Blessed Lucinda Williams
Lost Highway / Universal

Author:
Kyle Forrest

Lucinda Williams is about a year older than my mother but she's got a voice that's sexier than just about any vocalist of my generation. Her songwriting has been defining the new sound of "Americana" since a lot of the genre's artist's were in grade school, and her performances of those songs continue to leave audiences staggering and stunned. On "Blessed" she's back with a full collection of her own songs; if you fork out an extra couple bucks you get the "Deluxe Addition" which includes a second disc of "The Kitchen Tapes"—Williams doing all the songs on the album, stripped down, acoustic, presumably in her kitchen.

Lucinda is a big enough deal that everyone wants to like her. Unfortunately, this album won't please the pallets of all those folks out there who hear "country" and think "Garth Brooks." Williams has proved in the past that she can pull off that sort of big, proud sound, but this is a record that is more about people and stories, less about anemic optimism. Some critics fault Williams for that as "droning" or "not upbeat." It's certainly the case that "Blessed" deals with some fairly difficult terrain, but dismissing it as "droning" is likely indicative of a listner wiht an obsessive need to ignore the complexities of life around them.

For those listeners, it is unlikely that this, or any, of Lucinda's records, will be pleasing from start to finish. For the rest of us, who don't mind some sadness and some meditation on the prosaic, "Blessed" is more than a claim, it's a blessing.

Editor's Note: Lucinda has made startling advances as she has created remarkable music. Recent works seem to have been done by a different artist: sharp, tough, but with tender, hearthfelt moments. What an honor it is to listen to an album of her songs.

Single of the Week: "Copenhagen"

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From Greens to Eternity Voodoo Jets
Independent

Author:
KE

This Cheap Trick, Beatles inspired band delivers the directness, simplicity and hook-filled accessibility of rock’s early years, but puts it on steroids.  The instrumentation is unique-- power pop without guitars, just some rocking keyboards brought to life by guitar amplifiers.  Micah Sheveloff was the child of classical musicians who strictly forbade rock n’ roll.  Clearly, this had the effect of making even innocent pop feel taboo and charged with libidinal energy.   

“From Greens to Eternity” is classic rock with unexpected twists and flourishes, not just the unusual instrumentation but also the subtlety of layered harmonies, emotional authenticity, and and an over-all warmth that signals strong production. The album is varied, including ballads, arena rock, indie, glitter rock and bowie-esque theatricality.  The opening song, “Cry,” combines many of these elements, at once varied and catchy.  At one point the lyrics describe an airplane flight, and the sound physically brings you into the air, with Sheveloff’s clear soaring vocals and the swelling keyboards.  A guaranteed pleaser is the upbeat, radio hit cover of Smokey Robinson’s “Tears of a Clown.”  I would write more about it but the beat is propelling me out on the dance floor!

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steppin' up dennis taylor
kizybosh

Author:
KE

Steppin Up’ is sadly the debut and last solo release by Dennis Taylor.  Yet, he had a long seasoned history as a sideman for musicians such as Gatemouth Brown, Buckwheat Zydeco, and Shelby Lynne and was much loved and known for his musical control and kindness in Nashville’s blues and jazz communities. 

The album is a showcase for his refined, old-school voice,  a mix of enjoyable covers and original soul songs by a traditional organ trip, foregrounding Taylor’s improvisatory Sax solos.  The song interpretations are earthy and melodic.   All the songs are instrumentals except for the Buddy Johnson song “Since I Fell for You,” with warm, husky vocals by Delbert McClinton.  The first song, “Lee’s Lick,” is a flavorful, infectious taste of New Orldeans.  “Hallelujah I Love Her So,” is a showcase for Kevin McKendree’s vampy, fiery, roof raising B3 organ.  Another stand-out is smoky, old-school blues grind "Back at the Teddy Bear Lounge."

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Watching You Think NE eMA
Neemaste / Canada Factor / Sony

Author:
KFM

It's hard to imagine a more fortuetous recommendation for an emergent singer-songwriter than Leonard Cohen offering to co-produce your sophmore release. But amazing as that is, it probably ranks second, for cosmopolitan folktress NE eMA, to appearing as a special guest at December 2010 performance of Anaïs Mitchel's "Hadestown" in Los Angeles.

Blessed with timeless good looks, multi-artistry and the kind of globe-trotting childhood that accustoms youth to romance and adventure, NE eMA is likely to elicit jealousy in many upon first listen. This affect is not helped by the quietude of her talent, which though substantial, can initially appear to be somewhat commonplace. But given a second or third listen, the strangeness and authenticity of NE eMA's poetry percolates through, and fills your cup with a heavy brew of sorrow and grace.

It isn't hard to see what attracted Cohen to this young woman's voice and style; in bending odd poems into songs that are stranger still she harkens to Cohen's early, wondrous work. Yet unlike anything from Cohen, NE eMA's songs and words are sketched out in loose, sketchy lines. She leaves it to the listener to fill in blanks and complete meanings, in marked contrast to the highly produced, clean studio sound. A vital talent with a stirring presence, look for NE eMA on tour nationwide and in Canada.

Single of the Week: "Romeo and Juliet"

ARTIST TO WATCH

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In Concert on Broadway (CD / DVD / Blu-Ray) Harry Connick Jr.
ColumbiaConn-XCine Musical

Author:
KE

Okay, this review is for the ladies.  If you want to be charmed and romanced… and who doesn’t?... you need to spend a few intimate moments with this album, preferably by the fire with a glass of Chablis. The mix of standards and rollicking, ambitious song choices, interspersed with Connick’s totally winning commentary makes this an exercise in pure pleasure. His voice and personality are warm and likeable whether he is singing Besame Mucho with romantic fullness and flourish or professing afterward that he didn’t understand much of what he was singing, all the better to lose himself in the sexiness of it all. 

The man is so full of love, for his audience, for his musicians that the album fairly oozes generosity and appeal.  His most self-effacing introduction was to my favorite performance, the song “The Other Hours” from apparently ill fated musical that he composed and performed on Broadway, Thou Shalt Not.   It’s a haunting, sexy number that blends Broadway showmanship with Tom Waits-esque philosophical sadness.  It has a such a poignant sense of musicality that you really believe Connick when he disarmingly says that he doesn’t care that his muciscal wasn’t a success, that, as corny as it sounds, “It’s really all about the music.” 

Editor's Note: For a short time Harry Connick Jr. was praised for helping to popularize standards among younger fans, and then he caught on so big with the media, that his faults became obvious. He has not been taken seriously in the jazz world since.

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(Icon) Marvin Gaye
Motown / UMe

Author:
KFM

If ever there was an artist worthy of numerous seperate "greatest hits" albums it is surely Marvin Gaye. The latest in the long list of Universal's "Icon" imprint recordings, this single disc brings together most of the absolute essentials of the Prince of Soul.

As is generally the tactic with these "Icon" collections, Gaye's hits are presented chronologically, beginning with "Pride and Joy" and ending, as his departure from MoTown loomed, with his disco classic "Got to Give it Up." Along the way we get a few of the immortal duets ("It takes Two" with Kim Weston and "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" and "Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing," both with Tammi Terrell) as well as a smidgen of Gaye's foray into political songwriting with "What's Going On."

As with the better of the "Icon" releases, this is a good collection of the songs of a great artist, and offers a good value to consumers who, somehow, don't yet own these indispensable tracks. My only complaint is that the single disc format is too limited to present the full scope of Gaye's greatness; Universal and Motown seem to agree, which is why fans who need more than the bare essentials will do well to instead purchase the more fully fleshed out two-disc offering, also from UMe's "Icon."

Editor's Note: Few artists, in any genre, can address Gaye's breadth of accomplishment: he could have had no idea just how great he really was.

Single of the Week: "I Heard it Through the Grapevine"

Late But Great

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Yoga Various
Putumayo

Author:
KE

Yoga is a collection of songs intended to accompany yoga exercise and to generally relax the mind and body.  Yoga often is paired with music and chants, and this mixture of world music was developed by Sean Johnson, the founder of Wild Lotus Yoga studio, to facilitate his teaching practice.  Sean Johnson is also a musician on the album, contributing a mellow chant song called Om Hari Om/ Sharanam Ganesha.  I was particularly inspired by the Kirtan style music like Krishna Das’s Hanuman Baba.  Kirtan is a form used in Indian devotional traditions, a call-and-response chanting.   Krishna Das is one of the best known practitioners in the West.

The relaxing, mystical tone and mood is consistent throughout the album, emanating a profound relaxing vibe.  To me it does feel a bit functional.  I don’t know if I would listen to the album if I weren’t practicing yoga.   On the other hand, owning this C.D. might inspire me to practice yoga, something that would be a much healthier choice than my nightly relaxation habits of red wine and movies. Since the album itself is pretty cosmic I will take the liberty of following suit with a short rant on the dissonance of everyday life and the need for something different:  

The grating noise of an exploitative and alienating world bombards us from every side.  The symphony of spoken and shouted words animates the scenery of the streets. Over a rumbling basso continuo develop grave and cheerful themes, hoarse and singsong voices, nostalgic fragments of sentences. There is a sonorous architecture which overlays the outline of streets and buildings, reinforcing or counteracting the attractive or repulsive tone of a district. But from Pacific Avenue to Front Street the basic chord is the same everywhere: it's sinister resonance has sunk so deeply into everyone's mind that it no longer surprises them. "That's life", "These things are sent to try us", "You have to take the rough with the smooth", "That's the way it goes"... this lament whose weft unites the most diverse conversations has so perverted our sensibility that it passes for the commonest of human dispositions. Where it is not accepted, despair disappears from sight. Nobody seems worried that joy has been absent from European music for nearly two centuries; which says everything. Consume, consume: the ashes have consumed the fire.

Any practice that can detatch one from the cacophony of everyday life is worth exploring and perhaps Yoga can be a first step towards another scene. 

Editor's Note: another beautiful collection from my favorite label. Just touching the package relaxes me.

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Automata Return To Earth
Metal Blade

Author:
KFM

Hard Rock has had a lot of trouble being really hard in recent years. In the wake of grunge and Nu Metal, and with the emergence of blues-infused Zepplin rip-offs, there's little territory to claim that doesn't immediately mark a band as genre laden or derivative. Those that succeed in eeking out a niche are increasingly indebted to irony, which tends to knock the wind out of otherwise self-respecting rock.

The premire video for Return to Earth's new album, "Automata" provides some insight into how to work out of this conundrum. Smart, glitchy, and tough, the title track is interpreted visually, as a post-apocylptic landscape of glamorous bodies flayed by our everyday technologies. Evoking the Japanese horror films of Kiyoshi Kurosawa in it's sparse narration, the video offers a fitting counter-part to Return to Earth's tale of destruction.

Return to Earth don't exhibit either the explicitly metal tendencies nor the experimental trajectories that I have come to trust Metal Blade to offer. In that sense they are a strange choice for the label. At the same time the band is driven by undeniably hard riffs and an impressive array of blast-beats, off-set by carefully conceived moments of harmony and fuzz.

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The Blackberry Bushes Little Bit of Grace
Independent

Author:
KE

If you’re like me then you have a retirement plan that involves sitting on a porch, listening to old-timey music and baking bread from scratch.  I plan to live a long time, and so I’ll need plenty of records to accommodate this fantasy including, for sure, The Blackberry Bushes’ Little Bit of Grace.  Rootsy, deeply schooled in Americana the band soaks catchy indie premises in a warm, harmonic folk sound.   The songs are lovingly arranged and performed with beautiful harmony singing, accented with three finger and clawhammer banjo and fiddling. 

