Issue: #347

ALBUM REVIEWS


J. Holiday,
Gretchen Peters With Tom Russell,
Bruce Springsteen,
Richie Booker,
Trapt,
Voices: WWE The Music,
Red House 25,
Linda Presgrave,
Havoc,
Faith Hill,
Jorma Kaukonen,
The Wackness,
Malvina Reynolds,
Walter Beasley,
Cazals,
Eric Hutchinson,
Anthony Hamilton,
War Child Presents,
Jim Suhler & Monkey Beat,
Words & Music Nashville,
The Knux

THE HIGH FIVE!!
  • Cynthia Felton "Afro Blue: The Music Of Oscar Brown Jr.," Felton
  • Randy Granger "A Place Called Peace," Dogsense
  • Don Edwards "Heaven on Horseback," Western Jubilee
  • Bob Gibson "Uptown Saturday Night," Bob Gibson Legacy
  • Phil Woods "The Children's Suite," Jazzed Media
ALBUM OF THE WEEK

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Album Reviews:

J. Holiday -
Round 2


Music Line Group/Capitol/EMI

While the cover of Round 2 really was leading me to believe J. Holiday was just another R. Kelly fanboy, I was pleasantly mistaken. The album, from beginning to end, takes artistic licenses that most are terrified to think of: beats using unconventional sounds, melodies that defy popular norms, and even taking the perfect amount of soul revivalism to add highlights to the pop approach.


Holiday's vocal-center is a bit higher than we're traditionally used to, but that gives more character to the package. When R&B gets good, it gets real good.

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Gretchen Peters With Tom Russell -
One To The Heart, One To The Head


Scarlet Letter/Frontera

A collection of superb drinking songs from Gretchen Peters and Tom Russell. Folky, even a little country at times, Peters and Russell use harmonies to really drive the point home, giving an emotional punch to each track.


Relatively simplistic (in the best way possible) and produced just the right amount, One To The Heart, One To The Head is a beautiful album from beginning to end.

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Bruce Springsteen -
Working On A Dream


Columbia/Sony BMG

As a nineteenth full length, Working On A Dream isn't bad at all. All emotions are encoded directly into every voice on the recording, from Springsteen signature guitar tone to each individual snare hit. Springsteen's voice hasn't changed a bit, and you can assume safely that his lyrics, as always, take the cake for any rock artist.



But the issue comes not with attributes, but with overall quality: while all the pieces are here, Bruce, where are all your buildups? Where do I get to hear the rawness that I loved so much? What about the fluidity of your albums, each track flowing into the next compared to Working On A Dream's touch and go nature?



I just wish there was more to this beyond the surface recordings that we have here. But, as I said, after nineteen full-length recordings, I couldn't imagine anyone doing much better than this.


***Best Album Of The Week***

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Richie Booker -
Shine The Light


Urban SKD/Koch/E1

Richie Booker plays a distinct style of pop and dub that...well, rubs me the wrong way. I don't like dub, which accounts for most of my distaste for this. If you like really electronic dub, Shine The Light might be for you. If you aren't down, steer way clear.

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Trapt -
Only Through The Pain...


Zig Zag/Eleven Seven

Part of me wants to choke every member of this band. The other part doesn't really care. "Post-grunge" is what most people seem to be classifying this band, which is just stupid.


Pop-punk influenced nu-metal fits better: songs written with pop-punk progressions but delivered like later 90's atrocities Staind did. Stupid lyrics, but reasonably catchy songs. And while the somewhat gruff vocal delivery is almost ignorable at moments, the album just sits with me like a bad itch or an annoying friend: try to find the most discreet way of getting rid of them as quickly as possible. In this case it is the "eject" button.



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

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Various Artists -
Voices: WWE The Music Vol. 9 Entrance Themes


World Wrestling Entertainment/Columbia/Sony BMG

I really don't care about this. Theme songs from wrestlers. Woopty do. Now if only I can avoid getting my ass kicked for this. Boring jock-jams and annoying "pump-up the volume" sounding tunes that make me yawn like you wouldn't believe. Themes on here from Kane, R-Truth, Vladimir Ksolov, Eve, and more.

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Various Artists -
Red House 25 Volume 2


Red House

Red House Records have been good to us over the years: consistently sending us some of the best folk out there right now and never letting us down.


This, as the album so subtly suggests, is their 25th anniversary collection. It includes all of their best (including, but not limited to: Eliza Gilkyson, Jorma Kaukonen, Greg Brown, Lucy Kaplansky, Guy Davis, and everyone else), and it all sounds like exactly what you would expect: country and blues laced folk that drives home the heritage of the genre we all love so much.




***LATE BUT GREAT***


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Linda Presgrave -
Inspiration


Metropolitan

Linda Presgrave composes soothing while slightly monotonous jazz. I wouldn't call it "smooth", but I feel like that is the closest road Inspiration takes.


Mostly piano driven (which I feel is where the album lies strongest), the record sways clear of real self-involved soloing, but still manages to "show off" the ability of all performers on the record. Jazz aficionados take note!

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Havoc -
Hidden Files


E1/Koch

Havoc is one half of one of the best '90s hip-hop groups Mobb Deep, known for being one of the hardest-hitting and honest in the time. Hidden Files, as expected, is not coming close to the collaborative efforts of the past. Does this mean it doesn't drown the new E-40 album? Hell no.


The record makes the nonsense scene of hip-hop today look like child's play. Beats are simple but intense. The delivery is perfect. The lyrics are hard. Hidden Files is all we ever needed.



***MIGHTY, MIGHTY!!***

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Faith Hill -
Joy To The World


Warner Bros

Positives: Faith Hill has one of the most amazing voices out there. Her range, delivery, and sound are all exactly as they should be. The music is predominantly traditional, and takes very few liberties with the songs, so you know exactly how the music will sound. Negatives: it's another Christmas album.

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Jorma Kaukonen -
River Of Time


Red House

Rock and Roll-Hall-Of-Famer Jorma Kaukonen has given the world River Of Time, a folk record full of nuances and subtly intricacies. Folkish progressions, primarily acoustic, set the backbone for a story-telling styled vocal pattern that has always been one of my personal favorites. Catchy tunes, and intelligent lyrics, River of Time is perfect for any avid folk fan.



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


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Various Artists -
The Wackness: Music From The Motion Picture


Zomba/Jive/Sony BMG

While I know nothing of The Wackness and, realistically, never will, what I do know is this soundtrack is perfect. I mean, yes I know Notorious is dead, and yes as far as I know you aren't going to get anything you haven't already heard on here, but that doesn't detract from the stellar line-up: aforementioned B.I.G. bending into Faith Evans, KRS-One, A Tribe Called Quest, Nas, R. Kelly, Wu-Tang Clan, and Biz Markie just to name a few. This would actually be a great place for someone wanting to dive into hip-hop.

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Malvina Reynolds -
Ear To The Ground Topical Songs 1960-1978


Smithsonian Folkways

Upbeat old-timey folk from Malvina Reynolds. While her voice is sometimes hard to swallow, after a few tracks it just begins to blend in; vocal inflections becomes more of a charm then an annoyance. Songwriting is simplistic and perfect, and with enough protest songs to be a change that we can actually believe in, Ear To The Ground is what folk should be.


***Shelton's Single of the Week: "What Have They Done to the Rain?"***



***POLITICAL ALBUM OF THE WEEK***

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Walter Beasley -
Free Your Mind


Affable/Heads Up/Concord

Free Your Mind is Beasley's undertaking of a jazz solo record. In terms of what it is, it's great: an album composed entirely of saxophone with backing electronic instruments to keep the beat and the atmosphere of the songs in sync. Beasley writes some amazing melodies, and plays like a master. If you can handle monotony and some boredom, go for this.

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Cazals -
What of Our Future


Kitsune/The Hours/Fontana

Finally a contemporary band has decided to do dance rock right. While moments reek of the electro-trash insurrection that has taken over the airwaves, What of Our Future balances the dance with actual melodies and actual rock and roll.


Gang of Four influenced but realistically still frequenting the hipster bars that breed the trash that usually comes with this sound, Cazals manage to keep their sound interesting without degrading it with soulless electronic beats. If you are fed up with the state of contemporary indie rock, this will cleanse your pallet.

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Eric Hutchinson -
Sounds Like This


Let's Break/Warner Bros

Catchy soulful pop-rock. There's a little bit of Beatles tossed around in the blender that is Sounds Like This, but I think Elton John take up a bit more of the ingredients.


Fun and upbeat, the album actually portrays emotion, which is something new. Hutchinson's voice is one-of-a-kind, which some people may have a hard time swallowing, but for me it's wonderful. Freddy Mercury-esq. If you want something to accent your already on-top-of-the-world attitude (as if anyone left can feel that way in this economy...), this album is for you.

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Anthony Hamilton -
The Point Of It All


Zomba/So So Def/Mister's Music/Arista

Interesting R&B/Hip-Hop crossover. Beats border on experimental hip-hop, with a strong soul feel but still distinctly hip-hop. Lots of piano, if that gives you any idea. But where Hamilton becomes intriguing is his melodies: think the high-energy soul ala James Brown, but a bit more controlled. If you want something original, this is for you.

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Various Artists -
War Child Presents: Heroes


War Child/Astralwerks/EMI

There have been very few ideas as good as this. War Child Presents: Heroes is a compilation benefit album for the children who have been affected by the ravages of war. Coupling a great cause with an amazing list of indie musicians, all of which covering songs from the '60s and '70s, accounts for the sheer incredible-ness of this record.


The highlights: Hold Steady covering "Atlantic City", Yeah Yeah Yeahs covering "Sheena Is A Punk Rocker," Peaches covering "Search and Destroy", and The Like covering "You Belong To Me". This is recommended to everyone.



***Shelton's Single Of The Week: "The Hold Steady - Atlantic City,"***



"SO NICE, GOTTA DO IT UP TWICE"

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

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Jim Suhler & Monkey Beat -
Tijuana Bible


Underworld/Burnside

Mediocre blues-rock. Heavily distorted, but still incredibly clean, Tijuana Bible is a boring and typical record for anyone who has listened to more than five blues albums in their life.


Nothing really interesting. Though, in the bands defense, at least they know the genre enough to pull off one of the most run of the mill sounds I have ever heard.

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Various Artists -
Words & Music Nashville


Adroit/Traci Music

As you could assume from the title, this is a country/folk/blues compilation, composed entirely of Nashville musicians. The album shows the original writers of hit songs, playing the songs themselves. What a thought! Would you like some honky-tonk wails? How about some heart-felt blues crooning? Maybe some quiet folky love song? All of that and more on this record!


***Shelton's Single of the Week: "Vince Melamed/Greg Barnhill - Walk Away Joe"***
***EDITOR'S NOTE: "Words & music has got it all - there's tons of great country, pieces of rock
and roll and angelic gospel, too. And then there's the remarkable song
"walkaway joe" by Vince Melamed. Trisha Yearwood better send Vince a card every
day."***

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The Knux -
Remind Me In 3 Days...


HHH/Goliath/Le Chic Freak/Interscope

Old-school styled hip-hop that I would usually consider as extinct as the Dodo bird seems to be making a comeback. Q-Tip put out a new album, and now Remind Me In 3 Days... has hit and things seem to be okay again.


While this may be considered revivalist, that doesn't change the fact this is still good. Fun beats and lyrics that are more flow then screams and with more purpose, I would hope this is where hip-hop is going again.


***If You Like Music You're Gonna Love This***

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THIS WEEK'S SONG LYRICS:


Artist: Tom Waits

Song: Hoist That Rag


Well I learned the trade

From Piggy Knowles

Sing Sing Tommy Shay Boys

God used me as hammer boys

To beat his weary drum today



Hoist that rag [2x]



The sun is up the world is flat

Damn good address for a rat

The smell of blood

The Drone of flies

You know what to do if

The baby cries



Hoist that rag [2x]



Well we stick our fingers in

The ground, heave and

Turn the world around

Smoke is blacking out the sun

At night I pray and clean my gun

The cracked bell rings as

The ghost bird sings and the gods

Go beggin here

So just open fire

As you hit the shore

All is fair in love

And war



Hoist that rag [4x]