John Waite's new CD finds the infectious if precious singer-songwriter looking forward and looking back. He trots out some new stuff, such as the Fifth Avenue romance of "St. Patrick's Day," and puts a fresh paint of coat on a number of old favorites, harking all the way back to his `70s days with the Babys ("Isn't It Time" and others).
Alison Krauss joins him for a subtly countrified touch-up of his 1984 smash "Missing You." But the real shocker here is a snarling cover of "Highway 61 Revisited" that is more Thorogood than Dylan.
Waite's clinging vine of a voice still sounds best on ballads such as "In Dreams" and "New York City Girl," although there is no rust evident on any of this material.
With this collection, Waite has taken a promising tack: neo-nostalgia.
On Into White, Carly Simon turns her attention to lullabies: sweet, unhurried songs sung softly to sparse acoustic arrangements. But these aren't traditional children's songs. Simon mixes hoary standards such as "Over the Rainbow," "You Are My Sunshine" and "Oh! Susanna" with songs from when she was young such as the Beatles' "Blackbird" and Cat Stevens' title track. And, for good measure, she includes a few surprises: "You Can Close Your Eyes," by her ex-husband James Taylor (and sung with the couple's children Ben and Sally Taylor); the theme from Black Orpheus; her own "Love of My Life."
No matter what the song, though, the understated settings — usually an acoustic guitar or piano, colored with cello and occasional harmony vocals — keep the focus on Simon's intimate, precise alto.
It's a pleasantly dreamy album: It could put you to sleep, but only if you want it to.
English rockers-turned-miscast punks the Stranglers know from ridicule. Their punk peers branded them geezers in the `70s, declaring their long hair, Doors-like keyboards, and roguish odes to sex and violence akin to Deep Purple in Dr. Martens.
So, spare them the barbs about a 68-year-old bloke named Jet Black drumming for a band called the Stranglers.
Black actually propels these "geezers" (all original Stranglers except guitarist/vocalist Baz Warne) like a 28-year-old, and that's no backhanded compliment.
Most of the songs on the band's 16th disc are all filth and fury, filled with angst ("I Hate You"), sexual frustration ("Unbroken"), and the subtle strokes of melody ("Barbara") that made vintage Stranglers sound like adventurous pegs in punk's black hole.
Forgive them for sounding like Steven Segal ("revenge is a dish best served cold") when spewing bile and dabbling in antiwar sentiments that basically amount to "Yeah, what they said." Just celebrate the Stranglers remaining loud and proud punk outcasts after all these years.
When Mos Def kick-started his hip-hop career with that Talib Kweli Black Star collaboration and Black on Both Sides, it was a one-two artist statement along the lines of Orson Welles' back-to-back triumphs "Citizen Kane" and "The Magnificent Ambersons." Def's debuts featured strongly masculine, un-gangsta-ish raps done up in aptly muscular musicality.
But that was 1998 and `99. What's Def done for me lately?
Musically, not much.
On "True Magic," Def is nearly faceless — rapping, ranting and rambling against shockingly generic soundscapes, adding little but laziness to tracks from Juvenile's UTP and GZA, writing dull rhymes. Even the CD cover is bland.
Still, Mos croons through the too-catchy "There is a Way" with crazy intensity, jazzes up "Sun, Moon, Stars" like the experimentalist we know he can be, and makes "U R the One" simmer sexily and smartly. Maybe he's waiting for his next record to do something great.
Stop waiting, Mos. Do it, Def.
You can take the boy out of New Orleans, but... . Grayson Capps lived for 20 years in the Crescent City before Katrina forced the native Alabaman out. (He has since settled in Nashville.) Still, the sounds and spirit of the city and environs echo throughout the singer-songwriter's second solo set.
With his froggy baritone and pungent grooves, Capps sounds like a cross between Tom Waits and Tony Joe White — or, on the buoyant "Poison," like swamp-pop master Bobby Charles. "New Orleans Waltz" is an affectionate but clear-eyed salute to his old haunt ("that rotten old town that everybody loves"). For the most part, however, the references to post-Katrina travails are more oblique, and movingly universal. As on "Junkman": "And our heads are hanging low/And we've got no place to go/And all we can do is eat and sleep/And hope tomorrow that we'll know."
— Nick Cristiano
The first cut on "Deuce" is called "Heroes," and it's a loping country-rocker about the ineluctable pull of music on the singer, even when it makes a "guitar widow" out of his woman. It sounds more than a little autobiographical coming from Billy Ray Hatley, a Richmond, Va., mainstay who has been out picking and singing for three decades.
That life of experience, with all of its ups and downs, comes through across this 13-song set, which ranges from lean roadhouse rockers like "Mama's Cookin'" to more reflective numbers like "Things." Even when he's dwelling on the wrong turns he has taken, or spinning a mournful Civil War tale, the eloquently plainspoken Hatley never lets "the flicker of fire" in his soul go out, as he puts it in "Lessons." That his music keeps the fire going for this lifer comes through loud and clear here.
Only the most revered members of the jazz pantheon get their own ghost band after their passing. But the results may not live up to the expectations.
Trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie's music makes a great base for assembling a high-powered group. Led by trombonist Slide Hampton, whose big-band experience includes Maynard Ferguson, the gang cuts an impressive swath by including trumpeters Claudio Roditi, Roy Hargrove and Randy Brecker; saxophonists Antonio Hart, James Moody, Frank Wess and Jimmy Heath; and trombonists Steve Davis and Jay Ashby.
Just as important are the assembled arrangers: the late Ernie Wilkins of the Count Basie band and a Gillespie touring group of the mid-1950s; drummer Dennis Mackrel, who played with the Basie group in the 1980s; and Heath, who contributes two originals.
The session is reasonably good even though it doesn't pop with Dizzy's humor or imagination. One highlight is Italian singer Roberta Gambarini, who offers up some persuasive scatting on the Heath original "Moody's Groove." She also lights up a medley of Brazilian tunes called "Morning of the Carnival."
Baritone saxophonist and flutist Denis DiBlasio is at his most simpatico here.
Joining with pianist Jim Ridl and bassist Steve Varner, DiBlasio creates a gentle oasis of a set. DiBlasio, who directs the Jazz Program at Rowan University, is often fiery and humorous in performance. Here on a session of mostly originals, he's mellow and often focused on pulchritude.
Ridl's intro on the title track is pretty gorgeous, and DiBlasio's flute makes the view come closer.
DiBlasio, the former music director for Maynard Ferguson, shows grace, too, as a composer. "Whereyabin" exudes a nervous energy, while "Tear Up an Anvil in an Open Field" is a barn-raiser of a tune that invites the leader to gurgle pleasantly on the baritone. DiBlasio also gives the standard "Tenderly" some serious ballad feel. This ranks as one of his best recordings.
Though her promotion makes her look like another crossover-slanted, heavily promoted violin babe, Dutch violinist Janine Jansen is unquestionably a genuine talent, and one of the most exciting violinists to come along in years. Having come up amid the active, enlightened baroque performance world in the Netherlands, she approaches these romantic-era warhorses with a highly individual perspective, owing to baroque music only indirectly. Instead of just unfurling long melodic lines in the Mendelssohn, Jansen allows each phrase to speak its piece, in a performance that comes off like a conversation with a great musical mind. If hearing this concerto with new ears is possible, Jansen is the catalyst — with the great Leipzig orchestra under Riccardo Chailly acting as sympathetic accomplice.
Her Bruch performance has many of the same virtues, but if they aren't so obvious, it's because the music is so innately craggy that it may never need to be rescued from all-purpose mellifluousness.
—David Patrick Stearns
Dutch-born, French-based Germaine Thyssens-Valentin has enjoyed a posthumous cult in recent years, owing to Testament's release of her long-buried recordings — never released in the United States — of Faure piano music from the 1950s and `60s. Unquestionably, she was the master of this subtle, understated repertoire. These two newest releases show her in non-Faure repertoire, with curious results. Her Mozart concerto is maybe too restrained, though with a lovely slow movement that feels whispered as much as played. The Franck-dominated disc, though, shows a high-rhetoric side of Thyssens-Valentin's personality rarely apparent in Faure but no less profound. Sound quality is good 1950s mono at worst, modern stereo at best.
(c) 2007, The Philadelphia Inquirer.
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