Perhaps Weir has become more appreciative of the wisdom of the female side
of the world. Welcome To The World, and Lucky Enough are two
songs that suggest that Weir has been touched by fatherhood (Weir has
recently become a parent). I would never expect a Weir of the past to sing,
And, when I look through your eyes. And see again each day as new. I can
see my soul reborn. And what I know, I never knew. This stanza, from
Welcome To The World, finds Weir refreshingly vulnerable. His mind
is (at least temporarily) out of the bedroom, which allows his heart to soak
in the children's room. The gentle, elegant arrangement, is anchored by
Wasserman's sturdy, dont-waste-a-note bass, and decorated by the sweetly
elegant Chimenti piano work. There is sincerity in the delivery of this
piece that makes tolerable an arrangement that might otherwise have seemed
flowery. Let's face it, Weir's come a long way from, Gloria Monday,
or Me Without You (two lyrical lightweights from The Midnites days).
This could also be said for the hopeful Lucky Enough. This song starts with
a gentle little riff that sounds like it could have come off of a CSN album
in the seventies. Are we seeking Adult Alternative radio airplay here
Bobby? Here, we find Weir offering a character seeking grace, rather than an
exciting bedmate. Again I am impressed by lines like, "Oh to see the
beauty, joy, and the tenderness. The reasons why a man's alive." Amen,
Bobby. where have ya been? Weir surprises everyone with one stanza that
demonstrates sensitivity for the long-term side of a relationship.
On Two Djinn Weir chronicles the wild self-examination that his character
embarks on after encountering a couple of Djinn on the way to West Marin.
Djinn are supernatural beings that take human form and influence us with
their advanced intelligence. We get the sense that the Djinn are leading
the song's character astray, "my strange heroes lead me on, but when I get
there they'll be gone". The twisted, allegorical song is bolstered by some
outstanding sax and guitar lines which weave in and out of the verse
section. Throughout the disc we are treated to savory Weir ornamental
guitar, and particularly on this track. At one point he sends out a little
guitar quirk that echoes one of the, by the dark of the moon lines in the
infectious chorus. Bobby even revisits the Aboriginal concept of dreams
being the real side of life on the last lyric of the number. Weir has
alluded to having a fascination for this idea before, sometimes in
interviews, and even once from the stage during a particularly memorable
Sunshine Daydream (Merriweather Post 06/20/83 I believe) performance
by The Dead.
This is a fine release that should win over even the most anti-Weir Grateful
Dead fans. And for those of us who have hung with him for all these years,
this release is sweet, so very, very sweet!
It is probably impossible for a Deadhead to see this album's title
inscribed, in a playfully psychedelic script, over an intricate hand-dyed
tapestry and not hear Bill Graham, in his reassuring
Krakow-transplanted-to-New-York accent, introducing, as he did so many
the Great American Band, his gravel voice a promise that the performance to
follow will be held to an exacting standard of quality by the promoter who
almost single-handedly made legendary the music scene San Francisco enjoyed
in the 1960's and beyond.
This new set captures four disks worth of fine performances from the
Dead's five-night last stand at Graham's Fillmore East in April of 1971, two
months before he closed its doors for good. Graham's voice is heard for
seconds at the beginning of the first disk, but his spirit smiles in every
tune. This is the sound of the Dead at their home away from home, relaxed,
their music safe in the hands of the classiest sonafabitch ever to stage a
rock and roll show.
'71 was a transition year for the band. They lost drummer Mickey Hart in
February, and in October added Keith Godchaux, their first keyboardist
to improvise interactively with the rest of the group, whose arrival
the dazzling jams of the following three years. The band heard here is well
beyond the whimsical musical hallucinations they made famous in the 60's,
has not yet discovered the elegant, abstract jazz style in which they and
Godchaux would later make their best music. The improvisation here is
impressive, at times even exceptional, but only rarely breaks free of
boundaries, and then not for long. The set's longest jams are not the
bittersweet ecstasy of Morning Dew, or Dark Star's lucid
dreams , but
Good Lovin' and Turn On Your Lovelight, the Dead as Pigpen's
backup band, sustaining 20-plus-minute eruptions of soul as he raps about
women and the perils of pocket pool.
Indeed, I have rarely heard the Dead as funky as they are to be found on
this set. Bill Kreutzmann, two months into his (second) tenure as the
only drummer, reveals himself to be as supple and sly rhythmically as Hart
primal and aggressive, which would become the defining character of the
Dead's sound for the next few years. Pigpen's organ is a big player on
disks, too, and for once it's a good thing, his percolations and asides
adding depth and character to songs you don't normally expect to hear him
Each of the four disks has only one extended jam or song sequence on it,
which leaves plenty of room for straightahead blues, country and rock, as
well as shorter takes on some classic Dead jam tunes. Ordinarily this would
be a liability for a Dead set; I greatly doubt that they'd even consider
putting out a "Dick's Picks" with this little jamming on it. But in this
it's a delight to discover the Dead playing *songs* perhaps as well as they
ever did, as a tight, confident, and versatile musical unit, tearing through
tunes we've all heard a million times and making them sound fresh again.
There's a few obscure gems to be found: covers of tunes both older -
Lightnin' Hopkins' Ain't It Crazy, and a beautiful version of Merle
Haggard's Sing Me Back Home - and contemporary - Bobby doing Me
McGee and Jerry doing Second that Emotion, which may be my
on the set - as well as electric versions of Dark Hollow and
few then-new tunes receive surprisingly mature treatments, too, most notably
an outstanding Wharf Rat and a haunting, inspired Bird Song
prefigures the excellent versions of '73 and '74. There's even the last
Alligator they ever performed and the only guest appearance by
ex-keyboardist Tom Constanten after he and the band parted ways in January,
Read Blair Jackson's program notes and let them seep into your head.
Take in the excellent photos by Amalie R. Rothschild and Fred Ordower. Then
put on headphones, sit back in your chair, close your eyes and press play.
The sound on these disks is so crystal clear, the energy so irresistible
it's hard to believe you're not there, in of the East's plush seats,
listening to these exuberant young musicians having the time of their lives.
This is the sound of the Grateful Dead as a rock and roll band, uptempo and
swinging, taking a breather between periods of wild experimentation to throw
a dance party for the kids in a great venue in the greatest city in the
world. Judging by these disks, I don't think there could be anything more
noble. Flying Frog Records
review by AJ Abrams
The listener's travels across this sonic "Continent" begin with the sound of
needle touching down on a turntable and scratchily moving through the
of a vinyl record. It's an appropriate beginning to the CD because the band
has become that needle. A needle falls into the grooves of a record and
there non-stop until the end of the record. Similarly, Schleigho locks into a
mesmerizing groove immediately from the opening notes and doesn't let that
groove stop until the CD is finished.
When electric jazz funk and fusion was at its peak in the mid '70s, the CD
player was not even invented yet. Most of that classic music was originally
available only on vinyl records. It may be the millennium but on "Continent"
Schleigho transports you back to that time. They have created a
fantastic instrumental CD of thick funk, heavy rock, and progressive fusion.
Keyboardist Jesse Gibbon uses a Clavinet, Rhodes and Hammond Organ to paint
the luscious landscape of Continent. Suke Cerulo adds flute and guitar to
provide the fresh air and blue sky above and drummer Erik Egol and bassist
Matt Rubano keep the ground firm with their fat funk rhythms.
All you need to explore this massive musical "Continent" is a set of open
Just close your eyes and let your ears navigate the aural environment. And
is indeed a diverse "Continent" that needs to be fully explored. The CD has
dark evil moments, its happy ecstatic moments, and its pure funk moments.
When Suke Cerulo adds his beautiful flute melodies the music is ethereal,
light and airy. His flute floats above the rest of the instruments and
reaches for the sky. Jesse Gibbon's keyboards can take the music in several
While on the Rhodes he floats up to the sky along with Cerulo's flute but on
the Hammond Organ he supplies the fat funk that will keep any bar dancing.
And versatile bassist Matt Rubano can play delicate melodic bass or join in
on the funk. Drummer Erik Egol anchors it all with his pounding funk drums
delicate jazz colorings.
There are three different songwriters in Schleigho and their sophisticated
arrangements and strong melodies make much of this CD something
special. This is not to say that this is a perfect record. Some listeners may
find Schleigho's drastic, turn-on-a-dime changes leave them too off-kilter, while
others may lament the fact that the band pursues such an angular approach on
most every song, so there is some similarity from track to track. The most original
sounding parts of this record seem to be when the
band is playing lovely, breezy, delicate songs. They are songs that remind
you of a driving a convertible on a Sunday afternoon or make you feel like
you are flying. Schleigho have discovered their own unique jazz "Continent".
And it is certainly a place worth exploring over again and again.
"Might As Well... the Persuasions Sing Grateful Dead" - the Persuasions
Grateful Dead Records 4070
review by Jesse Jarnow
"Reckoning" - the live, all-acoustic double-LP recorded by the Grateful Dead
in the autumn of 1980 - is an utterly comfortable album that perfectly
exemplifies the warmest, most familiar corner of the weird Grateful Dead
universe -- the part that felt most like a traditional church (as opposed to
the unutterably strange blood-letting voodoo rituals of "Infrared Roses" or
the "Live/Dead" Dark Star). "Reckoning" gets the bulk of its play in
my house in the early hours of the morning, literal and figurative -- either
as I'm lying in bed trying to have my eyes closed before the sun comes
creeping through window or when I've just rolled over the next afternoon and
would prefer to laze about.
"Might As Well... the Persuasions Sing Grateful Dead" fills the same niche.
Almost. It's relaxed in a very similar way, but without the lush darkness
that underlies some of the playing on "Reckoning". Either way, it's a kind
of Grateful Dead that you can play for your mother. As with the other David
Gans-produced album of this year ("Stolen Roses"), the focus here is the
songs -- once again almost Garcia/Hunter songs at that. Indeed, so many of
their songs seem to come from an unplaceable time in American popular music
-- somewhere after the introduction of electric instruments but before the
advent of rock and roll. As such, their songs lend themselves to a kind of
interpretation well-suited to the harmonies of an a cappella group. If ever
given the chance, I'd definitely like to hear the Persuasions tackle some of
the dense chord progressions written by Weir. I think it'd bring the elegant
strangeness of Bobby's songs.
The band does their best when tackling the Jerry ballads: Brokedown
Palace, Sugaree, It Must've Been The Roses, Black Muddy
River - and, quite specifically - Lazy River Road and Ship Of
Fools -- undoubtedly the two highlights of the disc. The Lazy River
Road is a revelation, a sublime rendition of a song that was never fully
realized by its author, a song that should've been included on "Europe '72"
if it wasn't written 20 years too late.
Persuasions' leader and arranger, Jerry Lawson, delivers his verses with an
unerring intelligence. The only downside of the version is the verse sung by
"human sub-woofer" Jimmy Hayes. Hayes's voice is incredibly low and
gorgeously resonant, but - in this case - it seems that that was the
deciding factor in giving him a verse. His voice bottoms out into an
unfortunate kitschiness. It's forgivable, though, if only because of Hayes's
solo performance later on the disc, a rendition of Ship Of Fools.
The song is a duet between Hayes and the piano of the Dead's last
keyboardist, Vince Welnick. As a member of the Dead, Welnick was plagued by
downright icky keyboard sounds. This performance does a lot to convince me
that if the Dead had simply dropped him behind a grand piano, he wouldn't
have come off so damn badly. His playing here is sensitive, restrained, and
brilliant -- much more than any performance I've heard of Bruce Hornsby.
This rendition of the tune does a lot to place the Grateful Dead in the
linear stream of American popular music: something so heart-achingly sweet
that would feel equally as right with a mournful saxophone or barroom lap
Yes, there are instruments on the disc besides the Persuasions' voices. They
come off with varying degrees of success. The liner notes quote Lawson as
saying "let's put everything into the stew and see how it tastes". Most of
the non-vocal ingredients fare best when they are used sparingly, such as
Welnick's work on Ship Of Fools or David Gans's beautifully
translucent guitar on Sugaree. Both One More Saturday Night
and Bertha suffer from over-production, sounding too much like some
damn good vocalists laid on top of a halfway decent band. Joe Craven of the
David Grisman Quintet provides some vocal percussion on these tunes. Sure,
it's neat that he can make these noises with his mouth... but they still
sound like a drum machine.
Another problem with the album is a kind of jerking tempo-related
inconsistency. This problem could be a Deadhead-predisposition towards
original arrangements. He's Gone feels too damn fast, as does
Brokedown Palace. Both should be savored. Ripple does, too,
though not as much. I definitely yearned for the funeral dirge tempo of Sex
Mob's fine version. The arrangement provides for an interesting twist,
though. Just as the original version on "American Beauty" builds towards an
unplaceable choir singing the refrain, the Persuasions' version works up to
the introduction of instruments (Eric Thompson's mandolin and Pete Grant's
dobro) for a sweet ending to the tune.
This is an album that a certain breed of non-Deadheads will enjoy. Of them,
though, I really wonder how well the album will sell. Tribute albums tend to
do well among the fanbase of the band who are being paid tribute to. As the
genuine Grateful Dead recede further and further into the past, the
proliferation of their songs continues on, well on their way to entering the
common consciousness. In a sense, what artists like the Persuasions (as well
as people like David Murray, Steven Bernstein, and Joe Gallant) are doing
with the material is more interesting than most of the post-Dead
configurations. I can't wait to see what comes next.
"Three Sets: Volume Two" - various artists
Lauan Records 0112
review by David Rioux
Lauan Records is a valiant effort at a creating a community of unified
JamBands under one label. Their aim is to help in the promotion ,
distribution, and ultimately aiding the JamBands in gaining recognition on a
wider scale than would be available to them on their own otherwise limited
resources. One of the ways they help to accomplish this is the release of
compilation CD's of some of there more promising bands. You can rest
assured that you are almost always going to get a great mix as a result.
Not only is it in the record company's best interest to release some of
their best artists, but to price them to sell quickly as well. This, in
fact, can be obtained for a mere $8.00 direct from the web site.
Of course, another thing that bears mention is that, being fans of
JamBands, the least compelling thing about this particular genre of music is
that so much of the experience is in the live performance, that studio
recordings sometimes... most times.... don't do any justice. The bands
contained in this sampler are in fact culled from live performances, just
adding a little more fuel to the fire.
The bands themselves are Larry from Austin, Texas; Ancient Harmony
from Albany, Georgia; and Wise Monkey Orchestra from San Diego,
California, respectively. Larry opens the CD with three cuts, all of
which highlight the deep groove these guys are capable of. Most worthy of
mention is the opening track Just Ask Yourself (what jammin' can do for
you), a tune that reaches out in to deep funky grooves that show me just
what real JamBands can sound like when it all gels just right! Seven
is also meant to go on for longer than it's 10:41 time allowance, just to
allow the percussionists to properly stretch their legs.
Ancient Harmony is up next, but with only one cut... all 25:55 of
it! It reminds me of an interview with Dick Latvala regarding one of the
"Dick's Picks" releases where he said something like: "Christ's sake, you
a 25 minute Playin' In The Band on there, what more do you want?!"
not saying that this jam measures up to a good '74 Playin' In The
you gotta figure that the label had something to prove by putting this on a
promotional release. All I'm gonna say is, if a good long groove interests
you... get it! Christ's sake, it's only eight bucks, what more do you want?
Last but certainly not least is Wise Monkey Orchestra with four cuts
of their own, complete with horns and wonderfully soulful vocals. Some of
Wise Monkey Orchestra's appeal seems to lie in there ability to make
everything a little slower and funky. There is a kind of inner-city blues
feel that resonates from the organ and horn mix, not to mention the deep
back-bone the bass player lays down again and again.
"Three Sets" is a great compilation at a steal of a price, something
more record labels should invest into doing. It made a convert out of me
when I first discovered Grisman's own Acoustic Disc sampler's, and I can
easily see the same thing happening again here. Assuming the quality stays
at the level it is here, Lauan Records could easily grab a big share of the
"live: GUELPH ON CAN 4.5.00" - the New Deal
Sound and Light Live Series,
review by Jesse
Shields' Paradox states that a band as a whole can become more musically
mature even as their music itself becomes more hyperactive and
schizophrenic. The latest by the New Deal (whose keyboardist lends his name
to this newly minted theorem) - a new live EP, recorded in April 2000 - is a
case-in-point proof of this. On the new EP, the New Deal's usually utterly
patient grooves are shot up with some wonderfully speedy drug and stretched
taut. Usually, a move like this - from a calculated evenness to a twisted
explosion of loosely connected melodic ideas - can be seen as a regression.
In this situation, though, that is not the case.
The New Deal's first release - 1999's "This Is Live" - captured the band's
first session together, a series of improvisations spliced and titled. These
improvisations became the New Deal's first batch of "songs". As far as songs
go, they aren't overly complex. For the most part, since then, the songs
have retained the same vibe the original date was imbued with. The second
release, an EP recorded in December 1999, elaborated on this with an
elegant, spacey confidence, acting as a linear continuation, though not
necessarily progression, of this vibe. Now, granted, this is a cool vibe --
but, for a band whose bread and butter is improvisation, one feel simply
won't cut it. Thankfully, the new EP represents a vast change.
At the center here is keyboardist Jamie Shields, who seems to have finally
tamed his vast arsenal of keyboards. Where on the band's previous two discs
it almost seemed as if he was a keyboard player thinking in terms of
electronic music, it now seems as if he is an electronic musician thinking
in terms of a keyboard. The difference is subtle but almost undeniable. In
terms of phrasing, it seems as if he was previously still adjusting to a
sample mentality -- taking a phrase and hammering it into trance-like bliss
through repetition. In that, the band's parts seemed a little disconnected
from each other. On the new disc, it seems like he is recognizing the flow
and life of the parts a little bit more, willing to let them twist around
each other in active ways, letting almost imperceptible variations breathe
with the changes.
The music is significantly less trancey and relaxing as it was in the past.
This ain't a chill-out album. Drummer Darren Shearer jerks from groove to
groove in a manner that makes it awfully hard to dance to. I wonder how the
crowd in Guelph reacted to this music. There are definitely moments of airy
bliss. The Escape, for example (making its first appearance on a New
Deal disc), which begins - as far as I can tell - just after Shearer's live
vocal "sample" about "Peter and the Wolf", acts as a nice valley after the
wild peaks of Ravine -- this rendition of which is about twice as
fast as the one on the Maine EP.
The overall tone is brighter than the New Deal have been before and might
well serve as a good introduction for someone who isn't all too familiar
with their material. The improvisation definitely holds attention and
progresses in a way somewhat foreign to the New Deal's thoroughly modern
grooves. If the band can manage to hold onto to some of these vivacious
spaces such that they can explore them with more complexity, they'll have a
dangerous groove on their hands. It'd be interesting to see the band
introduce more complex songwriting into their repertoire. They're certainly
Ultimately, it'd be nice to see them evolve into an electroed-out version of
the Slip, who can (and do) play off the feel of the room with more
efficiency than anybody on the circuit. The Slip, though, have become
increasingly more grounded in proper songs of late (or maybe it's the shows
I've ended up at). As the New Deal develops their voice - their various
voices - it'd be wonderful to see them turn into a house band for
this kind of exploration.
"jazzpunk" - David Fiuczynski
review by Chip Schramm
Albums like this one are refreshing. The music world is lucky to have
daring, talented guys like David "Fuze" Fiuczynski around to rattle the
cage every once in a while. As the title implies, "Jazz Punk" is a mixed
breed of sorts, combining some well-known jazz sounds and standards with
modern, unorthodox arrangements. The incredible finger speed and skill of
Fiuczynski on guitar are belied by his taste for the esoteric. His
projects in the past have ranged from ground-breaking work as leader of the
Screaming Headless Torsos, to a more straightforward jazz collaboration
with John Medeski. Here he gives plenty of new twists to tunes written by
Chick Corea, Duke Ellington, John Phillip Sousa, and even Chopin. While
the approach could be considered "punk" in attitude, I wouldn't compare it
with classic punk from the early 80's. The sounds are far too complex, yet
do not get lost in translation.
The album starts out with a Pat Metheny tune Bright Size Life, one
of the longer tracks on the album. Fiuczynski works it over very well,
combining some reverb and distortion effects to loop around his guitar
soloing. He expands the jam a bit, bringing things tighter, then looser in
orbit. This is followed appropriately enough by the classic Hendrix jam,
3rd Stone From The Sun. Here too, the song starts out dreamily
enough before a vigorous breakdown in the middle, and final bass lead at
the end. I do believe that an experimental musical pioneer like Hendrix
would've appreciated what "Fuze" did with his song here.
Fiuczynski uses more than one lineup of musicians to support him on the
album. On the third track, Prelude Op. 28 #4, by Chopin, he plays
delicate, intricate guitar lines while Billy Hart on drums is his only
accompaniment. Short but sweet, this track shows how many different
approaches "Fuze" was willing to take toward the material. Star-Crossed
Lovers gives "Fuze" a chance to switch gears yet again. Here he
two-steps with Santi Debriano on the stand-up bass. Fiuczynski drifts in
and out of key to represent the dueling themes at play in the Duke
Ellington/Billy Strayhorn original.
In contrast, Chick Corea's La Fiesta is a tantalizing salsa number
with a furious drum and percussion beat provided by Gene Lake and Daniel
Sadownick, respectively. There, Fiuczynski picks quickly up and down the
guitar to emulate the same kind of technique Corea used when he played it
on the piano. Stars and Stripes Whenever is a clever take-off on
the patriotic John Phillip Sousa tune bearing a similar name. Here, too,
"Fuze" plays the parts of an entire orchestra all by himself. Needless to
say, it takes both incredible finger speed and a well-trained ear to pull
this off while retaining a sense of respect for the material.
The remaining songs on the album, Jungle Gym Jam and
Hipgnosis are also worth mention. The former is the only original
composition of Fiuczynski's on the album, while the latter contains a
instrumental breakdown and reconstruction that includes Rufus Cappadocia on
cello. Overall, this is a very interesting album to be appreciated
especially by open-minded jazz fans. It goes to show that you can take 9
tunes that are disparate both thematically and technically, and rearrange
them to give totally new meanings in each case. This is a great album for
those looking for a little something different to spice up their music
"Dancing" - Mike Keneally and
Beer For Dolphins
review by Jesse
"Dancing" by Mike Keneally and Beer For Dolphins is gut-wrenchingly bad.
It's a shame, too, because Keneally is a helluva guitarist and a wonderful
composer. Often times, negative reviews 'round here tend to say things along
the likes of "this band is really tight but their songs are just bland".
That doesn't entirely apply, but it comes closer to being true here as it
does in any other case I've heard. With most discs that fall into that
unfortunate category, there is no evidence that the band in question is
capable of producing genuinely original music. In Keneally's case, he has
proved quite able of such a task.
Fresh off of the wildly inventive "Nonkertompf" (1999), "Dancing" finds
Keneally toning his cartoonish pieces down into something absurdly
pandering. In places, bits of insane Zappa-like composition break through
the murk, but - in general - it seems to be a fight for them to get through.
On Pretty Enough For Girls, the second song on the second "side",
interesting little breaks alternate with typically sluggish songwriting. The
instrumental that follows, Taster, just feels lifeless until about
three minutes into the piece. From there, it picks up.
To his credit, Keneally doesn't seem to fall into the all-too-easy trap for
guitarists of his caliber to get snared in: insignificant songs with wanky
guitar solos. No, the songs just seem to be insignificant here. An odd sign
that the music is beginning to cook is the sudden appearance of vibes or
other melodic percussion. It works invariably like a leitmotif. They come on
and, miraculously, the song veers into coolness -- such as on Taster
or We'll Be Right Back.
Something to consider before continuing: Keneally was Frank Zappa's "stunt
guitarist" on several of FZ's later tours. I hate to bring that up as a
point of reference, as I'm sure Keneally has worked long and hard to
separate himself from Frank, but it seems relevant. A lot people who
describe themselves as "respecting" Zappa's musicianship while claiming his
sense of humor detracts from being able to take him seriously often pose the
question of "what if FZ tried to be serious?". Regretfully, I think the
result would sound like "Dancing".
Though the production here is extremely bright sounding and crisp - like
Paul Fox's work on They Might Be Giants' "John Henry" (1994) and Phish's
"Hoist" (1994) - a lot of the sounds themselves seem to be anchored in the
1980s, over-processed guitars and keyboards squealing and pirouetting in
unison with a cold precision. FZ's music tended to reflect his lyrics, and
the same is true here. Unfortunately, the lyrics here just don't work.
They're not so much cliché as they are inconsequential. I don't like it when
reviews quote lyrics out of context and deride them, so I won't. The imagery
just isn't striking and the word play is clumsy at best.
The album is arranged into four "sides", as if it were a double-LP. As such,
the mostly instrumental third "side" does the best. It is here that Keneally
also falls into the wanker trap (specifically on the Brown
Triangles)... but because he's such a good guitarist, it works. At its
peak, the song feels very much in the same vein as FZ's Inca Roads.
Selfish Otter, the lead off track on "side" three is the highlight.
It's challenging and cool.
All of this begs the question: does a song's structure have to be strikingly
new to be good? Of course not. But even songs with traditional
verse-chorus-verse structures can challenge the ear and the mind. This album
feels like Keneally's attempt at writing songs with accessible structures
and, err, "soulful" vocals. It's overwrought. It feels disingenuous. There
was more emotion in one two-minute schizophrenic track on "Nonkertompf" than
there is on all of this disc's impassioned vocals.
And something about the packaging smells like glossy baseball cards. That's
good. If you miss that smell, buy this album.
"New Pieces Of Clay" - Government Grown
review by Christopher
Over the last few years, the East Coast has stolen the thunder within the
jamband scene. While some claim an East Coast bias, very few bands of merit
to the jamband scene comes from the West; an outré dilemma considering the
ancestors of the scene started in San Francisco. Within the diverse state of
California, the only jam related bands receiving accolades are Convoy, the
Mother Hips and of course the Steve Kimock Band, while the latter could be
considered the only true jamband of the three listed.
One may not have the intellectual foresight to decide on whether or not
Government Grown will be the first West Coast band to garner attention on
the East Coast. Listening to "New Pieces of Clay," the music seems eclectic,
a homegrown blend of Pink Floyd and King Sunny Ade, which sounds infectious
enough to attract the fickle music listeners within the jamband scene.
Opening with So Do I, Government Grown reveals their mind-numbing mix
of psychedelia and polyethnic rhythms. As Jeremy Moss adds tribal rhythms
and sings about a verdant jungle, Tyler Hardwick plays some rather esoteric
guitar lines, which combined with Moss rhythms sounds neoteric but not
egregious. Suddenly So Do I reaches the chorus, where horns
accentuate Moss singing, pushing the song into African arenas. In fact, if a
listener merely heard the chorus, s/he would never realize the thick
psychedelia found in the songs verses. Upon reaching So Do Is brief
jam section, Government Grown moves gently into a trance feel, reminiscent
of a more relaxed Sector 9. In merely five minutes, the band moved deftly
between multiple genres, but never at a pace which felt erratic or
The finest track on the album could be the Pink Floyd sounding, Take Me
To the Moon. Lyrically, the song has intense poetics which yield mental
images far beyond the banal lyrics contained in many musical compositions.
By surrealistically mixing ethereal images with common everyday objects, the
lyrics are reminiscent of an Andre Breton poem. The music then adds more
emotionality to the song, forcing the lyrics to the cosmos where the words
will wander on their own. Eventually, Take Me To the Moon has a
transcendental quality, which makes one realize the sensitivity and mental
comfort of Government Grown's music.
After such a transcending composition, Government Grown continues the
journey with the equally elegiac New Pieces of Clay. Mellow and
sonically multi-layered, once again Government Grown reveals their Pink
Floyd side. Containing saxophone, congas and a multitude of guitar effects,
the song takes you from the moon to the untraversed territories of the
While "New Pieces of Clay" continually enters into the relaxing and gorgeous
sonic idioms of Pink Floyd, the bands love of African music and reggae finds
prominence on the album. Tracks like Africa ,Gamepark and
Tigers Eye Dub pull the listener from reflection to moving their
feet. Of interest, Africa has a joyous souskous feel, calling to
mind the wonderfully infectious music of South Africa which Paul Simon
brought to the ears of many Americans. Similarly, Gamepark contains
African guitar filigrees, which calls to mind the traditional African song
Mozambique. As Government Grown does throughout the album, the band
mixes Gameparks African elements with ska horns, only to lead the
listener into a full trance section. In a written context the changes must
sound alarming, but such musical mixtures and movements reveal the true
genius of Government Grown. Even a simple dub, like Tiger's Eye Dub
sounds strangely psychedelic and far more interestingly sonically then most
works created by Augustus Pablo, the disputable master of dub.
The public will certainly dictate the fate of Government Grown's music
created by Jeremy Moss, Tyler Hardwick, Harley Orion and Evan Polselli.
Based on the large amount of horrid music enjoyed by the public, it would be
a travesty if "New Pieces of Clay" did not reach a large audience to absorb
the beauty of the bands new album. Maybe Government Grown will forge across
the Rocky Mountain Divide. If not, Californians will be able to keep quite a
good secret to themselves.
"Heavy Flute" - various artists
Label M 5706
review by Pat Buzby
Joel Dorn, the compiler and annotator of this CD, and the producer of many
of the original tracks, is a character. He made his mark with many oddball
jazz productions in the 60's and 70's - the one that springs to mind is
Rahsaan Roland Kirk's "The Three-Sided Dream In Audio Color", sort of an
attempted jazz "Sgt. Pepper" that did in fact include three sides, as well
as monologues, interludes featuring cosmic lawnmowers, and the like.
Unfortunately, Dorn's liner notes have more personality and guts than much
of the music on this collection of "funky flute grooves." For instance,
Herbie Mann's Comin' Home Baby from 1961, the biggest hit here, is a
seductive tune, but Mann's sound is small and his licks don't work up much
steam. His playing on Push Push, a decade later, has more body, and
Duane Allman gets a solo (is there a need to say more?). It's hard to do
much with the one-chord groove, though, especially over the course of eight
Similar problems exist throughout. The Kirk cuts prove (in case anyone
didn't know) that he was the source of Ian Anderson's best tricks, but
Anderson put his chops to more inventive use than a straight cover of
Ain't No Sunshine. Kirk's other track, One Ton, does indeed
get lewd, and Yusef Lateef gets points on Eboness for exploiting the
flute's moodiness rather than settling for the lightness of the rest of the
disc. And there are some good grooves : the funk guys (bassist Chuck Rainey
and drummer Bernard Purdie appear twice, and "Tootie" Heath supplies a
strong 16th note pulse under Lateef's Nubian Lady) outshine the jazz
guys (Keith Jarrett and Jack DeJohnette appear in their initial gig with
Charles Lloyd, and Chick Corea plays behind Hubert Laws, but none of them
get the chance to go deep).
For some truly heavy flute, try Gazzeloni from Eric Dolphy's Out To
Lunch. It wouldn't have fit here, though - it's not in Atlantic's vaults
(Dorn's source), and it's a bit low on groove, as well as potential for
appropriation by today's crop of smug postmodern (mostly) white guys.
"Morning Dove Songs" - Jennie Stearns
Live and Kickin' 003
The face of country music will change, because Lucinda Williams and Jennie
Stearns exist. While the former has reached high status within the music
industry, the latter performer will certainly be the next to ascend into
singer/songwriter stardom. Stearns, whose voice calls to mind Kim Richey,
Lucinda Williams and Emmylou Harris, makes country music containing purity
and emotion. Each song on her latest release "Mourning Dove Songs" pulls the
listener into a vast mustard field to contemplate life and deep blue skies.
Opening with a simple acoustic guitar strumming and a steady bass line,
Georgia Pine envelops the listener in familiar folk sonic textures.
As Stearns croons about times past and the change of the landscape, her
vocals sound sorrowful; revealing an earnestness seemingly absent in many
singers complacent vocal treatments. The stark instrumentation begs the
doleful feel, forcing the listener to feel the same depressing loneliness
Stearns deftly describes with her poetics.
An argument will certainly ensue here by the reader: Does a vocalist always
need to sound depressed and downtrodden? Certainly not; but must radio
stations infiltrate childhood minds with tongue-in-cheek, childish singing.
In a sense, to make a definitive paradigmatic shift, the listener must
choose the absolute opposite from "standard music." Such a comment could
bulwark the apparent problems with Phish and a multitude of jambands from a
vocal perspective. When Trey Anastasio sings about Nellie Kane, the listener
does not receive the same sincerity as Tim O'Brien's treatment of the
classic bluegrass song, where O'Brien wails and moans in an Appalachian
Another result of non-sincerity in vocals becomes the degradation of the
lyrical content. In many ways, words can become only words, especially when
emotions become obviated. The belief in the lyrics, by filling each song
with realistic imagery and then singing in a heart-wrenching manner, Stearns
makes the listener feel truthfulness; a desire to make a point, instead of
creating a postmodern briocollage where a bunch of words merely adding
Songs like Madness, Knoxville Girl(Parting Gift) and Angel
With a Broken Wing, float together seamlessly, inundating the listeners
emaciated mind. Each song allows the listener multiple connotations;
thoughts of hope collide with thoughts of irreconcilable anger. Every song
becomes a well to analyze thoughts and feeling, soul and self through a
healthy, pleasurable lens.
Continually, Stearns and her talented band lead the listener through the
highways of America. Constantly reminding the listener of Emmylou Harris
"Live at the Ryman," both texturally and production wise. In "Morning Dove
Songs," Stearns has achieved the penultimate goal: creating spellbinding
music while adhering to her artistic integrity. The result could be
considered a gem within the alt-country genre, and a taste of beauty every
listener could use.
"Simplicity" - Bob Nieske 3 featuring the Lydian String
review by Pat Buzby
A former associate of Jimmy Giuffre and the Either/Orchestra (where he
rubbed shoulders with John Medeski), bassist/composer Bob Nieske presents a
set of relaxed free jazz. This CD picks up on some experimental ideas that
remained undeveloped after the early 60's, but Nieske and his cohorts lean
towards the introspective rather than the aggressive.
Nieske's themes are generally brief and often leave him and trio members
Phil Grenadier (trumpet) and Nat Mugavero (drums) free to improvise without
chord changes. Mugavero has a distinctive time-keeping approach, while
Nieske pulls off the unpretentious style which he describes as a goal in his
liner notes. Grenadier combines Miles Davis's moodiness with some hints of
Freddie Hubbard's chops and Don Cherry's eccentricity.
To spice things up, the Lydian String Quartet contributes to half the tracks
on this CD. (If I understand the notes correctly, they overdubbed their
parts just over a year after the trio session.) Here Nieske harkens back to
the long-forgotten notion of "third-stream" jazz, and occasionally falls
prey to the same problems that hampered that style - the strings are a bit
heavy for the whimsical title track. Elsewhere, as on the Round
Midnight-ish ballad I Don't Know and the intriguing Astor,
the strings and the trio combine in more interesting ways than Nieske's
third-stream predecessors, which too often failed to integrate the elements
(modern classical and jazz) at hand.
The best testimony to the trio's versatility is the two takes of The
Stretch - the first (with strings) evokes a very Miles-ish statement
from Grenadier, while the second (trio only) develops from a bass solo into
some empathetic three-way improvisation that goes in an entirely different
direction. Worth delving into.
"A Night At The Flopera" - Sativa
review by David Rioux
Sativa Brand is a newly formed band from the southern California area.
They are a self proclaimed "soulful blend of R&B, Rock, Pop & Funk". The
release "A Night at the Flopera" is a four song demo they have released on
world, and it is mainly a collection of short cuts aimed to give the
listener an idea of their sound, without being too costly. Unfortunately
that's all it does.
The first cut The One starts off with the line "Something's
happening here..." which immediately smacks of Buffalo Springfield's For
What It's Worth. With a combination of slap-bass and a generic sounding
guitar and drum mix, they launch into questioning chorus of "Where did our
love go?... Where did our love go?" that could (I can only assume) be
expanded into something intriguing with some extended experimentation and
The mix itself, is clean and wonderfully mastered. There is no doubt
that, sound-wise, the band has something to offer the music world, but the
songs themselves end up mired in the realm of basic rock song. The song
Bougainvillea seems to be the only one with any real deviation from
the well-worn sound that emanates from the rest of the disc, as I hardly
noticed the segue from cuts one to two. Both sounded so similar that they
difficult to discern from each other in many respects. Finally the sampler
wraps itself up with Kickin' My Heart Around, another cut that
reminds me more of the stuff that Starship released in the mid-80's, than of
anything progressive and fresh enough to get any serious radio play these
Wherever Sativa Brand heads with their music, I personally hope they
open themselves up to the rest of the musical world for some additional
influences. Where there is talent and sound, there is also plenty of room
for content and quality.
"plan b" - Chupacabra
Bokonon Records 765459002424
review by Chris
While Boulder, Colorado's Chupacabra will never inspire in young children
the awed terror associated with its goat-blood sucking, South of the Border
namesake, they may well leave a few folks slobbering and jabbering in their
wake as the vampiric fable is wont to do. On an ambitious debut that could
have easily been bogged down by its multitudinous contributors (six
permanent band members and thirteen guests grace appear on plan b) the
clavinet, violin, trumpet, guitar, vibes, bass, and soprano and alto saxes
all weave subtle and complex melodies beneath, between, and behind the
densely layered Latin American and Afro-Cuban rhythms. Percussionists
abound, slapping all manner of hand drum and pushing the highly danceable
tempo without ever drowning the song.
While the whole album rewards repeated listenings with a seemingly endless
string of instruments hidden in the mix, it is the traipsing electric guitar
and violin counterpoint of Matus that grabs the ear first. The
bottom feeding bass lays a bed of sound colored by the vibes and keys.
Rhythms continually reveal themselves throughout the song, peeking around
the blunt corners of the blunt and driving bass.
"plan b" is hard to pin down as it swings between English and Spanish
voices, male and female voices, rhythm oriented churners, bossa influenced
slinks like Fui Yo, and harmonica tinted funk interludes like
Treading Water with its rich horns.
While none of the many players are virtuoso, they can all cook. Cheryl Etu
has taken her voice and her vibes elsewhere in recent months, but her work
on the instrumental, Mambero, is one of the album's highlights.
Anthony Salvo splatters saxophone and violin lines across the canvas, often
teetering near the lite-jazz brink and lithely dancing away. Brian Juan's
modest keyboards are never flashy but always surprising. And bassist Jason
McDaniel is a force when paired with Dan Porras. Jason Virunurm is an
excellent complementary player, swapping off between acoustic and electric
guitars expertly. While the disc is rife with players, they all seem to
have something valuable to say. Solos are rarely wasted, and all the
musicians have a well-developed rhythmic sensibility. While half of the
album is instrumental, the vocals are far from the obligatory drones of
"vocalists" who are truly musicians at heart. These are strong voices, rich
The most impressive thing about this self-produced debut is that it never
falls flat on its face, despite every opportunity. None of the songs fall
flat. None of the players overpower the others. The genre jumping is
seemingly second nature, and the abundant instruments weave seamlessly.
This is a highly accomplished debut from a band with real potential. Keep
an eye out.
self-titled - Lunar Detour
review by Steven
Lunar Detour have, among other things, rhythm, space,
and soul according to We Got..., the first track of
their debut CD. The song has a Blind Melon feeling
with an interesting creep of a groove. Erik Rabasca's
vocals are clear and his guitar is a luminous covering
to the soul of Tim Goodwin's bass and Geoff Goldman's
The next track, the Sounding of the Trumpets, is
highlighted by an eloquent guitar solo by Rabasca. The
tune drops down into an electronic-lounge skat vibe
after the solo. Once there, Rabasca creates a curious
balloon with his vocals before the players bring the
original tune back to life. The Sounding of the
Trumpets is a sweet jam.
Movin' On, the album's next track features more fine
work by Lunar Detour. Even if the grandness of the
structure never entirely meshes, the effort is true.
Rabasca plays a solo with soft-distortion to a smooth,
The next tune Hey Beautiful is toe tapping and almost
mercilessly so. Goodwin's bass and Goldman's drums
flex out an impressive display of rhythm work. It's
almost a goddamn clinic. Then the song drops into an
underwater effect, teases then runs with a Frampton
vibe, explores the colossal rock n' roll comeback to
eventually settle into its base again.
From the glory of Hey Beautiful, Lunar Detour go to
the garbage bucket groove of That's Alright. This song
is exploratory burn material. Not all of the off-time
hammering coalesced with my current ear, but it gets
an E for effort.
After two more numbers, Can't Betray closes out the
record. Can't Betray begins in a stalled, white
boy-Shaft groove. On their last track Lunar Detour
remind you that if they're anything, they're smooth.
Much like all the songs on "Lunar Detour", Can't
Betray is crisp and fun.
self-titled - Organica
eview by Patrick McNair
A quick perusal of Organica's website assures one that "those who enjoy the
music of bands boasting exceptional musicianship through a diversity in
style will love Seattle's newest product, ORGANICA [their caps]." It's a
bold assertion to make. Maybe they're better live.
The album starts off with the track Sometime by the band's guitarist
(Berl Shaffer), who joins lead vocalist Sarah Smith in singing this one.
Typical hippie-jam feel pervades this track, with its jam-rock feel, its not
particularly interesting lyrics, and a
general sense of having been done before. This perception changes after
listening to the second song, You Decide, which is a co-creation
writing credit given to all the band members, and a nod toward the promised
"diversity." The cut gives the band's drummer, Paul Smith, space to lay out
his ideas, which seem to blend a jazzy use of the high-hat and cymbals with
some prog. rock style (in the vein of Yes) fills and feels. The track also
gives keyboardist Rob Frain a chance to tickle the ivories with some of that
classical sounding style that was so effectively co-opted be 70s prog. rock.
The songs that follow continue to explore some kind of prog. rock meets
hippie funk-jam feel that seems time and again to have potential to meld the
two in an interesting way only to swing too far in favor of one of the two
leanings and become cliched. The two instrumental tracks by the bassist
(Milton Sagahon) are good listens and stand out from the songs with vocals.
Trolly Trip (the second) falls into a nice space somewhat reminiscent
early Phish songs (a la Buried Alive or Foam) without trying
to copy them.
When Shaffer gets back in the driver's seat on "You don't have to go away"
things go into a kind of ballady-pop that I find really lacking in appeal or
direction. Sarah Smith's Luminosity is probably the disc's highlight,
featuring her very full voice backed up by a playful, almost latin feel.
Unfortunately the track doesn't manage to avoid the potential for cliche,
and the track will sound vaguely familiar in terms of tonal choices to
anyone who has heard Santana's Smooth on the radio. The final cut,
Wisdom, is a very pretty, if somewhat lengthy tune, which contains
Shaffer's best guitar solo of the album, which has a vaguely Samba Pa
While this debut certainly shows a group with the potential to meld a
coherent and original style, it also shows one that is currently trying to
sort through its influences. In the meantime the tracks are all very
listenable and well put together, if not mesmerizing or brilliant. These
days it's not enough just to have a diversity of influences to make
compelling music, and the songs here lack the kind of spark that might burn
off the trappings of musical diversity and leave something new behind.
self-titled - Psychedelic Breakfast
by Steven Shepard
A guitar groove taken from the later Allman Brothers
Band catalog starts the Vermont Song the first track
of Psychedelic Breakfast's impressive, self-titled
studio debut. Guitar player Tim Palmieri lays down a
crystal-clear and groovy solo that sends the record
thoroughly into motion. Key master Jordan Giangreco
follows Palmirei with an equally engaging run on the
Hammond Organ and ZANG! Psychedelic Breakfast are off.
The album's next track, Garcian Fishbowl may be a bit
too rock n' roll for the song's namesake, but it's
delightful nonetheless. Working in between a saucy
introductory groove and a Ray Manzarek trip feel,
Garcian Fishbowl comes full circle when the band, led
by Palmieri, reaches a transcendental peak from its
lounge base. The playing is precise, loose, and an
impressive piece of studio craft.
The sly funk of Puppetry keeps the flow in a keen
direction. The simple vocal line in the chorus, "Laugh
when you should cry," works 'cause it feels right.
From its up-beat beginnings, Puppetry descends into a
spacey and curious jam, highlighted by the
high-fretboard runs of Palmieri and the trade-off work
of bass player Ron Spears and Palmieri. Spears also
falls into a nice hole with drummer Adrian Tramontano,
as the two meet quite frequently to kick their groove
into a notch. When it's all said and done on Puppetry,
Psychedelic Breakfast have another piece of studio
work to revel in.
Episode I (Happy) is a triumph, playful and perfect in
its approach. The listener is casually drawn into a
mix of off-time runs with smack and dribbled
raindrops. Tim Palmieri can flat out play. On the
piano, Giangreco trickles together perfect pitch
movements at the edges of the music. Still un-schooled
mind you, I'd say Giangreco's keys are McConnell-esque
in their approach.
The record's next track Frankly Zo Pest has a
stretched, tangled-web of a feel. Psychedelic
Breakfast fall into a two-measure progression that
erupts into an aggressive march. Palmieri again makes
all his notes count, as does bassist Ron Spears.
Drummer Adrian Tramantano ventures the band into
radical places on Frankly Zo Pest , and turns in a
A swift jazz interlude called Uncle Freddy leads to
the jaw-jangling cow funk of Superfly Phaddy Fat the
album's final track. The song provides a nice bed for
Giangreco's work on the Hammond. The group locks
themselves into a pretty twisted funk rhythm while
guitarist Tim Palmieri blows out one final time, on
the record at least.
All in all a solid debut from a band that is still working to define its own
sound. Still the muscianship is there, particularly from Palmieri, so this is a
band well-worth watching. On a side note - This CD features sweet cover art. To
which I propose: wouldn't it be fine if CDs could be
somehow packaged in album sleeves?
"Three Feet Off The Ground" - the Bruce Katz Band
review by Patrick
Put together a keyboardist who loves B-3, a guitarist with a
blues/country feel, and drum and bass parts that compliment nicely and
you'll get an album that's fun to listen to, with some nice quirks, good
playing, and a fine sense of self. The songs generally have a country,
folksy, bluesy inflection and are all fun to listen to. The players (Bruce
Katz - keyboards, Julien Kasper - guitar, Blake Newman - upright bass, and
Ralph Rosen - drums) certainly aren't breaking new ground but the playing is
great throughout the disc, and
the band members seem to be listening to each other very nicely. All but one
of the songs are written by Katz, and that unifying thread makes the album
flow well from song to song without taking away any of the feeling from the
Highlights include the title track, an up-tempo little prance through
the country inflected with a bit of the bayou, and the jazzier tune The
Hook. While overall I wouldn't say the disc is a must have, it is
definitely a good
listen and a nice one to have in the collection for sunny afternoons.