Croweology: 20 Years of Tall Tales, 2 Disc Set The Black Crowes
Silver Arrow / Megaforce

Author:
Sophia A. Strosberg

The Black Crowes moved into the rock ’n’ roll spotlight in the mid-1980s. Ever since then, they have worked to maintain the musical feel of the ’60s and ’70s in a world of laser sounds, grunge guitars and calculated electro-pop. Using their most jammy, acoustic, groovy songs, the Black Crowes have now compiled Croweology, a 2-disc review of their career.

The songs have been freshly recorded, showing that the Black Crowes still have a good ear. The four original members of the band kick out short solos within the framework of entwined instruments. The CD case itself also demands recognition – it folds out into a beautiful forest landscape with a surprise pop-up. The whole shebang celebrates the spirit of psychedelia that lives on in music and art.

Single of the Week: Jealous Again

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Eat Pray Love: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack Various Artists
Monkeywrench / Plan B / Columbia Pictures / Sony

Author:
SAS

Eat Pray Love, the movie, got famous fast, and it seems that the good choices made in making the cute flick have extended to its soundtrack. With accordion- and piano-laden songs by Eddie Vedder, Josh Rouse and Gato Barbieri, and classic cuts from Sly & the Family Stone, Marvin Gaye and Neil Young, with Central Asian music, French folk and German opera, this diverse soundtrack hits the spot, no matter which spot on you needs a hit. One song even combines accordion, sitar, tabla and Eddie Vedder – is there a more odd kind of perfection?

It may seem a little tacky of the soundtrack’s creators to pick and choose the best of so many stripes of music – it seems kind of like cheating. But why the hell not? We have only one life to live, so we might as well grab the best sounds from all the great musical traditions out there.

Single of the Week: “Last Tango in Paris (Suite Pt. 2)” by Gato Barbieri

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Music of Central Asia Vol. 9: In the Footsteps of Babur – Musical Encounters From the Lands of the Mughuls, CD and DVD Set Various Artists
Aga Khan / Smithsonian Folkways

Author:
SAS

Smithsonian Folkways continues its tradition of recording the some of most culturally important music out there, for posterity as well as for the entertainment of the public. Much of what they choose would otherwise go unrecorded, and all of what they choose is the best of its kind. In the case of their Music of Central Asia Series, Smithsonian Folkways has chosen exceptional instrumentalists to recreate the music of Central Asia as it sounded during various eras.

Volume 9 of the series explores the music of the Mughul Empire, founded five centuries ago. The music is sometimes relaxing, other times fast and almost frantic. It is wonderfully melodic, with various stringed instruments and percussive instruments working together to create intellectually stimulating rhythms and scales distinctive to the time and place in which they were originally recited. The booklet that comes with the set describes each song and instrument used on the album in detail. It also gives each featured artist a biography and offers us a nuanced overview of the music of the Central Asia during the time of the Mughul Empire. Be prepared for the Central Asia, Afghanistan and Northern India of days of yore to come alive in your living room.

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Hank Williams Complete Mother Best Recordings…Plus! 15 CD Set and DVD Hank Williams
Direct Holdings Americas / Time Life

Author:
SAS

This is a steamy slice of the past, brought to you by the makers of Mother’s Best pie and biscuit self-rising flour. What we have here are an astounding 72 radio shows – each 15 minutes long –  featuring Hank Williams, circa 1951. He recorded these shows for a rural Tennessee audience at the peak of his career, but his unabashed song choices and enthusiastic renditions of the songs reveal his joy at being a great musician over being a mainstream celebrity.

The actual sound of the recordings is a bit scratchy, but it’s nothing that would ruin the music. Rather, it sounds like you are hearing this collection of Southern country and gospel straight out of the Twilight Zone – a radio feeding directly from 1951 Tennessee. Hearing all the Mother’s Best commercials is repetitive but quaint. This is just the type of thing A Prairie Home Companionloves to parody, and this is not just the real thing, it’s the best of the real thing. It’s also a thrill to hear Hank Williams talking in what seems like his natural environment. Enjoy Williams playing both well-loved and unusual songs in this immense treasury of music, and don’t forget to check out the bonus DVD, too.

Single of the Week: I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry

Editor’s Note: Everybody in the music industry from Bob Dylan to Bruce Springsteen wants to write songs as brilliantly as Hank Williams did. He lived fast, died young and left a beautiful memory, leaving us when he was 29 years old. It was Williams’s performances that had the most immediate impact, defining the hard, spare style of modern country music that took its name from his early hit “Honky Tonkin’.” The man had an extraordinary ability to convey naked emotion. He could be exuberant, but more often he played sad, lonesome, dejected, defeated, a downright unhappy soul. You must read about him, buy his albums and watch the movies that were made about Hank Williams, the greatest pure country artist who ever lived. Get this set at www.HankWilliamsMothersBest.com.

Best Album of the Week


Serotonin Mystery Jets
Rough Trade / Beggars

Author:
SAS

Serotoninis some kind of queer indie dream. First there are choral backups echoing behind ticking guitars and synthy strings. Then, this fades into punkful distortion and heavy-hitting drums. The Mystery Jets’ winning formula can hardly be identified as a formula, as it consists of combining their indie-rock sound with the completely unexpected, from glam sounds to conspiratorial whispers to happy-go-lucky whispers. Their only failure is their occasional poppy rock sound.

This is not the British Mystery Jets’ debut album, but we can only expect them to get more popular. Glam music might have all but disappeared for a couple of decades, but as queer culture surges and the music of the 1980s sees a revival, bands with this important style will continue making and selling sparkling jams.

Single of the Week: “Dreaming of Another World”

Artist to Watch

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Still Learning Lonesome River Band
Rural Rhythm

Author:
SAS

They’ve got all the instruments required by a good bluegrass band, and they’ve got the country twang in their voices and spirits. Inspired by particular times and places, love and lonesomeness, blues and traveling, this group of five guys sound like they’d be making music out in their backyards each evening even if they hadn’t decided to get into the recording studio for Still Learning.

The lead singer shows off his vocal control with quick note changes, and rest of the band shows restraint and maturity in their playing as well as letting loose here and there throughout the album. There’s nothing out-of-the-ordinary about the Lonesome River Band; they’re just writing more good ol’ tunes, as they have been for a while. Sometimes serious in tone, but just as often humorous, the spirit of the Lonesome River Band’s music will carry you along in its current until you’ve forgotten you’re lonely at all.

Editor’s Note: The Lonesome River Band is one of the most spectacular bands in bluegrass. Although rooted in the traditional sounds of Flatt & Scruggs and Bill Monroe, they continue to set standards of their own.

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Live on the Sunset Strip, 2 Disc Set Otis Redding & His Orchestra
Volt / Stax / Concord Music Group

Author:
SAS

The year: 1966. The place: Whiskey A Go Go, West Hollywood. The sound: ultimately tasty. We get to hang out at two of Otis Redding’s live shows in the most intimate way – the recording itself give us an up-close feeling, as one of the greatest soul, funk and R&B artists of all time leads the energy levels through the roof. “Respect,” “Satisfaction” and “Security” are just a few of the heavies on this recording.

While he may have the blues in his studio recordings, if, as you listen to this recording, you find yourself dehydrated and sitting on your ass, it’s not from sobbing  your eyes out. Rather, it’s because you’ve just sweated all over the dance floor, and then slipped in the middle of doing some crazy break dancing move. With his full orchestra behind him, even when he does break into the blues, you’ll be swaying to and fro. His voice should never be forgotten. With his advanced ability to convey intense emotion in his vocals even in his early 20s, and his tragic death in 1967, one year after this recording was made, at age 26, the spirit of Otis Redding will remain close to the hearts of all the soul rockers and funksters of this day and of days yet to come.

Single of the Week: “Satisfaction”

Editor’s Note: While Motown tended toward pop, Otis was horn-driven and truly rhythmic. His music’s fierceness was the product of one of the most stellar solo vocalists of all time. All of Redding’s creative genius served emotion, and that emotion, celebratory or anguished, was conveyed by the absolute urgency of his remarkable voice.

