Issue: #345

ALBUM REVIEWS


Keyshia Cole,
Dance Club Massacre,
Willie Nelson,
Marcus Johnson,
Cyndi Harvell,
Saltman Knowles,
AC/DC,
The Luke Mulholland Band,
Crooked X,
T Bird and the Breaks,
Jack's Mannequin,
Bill Frisell,
Odetta,
Nous Non Plus,
Rebecca Owen,
Colin Munroe,
Incognito,
James Dunn,
Late of the Pier,
Greg Skaff,
Lady GaGa

THE HIGH FIVE!!
  • Los Lonely Boys "Christmas Spirit," Or/Epic/Sony BMG
  • Harry Connick, Jr. "What a Night!: A Christmas Album," Columbia/Sony BMG
  • The Wilders "At Merlefest: Wilkesboro, North Carolina," FestivaLink
  • Randy Houser "Anything Goes," Universal South
  • Various Artists "We Are Enterprise: The Album to Benefit the Rebuilding of Enterprise High School," Country Crossing
ALBUM OF THE WEEK

Political Song of the Week:

Blind Alfred Reed - "How Much Can a Poor Man Stand Such Times and Live?"
Political Article of the Week:

Afghanistan: Waiting for the 'Exit Strategy by Robert Dreyfuss

Back To The Homepage

Album Reviews:


Franz Ferdinand - Tonight: Franz Ferdinand

Keyshia Cole -
A Different Me


Imani/Geffen/Universal

The sensationalized star of twenty-first century r&b Keyshia Cole redirects the formula that her predecessors have built for her. Less in the vein of "blues" and hip-hop, A Different Me is more...Motown soul? Even a little big-band tossed in to the blender? A bit of jpop minced into the mix just to even it all out?


While the historical lineage of pop has progressed in bizarre ways, Cole has managed to take eras, taken their essential parts, and made herself a style of her own. Her vocal melodies are incredible, arguably the best from the newer pop artists, and the whole thing fits Cole perfectly: no slag, no awkward parts, not even a thread out of line on the entire album.

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Tuck & Patti - I Remember You

Dance Club Massacre -
Circle Of Death


Black Market Activities/Metal Blade/RED

How has metal been so degraded by humanity? This band makes me wish the death sentence was still an appropriate punishment for wrong opinions. Some of the worst metal I have ever heard.


The only rewarding quality is a solid mix of high and low screams, but even that is drowned out by the layers of cheesy guitars, bad nu-black metal and stupid subject matter. Yes, if you thought songs about killing people was stupid, you will love hearing songs about money. A waste of plastic.

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The All-American Rejects - When the World Comes Down (Deluxe Edition)

Willie Nelson -
Naked Willie


RCA/Legacy/Sony BMG

Nelson's career is marked with only highlights. Can anyone give me a horrible Willie Nelson song? Sure, there are some sub par ones, but a bad track? And those are the rarities: with a history so rich with perfectly written albums, Nelson can really do no wrong at this point.


Which is why Naked Willie is the best thing to come out of his catalog: the best era of Nelson (late 60's) playing stripped down tracks (him at his best) with a recording quality that is perfect for the country genius. Songs on here include "Bring Me Sunshine," "Sunday Morning Coming Down" by Kris Kristofferson, and "Laying My Burdens Down," to name a few.


***Best Album Of The Week***

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Eric BenŽt - Love & Life

Marcus Johnson -
Flo (For The Love Of): Romance


Three Keys/Marimelj

Cool, smooth jazz. Johnson lets downtempo walking basslines meander their way from beginning to end of this album, not really doing anything new but still keeping in the genre presented. Nothing innovative, just the steady run of elevator music.

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Trouble Andrew - Trouble Andrew

Cyndi Harvell -
The Night Turned to Song


War Chant/Citrus to Citrus

Simplistically performed but unbelievably complex folk rock. With the slightest flavor of southern twang, The Night Turned to Song is the best of what is going on in contemporary folk, but funneled into one incredible lady.


Intricate vocal melodies, interesting songwriting (phenomenal guitar playing!), and a simplistic flow to it that makes the mix of elements become something far superior to all the rest. Highly recommenced for folk lovers.



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

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Saltman Knowles -
Return of the Composer


Pacific Coast Jazz

Piano backbone and beautifully flowing female vocals, Return of the Composer is the type of jazz more people should be working on. Mid-tempo, with progressions that aren't masturbatory (though there certainly are a few of those on here), and enough character through and through to give a real emotional personality to the music, Saltman Knowles has figured out how to put his music together. While not the best thing ever, and looses my interest at points, the album is none the less great for what it's doing.

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AC/DC -
'74 Jailbreak EP


Albert/Epic/Sony BMG

The best hard-rock band. Of all time. With almost all of their records being repressed, we have quite a lot of music to get our abused ears up to the task of listening to great songs again. '74 Jailbreak is the 5 song EP, composed of "Jailbreak," "You Ain't Got A Hold On Me," "Show Business," "Soul Stripper," and "Baby, Please Don't Go". It's great, just take my word for it.



***LATE BUT GREAT***


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Volcano Suns - All Night Lotus Party

The Luke Mulholland Ban -
Further


Self-Released

Luke Mulholland has released 4 full length albums before his 20th birthday, which is a fact that speaks for itself. Amazing blues progressions, not really stepping out of the standards but still doing it well.


His voice does not sound like a 19 year old, but thats what they say. Heavily produced, with a great backing band, this record is for any interested in solid blues.

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Beat Union - Disconnected

Crooked X -
Self-Titled


MPM/Capitol/EMI

While Crooked X has opened up for respectable bands (AC/DC) and have opened for good-but-not-respectable bands (Kiss, Ted Nugent), they are neither respectable nor good. The bad parts of hard rock and the worse parts of nu-metal make a band that is somehow more unbearable than Creed. I guess that deserves recognition of some kind.



***MIGHTY, MIGHTY!!***

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Yelle - Pop Up (Bonus Track Version)

T Bird and the Breaks -
Learn About It


Self-Released

You would figure that the white bastardization of great black music would happen at the music's height, right? I guess for T Bird and the Breaks it works the opposite: you make white bastardizations when the music is all but dead.


Learn About It, despite my criticism, is surprisingly good. Straightforward funk/blues/soul that would have rivaled Clinton, if Clinton wasn't miles beyond this. The sound is perfect for what it is, with every horn in the right place, every stop note right on the dime, and the perfect amount of sexual crooning that you would think this was relic. If you like funk, you should dive into this.

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Randy Newman - Harps and Angels

Jack's Mannequin -
The Glass Passenger


Sire/Warner Bros.

Something Corporate's frontman Andrew McMahon's new project Jack's Mannequin compares to his previous work, but has a sense of maturity lacking from his last project.


Somewhere between indie rock and pop rock, The Glass Passenger feels like a blend of U2's production, Ben Fold's song writing, mixed with something of the nu-pop punk wave from '05 ala The Starting Line.


Styles change between tracks, but it all amounts to the same outcome. Catchy choruses, whiny-but-heartfelt vocals, and some really over the top studio tricks, The Glass Passenger is for those wanting more pop rock in their lives.



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


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Michael Higgins - The Moon and the Lady Dancing

Bill Frisell -
History, Mystery DOUBLE CD


Nonesuch/Warner Bros.

"Avant-garde" jazz from guitarist Bill Frisell. He uses what sounds like a floor full of effects pedals, perhaps putting My Bloody Valentine to shame, but luckily not overdoing it. Tasteful use of echo and phase shifts, History, Mystery crafts itself in something that sounds like smooth jazz in hell.

Dissonance strikes Frisell's fancy, but feels much more together and pretty than what people generally think of when they say "dissonant jazz". Weird progressions that don't come across odd, strange instrumentation that adds but doesn't overdo, and not a single moment of masturbation, History, Mystery is one of the best jazz albums of the year.

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Kris Kristofferson - The Essential Kris Kristofferson

Odetta -
Blues Everywhere I Go


American Roots/MC

After a decade of not releasing music, Blues Everywhere I Go was one of the last Odetta wrote. She passed away late last year, making this relisten a bit heavier than I expected. Odetta was a civil rights activist her entire life, balanced only by her incredible ability to construct some of the most beautiful blues and soul songs I have ever heard.


With a deep, rambling singing voice, Odetta managed to word so much emotion in a single track that it was unbelievable that a single person could write all that she did. Blues Everywhere I Go is for any who like blues at all.



***POLITICAL ALBUM OF THE WEEK***

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Prairie Cartel

Nous Non Plus -
Menagerie


Auronaut

Sassy disco-punk from faux-French New York rock group Nous Non Plus makes bands like Gogol Bordello look like fools. Menagerie is catchy, fun, stripped down, and, well, good. Yes, I said it: this band is genuinely good.


You can hear emotions even through the goofy electronics and cheesy harmonies, and nothing detracts from anything else. All of the parts work together to make a record far better than its solitary components. If you want something upbeat, look no further.

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Guitar Red - Lightnin' In a Bottle

Rebecca Owen -
Self-Titled


Self-Released

Run of the mill country rock from Owen. Solid voice, with a little of honky tonk that most people love. The music isn't that original, but it fits the genre well. If you like female country singers, go for it.

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

Colin Munroe -
Is The Unsung Hero


Marked/Rowdy/Universal Motown

Concocting an odd combination of rock, pop, and hip-hop, with elements of downtempo swimming around in there, Colin Munroe is one of the few who has succeeded in doing something new that doesn't suck. Everyone should be taking notes.


So what do we have: one part decent melodies and acceptable vocal abilities, one part controlled and catchy pop music backed with hip hop beats, and with a pinch of production we have Is The Unsung Hero. It works, and it thrives. For fans of hip-hop and weird pop.

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Gary Louris - Vagabonds (Bonus Track Version)

Incognito -
More Tales Remixed


Heads Up/Concord

Technically this album is by "various artists", since it is a collection of remixes, but no matter: Incognito still plays the center stage on this recording. These remixes are arguably better than the originals: adding just another layer of over the top-ness to the already elaborate genre of acid-jazz.


Almost a disco feel, we see nothing short of a huge undertaking in this album. I don't recognize any of the names of the DJ's on here, but let me tell you: they are all phenomenal.

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Gary Moore - Bad for You Baby

James Dunn -
The Long Ride Home


TrueTone

Interesting singer/songwriter tracks from James Dunn. Songs are fairly epic, with an emphasis on the songwriting more than actual emotional portrayal. Don't get me wrong: this isn't bad, it just builds itself more through musical progressions than anything else. Not necessarily anything I've never heard before, but still an example of a well done singer/songwriter.



"SO NICE, GOTTA DO IT UP TWICE"

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

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Kelly Richey - Carry the Light

Late of the Pier -
Fantasy Black Channel


Astralwerks/EMI

A bunch of jokers calling themselves Late of the Pier are pretending that they are cool. And you know what, at times they come close: opening song "Hot Tent Blues", for instance. Bordering on harsh noise with a heavy electronic punch, occasional points are interesting and make my ears stand up.


But the problem is that so much of this is just the worst of the worst of electro-trash, sounding like a bad Devo. And Devo are great, so it's a huge fall. Hipsters need to stop making music. Or anything, for that matter.

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Greg Skaff -
East Harlem Skyline


Zoho/Allegro

Really interesting rock-styled jazz. Heavily distorted guitars create the thickness which crosses genres, and with high energy progressions, East Harlem Skyline makes a point to put this fact in your face every chance it gets. Greg Skaff knows his guitar playing well, and pulling of the jazz lead lines without sounding too self-involved.

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Sugarland - Love On the Inside (Deluxe Fan Edition)

Lady GaGa -
The Fame


Streamline/Konlive/Cherrytree/Interscope/Universal

Really terrible pop music. I am usually into artists who spend more time on production than growing up, but Lady GaGa really has lost any sense of merit on me.


Where groups like the Venga Bros caught me with pure poppy-ness and silly lyrics, Lady GaGa just has nothing to grab onto. Annoying beats, a really awful voice, and...what is this...songs about being rich and loving money. Yeah, this is just stupid.

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Political Song:
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Artist: Blind Alfred Reed

Song: How Much Can a Poor Man Stand Such Times and Live?

There once was a time when everything was cheap,

But now prices nearly puts a man to sleep.

When we pay our grocery bill,

We just feel like making our will --

I remember when dry goods were cheap as dirt,

We could take two bits and buy a dandy shirt.

Now we pay three bucks or more,

Maybe get a shirt that another man wore --

Tell me how can a poor man stand such times and live?



Well, I used to trade with a man by the name of Gray,

Flour was fifty cents for a twenty-four pound bag.

Now it's a dollar and a half beside,

Just like a-skinning off a flea for the hide --

Tell me how can a poor man stand such times and live?



Oh, the schools we have today ain't worth a cent,

But they see to it that every child is sent.

If we don't send everyday,

We have a heavy fine to pay --

Tell me how can a poor man stand such times and live?



Prohibition's good if 'tis conducted right,

There's no sense in shooting a man 'til he shows flight.

Officers kill without a cause,

They complain about funny laws --

Tell me how can a poor man stand such times and live?



Most all preachers preach for gold and not for souls,

That's what keeps a poor man always in a hole.

We can hardly get our breath,

Taxed and schooled and preached to death --

Tell me how can a poor man stand such times and live?



Oh, it's time for every man to be awake,

We pay fifty cents a pound when we ask for steak.

When we get our package home,

A little wad of paper with gristle and a bone --

Tell me how can a poor man stand such times and live?



Well, the doctor comes around with a face all bright,

And he says in a little while you'll be all right.

All he gives is a humbug pill,

A dose of dope and a great big bill --

Tell me how can a poor man stand such times and live?

Bruce Springsteen - Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band Live 1975-85