Issue: #343

ALBUM REVIEWS


Seal,
Fourplay,
Al Green,
Woodhands,
Yusa,
Cameron Carpenter,
The Motown Collection,
Pat DiNizio,
Kaiser Chiefs,
The Hot Club of San Francisco,
E-40,
The Gaslight Anthem,
Chumbawamba,
Dionyza,
Fiction Family,
Slumdog Millionaire,
Supersuckers,
Jaheim,
Mushroom Jazz Six,
Mike Bones,
Avant

THE HIGH FIVE!!
  • Warren Hill "La Dolce Vita," Koch
  • U. Shrinivas "Samjanitha," Dreyfus/NFM
  • Jason Matthews "Hicotine," Select-O-Hits/SSMack/Valhalla
  • Yoko Miwa Trio "Canopy of Stars," P.J.L Polystar Jazz Library
  • Ronny Elliott "Jalopypaint," Blue Heart/Burnside
ALBUM OF THE WEEK


Al Green - Lay It Down
Political Song of the Week:

The Clash - "Career Opportunities"
Political Article of the Week:

El Salvador Votes Away Its Bad Past by Mark Weisbrot

Back To The Homepage

Album Reviews:


Seal - Soul

Seal -
Soul


Warner Bros.

The album title says it all. Seal no longer focuses on solemn R&B hooks interlaid with full voice hollers over the quieter end of pop music. No, now he relies on over-produced soul music with R&B hooks interlaid with full voice hollers.

His voice is stronger than ever, with lyrical content that seems to be a badge of pride for himself. The production, as mentioned, is pretty over-the-top: more synthesized instruments than I thought could be fit on one track and more studio tricks than Nixon had wiretaps. Seal will not disappoint those who loved what he's been doing.

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Fourplay - Energy

Fourplay -
Energy


Heads Up/Concord

Boring soft jazz. Aside from the bad pun of a name, and the complete lack of anything interesting in the craftsmanship, the musicians are talented, and know how to write the genre like Gods. The problem? The genre gives nothing to the listener besides a few yawns. Oh well.

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Al Green - Lay It Down

Al Green -
Lay It Down


Blue Note/EMI

Al Green, the signature voice of soul, has his umpteenth release here, and manages to this day to not miss a beat. The only thing that seems to be changing is the production, but that's to be expected from mainstream releases.

Soul-infused soul that could stop a train, Lay It Down unleashes so much emotion that I have a hard time conceiving how he can write as many songs as he has and still have the energy left to make more. Nothing better or worse than you would expect from this legend.


***Best Album Of The Week***



***Shelton's Single of the Week: "Lay It Down"***

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Woodhands - Heart Attack

Woodhands -
Heart Attack


Paper Bag

Electro-trash, Woodhands is a bit more punk than most of the others. At points I heard The Knife, others I heard something a bit more aggressive: this is definitely original.

Shouted vocals occasionally dirty up the mix, which is fairly distasteful, but beautiful female-sung melodies hold a lot of the album up strong. I like electronic pop music. This is great. If you don't, don't bother.

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YU SA - Haiku

Yusa -
Haiku


Tumi

Dreamy avant-garde "Cuban" music (some mix of traditional Cuban folk, jazz, and psych-rock) that is so much more interesting than anything else. Haiku, Yusa's latest album, is superb from beginning to end. Beautiful harmonies throughout, interesting structure, and the alternative percussion styles that can catch me every time, all of which gets me hooked more than anything new recently. Beautiful female vocals, and the perfect amount of production, this album is for anyone who likes good things.



***ARTIST TO WATCH!!!***

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Cameron Carpenter - Revolutionary

Cameron Carpenter -
Revolutionary CD + DVD Set


Telarc/Concord

I haven't heard of Carpenter before this, but I'm glad now I have. The cover of the album made me think this would be some bad pop album, soulless and graced only with good looks and a great engineer.

Classical music has very little room for either of these things, so Carpenter has to rely on talent and musicianship, which he does. Well. Organ pieces from the classics-turned-standards (Liszt, Chopin, Bach, Horowitz) and two of his originals, this is just all around stellar. If you like classical, primarily organ pieces, this is great for contemporary classical.

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Marvin Gaye - Hitsville USA - The Motown Singles Collection, 1959-1971

Various Artists -
The Motown Collection


Time Life/Universal

Time Life just keeps doing what it does best with this hits collection. This album compiles standout tracks from across the Motown catalogue and provides a stellar document of early '70s funk and soul. None of these songs are new or exclusive to this release, but they are certainly timeless, and the CD is worth it for the convenience of having all of these songs together.

Motown created a sound with these songs, and jumpstarted the careers of countless legendary musicians. Gladys Knight, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, The Temptations, The Jackson 5; they're all here. These songs are mandatory listening, so if you aren't familiar, now's the time.



***LATE BUT GREAT***


***Shelton's Single of the Week: "Eddie Kendricks - Keep on Truckin' (Part 1)"***

The Commodores - Motown Legends: The Commodores

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Pat DiNizio - Pat Dinizio Sings Buddy Holly

Pat DiNizio -
Tribute To Buddy Holly


Koch

This is totally awesome. If you like Buddy Holly, you will like this. If you didn't, realistically this will do less than nothing to you, since they are marginally less interesting versions of the originals.

Cute and heartfelt pop songs performed by DiNizio with a bit more than the first editions of the tracks. Some more instrumentation, like the addition of full string sections, adds another layer to the songs that wasn't there before, but keeping the song basically to a T beyond these slight distractions.

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Kaiser Chiefs - Off With Their Heads

Kaiser Chiefs -
Off With Their Heads


B-Unique/Universal Motown

Kaiser Chiefs are by no means the best thing that has ever happened to the world, but goddamn are they great. Catchy alternative-rock with hints of sass rock ala Yeah Yeah Yeahs and T.V. on the Radio, but the Chiefs manage to inject the whole package with an odd 70's white soul feel to it. I even hear a bit of Gang of Four in there. It's great. Interesting, original, and sounds awesome? This is too good to be true.



***MIGHTY, MIGHTY!!***

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The Hot Club of San Francisco

The Hot Club of San Francisco -
Bohemian Maestro: Django Reinhardt


Azica

The Hot Club of S.F., a string tribute band, is attempting to tackle quiet a feat: a full album of Django Reinhardt compositions. Commendable, and usually I would have given an immediate thumbs down.

But you know, this is surprisingly good. A bit different from the originals, but you can certainly hear the "gypsy" jazz mastermind buried down beneath it, and the beautifully crafted harmonies add layers to the already interesting progressions. I could not see anyone, aside from the most diehard of Reinhardt fans objecting to this.

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E-40 - The Ball Street Journal

E-40 -
The Ball Street Journal


Sick Wid'it/Reprise/Warner Bros.

The Ball Street Journal is nothing different than E-40 has ever done. He has his identical delivery that he has in every song, the same style, same flow, and yeah, the same lyrical content. Most of it still doesn't make any sense, but that seems to be his jam. I've never cared much for the "hyphy" movement, and this doesn't change my mind.



***LET THE GOOD TIMES ROLL!!***


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The Gaslight Anthem - The '59 Sound

The Gaslight Anthem -
The '59 Sound


SideOneDummy

Catchy, driving, rocking punk. I wouldn't say The Gaslight Anthem are the most original of bands, but they certainly have their sound together.

Incredibly personal tracks with stellar song craftsmanship make much of this album a complete solid listen. Not much bullshit, and even less stupid production that is the defining sound of the twenty-first century punk recordings, The '59 Sound runs more like an old rock and roll record than anything else. Think Against Me!, but still good.

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Chumbawamba - The Boy Bands Have Won

Chumbawamba -
The Boy Bands Have Won


PM Press

Chumbawamba is one of those bands that will always stay with me. Never Mind The Ballots and Pictures of Starving Children Sell Records are both in constant rotation at my house, and I try to get into everything they put out. I can't always, especially the last few, but still: it's the effort that counts.

As for The Boy Bands Have Won, I'm glad they started writing better music. There, I said it. Its lost all of the punk roots, but has blossomed as a really organic pop band. Mostly acoustic instruments, some horns here and there, and the same political rants as ever. Top choice of the album: "Sing about Love".



***POLITICAL ALBUM OF THE WEEK***

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Dionyza - Quite Like Me

Dionyza -
Quite Like Me


Little Dizzy

Dionyza's voice is incredible, far beyond the talent that I could ever imagine embodying. The unfortunate reality is the music is pretty boring. Her notable mentions are usually as backup or starring in musical's and voices in teen movies, but the music is generally uninteresting. Female pop R&B with no real hooks, and lots bad production, this is more mediocre than another Mase album.