Late but Great

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The Latin Side of Herbie Hancock Conrad Herwig, Eddie Palmieri & Randy Brecker
Half Note

Author:
SAS

Conrad Herwig, accomplished trombonist and the main creator of this album, carefully grasps eight different Herbie Hancock songs, adds Latin rhythms and stylings, hoists the original Hancock melodies into the air, and does the musical equivalent of cartwheels beneath them.

This is a fun, piano-pounding, brass-blasting, dancer-friendly way to taking in your daily dose of Herbie Hancock. Hear the tunes you’ve loved for so long explored in a whole new way, from “One Finger Snap” to “Watermelon Man.” Recorded live at the Blue Note in New York City, all of these songs are respectful covers, and all make for a colorful listen that will get even the most stubborn and aloof feet to shuffle.

Single of the Week: “Watermelon Man”

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White Crosses Against Me!
Sire / Warner Bros.

Author:
SAS

Against Me! is a leading punk band of our time (though it may not believe in leaders). It has been around since the early 2000s, releasing anarchist-y tracks with strains of folk influence and strong vocals. Their songs were popular in the underground music scene before they signed to a major label, and they continue to be promoted by young punks, who wear Against Me! patches on their asses.

White Crossesis a polished album, which, to an older, earplug-wearing, once-upon-a-time punk, like your reviewer, is a desirable quality. Keyboard and well-timed “ooo-ooo-ooo”s stand out against discernable, though distorted, riffs and chords, and all the lyrics are easy enough to make out. The vocals have a satisfyingly tremolo sound. Meanwhile, the lyrics give a candid look at love and punkdom and politics, but from an older and more jaded perspective than Against Me! ever had before. White Crossesis fine, but those Against Me! kids are growing up and letting go of their commitment to anarchism. They also seem to have forgotten their one-time fervor for the confluence of punk and folk, as well. For a commercial album, it’s great – the lyrics are interesting and the sound is catchy and slick. But for as for the band’s underground past… well, it’s lost some punk points, hardcore.

Mighty Mighty!

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The Definitive Collection of Federal Records (1964 – 1982), 2 Disc Set Various Artists
17 North Parade / VP

Author:
SAS

Classic reggae will lead the way. To where? To struggle, to love, to musical bliss. Listen your way through a history of original reggae on The Definitive Collection of Federal Records. Never again go for a week without your dose of  this innovative musical genre.

These artists were recorded at Federal Records’ Kingston studio. The Definitive Collection of Federal Recordstakes you through more than a decade and a half of reggae, allowing you to watch it develop from its origins borrowing from U.S. radio broadcasts to the sounds that are now borrowed so vigorously by hip-hop and other musical artists today. The collection features Keith Lyn, The Gaylettes, Ken Lazarus, Ernie Smith, Ken Booth, Pluto Shervington, Marcia Griffiths and many more, making it a great choice for those who haven’t heard anyone but Bob Marley, but want to dig deeper.

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The New York Contemporary Five Archie Shepp
Delmark

Author:
SAS

The New York Contemporary Fivewas recorded in 1963 at a Copenhagen concert, and what a night that must have been in the Jazzhus Montmarte. You could almost dance to music, it holds together just well enough – yet it also twists so fully that you may just decide to stay seated and listen. Get excited as these jazz artists wake us all up to possibilities of music that were underexplored at the time of this recording, and as yet misunderstood by the general populace.

This is the best of the best in free jazz horn, with three greats blasting away together is what seems like chaos until you listen to the spaces between the notes as well as the notes themselves. Of course, the drums and bass keep everything on track. These experimental jazz musicians create a realm where fiction is reality, where sound is emotion, and where melody lines are held together by golden threads.

Let the Good Times Roll

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One November Night CD & DVD Set Johnny A.
Aglaophone

Author:
SAS

M’gosh, but Johnny is a fast one. His licks on guitar, whether he is moving at a human pace or a superhuman one, are sure to please. Unadulterated by messy vocals or sappy lyrics, his moods are incisive and his intentions clear. With uppity guitar like this, it’s obvious why so many instrumentalists are satisfied solely by playing their instrument, never needing an accompanying vocalist.

One November Night is Johnny A.’s live album, but aside from its gripping pace, you wouldn’t know it. He plays a swinging, surfy guitar, with slight distortion and an impeccable sense of rhythm. Whether you need party music or something to throw on the boom box affixed to the front rack of your beach cruiser, One November Night is for you.

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Precious Cargo The Steve Wiggins Band
Roosterfish / CD Baby

Author:
SAS

Dirty as the earth and sweet as a sax solo swings low, The Steve Wiggins Band gives us another dose of valuable musical freight on Precious Cargo. The sounds flow straight from a steamy stage in Panama City, Florida, into the recording apparatus and then into your ears. Steve Wiggins wails the piano and organ, and his other band mates cover the drums, bass, vocals and sax. For a four piece band, their sound is surprisingly full. But then, that Hammond organ sure makes a big sound.

The album is geared to those who want to groove to a boogie-woogie sound with all the classic trimmings, including the appropriate solos, climaxes and love-lorn lyrics. The fact that this is a live recording adds extra energy to the whole thing, as if you are standing side-stage and watching your buddies up there have a grand old time.

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Be Yourself: A Tribute to Graham Nash’s Songs for Beginners Various Artists
Grass Roots

Author:
SAS

This is an incredible new take on Graham Nash’s 1971 solo debut, Songs for Beginners, which was released just after his release, with Crosby, Stills and Young, of Déjà Vu. On the original Songs for Beginners, Nash and musical guests created a folk-rock album with a sincere political bent. It was imbued with Nash’s own much-loved sound. This new album features today’s folkies, from Bonnie “Prince” Billy to Sleepy Sun to Nile Nash (Graham Nash’s daughter), as they explore each song from the original album, redressing it from beginning to end.

The artists on Be Yourselfemploy a clear folk-revival sound, including advanced harmonies, experimental vocal techniques and simple percussion. They evoke a richness of sound throughout the recording that is reminiscent of vinyl records and nylon guitar strings. This is a beautiful memoir dedicated to a living legend. If you like today’s folk – hipster, political or otherwise – you don’t want to miss this one.

Single of the Week: “I Used to Be King”

New Album of the Week

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Black Rock Joe Bonamassa
J&R Adventures / Fontana

Author:
SAS

This young blues artist, striding out of the New York rustbelt, models himself after the great British blues musicians, but adds a Celtic twist to his sound. Hearing Joe Bonamassa’s engaged singing style, with prevalent electric guitar and, often enough, flute and other unexpected instruments, takes you through a soaring world of hollering rock.

Bonamassa plays plenty of his own songs, but he also covers Rod Stewart, Leonard Cohen, Otis Rush, Willie Nelson and others. With B.B. King appearing on the album, quality songwriting and conscientious renditions of some of your old favorites, Bonamassa captures your heart along with the blues.

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Pucusana Gabriel Alegría & the Afro-Peruvian Sextet
Saponegro

Author:
SAS

This is what you get when Afro-style call and response, Peruvian-style instrumentation and modern-style jazz is combined. Zany rhythms that somehow makes sense by the end of the music phrase are at the base of tracks that are primarily, but not exclusively, instrumental. On top are sax, trumpet, acoustic guitar, drums, cajón, cajita, quijada and bass.

According to Gabriel Alegría, the leader of the sextet (which currently has a lineup of eight rather than six musicians), “The Afro-Peruvian Sextet focuses on transmitting the joy and spirit of our cultural heritage.” The sound is indeed joyous and open to incorporating even the most specific parts of African and Peruvian heritage. The sextet hails from Lima, Peru.

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Dark Night of the Soul Danger Mouse and Sparklehorse
CapitolEMI

Author:
SAS

The “dark night of the soul” is a time in one’s spiritual life when one experiences loneliness and desolation. This new Danger Mouse album reflects this meaning, rather than having much to do with the kind of funky “soul” that he took on with Cee-Lo as part of Gnarles Barkely. On Dark Night, he continues along the path he began with James Mercer, the indie rocker from The Shins, in Broken Bells.

The collaboration between Danger Mouse and Sparklehorse is only one part of a project that also includes artwork by David Lynch, a really cool website and work with numerous other musicians. Guests are on every single track of Dark Night of the Soul, and include James Mercer, Iggy Pop, Frank Black of the Pixies, and Scott Spillane of Neutral Milk Hotel. These guest appearances speak volumes about the album, but if it must be characterized: it’s dark rock with clever production, intelligent lyrics, and a fuzziness around the instruments. Occasional old-timey samples dress up the music, while a delightful sarcasm wraps itself around the whole thing. Perhaps it speaks for the dark night our generation’s soul.

Single of the Week: “Man Who Played God”

So Nice Gotta Do It Up Twice! (created by the original NYC D.J., Jocko, 1955)

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Legend of the Black Shawarma Infected Mushroom
Perfecto

Author:
SAS

Infected Mushroom, a well-known psychedelic trance band, has joined forces with house DJ Paul Oakenfold, who put on his producer hat for this album. It came out of Oakenfold’s record label. However, the music is much darker than Oakenfold’s usual style. Featuring sounds from some tripped-out planet, complete with gnome voices, the talent of Korn’s lead singer Jonathan Davis, and hard trance beats, there’s nothing cheesy about Legend of the Black Shawarma.

Whether they write songs about food or about death, the Israel duo that makes up Infected Mushrooms have created a release that should be able to hold up to young nu-metal rockers and electronic music fans alike. It’s got a touch of Shpongle and touch of Tool. A touch of dance club and a touch of S&M club. Freaks of all stripes, keep an eye on this one.

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Iraq: The Forever War Noam Chomsky
PM Press / Trade Root

Author:
SAS

Don’t think that the war is over just because troops are to be withdrawn from Iraq within the year, and don’t think that we entered the war with rational cause. This 51-minute lecture is classic Noam Chomsky material. Recorded in 2008, it is just as important two years later, as we supposedly end the war on Iraq even as the dangerous U.S. ideologies behind war carry on. Chomsky explores cultural perceptions and misperceptions, force, trickery and the other reasons behind the Iraq War.

Chomsky argues that the U.S. military has committed crimes under international law in the war against Iraq. Explore this delicate and intricate topic with this world-renowned academic and activist, who is as on-point as ever.

Single of the Week: Every Damn Second

Political Album of the Week

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Teenage Dream Katy Perry
Capitol / EMI

Author:
SAS

Katy Perry, in Teenage Dream, is making super clubby dance music with a mind toward exploring teenage consciousness (or unconsciousness, as the title implies). Her music is pretty cheesy, both in music and lyrics. For example, from her song with Snoop Dogg: “California girls/We’re unforgettable/Daisy Dukes, bikinis on top/Sun-kissed skin so hot.” This party stuff is really just that – party fluff.

However, Perry’s style of dress, her lyrics and her marketing (her CD booklet smells like candy) target teenaged girls, who are swooning in the lap of their own bulging libidos. It’s awkward to listen to this album, which talks about peeking at “peacocks” and waking up with hangovers, and know that it’s aimed at teens (or even preteens). But then, sex is all they are thinking about anyway. So what if most of the content on the album is inane and sometimes even offensive. Perry has a huge personality, which sometimes actually comes off as empowering. And there’s no making her go away: it seems that the youngsters who wear pink are totally into Perry, even as their peers in black are reading Twilight.

Editor’s Note: As the father of a woman, I can genuinely thank God that she wasn’t a little kid when this capitalist sellout puked this album from her miserable soul. I hat her so much that I can’t even remember her name. I feel so sorry that she’s turning little girls into sex objects. Haven’t we learned anything? Boys and men have been sexually harassing women for years, and still do. Now we have a jive woman who is pushing young girls to keep this ugly system alive.

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I Speak Because I Can Laura Marling
AstralwerksEMI

Author:
SAS

Did Joni Mitchell and Ani DiFranco finally begin their May-October relationship, move to the British Isles, and have a daughter? Laura Marling’s voice is warm, it is instantly something that you will want to keep close to you forever. And you can, because it is so perfectly captured on I Speak Because I Can.

Marling’s style comes from the traditional British Isles folk, but also from modern folk. Her lyrics, likewise, conjoin these two paths. And it all mixes in the strong, beautiful crucible of her voice. Laura is not just another singer-songwriter. With quality instrumentation backing her up, her great choice in guest artists, her pertinent lyrics and, of course, a stunning voice, she deserves your immediate attention.

Single of the Week: “Made by Maid”

If You Love Music, You’ll Love This!

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