Music Review

A Girl Before Winter

claire-hamill-octoberClaire Hamill: October (Island Records)

Claire Hamill was a direct contemporary and label-mate of the late, but increasingly mythical, Nick Drake. Her second solo outing, October, proved her the mistress of tender bedsitter missives that still can haunt the heart. Fans of confessional songwriting should value and explore this neglected selection of artistry and craft that has stood the test of many passing seasons. Read more »

Best New Rock and Electronic Albums of 2008

I have already written about most of my favorite rock and electronic albums of 2008 either for CultureCatch or Bigtakeover.com. So, just like last year, I let the music speak for itself (where possible).

1. Getachew Mekuria & The Ex: Moa Anbessa (Terp)

Legendary Ethiopian saxophonist teams with notorious Dutch punk band of expanding interests. Not only is the album great, their brief U.S. tour was the highlight of the year. Read more »

Jennifer O'Connor's Heartrendingly Stoic Songs

Here_with_MeJennifer O'Connor: Here with Me (Matador)

There are thousands of whiny emokids complaining -- or perhaps boasting -- in song about how they can't find love because nobody understands them, nobody feels their pain, nobody even feels pain as intensely as they do. They don't know shit about pain. They should all be locked in their rooms and made to listen to Jennifer O'Connor; it should be decreed that their creative efforts will not be issued until they pack at least a tenth of the power of O'Connor's stoic songs. O'Connor is our great poet of loss, and next to her all-enveloping, richly textured music and profoundly moving lyrics, their shallow songs are as but the buzzing of small, annoying insects. Read more »

Now & Then, Then As Now

sound-of-the-smithsThe Smiths: The Sound of the Smiths (Deluxe Edition) (Warner Bros.)

Had Morrissey taken a vow of silence, and Marr left his guitar in a battered, stickered case, the legacy of the Smiths would stand secure. The Lennon and McCartney of indie rock created an almost divine catalog of songs, a soundtrack for the lives of others, a perfect collision of hope and sorrow. This timely compilation acts as a perfect reminder of the glories flown, and will likely convert certain stragglers from among the uninitiated. The Smiths already are a generation distant. Read more »

ANNIVERSARIES: Minute by Minute Released 30 Years Ago

Minute_by_MinuteIt might be hard to believe nowadays, when (not counting the occasionally hip-hop aberration) major record labels consider December a dumping ground for failed projects, but thirty years ago good albums by top-tier artists used to be released mere weeks before Christmas. Take Minute by Minute, for example. The Doobie Brothers had had ten Top 40 singles in the five years before it was released in December 1978, so they were certainly stars. And its release date was no commercial handicap: Not only did it hold the No. 1 album slot for six consecutive weeks and sell over three million copies, it spawned three Top 25 singles: "What a Fool Believes" (#1), the title track (#14), and "Dependin' on You" (#25), and the Doobies cleaned up at the 1980 Grammy Awards with four trophies. Read more »

Eclectic Harmonica Blues from Canada

Paul_Reddick_Sugar_BirdPaul Reddick: Sugar Bird (northernblues) High praise was awarded for Reddick's previous outings. The "hard blues for modern times" themed Rattlebag (2001) with his band The Sidemen featured muscular arrangements with relentless guitars and Reddick's powerful amplified harmonica style. The music steered clear of cliches, with Reddick's intensely poetic lyrics creating sort of a thinking person's ZZ Top quality.

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ANNIVERSARIES: McCoy Tyner Turns 70

McCoy_TynerMcCoy Tyner, born in Philadelphia on December 11, 1938, celebrates his 70th birthday this week. He established his reputation as an integral part of the classic John Coltrane Quartet from 1960 through 1965, creating an archetypal dense, modal style; in the past 45 years, only Herbie Hancock among living pianists can compare to Tyner in influence.

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ANNIVERSARIES: Olivier Messiaen Born 100 Years Ago

MessiaenThe great French composer Olivier Eugène Prosper Charles Messiaen was born in Avignon on December 10, 1908. He was the first son of extraordinary parents: Cécile Sauvage, his mother, was a poet of note, and his father, Pierre Messiaen, was an English teacher who translated Shakespeare’s plays into French. At the precocious age of eleven Olivier entered the Paris Conservatory, where he studied with Paul Dukas, Charles-Marie Widor, and Marcel Dupré – a famed composer and two famous organists – and, most crucially, Maurice Emmanuel, who though not as well known as the above-named would prove to have arguably the greatest influence on Messiaen’s music through Emmanuel’s interests in birdsong and scales and rhythms of other cultures, notably India and ancient Greece. Read more »

The Early Days of a Unique Soul/Blues Duo

Satan_and_AdamSatan and Adam: Word on the Street: Harlem Recordings, 1989 (Modern Blues Harmonica)

Adam Gussow and Sterling “Mr. Satan” Magee were a fixture in New York City in the late '80s and early '90s: a young, white, Princeton-educated harmonica player and a black, experienced Mississippi-born blues/soul veteran who sang while simultaneously playing electric guitar and percussion. They eventually got club gigs, but they started out playing on the streets of Harlem, where Magee had been playing regularly and Gussow sat in one day in 1986 and, after a good response from the crowd (the tip bucket got filled), they became a team. Read more »

Special Edition of Great Album Isn't So Special

murmur-deluxeR.E.M.: Murmur Deluxe Edition (Universal)

When I first heard the news, my heart jumped ever so slightly. I was so excited that Universal were releasing one of their famed Deluxe Edition versions of an album I loved, R.E.M.'s 1983 full-length debut, Murmur. "What cool gems had they unearthed?" I wondered. Sure, there had been many before, enough that I had been able to compile my own nine-track compilation of B-sides and extras, but I didn't have access to their vaults. My mind reeled with possibilities.

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Hungary for More

adam-gyorgyVirtuosity comes with its own perils. Compound that with prodigy, and you're in some tricky waters. Too often flash substitutes for feeling, spectacle for connection, hoopla for art. Twenty-six-year-old Hungarian pianist Adam Gyorgy flirted with all of the above at his recent Carnegie Hall recital, but, happily, the marks of a true artist won out.

His chops are amazing, and we got fireworks galore, barn burners such as Liszt's Rhapsody No. 2 delivered with articulate aplomb. And if some of the more pensive pieces, like Petri's transcription of Bach's "Sheep May Safely Graze," didn't challenge the listener, it was all more than compensated for by Gyorgy's amazing reading of Chopin's never-ending journey that is the Balladein G minor. Read more »

Jazz, Italian-Style, Roosts at Birdland

pieranunziEnrico Pieranunzi at Birdland with Steve Swallow and Paul Motian
October 29, 2008

Enrico Pieranunzi, who will turn 59 in five weeks, is an Italian jazz pianist of formidable and varied talents. The Musica Jazz critic’s poll named him Musician of the Year in 1989 and 2003, and in 1997 he received the Django d’Or Award as best European jazz musician. But given the record industry’s lack of interest in jazz and Americans’ lack of interest in jazz artists from other countries, his career has not received the attention it deserves. Read more »

Dance Music for the Apocalypse

of-montrealOf Montreal at Roseland, Friday, Oct. 10

Of Montreal plays the music that you have to hope young people are listening to, and Roseland revelers brought that hope to fruition Friday night. Playing at close to capacity the band from Athens, Georgia rocked the audience, bringing back some of the former glory of the old dance hall. I haven’t sweated that much at a concert in while, but it’s hard not to when you have over three thousand fans bouncing and jumping in a crazed frenzy of music-endued energy. