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Music Reviews

Popular Music - Part 41 - August, 2001

 

Graham Vine

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Ratings:
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Acceptable
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"Out of Order"

Various

25 Record 25FO25

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From time to time I am fortunate enough to receive the latest compilation from 25 Records, an independent label in the South of England devoted to bringing exposure to new talent. Sometimes the overall result is very successful, sometimes less so. How many frogs does a Princess have to kiss before she finds a Prince?! I am pleased to say that "Out Of Order" is more Prince than frog.

The two opening numbers aren't amongst the strongest, despite the best intentions of the instrumentalists. It is the vocals which need some more punch and modern studio equipment should be able to provide this. The album really gets going with "Alienshamanism", full of great sound effects and a swell running through it that could owe a little to Prodigy.

The Wolventrix track is nicely intimate; it draws you in. The Trimatics have a little voice, but that doesn't detract as the harmonies adopted are just so well done. Well done The Expressions! They found a 'hook'. Not too common these days, but you look forward to its arrival in the chorus of the song. Ian Dury may be gone now, but his spirit seems to live on in "Get Off My Car" - it's not my cup of tea but should appeal to some. Plastik provide a good track in a slightly Small Faces sort of way but then the quite peotic "Wirewalker" is a bit too close to rap/hip/hop for me.

"Fast Train" speeds up nicely and is quite bluesy, and the "Word On The Street" makes excellent use of sitar and brass. Good combination. The introspective, sleepy ballad provided by Sandy Shores suits my taste, but I felt that Riser needed more instruments or maybe some multi-tracking to fill out the sound-stage. Herrod present us with an interesting rhythm that offsets the slightly thin vocal, but The Shopliftingangels have my favorite track on the album. A good 'classic rock' style without resorting to the old cliches.

Roundwound gets into their uplifting song "Wrong Again" when they let rip in the chorus, and the song "On My Knees" contrasts an interesting, moody verse with a great catchy chorus. The Visitors sound rather like a fast Leonard Cohen, if you can imagine such a thing, and it's even a bit jaunty with its rhythm. Shiver Slinky come across as a bit Shocking Blue, and psychedelic too. Rounding the whole thing off are the Parkstone Dub Foundation, whom I've heard before and never disappoint with their reggae backing and deliberately weird effects on top. A fitting end to a good album, available via www.25records.com

For reference, complete track listing:

1. Blaze: Jeanie
2. Osmosis: Education
3. Dr Jan [guru]: Alienshamanism
4. Wolventrix: How Refreshing
5. The Trimatics: Simple Morning
6. The Expressions: Why Can't Everything Just Go The Way I Planned
7. Red Ash & The Love Commandos: Get Off My Car
8. Plastik: The White Room
9. Dan T's Inferno: Wirewalker
10. Conspiracy: Fast Train
11. Ascension: Word On The Street
12. Sandy Shores: Last Night
13. Riser: Spitting Teeth
14. Herrod: Sat Down Beside Her
15. The Shopliftingangels: What Hides Inside
16. Roundwound: Wrong Again
17. Deansgate: On My Knees
18. The Visitors: Down To The Sea
19. Shiver Slinky: Shibboleth
20. Parkstone Dub Foundation: Alcohol
 

- GV -

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"Zoom"

Electric Light Orchestra

Epic 502500 2

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As already telegraphed in these reviews, summer 2001 has seen the awakening of Jeff Lynne's Electric Light Orchestra after a gap of 15 years. Jeff has kept very busy over the intervening period, writing and producing for many of the greats in the industry - notably The Traveling Wilburys and The Beatles. His own solo effort "Armchair Theatre" met with limited success, and so it should not come as too much of a shock that for his 'follow-up' Jeff chose to re-activate the ELO name.

The band on most of this release is Jeff multi-tracked, but guest appearances from George Harrison and Ringo Starr actually mean that there are more Beatles on the album than ELOers! But this is no lightweight offering - all the expansive production one would expect is here, even to the extent of a real string-section in places.

I couldn't find a bad track on the record, and some of them are quite outstanding. From the extraordinarily beautiful "Moment In Paradise" to the fun "Easy Money" these songs appeal to both the heart and the head. You can hear echoes of some of Jeff's recent production work in some songs, such as his work for the film "Still Crazy", in evidence in the track "Melting In The Sun". Although unmistakably Electric Light Orchestra, this is not stuck in the '70s and '80s, because the sound has evolved and is as relevant today as anything you'll hear on the radio.

The live shows supporting this album must be an absolute treat. The song "Ordinary Dream" is crying out for an extended outro - in my 'mind's ear' I can almost hear a long fade in the style of The Carpenters' "Goodbye To Love" - it's that powerful. The close harmony, almost a capella, vocal multi-tracking at the end of "A Long Time Gone" is so smooth you could imagine a top-rate choir had been brought in for the job.

So quite a triumph for Jeff's ELO, which can only be a good thing to freshen up the current music scene. With remasterings of the whole ELO back catalogue expected this year, interest should be sufficient to provoke a follow-up to "Zoom". One guy hoping for such a thing is myself.

For reference, full track listing:

1. Alright
2. Moment In Paradise
3. State Of Mind
4. Just For Love
5. Stranger On A Quiet Street
6. In My Own Time
7. Easy Money
8. It Really Doesn't Matter
9. Ordinary Dream
10. A Long Time Gone
11. Melting In The Sun
12. All She Wanted
13. Lonesome Lullaby


- GV -

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"Holy Wood

Marilyn Manson

Nothing/Interscope 490 829-2

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Loud and Violent. That would be an appropriate way to describe "Holy Wood (In The Valley Of The Shadow Of Death)", the first studio album for two years to emerge from the darkness that is the world of Marilyn Manson. So say the notes that accompany this album. True, as far as it goes, but those writers are missing a thing or two. There is also melody, harmony, dynamic range, and a little humor blended together in a way that prevents a simple description.

The most prevalent sound on the album is certainly the gruffest grinding fuzz-guitar you'd ever want to hear. The lead vocals are rarely anything other than growling and direct. But I also hear some falsetto, some whispering, some gentle crooning. And the dark harmonies make way for some sweeter chord-progressions in many places.

The warning to parents about the 'explicit content' is deserved, though the lyric sheet is really required to catch all the words referred to in the warning. No, what should be more questionable, and subject to any parental control, is the dark theme running through the album. The odd 'swear words' are no worse than typically heard 'on the street', but the sentiment that is in the message in the album is rare indeed. And doesn't that make it a distinctive listen and therefore a valid piece of art in its own right? I think so.

So there is plenty of thrash and belly-vibrating thumping with the hi-fi turned up loud. I doubt if I shall listen to the album again after finishing the review, but I can respect the work of these guys and, indeed, recommend it to anyone seeking the heavier end of the rock market.

For reference, complete track listing:

1. Godeatgod
2. The Love Song
3. The Fight Song
4. Disposable Teens
5. Target Audience
6. President Dead
7. In The Shadow Of The Valley Of Death
8. Cruci-fiction In Space
9. A Place In The Dirt
10. The Nobodies
11. The Death Song
12. Lamb Of God
13. Born Again
14. Burning Flag
15. Coma Black
16. Valentine's Day
17. The Fall Of Adam
18. King Kill 33degrees
19. Count To 6 And Die
20. The Nobodies (acoustic version)


 
 - GV -

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"Hiya"

Sharp Practise

Positive Records CD696

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Essex in the UK is where I am currently based, and that is also where Peldon band Sharp Practise make their music. And yet the appeal for this music is surely global, or at least deserves to be. So, it is pleasing to report that Internet exposure for this uplifting rock has already achieved wide acclaim for them.

The backing tracks are matched to these tracks perfectly. Never overstated, always true to pitch and tempo. And a real drummer is always to be welcomed! The guitar solos work very well, especially when that 'warm' distortion is adopted. All the songs are written by Nigel Clothier, and his talent for putting together an intelligent lyric seems to be matched by his ear for a hook. "Are You Red Or Blue?" is strongest in this department, though I must admit my favorite track is "OK", with it's 'geezer' start and almost RnR innards. It ends up as a cross between Blur and "The Timewarp".

The best vocal treatment happens when Kath Crowe joins in to harmonize. Not too surprising for one who is also carving out a career of her own in the pop/folk field. I felt that another couple of takes could have brought out a slightly stronger line in the lead vocals, though they are pleasant as they are, in a slightly diffident Bryan Ferry sort of way.

So, SP is clearly a band to be admired and to keep an eye open for. All the latest on them and the label's other acts are at http://www.positiverecords.co.uk/artists.htm.

For reference, complete track listing:

1. Eve Got Adam
2. Complete History
3. Born And Raised
4. OK
5. It's Alright
6. Love Freely Given
7. Are You Red Or Blue?
8. Maybe It's Gonna Be Tonight
9. Half Full
10. Won't You Be My Lover?
11. Him Or Me
12. Book Of Days
 

- GV -

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"Fire, Honey & Angels"

The Walt Wilkins Band

GrooveTone GT-001

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As someone who used to introduce the country music feed, direct from Atlanta, for my local radio station, and needing to select bridging pieces, my initial reaction to "Fire, Honey & Angels" was that I wished I'd had it available in those days. In fact the opener is one of the strongest tracks of any genre that I've heard in a long time. I immediately characterized the piece as 'Classic Rock' in an Eagles sort of way. In that sense it is atypical of the album, but what an excellent way to get you in the mood for the remainder.

For seven band members, they do not make an enormous noise. No wall of sound here. Their arrangements thoughtfully bring in soloists as the song dictates, be it Tim Lorsch on fiddle, Mike Daly on steel guitar or any of the others. Throughout it all, Walt Wilkins makes his presence felt with lead vocals that live the songs. Plenty of texture to the voice and that slight crack in the back of the throat bringing out the emotion the words deserve. I like that.

Two songs stand out from the mainstream of the album. "Mechanicsville", the opener, and "Sandy Loam", which is a superb slow number with a real 'rootsy' feel about it. They certainly went to town of this track, adding even more to their number. Most notable to this listener were Danny Flowers on slide guitar and harmonies from Jen Cohen, Porkchop Kelly, Julie Malone, and Tina Mitchell.

For anyone who likes country music at all, be it the modern style with its rock crossover, or the more traditional 'Country & Western' (as was), the Walt Wilkins Band is one to watch out for. They have re-awakened my interest.

For reference, complete track listing:

1. Mechanicsville
2. Our Lady Of The Avenue
3. Moan & Whine
4. Ruby's 2 Sad Daughters
5. Salinda
6. Don't Make Me Do It
7. Sandy Loam
8. Lessons Never Learned
9. My 1st Night In Denver
10. I Would Not Make It Through
11. Big Hopes
12. A Little Farther West


- GV -

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"I Need Jesus"

The Reverend Vince Anderson and His Love Choir

Dirty Gospel 51079/2

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With much trepidation, I selected 'CD' to listen to the Rev. I've been disappointed before by unholy alliances of the spiritual and secular. I needed have no such fear, for Vince has created a wonderful (if small) collection of tracks which can stand on their own merits in either camp. The interpretations are varied, from the 'Commitments' - style opener to the
simple ballads that are positioned at 4 and 5.

The Rev. Anderson's voice has an attractive gravely texture which fits the songs well. Even the higher notes in "Jesus Christ (Friend of Mine)", which are a bit of a struggle, seem to fit. The content breaks down a bit in "Bon Voyage" - what a rabble! And is some of the language in the chorus very, um, earthy? A 'legitimate' technique, I suppose. The tone picks up with "The Angel of Death", though.

The first three tracks are the highlights of the album. I would have liked to hear perhaps double the total playing time of about 26 minutes, because what I did hear left me wanting more. The rudimentary recording techniques have not impinged excessively on the sound quality, so the music-making shines through. Track 2 is a little woolly, with some distortion, but it has the character of capturing a magical performance moment-in-time. The scat-style of "Cypress Tree" has an exciting pace in a honky-tonk sort of way. It's a rewarding experience when an album leaves you pleasantly surprised, so I am more than happy to commit these words to print, as encouragement to the Rev. to perform and record some more and to potential buyers to at least give it a try.

For reference, complete track listing:

1. Johnny Shot The Mexican
2. I Need Jesus
3. Cypress Tree
4. If You Ever
5. Lovers On Lease
6. Jesus Christ (Friend of Mine)
7. Bon Voyage
8. The Angel of Death
 

- GV -

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Copyright 2001 Secrets of Home Theater & High Fidelity
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