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I’m liking that one,
…these CDs right now:
The Bird and The Bee “Guiltless Pleasures: Volume 1 – A Tribute to Daryl Hall and John Oates”
This synth-pop duo started covering Hall and Oates’ “I Can’t Go For That” during their live shows and the reaction from fans was always a positive one. So why not try their hands at a full-length of nothing but Hall and Oates covers, right? Is it gimmicky? Of course. But try listening to this disc even once without singing along. These are great old classics as covered by a fantastic new band, and I’m a sucker for every ounce of it.
Mulatu Astatke “Mulatu Steps Ahead”
Astatke first came onto the jazz scene in the sixties and seventies, blending his Ethiopian heritage with the Latin and jazz sounds of the day. Because of this, he became known as the father of Ethio-jazz. He’s been quite experimental in recent years (including last year’s collaboration with the funk ensemble The Heliocentrics), but here Astatke returns to his roots. The album sways and shifts between Ethio-inspired influences and Western jazz melodies, giving us a new take on an old sound. Mulatu steps ahead, indeed.
Keb Darge & Paul Weller “Lost & Found: Real R’n’B & Soul”
A veritable treasure trove for DJs, “Lost & Found” collects long-forgotten soul obscurities from the fifties and sixties. Scottish DJ Keb Darge and English singer/songwriter Paul Weller of The Jam have dug through the depths of old vinyl crates to dig up lost b-side tracks like Big Mama Thornton’s “They Call Me Big Mama,” The Creation’s “A Dream,” and Slim Harpo’s “I Got Love If You Want It.” The album collects 28 tracks of music you’ve never heard before, but will now never forget.
Soulful! “The Mellow Life”
A sweet (mostly instrumental) album of 18 tracks from Inner Loop Records’ newest member: Soulful! As the name implies, this disc is full of soul and features guest appearances from K-Beta and Shaka. The best part? It’s absolutely free! Just click here to preview songs from the album, then (if you like it… which you will) download the entire disc for free! It’s a great album to get you moving in the morning. And for love-making… but that’s a whole other story.
Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings “I Learned The Hard Way”
If Sharon Jones and her Dap-Kings aren’t the hardest working people in the music business, I don’t know who is. This album marks their fourth disc since their 2002 debut, and (like their three previous albums) it doesn’t disappoint. Jones brings back her sixties-inspired funk and soul, and the Dap-Kings once again work their magic; together, they prove they’re far from being a fad band and are here to stay. Sonically, the album is consistent with previous outings, though there were a few moments I found myself hoping for a slight change in production. Still, overall, the album is solid from start to finish. If you dug their previous albums, you’ll dig “I Learned the Hard Way.”
Gorillaz “Plastic Beach”
I was looking forward to this album for months, so I waited a few weeks before writing up my review. Unfortunately, even after multiple listens, my opinion is still the same: This is the weakest Gorillaz album to date. That’s not really saying much, of course, because their first two discs (especially their sophomore album “Demon Days”) are about as close to album perfection as it gets. But the problem here is that I don’t even think of this as a Gorillaz album. It doesn’t sound or feel like Gorillaz; instead, this is simply a Damon Albarn side project that’s littered with guest appearances. In the past, Gorillaz was a vehicle that guest musicians were invited to ride along with. Here, Gorillaz serve (at best) as a backup band to their guest cast, getting completely lost in the mix. It’s not until track thirteen (“Plastic Beach”) that I sense a true Gorillaz presence on their own album; sadly, there are only four tracks left at that point and it becomes an issue of too little, too late. I do like the music that’s on this disc, mainly because I’m a fan of Damon Albarn. But I waited for years in anticipation of a third Gorillaz album and, as far as I’m concerned, as of today I’m still waiting.
Pete Bernhard “Straight Line”
The lead singer of The Devil Makes Three tries his hand at a solo album. This is actually Bernhard’s second solo disc (his first was the self-released “Things I Left Behind”), but it’s his first commercial release. Similar to the trio he’s a member of, Bernhard is hard to categorize; a singer/songwriter who has no time for one single genre. “Straight Line” is ten songs of folk, soul, jazz, blues and old-timey Americana, yet it all fits together perfectly. If this album proves anything it proves that Bernhard is a master of all trades, a jack of none.
More music than I know what to do with,
First, I want to plug two quick albums that got sent to me for review.
The Whore Moans “Hello from the Radio Wasteland” – You know, for whatever reason, I just never really got into the whole punk rock scene. But even for a guy who isn’t big on the whole genre, the Whore Moans (in addition to having the best name ever) were able to hold my interest for every one of this album’s thirteen tracks. Part of this is due to the fact that they are able to switch their sound up enough over the span of the record. One of my main problems with a lot of punk is that every song sounds exactly the same. The Whore Moans don’t suffer from this. Sure, some of the tracks are standard punk fodder. But songs like “Wall of a Song” and the album closer (and almost ballad-like) “Here Comes America” keeps the album diverse enough for non-punkers, but true enough to the genre for die-hards. They’ll be at Warped Tour next summer. Mark my words.
Point Juncture, WA “Heart to Elk” – Oddly enough, Point Juncture, WA is from Portland, Oregon. Not sure why exactly, but that’s the case. Regardless, “Heart to Elk” is a sweet little album that falls somewhere between the worlds of Yo La Tengo and Stereolab. I can’t find much on the group itself, but I’m guessing their female vocalist is Amanda Spring. If so, Spring adds a wonderful vocal softness to a well-structured wall of instrumentation. One does get the feeling that Point Juncture, WA might be going through a bit of self-realization, figuring out the ins and outs of producing an album of music as opposed to performing live in a club, but that’s what adds a great human element and D.I.Y. feel to “Heart to Elk.”
Now, with that out of the way, on to today’s music. For some reason, three of the five CDs I blindly picked today are mix albums, so I had an extremely diverse day of music. In the player today:
Disc One: Various Artists “Wild, Cool & Swingin’ Too!” – Over twenty swinging hits from the likes of Vic Damone, Julie London and Jack Jones. Of course, the classics are here, too, like Tony Bennett, Mel Torme and Louis Prima, but when you’ve heard those guys a hundred times over it’s the more obscure tracks that stand out. Best song: “Snootie Little Cutie” from Bobby Troup.
Disc Two: Various Artists “Super Soul Hits of the ’70s” – Soul power from the Chi-Lites, Fuzz and Brenda & the Tabulations. We’ve got classics like “Proud Mary” from Ike and Tina Turner, but “Groove Me” from King Floyd are a bit more fun. Best song: “Somebody’s Watching You” by Little Sister.
Disc Three: Various Artists “Songs from the Tastes Like Chicken Player: Mix 8 (The Totally Eighties Mix – Disc 1)” – From the seventies to the eighties! This collection is so eighties it makes me want to bomb the USSR! Yeah, this was one scary decade, and songs like “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” from Simple Minds are proof positive. I actually had to turn the volume down when “We Are The World” started up. Best song: “Always Something There To Remind Me” by Naked Eyes.
Disc Four: Pupy Costello & His Big City Honky Tonk “Beer-Drinking Songs” – Back when I lived in Milwaukee I had a neighbor named Pupy Costello. Swear to God. He had a little honky tonk band called the Big City Honky Tonk, and would play a few spots in and around the Milwaukee/Madison area. What you’ve got here is a collection of a dozen shit-kicking country classics (and a few not-so classics) as sung by my old neighbor. How ya been, Joe? If you want to learn more, visit them here.
Disc Five: Why B + Steve Marxx “No Request Sound Presents: No Requests Volume 2” – Also from Milwaukee, this is a mix disc featuring the many talents of area DJs Why B and Steve Marxx, with special appearances from Kid Cut Up and John Swan. From Def Harmonic and the Gorillaz to M.I.A. and Kanye, Why B and Marxx tackle it all, leaving the listener with a mix that’s smoother than a crotch after a bikini wax. Yes, it’s that smooth. Learn more about them here.
Every time you go away / You take a piece of me with you,