems to have gone on hiatus awhile ago). That’s a lot of work, but somehow she pulls it off. With an uncanny feel (and what seems to be an encyclopedic knowledge) of seemingly every retro style ever invented, she’s a goodwill ambassador from the late 20s come back to remind us what fun really is. Tonight she was in top form, her clear-as-a-churchbell voice soaring over the excellent band behind her. With the addition of a superb piano player doing some killer barrelhouse rolls and solos, they’re sexier than ever, maybe the reason why Blood was decked out in a red vintage outfit with matching boas that left just enough to the imagination.

Slide player Mark Deffenbaugh is their not-so-secret weapon. After Henry Bogdan left the Moonlighters for the Helmet reunion tour and then his adopted state of Hawaii, Blood has become a magnet for the best slide blues players on the planet, and this new guy is no exception. When it was time to cut loose, he ripped into the songs like a panther on a helpless bunny, firing off a flurry of notes but somehow managing not to waste anything. Like Bogdan, he likes the lower registers where it’s murkiest and most sinister. The band also has an excellent blues harpist, whose airy, upbeat playing reminded of Randy Weinstein’s work with Hazmat Modine. Together they ran through a bunch of mostly more obscure songs from the 1920s and 30s, including a couple of Bessie Smith numbers, a grim, haunting song about a guy rallying valiantly against tuberculosis but ultimately succumbing, and a rousing, guitar-driven Charley Patton song to close the set. To say that this band doesn’t play often enough isn’t really fair, because Blood is so busy with the Moonlighters (they’ll be off on European tour til mid-December). As tasty as the Moonlighters’ originals are, it would be nice to get to hear her dip deeper into this genre, considering how well she pulls it off. If you’re a big Janis or Melissa Etheridge fan, Delta Dreambox is probably too quaint, quiet and old-fashioned for you. On the other hand, if you are a purist, this band will make you sweat.

November 17, 2007 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Concert Review: From the Archives: S’Killit at Chicago Blues, NYC 7/4/96

Happy 4th!

The party started before noon and continued in Westchester at my girlfriend’s sister’s place. We then moved to a generic Mexican restaurant that her sister and husband were very fond of. Tequila flowed all afternoon. Somehow we made it back to the Metro North train, to the 6, to my place in Gramercy Park where homegirl promptly passed out. It was a nasty, humid, sweltering day, not a hint of breeze anywhere. But I wasn’t finished yet. By myself, I slogged down to 14th St. and 8th Ave. to Chicago Blues, which was surprisingly open, and even more surprisingly, the place was about half full, an enthusiastic crowd gathered toward the front of the club by the stage. S’Killit was in mid-set. They were a blues band fronted by an excellent piano player named Rusty Cloud, and had their full horn section.

The bars and lounges off the interstates from Maine to California abound with bad white blues bands, but S’Killit wasn’t one of them. Their main distinguishing feature was good songwriting. Cloud (who was Southside Johnny’s keyboardist for a time) wasn’t much of a singer, but he knew how to lead a band, how to work a crowd and wrote knotty, intricate, jazz-inflected songs. And when he was feeling more than he was thinking, he could play his ass off. The band used to play around town a lot during the early to mid 90’s and developed something of a following for their tunes and their impressive, jazzy improvisation, perhaps something akin to vintage Tower of Power without the Latin influences. Though it was an early show for them, on a holiday, the band was into it. I was about to leave just as they were about to begin their second set, but I heard the intro to Blue Fever (the title track to a cd they would release almost ten years later, still available at the cdbaby link above) and returned to the bar. It’s a long, slowly crescendoing, minor-key blues epic, the kind of thing they did best, so I thought it would be worth sticking around for at least this number. The only problem is that the place smelled like vomit. Which is why I’d wanted to leave in the first place. Strange: this wasn’t Doc Holliday’s. Chicago Blues pulled some pretty upscale acts sometimes, the sound was superb, and the place was always well-maintained.

After the song, I went outside (for a breath of fresh air – in those days, you could smoke in bars). But the smell lingered. All of a sudden it occured to me what the problem might be. I bent over and looked at my shoes, realizing what must have happened: someone had gotten sick in the bathroom at the Mexican place, and in the condition I was in, I was oblivious. No wonder the crowd was gathered at the front of the club: they’d seen me come in and wanted to get as far away as possible. That explains why the waitress was hanging at the end of the bar, watching the show. But I went back in anyway. An attempt to do a little cleanup in the bathroom proved pretty futile. The waitress kept bringing beers which I kept drinking, and in my condition this was not a good idea. How I managed to catch myself, pull myself together and stand up, in the split second before my face went into free-fall into my pint glass is something I’ll never know. If memory serves right, the slow stroll home was punctuated by a stop at the Twin Donut on 14th and 6th Ave.

July 4, 2007 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment