Music Reviews

Nico – “Desertshore ” – [4 Men with Beards]

Max Level   1/29/2006   12-inch, B Library

2002 reissue of a compelling 1970 classic. Nico (1938-88) mapped out a large part of today’s goth landscape. She paints the bleakest of lyrical pictures, her icy vocals accompanied on half these songs with her well-known harmonium drone. Hugely important here is the uncanny work of producer/arranger John Cale, who plays nearly all the other instruments, and adds exactly what each song calls for: scraping avant-garde experiments, sweet sunlit piano, a heart-tugging child vocal, queasy drones, Arabic nightmares. An outstanding collaboration by two remarkable artists. At just 28 minutes, this LP is over far too quickly.

Iota – “S/T ” – [Rockadelic]

Max Level   1/2/2006   12-inch, B Library

This late 60s-early70s outfit was not well-received in their hometown El Paso, TX. Local clubs and radio didn’t know what to make of their bare-bones psych-rock. “Too dark and disturbing” was a common complaint regarding their sound. Lack of local support caused them to move to Memphis, and then, unfortunately, to break up after a couple of years. They put out two singles, which appear on this LP, but all other tracks have been unreleased until now. Nothing hugely innovative here, but some decent bluesy guitar/organ heavy rock.

Soft Machine – “Live in Paris ” – [Cuneiform Records]

Max Level   1/2/2006   B Library, CD

1972 recording of this short-lived version of the Softs ever-changing lineup. Drummer Marshall had just arrived, and saxophonist/keyboardist Dean resigned shortly after. When R. Wyatt left the band a year or so previous, the loony jazz/pop experimental approach of earlier Soft lineups went with him, leaving behind more serious jazzrockfusion tendencies, as displayed here. A heavy dose of electric piano underpins the compositions, Ratledge uncorks a few blazing organ solos, Hopper and Marshall are a strong and fluid rhythm section, and Dean’s reed playing is unpredictable and interesting, although I wish he had unplugged his sax a bit more often; his electric sax sound is kind of flat and tinny. Overall a nice document of a band that never stood still, and in particular an incendiary lineup that wasn’t together long. This is a recording of the complete show, and the tracks all run together, linked by either audience applause or abstract instrumental passages. Track 4 on CD2 is a drum solo.

Sakamoto, Ryuichi – “B T T B ” – [Sony Classical]

Thurston Hunger   10/1/2005   B Library, CD

For the many who delighted in the Sakamoto
soundtrack scores added last year, this will
be a gift, the kind that you cry when opening
…because…because…it’s so goddamn
beautiful…no, sob…we really don’t deserve
this. Gaaaaaaagh. Sorry a bit of a melodrama
in reaction, but this solo piano release is
pretty much wired into the first skinned knee
of our collective memory banks. Wistful pedals
of reverb, stained melodies, elegant pauses…
Okay “Tong Poo” – is more upbeat, still isn’t
the title of that pathetic? “Uetax” is 20
seconds of someone shutting the piano case? On
“Prelude” is John Cage inside the piano case?
The yellow magic has turned for now to tears,
frozen tears that shine like diamonds.

Reed, Michael & Peter Pan Orch – “Tubby the Tuba ” – [Synthetic Plastics Co.]

David Richoux   1/16/2005   7-inch, B Library

This is not actually ‘Tubby The Tuba? but more of a copyright skirting song ABOUT the song ‘Tubby the Tuba.’ A 1960 release by kiddie music rip-off artists Michael Reed and the internationally infamous Peter Pan Orchestra. A bit scuffed and scratchy, but fun/stupid. Flip side is not much better… The REAL ‘Tubby? was written by George Kleinsinger in 1946 with lyrics by Paul Tripp – first of 4 different Tubby episodes (Circus Band, Jazz Band and Further Adventures of Tubby – with a marching band!) and has been performed by such greats as Danny Kaye, Annette, Julia Child – and all four were done recently by The Manhattan Transfer.
Tuba players do this at gunpoint (or for big piles of money) but it has stereotyped the instrument worse than any other song I can think of! *review by David Richoux

Davis, Sammy Jr. – “Yes! I Can (Vol One) ” – [Rhino Records]

Studebaker Hawk   1/16/2005   B Library, CD

Starting at the age of 2 and a half in 1928, Sammy Davis Jr. was almost instantly an incredible Vaudeville performer, dancing, singing, comedy, acting and becoming a big part of “American Show-Biz” for 64 years. This 4 CD set spans most of his adult career (from 1949 to 1988) with outstanding quality and variety. Even if you ignore the religion, politics and “Rat-Pack” environment that came later his lifetime you will have to agree that the guy had the chops! Jazz songs, Blues, Tin-Pan Alley classics, Broadway show-stoppers, ballads and Pop – many hits and award winning stuff here (and even the less well known tracks are moving!) Disc One covers 1949 to 1960 including some of his tracks from the film version of Gershwin’s “Porgy and Bess.”
My Hot Picks for this disc: #1, #7, #8, #15, #21but give the others a try as well. *review by Studebaker Hawk

Davis, Sammy Jr. – “Yes! I Can (Vol Two) ” – [Rhino Records]

Studebaker Hawk   1/16/2005   B Library, CD

Disc Two covers 1961 to 1965 – includes some of his most successful work. His long association with Frank Sinatra and the rest of the original “Rat Pack” leads to much more film work and international fame. His versions of songs by Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse kept him on the top of the charts (even against the “British Invasion.”) Some of these tracks continue the jazzier feeling interpretations and some great duets. *review by Studebaker Hawk

Davis, Sammy Jr. – “Yes! I Can (Vol Three) ” – [Rhino Records]

Studebaker Hawk   1/16/2005   B Library, CD

Disc Three covers 1961 to 1978 (but mostly late 1960s) with a mixed bag of originals and adaptations: TV theme , show tunes and the infamous “The Candy Man”/”Mr. Bojangles” that have been staples of KFJC programming since I don’t know when… Not my particularly favorite era for Sammy but who can argue with success. (where is that picture of him and Nixon hugging, anyway?) *review by Studebaker Hawk

Gimme Dat Harp Boy [coll] – [Big Snake Records]

Studebaker Hawk   1/16/2005   B Library, CD

Starting with a spoken intro from Captain Beefheart hiz own self, this collections spans about 50 years of roots blues, odd jazz (trad, swing and flute honks-n-squirts,) pre-psychedelic poetry, raw hillbilly/Hawaiian country, novelty tunes, raunch & roll and other nifty treats that influenced the young Don Van Vliet as he developed into the Captain of Beefheart weirdness. Not arranged in any chronologic order and the extensive LINER NOTES DO NOT MATCH THE TRACK ORDER! You will find some amazing stuff here, some that were eventually covered by the Magic band. Basically clean for language but there are some suggestive old blues (Black Snake tracks #6 & #7 especially) *review by Studebaker Hawk

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