Though the group members are young and from Olympia, the heart of hip, they are old souls as evidenced by the ten original songs, that show the accomplishment and wisdom of  long storied American lives.   The complex and authentic sounding “Wasting Song” should serve as a warning to Gillian Welch that The Blackberry Bushes are hot on her heels.   Jes Raymond and Kendl Winter’s harmonic singing on the original “Rust” is more gorgeous than city folk like me deserve. 

Their version of Bruce Springstein’s “I’m on Fire” is lovely, bright and sad, bringing me back to Springstein’s best album Nebraska, but giving the tune a more stripped down and stoic treatment.  Their cover of Bill Monore’s “Jerusalem Ridge” is a show case for Jakob Breitbach’s expert country fiddle.  The album ends on a foot stomping note with the one traditional song on the album, “Cluck Old Hen.”  Luckily, The Blackberry Bushes are beginning to get the attention they deserve, but still we should continue to help them along. 

Single of the Week: "Mermaid"

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Rituals in the Marrow: Recipe for a Jam Session E.J. Antonio
BlueZygo

Author:
KFM

When EJ Antonio puts words in the air, there is music implicit in the spaces between them. So it feels only natural that here, on “Rituals in the Marrow: Recipe for a Jam Session,” Antonio would find herself accompanied by great experimental jazz musicians of greater New York. Initially striking this listener as something of an inspired throwback to late beat poetry and early slam happenings, this record does much to establish Antonio's recorded voice as a poet with a penchant for breaking into song.

 

Highlights include “See-Line Woman,” —a clear and playful homage to Nina's classic “Sea Lion Woman,”—and “Pullman Porter,” in which Antonio weaves the iconic African-American figure of the train porter into a grand narrative of class and power and race, illustrating a vision of praise whose grand cosmos is met only by the syncopated, stuttering jazz that backs it.

 

Let the Good Times Roll

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Inner State Alex Pinto Quartet
Pursuance

Author:
KE

From the first note, San Franciscan Alex Pinto’s debut album Inner State feels strikingly new.  The original compositions are both welcoming and unusual, rhythmic, bright, and yet full of unorthodox tempos and harmonies.  His eclectic upbringing as an Indian whose parents’ professions led to periods living in Poland and Russia, shows in the worldliness of his music that seamlessly brings together traditional  and more experimental forms of jazz with Hindustani elements and touches of rock.  The track “Chai Kind of Day” is the most deeply steeped in North Indian musical traditions and brings modal variety and ambient drone textures to the mix. 

The still very young mucisian met Rez Abassi early in his career, who encouraged him to craft his own strongly conceptualized path, and he clearly took this to heart, as this debut album already exhibits a fully-formed musical voice.   His angular, progressive jazz guitar style is emotional and meditative,  and his choices in phrasing and tone seem both effortless and deeply thought-out.    He is supported bytenor saxophonist Jon Armstrong and bassist Dave Tranchina, both fellow young musicians who tackle the work with evident enthusiasm and energy.  Jaz Swyer accompanies them on drums bringing a powerful, seasoned voice to the mix.   This album is exciting in itself and as the first moment of a promising and lengthy career.

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Hard Travelin': The Asch Recordings, Vol. III Woody Guthrie
Smithsonian Folkways

Author:
KFM

This, the third disc of the resplendent collection of Moses Asch's recordings of Guthrie in the mid-'40s holds some of the truest gems for everyday listening pleasure. For it is here that Folkways presents Woody in his fully rounded, coyote-trickster gone mournful self. And from start to finish Woody keeps it rockin'.

 

The disc begins with the title track, the song from Guthrie's repertoire that is probably second only to “This Land...” in terms of fame and reach. “Hard Travelin',” has been covered too many times to count, and by artists that range in genre from the Delta Blues to Punk Rock. And yet listening to Guthrie do just a few bars of it inevitably refreshes the song to all its jangly, weary exuberance.

 

Elsewhere on this disc Guthrie tells sorrowful tales of hard-working folks struggling for dignity: true to life, these are too often stories of good people beaten down and exploited by the rich and henchmen—in private uniforms or in the public guise of the police. And yet it is when Guthrie breaks into his characteristic “talking blues” throughout the collection that the full scope of his heartfelt humor is unleashed on audiences.

 

The archivists close “Hard Travelin',” with a pair of songs that Guthrie wrote celebrating the Jewish teachings of his love Marjorie Greenblatt Mazia's upbringing. Here, as throughout Guthrie's challenged, heroic life, the songwriter demonstrates his signature ability to identify with the hardship and experiences of others.

 

Editor's Note: An oakie leftist (his guitar bore the legend, "this guitar kills fascist"), he was an activist who was the furthest thing from theoretical; he had suffered the wrongs he strove so passionately to correct.

 

Single of the Week: "1913 Massacre"

 

Political Album of the Week

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Boston Cream The Varmints
Endora's Box

Author:
Karen Eliot

Sometimes you want a straightforward journey to the heart of classic rock.   The Varmints are very dedicated to giving you that experience. The Varmints are a well known and loved band in the Boston rock scene, and with Boston Cream they deliver loads of rocking tracks, featuring Billy Borgioli and Fred Evicci on Gibsons, Dan McCarthy on drums and Josh Bloomer rocking on the bass. The sound is dynamic, with sharp guitar solos cutting through the warm sounds. 

The first track sets the tone, giving you the hard driving licks reminiscent of Boston itself and letting you know how much rock elevates life’s simple pleasures:  “I’m so glad I’m here I’m still alive.  She’s the sweetest thing I’ve ever seen.  A little bit of heaven, a little Boston Crème.”  Each of these songs has this kind of primal, visceral message, transmitted from heart to heart with no need to dally and become diluted in the brain.  Thus by the end of the album we are left with unambiguous messages from the heart of rock about a crazy girlfriend “baby’s off her rocker” and a very desirable Latina in a tight red dress: “Rosalita, My Senorita.”  In the great film Tenacious D. The Pick of Destiny, Jack Black challenges Satan to a guitar duel to the death.  The victor is the man who rocks the hardest, no excuses, no apologies.  This, I would guess, is the mantra of these Boston jammers.

Single of the Week: "Baby's Off Her Rocker"

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Carry Me Home The Right Now
Independent

Author:
KFM

Though Chicago has been among the top-tier of hotbeds of neo-soul since its naming-as-such a decade ago, much of the windy city's contribution to the genre has been on the R & B tip, with some noteworthy slippage into hip-hop tending funk. That's not what you should expect from Chi-town's The Right Now, who crank out soulful tunes with a decidedly retro feel.

The band is led by Stefanie Berecz, a white girl who sounds like she could be the lost member of En Vogue, especially in spot on this, their debut album where she lays down multiple vocal tracks with which to harmonize. The band that backs her, which includes a full brass section, navigate the tricky waters of funk by cutting a smooth channel between a classic Motown feel and the band you wish was playing at the next wedding you attend.

The Right Now are touring currently, including stops at South by Southwest, and seem to play out at clubs a great deal in their hometown. If you can fogive their prosaic name and the silliness of the outfits that the less-geeky of the boys in the band are want to wear then you can anticipate a terrific evening with them right now and tomorrow as well.

Single of the Week: "Doing Nothing"

NEW ARTIST OF THE WEEK

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Q: Soul Bossa Nostra Quincy Jones
QwestInterscope

Author:
KE

Quincy Jones, the godfather of production, here presents a ridiculously famous lineup of artists covering the span of Jones’ absurdly productive career.  That said, there are times when this ridiculous absurdity is due to Jones unwillingness to admit that there can be too much of a good thing, (in this case, production).  Yet, we expect some over-the-top antics with Jones and there are many moments of pleasure in store for the listener of Soul Bossa Nostra.   

 

 

 

The first stand out song is “Strawberry Letter 23,” a number originally performed by Shuggie Otis and produced by Jones.  Thankfully the world is here reminded of how great this song is and I strongly urge all fans of soulful happiness to follow up with Otis’s album Inspiration Information.  I love how the fantastic Ludacris, Naturally 7 And Rudy Currence work the song "Soul Bossa Nostra," paying tribute in top hip hop bragging mode, extolling the savoir faire and studliness of the Godfather, "true boss" Quincy Jones, showing that hip hop can retain its healthy self confidence without forgetting its roots, asserting that Quincy's openness to fresh blood will bridge the gap between the old and new. 

