Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Album of the Day 7/30/11

Every day, our 1000 best albums of all time countdown continues all the way to #1. Saturday’s album is #549:

Genesis – Nursery Cryme

While the veteran British art-rockers’ legacy suffers under the weight of a lot of lousy material from the Phil Collins years and then the 80s, up through the mid-70s they were a sensationally good, theatrical, guitar-and-keyboard-driven symphonic rock machine. This 1971 album may be the best of the bunch, although everything else they did while Peter Gabriel was in the band is worth hearing. Trippy, surreal and often macabre, it’s got many of the band’s best-loved epics: The Musical Box, a metaphorically-charged suite; The Return of the Giant Hogweed, which reminds that in the end, nature always wins; the bizarre, mythological Fountain of Salmacis; the wistful folk-rock vignette For Absent Friends, and Harold the Barrel, one of the weirdest, creepiest three-minute songs ever written. Gabriel imbues it all with a defiant, literate individualism, much as Roger Waters did in Pink Floyd. Here’s a random torrent.

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July 30, 2011 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Album of the Day 12/22/10

Here we are in the woods, generator humming, wine flowing, broadband blasting, tasks overwhelming. But before we get started with our last-gasp attempt to get caught up with everything that happened this year, every day our 1000 best albums of all time countdown continues all the way to #1. Wednesday’s album is #769:

Peter Gabriel – Up

We’re going to stay in the year 2002 for a second day in a row before we move on. If you were a fan at the time, you probably knew that this album took a long time to finish; if you weren’t, and you knew it existed, it probably came as a surprise. It’s Gabriel’s best solo album, as dark or darker than anything he ever did at his peak with Genesis back in the early 70s when they were a stagy, absurdist classical-rock band. By the time he began work on it in the mid-90s, he was heavily involved with WOMAD, his world music festival, and this reflects his qawwali obsession without drowning in it. The first track, Darkness, alternates explosive anguish with pensive lyrical piano passages; Growing Up is dark hypnotic funk; Sky Blue is just the opposite, and very memorably so, followed by the vivid requiem No Way Out and then the equally vivid, hypnotically atmospheric I Grieve. The Barry Williams Show throws a jab at the idiocy of reality tv; the most unforgettable track here is Signal to Noise, a scream for sanity in an insane world. Other standout tracks include the ominous ballad My Head Sounds Like That, the darkly trippy More Than This and The Drop, one of his most plaintive, poignant songs, just solo piano and vocals. Here’s a random torrent.

December 21, 2010 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

CD Review: The Cat Empire – Cinema

Back in the day they used to call this “good top 40.” Australian sensations the Cat Empire have a very 80s sound, but with values that go back another 20 years. With their anthemic songwriting, catchy chord changes, and high energy, unaffected vocals, they’re huge down under, now in the process of extending their fan base outside the Tropic of Capricorn. Interestingly, their lead instrument is Ollie McGill’s electric piano, incisive and bluesy like Rod Argent during his time with the Zombies. Frontman/percussionist Felix Riebl projects with a hoarse insistence that vividly evokes Peter Gabriel on his first solo albums. Drummer Will Hull-Brown gives the songs a big-room drama while the band’s turntablist Jamshid Khadiwala adds the occasional sample or scratch for a bit of a hip-hop/trip-hop tinge.

The album’s catchy opening track Waiting swings along with Zombies-esque electric piano. Trumpeter Harry Angus brings the hip-hop-inflected Falling up at the end with a big crescendo. The indomitable Feelings Gone sounds like Men at Work if that band had come out in the late 90s: “I think that I’m gonna wake up on your lawn,” announces Riebl, unperturbed. The best song on the album is the slinky, uneasy Only Light, building from a rousing gospel organ intro to a big roaring chorus. The next cut, All Hell pounds along, dark and Beatlesque, with an expansive and absolutely delicious organ solo. 

The Heart Is a Cannibal is the most overtly 80s of all the cuts here. Another standout track, Call Me Home is bouncy, ska-tinged and apprehensive: “Call me home, is there anybody there at all?” Riebl asks. On My Way follows that, reggae-tinged, with a blithe dixieland solo from Angus. Ballads don’t seem to be the band’s strong suit, but that’s not the point of the Cat Empire anyway. They sound like they’d be a lot of fun live (their most recent album, a live recording, went platinum in Australia). The Cat Empire play the Music Hall of Williamsburg on July 31 at 9.

July 1, 2010 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Turkish Woodstock

As concerts in New York go, this was something of a landmark, representing both the vanguard and the old guard of cutting-edge Turkish music, something that according to people involved with the project would have been far less likely to have taken place on Turkish soil. Istanbulive AKA the Turkish Woodstock was a quick sellout (or the equivalent – the Summerstage arena was filled to capacity minutes after the opening act, the NY Gypsy All-Stars took the stage). This time around, acclaimed Turkish clarinetist Husnu Senlendirici stood in for the mostly instrumental group’s usual reed man Ismail Lumanovski, taking the music in a surprisingly but effectively murky, pensive direction. In Turkey, the clarinet carries the same connotation as the sax does here, frequently the instrument of choice for bandleaders and for party music in general. Where Lumanovski is a ferociously intense player, someone who typically goes straight for the jugular, Senlendirici took a characteristically more spacious and contemplative approach, an apt fit for several of the ballads in the set. With a rhythm section including electronic keyboards along with guitar and kanun, they alternated between tricky, rousing dances and quieter fare, some simply instrumental versions of Turkish pop hits which became mass karaoke for the high-spirited audience. One of them sounded like the old Burt Bacharach standard Never Gonna Fall in Love Again set to a more complex rhythm. Their best number featured a guest chanteuse doing a wistful, homesick Armenian folk song backed by just keys and clarinet.

The unannounced Brooklyn Funk Essentials followed with a brief, entertaining mini-set with Senlendirici out front (their 1998 album with him is a major moment in American/Middle Eastern fusion), working a dark reggaeish vibe on the first tune, following with a straight-up funk number that lept doublespeed into ska. They then did a funny ska version of the Mozart Rondo a la Turk, and were out of there – a quick rehearsal for their show later at City Winery maybe?

Painted on Water maintained the cutting-edge vibe, delivering the afternoon’s most electrifying moments. Frontwoman Sertab Erener is a star in her home country, and this mostly English-language project – her vocals and accent are flawless – ought to expand her audience exponentially. Kicking off the set with a long, passionate, intense vocalese intro, it was clear that she had come to conquer. Like Siouxsie Sioux without the microtones, she showed off a forceful, defiant wail that on the next-to-last song of the set she unleashed with unrestrained fury, a stunning crescendo that seemed to defy the laws of physics. That such a relatively small, lithe frame could cut loose such a powerful blast of sound was a wonder to behold. Then she did it again.

They built up to that with an intriguingly cross-pollinated blend of tastefully jazzy, guitar-driven, blues and Turkish-inflected rock songs. Guitarist Demir Demirkan came across as something of a warmer Andy Summers, casually tossing off artfully precise flourishes in a multitude of styles, sticking with a clean, trebly tone. The anthemic 1000 Faced Man, from the group’s brand-new debut cd packed a funereal, Doorsy wallop, courtesy of some totally Manzarek-esque organ from the keyboardist. On the next number Demirkan matched Erener note for note, his lines thick with vibrato and apprehension, as she went off with more vocalese. The catchy, swaying, syncopated Shut up and Dance brought back the psychedelic vibe with another long, haunting organ solo. On one of the tables in the seating area to the right of the stage, a little girl methodically built an impressive pyramid out of the plastic wine goblets they were using back there, which stood resolute until blown over by a gust of wind. It made a good visual counterpart to the steadfastly wary, purist intensity of Demirkan’s playing.

