Monthly Archives: July 2012

Album Review – THE SOUL SESSIONS VOL. 2 – Joss Stone

Sample “The High Road” on You Tube from THE SOUL SESSIONS VOL. 2 by Joss Stone

Joss Stone

 

Dear Music Appreciators,

And so, nine years after her hit debut THE SOUL SESSIONS, Joss Stone returns with a sequel.
In between the two records she has grown from an ultra talented teenager of just sixteen into an ultra talented woman with legions of loyal fans.

True to the original concept, this is an album of covers, and the song selections are both interesting and appropriate. For the most part these are songs that have enjoyed a life before Joss, but may not be instantly familiar to the average casual listener – and that’s a good thing, because for now they belong to Joss Stone and will thus arrive without baggage on the ears of many listeners.

Joss burns up the scenery on “The Love We Had (Stays On My Mind).” She injects a Broken Bells track (“The High Road”) with a soulful power missing from the original, and helps us to understand James Mercer’s cryptic lyrics just a little better. On “Pillow Talk” she smoothly plays the soulful sex kitten. While I’m not familiar with all the original versions of these songs, I still feel like she must have stamped them with her signature style – and perhaps that’s the mark of a great covers album – when an artist owns the songs so confidently that the details of any previous recorded version cease to matter much.

But for those who are interested in the details of these covers, here are the writing credits for each of these tracks – in many cases the writers were also the original performers:

1. “I Got The…” – Labi Siffre
2. “(For God’s Sake) Give More Power to the People” – Eugene Record (of the Chi-Lites)
3. “While You’re Out Looking For Sugar” – Ronald Dunbar, Edyth Wayne (AKA Holland-Dozier-Holland), written for and originally performed by Honey Cone
4. “Sideways Shuffle” – Tim Renwick
5. “I Don’t Wanna Be with Nobody But You” – Eddie Floyd
6. “Teardrops” – Cecil Womack, Linda Womack
7. “Stoned Out of My Mind” – Barbara Acklin
8. “The Love We Had (Stays On My Mind)” – Terry Callier, Larry Wade
9. “The High Road” – James Mercer (The Shins), Brian Burton (Danger Mouse) (AKA Broken Bells)
10. “Pillow Talk” – Sylvia Robinson, Michael Burton
11. “Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye” – John D. Loudermilk

Bonus Tracks on the Deluxe Edition

12. “First Taste of Hurt” – W. Turbinton
13. “One Love in My Lifetime” – Terri McFaddin, Leonard Perry, Lawrence Brown (originally performed by Diana Ross)
14. “Nothing Takes the Place of You” – Toussaint McCall
15. “(1-2-3-4-5-6-7) Count the Days” – B. O’Dell, Yvonne Williams

Sincerely,

Constant Listener

 

Album Review – DELAYED REACTION – Soul Asylum

Sample “The Streets” on You Tube from DELAYED REACTION by Soul Asylum

Soul Asylum

 

Dear Music Appreciators,

I’m sure the faithful fans have been there all along, but personally I haven’t thought much about Soul Asylum since Clinton’s first year in office, when nobody really had a cell phone or an internet connection and a grungey Seattle sound ruled the charts. I was in eighth grade, and I listened over and over to a cassette copy of Grave Dancers Union I’d taped off my older brother’s CD. I remember thinking that this was an awesome band. Now I’ve got a wife and some kids, a mortgage and a bald spot, and here comes Soul Asylum again – they’re still around – but are they still awesome?

Well, sort of.

And that’s okay. I’m not as awesome as I was in 1993 anymore either.

Opener ( and “hit single”) “Gravity” is pleasant enough but kind of sounds like a self-conscious effort at “we can still write a catchy song that rocks” and lines like “for every question there are answers to spare” just don’t do much to peak my interest.

“Into the Light (Breaking Horses)” is bouncy, cheerful pop and sounds like something that might play in the background of a “great day” type montage in a buddy movie, something like the sequel to DUMB AND DUMBER (if that ever gets made).

By the third track “The Streets,” things start to heat up a bit and we get kind of an early-Springsteen flavored punk rocker.

Speaking of punk rockers, there’s a song called “Let’s All Kill Each Other,”: which is followed, interestingly, by a jazzy, lounge lizard track “Cruel Intentions” that sounds like Norah Jones is gonna chime in any minute as a duet partner – and if it was Dave Grohl or Ryan Adams maybe she would – but Dave Pirner, to his credit, flies solo on this one.

Whether we have a case of genre-hopping insecurity or confident eclecticism, all criticisms aside this is an whole album of listenable music that should be heard in its entirety without touching the skip button. Soul Asylum may have mellowed somewhat with age (check out the ironic album art) but they have stayed in touch with their roots at the same time. I’d like to think I’ve done the same thing.

Sincerely,

Constant Listener

Album Review – DIRTY JEANS AND MUDSLIDE HYMNS – John Hiatt

Sample “Damn This Town” on You Tube from DIRTY JEANS AND MUDSLIDE HYMNS by John Hiatt

John Hiatt

Dear Music Appreciators,

Here are three reasons to buy this music:

1. The words, music, and production are clear, straight-shootin’, and catchy. These are the kinds of songs that are easy to learn the words to and sing along to within just the first couple of spins.

2. Hiatt’s voice and singing style is warm, seasoned, and comfortable – like slipping back into your old jean jacket on the first crisp day of fall.

3. The overall feel of the album is atmospheric and romantic against a traditional, good ol’ rock n’ roll background – these feel like songs one might hear in one of those movie scenes with the crack local band at the small town outdoor dance – lights strung around the dance floor, a few characters in cowboy hats, the obligatory alternating between dance songs and ballads, the couple that sneaks away from the floor to slow dance alone under the stars together…

FOR FANS OF: Springsteen, Steve Earle, Warren Zevon, Nick Lowe

TOP TRACKS: “Damn This Town,” “All the Way Under,” “Don’t Wanna Leave You Now”

FINAL GRADE: B+

Sincerely,

Constant Listener

Album Review – REBIRTH – Jimmy Cliff

Sample “World Upside Down” on You Tube from REBIRTH by Jimmy Cliff

Jimmy Cliff

Dear Music Appreciators,

I don’t know a dang thing about reggae or Jimmy Cliff, but I know I like this album. I knew I liked it within just a few seconds of hearing it. Can someone else like me who doesn’t know a thing about reggae or Jimmy Cliff really enjoy an album like this the way that I do? Yes. But why?

“Reggae music gonna make me feel good / reggae music gonna make me feel alright now” (“Reggae Music”) – if you’ve ever felt a little down and out (and haven’t we all?) the bouncy shuffle of a reggae beat can pick up your mood, and can do so regardless of what the lyrics say. The first track “World Upside Down” name checks war, poverty, prosperity, morality, injustice, religious hypocrisy, political tyranny, crime, violence, starvation, ecological calamity, economic instability, sanity, vanity, and love, love, love, love, love, love, love – but still made me feel like I was at a party. You get the message and you get to party at the same time.

Whether Cliff is singing/speaking in a clear and sincere style (“World Upside Down”) baring his falsetto soul (“Cry No More”) or channeling James Brown (the intro to “Bang”) he sounds like a man half his age and its fun to hear him work through these songs, songs that clearly share a certain reggaeness but are all different enough to keep things interesting and to expose to even the uninitiated reggae listener what strong ties and influences this musical style shares with rock, pop, soul, gospel, rap, hip hop, and R&B.

Get your reggae on, and no matter what’s going on, your world should get a little brighter.

Sincerely,

Constant Listener

Album Review – THE REFLECTION – Keb’ Mo’

Sample “The Whole Enchilada” on YouTube from THE REFLECTION by Keb’ Mo’

Keb’ Mo

Dear Music Appreciators,

(From a 08/02/11 review on Amazon.com)

Q & A SESSION: THE REFLECTION BY KEB’ MO’

Taken from a recent interview of myself by myself regarding the new album THE REFLECTION by Keb’ Mo`:

Q: First of all, for everyone who is just tuning in – who is this Keb’ Mo’ guy anyway?

A: He is a Robert Johnson-inspired country blues musician who has been mixing contemporary flavors into his Grammy-quality/crossover-worthy albums for going on seventeen years now.

Q: If he’s a blues musician why do all the songs on this album seem to sound like something I’d hear on a smooth jazz radio station?

A: I’m not sure – it’s probably something to do with ol’ Keb’ adjusting his style to accommodate a larger audience…or maybe he’s just mellowing even more with age. I don’t know, this new stuff does seem a little sleepy and tame – it’s like he used to be more Conan and now he’s more Leno or something…

Q: I see Keb’ covers an Eagles song – what do you think of his version of “One of These Nights?”

A: Eh.

Q: Eh?

A: Yeah, I mean…it’s fine I guess – sounds pleasant and all, like something you’d hear in an elevator – but that’s the problem. It’s a style choice, but Keb’s style choice on this particular track is weak – by all means, take a song and make it your own, but don’t piss away all the drama of the original…

Q: Do you have any favorite tracks from the new album yet?

A: I’m partial to “Inside Outside” – a great message song. Also digging “Crush On You” with the beautiful India.Arie. Mmm hmmm – I do love me some India.Arie.

Q: What kind of reception do you think the new album will get?

A: True Keb’ fans will embrace this, casual fans and critics will be divided, and anyone discovering Keb’ Mo’ for the first time will find enough good stuff to get them searchin’ fo’ so’ mo’ Keb’ Mo’ and before they mo’ it they’ll have discovered albums like “Keb’ Mo,'” “Keep It Simple,” and “Martin Scorsese Presents the Blues.”

Q: “…searchin’ fo’ so’ mo’ Keb’ Mo’?”

A: What? He probably gets that a lot…right?

Sincerely,

Constant Listener

Album Review – SHRINES – Purity Ring

Watch a video and sample “Fineshrine” from SHRINES by Purity Ring

Dear Music Appreciators,

What strange brew is this? It fills me with a mixture of metaphors, and if you’ve ever plugged and unplugged your ears while listening to something (anything) then you’ve already got a feel for the kind of pulsing hypnosis present on nearly every track of this debut album by Canadian future pop duo Purity Ring.

And with this whole affair sounding something like “teenage witch and her ancient demon lover’s book of spells and dreams,” is “Future Pop” an accurate term for the creepycute compositions roiling off this record? Maybe so, in the sense that what’s old is new and what’s new is old and time may have no meaning after all. Deep thoughts.

This feels a little like an electro-pop “Night On Bald Mountain” for twenty-first century journal-junkie teenage girls. These guys are based in Montreal? Of course they are – Purity Ring’s music would play well with the astonishing acrobatics of Cirque Du Soleil – wonderfully weird music for a wonderfully weird circus show – the singer would astonish with lyrics like “cut open my sternum and poke my little ribs around you” while international acrobats would astonish by spinning like tops on each other’s pinky fingers…or something like that.

In the lyrics to “Saltkin” Megan James intones “there’s a cult, a cult inside of me” but with the kind of hauntingly charming “future pop” songs found on SHRINES, Purity Ring may also have a cult on the outside to deal with before they know it.

Sincerely,

Constant Listener

Album Review – GOSSAMER – Passion Pit

Listen to the new album GOSSAMER by Passion Pit, streaming courtesy of NPR

Passion Pit

Dear Music Appreciators,

Passion Pit’s new album GOSSAMER bounces and pops with color and frenetic energy. Fuzzed out electro bass beats and poppy, high register vocals weave with skittery, electro soundscapes on one fascinating track after another. Fascinating, because for all the get-up-and-dance dynamic there’s an underlying sadness to many of the lyrics – which creates kind of a tasty musical sweet and sour effect. In other words, the album cover is right on target with its depiction of sunshine and clouds.

Sincerely,

Constant Listener