 

 

It's sort of the robo-sould version of "Teach Your children Well."  Performances by Snoop Dogg and Barry White are unsurprisingly amazing.  The cover of "Sanford and Son" with T.I., B.o.B, Prince Charlez and Mohombi is super-fun, a layered soul-anthem.  There is a quirky adventurousness here, showing that decades of success is the product of the bold, brazen, entrepreneurial willingness to go there.   

Editor's Note: Quincy Jones has had several successful careers, largely leaving jazz altogether by the early '70s to produce the best of pop, r & b and rap records. It sounds like he and his gang were having so much fun while they were creating this album.

Single of the Week: "Sanford and Son"

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Many Great Companions Dar Williams
Razor & Tie

Author:
KFM

In the interest of full disclosure, I must admit that I've never been much of a Dar Williams fan. It's not something I can completely place my finger on; if pressed I'd probably say that she reminds me of music that I care a lot about, but takes the shtick to the point of absurdity. If you're like me in that respect, this two disc set might be the perfect place to give her another chance. Not because it is a departure from what you assume about a folkstess that opens for Mary Chapin Carpenter and Joan Baez, but because it circles the wagons around her best moments.

The second disc included here is a sort of career retrospective; those songs of Williams most favored by fans, remastered and conveniently collected. The first disc presents some of the same songs, plus six others, all of which have been revisited in sparse, acoustic recordings that highlight William's plaintive voice and poignant lyrics. For me the best of these is "Iowa," a song that originates way back on 1997's "Mortal City." Here Williams is joined by friends Sara and Sean Watkins, Mary Chapin Carpenter and the group Motherlode in a moving rendition of one of this beloved songwriter's best known songs.

Editor's Note: Dar Williams is an idiosyncratic songwriter who writes folk songs from a unique, often insightful perspective, Williams takes pains to avoid the coy and the quirky.

Single of the Week: "February"

SO NICE GOTTA DO IT UP TWICE! (created by the original NYC D.J., Jocko, 1955)

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Nuthin' Bedhed and Blondy and The Sleepwalkers
Independent

Author:
KE

 

 

 

In the album “Nuthin’” Nashville-based quintet Bedhed And Blondy And The Sleepwalkers serve up an alternately crackling and mellow Nashville mix of country, folk, blues and southern rock.   The band is steered by Bedhed (Jay Studdard), a soft voiced rhythm guitarist with a rock background and Blondy, Fran Jackson, guitarist with sensual yet biting voice.  The two are strong songwriters and stronger harmonists.  And then there’s the Sleepwalkers: Austin Skinner on lead guitar, Dave Mohr on bass and Billy Ramirez on percussion. 

 

 

 

 

From the first song "Grab Hold" the vocal chemistry is there. And it is allowed to shine through the tasteful, understated instrumentation.  The emphasis on sleepiness in their name and title is there throughout, in the sparse instrumentation and quiet vocals, and is most evident on the last track, an ambling, lazy song called “Geogia Clay” (referring to the place where the singer may be buried sooner than later if this relationship doesn’t mellow out.)  The song is moving for its simplicity and lack of drama, a weary lament about a love affair that isn’t working but won’t end.  I’ve always felt that the best country music is not about life’s highs and lows, but about weariness and repetition. Jay “bedhed” Studdard wearily asks: “How can I miss you if you won’t go away?” and from his plangent tone it doesn’t sound like he’ll get a definitive answer any time soon. 

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Cipher and Decipher Copernicus
Nevermore / Moonjune

Author:
KE


Whoa.  This is some cosmic stuff.  If you actually try to cipher and decipher performer poet Copernicus’s latest opus “Cipher and Decipher,” your head will explode.  So instead, just sit back and enjoy the “frontal lobe phan(tasmagoria)dango.”  “All music is spontaneous, completely improvised, chaotic, ravingly psychedelic, and perfectly intuitively scored to the rants, cozenings, enlightenments, and madnesses he's conveying.”  This is an apocalyptic rant about the very core elements of our universe, subatomic matter, and the great mystic cauldron of roiling cosmic energy overlaying an explosion of jazz/avant/free-form/noise/rock/kitchen-sink sounds.   

Since Copernicus is indescribable, I’ll let his mind blowing lyrics speak for themselves:

The subatomic nonexistent unconscious mud/evolves into nonexistent conscious mind/ and then the nonexistent conscious mind/ observes and understands the workings of the nonexistent unconscious mud/ and comes to understand. The nonexistent unconscious mud/ and comes to understand nonexistence. And with the understanding of nonexistence destroys all illusions and becomes the universe…/ The Universe!!/ The universe!!!/  the nonexistent universe!!!

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Wretches and Jabberers Soundtrack J. Ralph and friends
Rumor Mill

Author:
KFM

Wow. I don't know what to say. This is the most incredible soundtrack that a documentary has ever had. It feature twenty songs by J. Ralph recorded by over a dozen artists who have donated their voices to the worthy cause that the film represents. Wretches and Jabberers follows the adventures of Tracy Thresher and Larry Bissonnette, two middle aged autistic men, on their international quest to change attitudes about disability and how intelligence is perceived.

The soundtrack itself goes a long way toward meeting that admirable goal: J. Ralph has pulled many of the lyrics from things that Tracy and Larry say or write in the film, rendering their moving sentiments in elegant arrangements. I must admit that I'd never heard of Ralph before, but aim to remedy that situation immediately. Moreover, the many other musicians who appear here (which include such heavy hitters as Norah Jones, Stephen Stills, Ben Harper and Devendra Banhart) have provided stunning performances that manage, against all odds, to feel completely organic when set to J. Ralph's subdued, folky jazz. I don't even like most of these artists on their own, but I'll be listening to this soundtrack again and again, and will be looking to see the film next month when it makes select appearances at AMC theaters nationwide.

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Troubadours—The Rise of the Singer-Songwriter (DVD / CD Set) Carole King, James Taylor, et al
Tremolo / Concord / Rhino

Author:
KFM

The long enduring collaborative friendship of Carole King and James Taylor is the stuff of legends. Now entering its fourth decade, these two singer-songwriters have often been noted for their uncanny sharing of songwriting sensibilities. Those songs, and that friendship, which are inseparably etched into our image of early '70s Los Angeles, were cemented into place at West Hollywood's Troubadour club; "Troubadours—The Rise of the Singer-Songwriter" is a tribute to that moment and that friendship.

With this 2-Disc DVD / CD set the story o King and Taylor's emergent friendship is told in a tightly produced documentary and through original recordings of some of the many artists from that era of the Troub that went on to greatness. The full length documentary, which is running currently on PBS, tells this story through original interviews with the likes of King, Taylor, Jackson Browne, David Crosby, Kris Kristofferson, Cheech and Chong and more. While focusing on Taylor and King, the film provides a unique look into the now infamous scene that emerged from LA's Laurel Canyon in the late '60s and early '70s.

What you wouldn't know, to glance at the album cover, is that the accompanying CD includes hits from many of the biggest names of the early-70s songwriter scene. In fact King and Taylor contribute just one track each, the other eight being pulled from artists as diverse as Tom Waits and Elton John. Many of the other luminaries of the Troubadour at that era are here as well: Linda Ronstadt, Little Feat, Bonnie Raitt, Warren Zevon, and Kris Kristofferson. Even the inclusion of Randy Newman can't spoil this collection (admittedly it is "Sail Away"—arguably his least awful song). This is an item that should be purchased for the incredible documentary, but will surely make frequent appearances in the stacks of anyone who is a fan of these seminal artists.

Single of the Week: "Sweet Baby James," by James Taylor

BEST ALBUM OF THE WEEK

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