Legendary Turkish rockers Mazhar Fuat Ozkan turned the vibe back to haunting, at least for awhile. Because of their three-part harmonies, the comparison they always get is CSNY and that’s completely wrong because they’re far darker – their closest western counterpart would probably be early, Peter Gabriel-era Genesis, or perhaps Barclay James Harvest before they turned into the poor man’s Moody Blues, with more than a few echoes of Pink Floyd. Their mostly slow-to-midtempo anthems mixed lush, sometimes elegaic layers of guitar over stately descending progressions that owe more to western classical music than to either rock or traditional Turkish melodies, and these were potently effective. As with many of their contemporaries who date back to the early 70s, their attempts to incorporate slicker, funkier, more commercial sounds were less successful (artistically, at least, though the crowd loved them), taking on a derivative feel that the lead player’s metalish guitar licks only aggravated. As Kerouac said, first thought, best thought – stick to what you do best and you can’t go wrong.

June 28, 2009 Posted by | Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Song of the Day 6/13/09

Every day, our top 666 songs of alltime countdown gets one step closer to #1. Saturday’s song is #410:

Peter Gabriel – Signal to Noise

A scream for sanity in the midst of idiocy set to a haunting, south Asian-tinged melody from Gabriel’s career-best album, Up, from 2006. The crescendoing roar of the orchestra as they make their way up the scale is viscerally intense. Gabriel used to do this live with Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, so there are a bunch of live takes of the two of them on youtube.

June 13, 2009 Posted by | lists, Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music, music, concert | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Concert Review: Greta Gertler & the Extroverts at Mercury Lounge, NYC 8/13/07

Expat Australian keyboardist/singer Greta Gertler’s imagination knows no bounds. Tonight she ran amok, trampling every convention, leaving no good idea unexplored. She’s a shapeshifter: the first album she recorded was orchestrated rock, the second a richly layered pop record, and her latest, Edible Restaurant blends art-rock and ragtime (see our very favorable review). Tonight saw her doing completely rearranged versions of some of her pop gems, including Martin’s Big Night Out (“They danced to this in Australia,” she told the audience encouragingly, but the impressively good Monday night crowd was rapt and stayed put), and Everyone Wants to Adore You. Radiant in a shimmery blue dress, she mined the depths of her Nord Electro keyboard for some of her favorite, 70s-inflected settings: echoey Fender Rhodes, Arp synthesizer with a watery flange effect, and the classic, slightly trebly Yamaha electric piano tone that seemingly every band from Supertramp to the Boomtown Rats were using late in the decade. She’s a fine player, but what really comes across live is the strength of her writing and how counterintuitive it is: just when you think she’s going to settle into a standard verse/chorus/verse progression, she goes off on some wild tangent that sounds like something from early, Peter Gabriel-era Genesis, or Shostakovich, or some bizarre English dancehall song from the 1920s.

Her backing band, including Beaver Bausch on drums, Hazmat Modine guitar sharpshooter Michael Gomez and the reliably high-energy J. Walter Hawkes alternating between muted trombone and ukelele, stayed with her and held up their end. Gomez is a fiery, bluesy cat: after he took a particularly evil, tersely minor-key solo toward the end of Veselka, Gertler’s tribute to the East Village kasha-and-pierogies institution, she followed his lead, closing the song with an ostentatiously eerie, monster-movie run down the scale into a cold, echoey pool of noise. They also played a new one about the komodo dragon in a zoo who recently experienced spontaneous oogenesis (or immaculate conception, if you prefer), as well as a slightly abbreviated take of the new album’s bustling title track, and the strangely captivating If Bob Was God, which does double duty as Dylan tribute and sultry tale of longing and determination to bring it to a crescendo, if you follow my drift. They closed with a deadpan, oompah version of the AC/DC karaoke standard It’s a Long Way to the Top If You Wanna Rock N Roll – deadpan until Hawkes took a long, completely silly, completely over the top heavy metal ukelele solo. By the time he finally got to the top of his tiny little fretboard, everybody in the house, the band included, couldn’t stop chuckling. All in all, this was pretty typical of what you can expect from a bandleader – and band – with a boundless sense of fun. What a great night!

August 14, 2007 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments