Popular Music CDs - Part 16 - March, 1999
Graham Vine & Bill Vine
Ratings: Extraordinary Good Acceptable Mediocre Poor
"Live at Luther College"
Dave Matthews/Tim Reynolds
Bama Rags; 07863 67755-2
There has been a lot of talk lately about bootleg CDs of live performances and the way that many of them seem to be getting on to the market. Some bands and artists disapprove, some approve, and some actively promote these 'unofficial' releases. Dave Matthews has gone on record as one of the 'disapprovers', but the void in the marketplace of live material for the loyal fans needs to be met. No doubt some of these thoughts provided the impetus which has given us "Live At Luther College" from Dave Matthews together with Tim Reynolds.
The 23 tracks presented on these 2 CDs display superb, if not amazing musicianship. The tracks flow, with short introductions between most of them, and the yelps and applause, cheers and whistles, show what a crowd-pleasing performance this pairing can give. To be honest, I found the off-stage sounds rather intrusive - not unlike some of the bootlegs there have been over the years. The guys obviously enjoyed themselves, feeding if you like off the energy radiated by the crowd. With the tracks being basically acoustic-guitar, you might think there would be limited scope for a rave-up. Dave and Tim fiercely attack their task with vigour. They put feeling into it all right.
I was left wondering if the album were really for me. My mind wandered in a few places, not really out of boredom but in a 'switched-off' sort of way. I am, however, convinced that the fans will find these tracks an essential part of their collection. Whereas I felt that 2 CDs have perhaps rather too much to release in one go, those fans will savor every last drop. Putting myself into the position of such a fan, for the acts which I am keen on, what would I like released? Answer: - something exactly like "Live At Luther College"!
For reference, full track-listing:
1. One Sweet World
3. Tripping Billies
4. Jimi Thing
6. Crash Into Me
7. Deed is Done
8. Lover Lay Down
9. What Would You Say
11. Cry Freedom
12. Dancing Nancies
1. Typical Situation
4. Christmas Song
5. Seek Up
6. Say Goodbye
7. Ants Marching
8. Little Thing
11. Two Step
- GV -
Razor & Tie; RE 2040
Newly available is a CD from Don and Phil Everly, and it marks much more than a come-back. The Everlys had drifted apart not just musically, but socially and personally as well. But being so highly regarded as part of the foundation of modern pop music, their reunion album has attracted contributions from some of today's and yesterday's greats.
For a start, the CD is produced by Dave Edmunds, a star of many genres in his own right. He does not dominate the proceedings but provides that underlying strength needed to make the whole project succeed. With contributions from Paul McCartney, Bob Dylan, and Jeff Lynne, we can expect some of the best on this album, and our expectations are fully justified.
The CD is a little light-weight in only giving us 10 tracks, but what they lack in quantity is certainly made up for in quality. The opener is a Paul McCartney song, "On The Wings Of A Nightingale", and very welcoming it is too. It really moves along.
Other songs to note are Jeff Lynne's "The Story Of Me", specially written for the Everlys and displaying some wonderful keyboard-runs from Richard Tandy. The emotion in that song could almost be coming from the voice of Roy Orbison. Then there's Dylan's "Lay, Lady, Lay", receiving a different treatment and giving a new freshness to it.
Towards the latter part of the album there are tracks of a more country-music nature. I'm not really one to comment on the quality or
otherwise of country music, but it's very enjoyable, and I feel sure I have heard sounds on this album which must have been influencial to some of the very latest country acts.
The Everly Brothers have lost none of their vocal skills: gorgeous harmonies, characterful interpretations, and a distinctive timbre that's all their own. Let's hope we are fortunate enough to hear some more from Don and Phil before they pack up altogether.
For reference, full track-listing:
1. On The Wings of a Nightingale
2. Danger Danger
3. The Story of Me
4. I'm Takin' My Time
5. The First in Line
6. Lay, Lady, Lay
7. Following the Sun
8. You Make It Seem So Easy
9. More Than I Can Handle
- GV -
Food; 4991 292
'Woo hoo', I expect you are thinking on the release of this, Blur's sixth album and follow up to 1997's eponymous LP which featured the now world famous "Song 2". Indeed, you may well think this, but you are in for a treat with this latest offering. However, if you are expecting more of the same, then think again. "13" marks a departure for Blur from the producer of four previous albums, Stephen Street, and introduces William Orbit in his place.
The first track on the album; "Tender" is a seven and a half minute romp showing off the extreme vocal talent of Damon Albarn as he demonstrates his more than impressive range. The track includes a gospel choir and is a relatively cheery affair and actually quite calming. On the other hand, calming is not the word to be used in the description of "Bugman", which is track 2 on the album and is one of the tracks which stands out most, incorporating a Bowie-esque vocal from Albarn and an uncanny nod to "Suffragette City".
"Coffee and TV" is as close to 'Old Blur' as we get, and "Swamp Song" provides a slightly 'glam' element to the proceedings, with Damon giving the impression of a mimicking of Brian Ferry. "1992", a personal favorite, is important as it was the year that Albarn and Justine Frischmann (his ex-girlfriend and lead singer from Elastica) met, and it is the breakup of this relationship that has fueled a lot of the tracks. The song itself has a hint of Radiohead mixed into it through the melancholic chords and the tension which seems to be threatening to snap at any moment.
"B.L.U.R.E.M.I." is more punk than anything else, and "Battle" will no doubt confuse most people whose musical tastes have been saturated with the sweet saccharine pop that has been overwhelming the charts in recent years. "Mellow Song" is as the title, although perhaps the lyrics are not. "Trailerpark" is another unsettling track, with its minimalistic approach and haunting instrumental sections. This is followed by "Caramel" which incorporates Procol Harum-style organs and gentle singing that slowly builds in volume in a lengthy, gradual crescendo. It eventually drops away towards what we think is the very end of the track, but the sound is then
infused with more organs and, just as we think it is over once more, a short distorted guitar section.
"Trimm Trabb" is an amalgam of scary sonic effects, lilting vocals, acoustic guitars, and disturbing lyrics such as in the chorus 'Let it flow, I'll sleep alone". It is the penultimate track "No Distance Left to Run" that really makes our hearts go out to Damon. "It's over" he sings in recognition of his terminated relationship, "I knew it would end this way". The album closes with a perfectly understated instrumental, "Optigan 1".
Be warned, this album takes more than one listening to before it can be fully appreciated and comprehended. It is not something for the insouciant pop loving types who can only understand simple melodies with a formulaic sound. This is definitely one of the best albums of the year, and it is only March. In fact, it is better than anything from last year's crop of pop and will take its place alongside such albums as The Beatles' "Sgt. Pepper" and Radiohead's "OK Computer".
For reference, full track-listing:
3. Coffee & TV
4. Swamp Song
8. Mellow Song
11. Trimm Trabb
12. No Distance Left to Run
13. Optigan 1
- Bill Vine -
© Copyright 1999 Secrets of Home Theater & High Fidelity
Return to Table of Contents for this Issue.