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Fiction Family - Fiction Family

Fiction Family -
Self-Titled


ATO/RED

Fiction Family is Sean Watkins of Nickel Creek and Jon Foreman of Switchfoot leaving their vaguely-punk roots and diving into the world of indie rock. Basically, they listened to a lot of The Beatles, and tried to write songs that could compare. They can't, but they are still ahead of the game.

Cute songs about, well, sounds like nothing, and well organized songwriting turning this into something worth listening to. Certainly not on my top 100, but definitely a good listen.

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A. R. Rahman, Sukhvinder Singh, Tanvi Shah & Mahalaxmi Iyer - Slumdog Millionaire (Music from the Motion Picture)

Various Artists -
Slumdog Millionaire - Music From The Motion Picture


n.e.e.t./Celador/Film 4/Interscope/UMG

The movie that seems to be the talk of the town has a surprisingly awesome soundtrack to accompany the so-called masterpiece. Intelligently, the filmmakers decided to use the music of A.R. Rahman for most of the album.

His brand of Indian electronica is not only a treat compared to the American brand of nonsense, but is also just genuinely good. Also featured on here is M.I.A., performing almost better than she does on her solo albums. A few other cameos from phenomenal Indian musicians makes this an A+ soundtrack.

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Supersuckers - Get It Together

Supersuckers -
Get It Together! CD + DVD SET


Mid-Fi/Red Eye

Even though I think the genre name "Cowpunk" is worse than any of the new rap titles that reek the airwaves, it remains accurate. Supersuckers are "the" band of cowpunk, and are surprisingly good. No real honky-tonk voice, Eddie Spaghetti sounds more like Mike Ness than Garth Brooks. The country aspect to it all is dismal, more of a hint than anything else. Get it Together! Is another great rock album.

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Jaheim - Classic Jaheim, Vol. 1

Jaheim -
Classic Jaheim Vol. 1


Divine Mill/Warner Bros.

R&B star Jaheim continues to lay his aggressive and emotional tracks of pop history with Classic Jaheim, Vol. 1. One part earlier Boyz 2 Men, one part Blackstreet...this is basically an album that is about 10 years too late. This is unbelievably late 90's.



"SO NICE, GOTTA DO IT UP TWICE"

(created by the original NYC D.J. Jocko, 1955)

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Colossus - Mushroom Jazz 6

DJ Mark Farina -
Mushroom Jazz Six


Om

Mushroom Jazz, the supposed precursor to downtempo, actually strikes me as much more interesting than the contemporary counterpart. Odd, almost trip-hop beats with jazzy sort of loops built on top of the serene emotions of electronic, this is another something interesting.

None of the names on here mean a thing to me, but all of them have at least a few interesting components. A little boring for my tastes, but this album remains both intriguing and original.

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Mike Bones - A Fool for Everyone

Mike Bones -
A Fool For Everyone


Social Registry

Fairly whiny alternative loser rock is Bones' forte. The writing is acceptable, his voice is a little annoying at times, but there are a few moments, like his Dinosaur Jr. worship soloing, his progressions, and his consistent negativity throughout, makes this worth the listen.

Songs don't all sound the same, which is a plus, but all still have a stylistic element that is distinctly Mike Bones. While not the best thing released this century, this is still pretty damn awesome.

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Avant - Avant

Avant -
Avant


Capitol/EMI

Mediocre as hell R&B. Avant is a bad blur of electronic down-tempo and soulless pop R&B. Without much of anything to grasp onto, aside from a few points of interesting delivery and some painful beats, this album goes into the "don't care" pile.

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Political Song:
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Artist: The Clash

Song: Career Opportunities

They offered me the office, offered me the shop
They said I'd better take anything they'd got
Do you wanna make tea at the BBC?
Do you wanna be, do you really wanna be a cop?

Career opportunities are the ones that never knock
Every job they offer you is to keep you out the dock
Career opportunity, the ones that never knock

I hate the army an' I hate the R.A.F.
I don't wanna go fighting in the tropical heat
I hate the civil service rules
And I won't open letter bombs for you

Bus driver....ambulance man....ticket inspector

They're gonna have to introduce conscription
They're gonna have to take away my prescription
If they wanna get me making toys
If they wanna get me, well, I got no choice

Careers
Careers
Careers

Ain't never gonna knock

The Clash - The Essential Clash - Career Opportunities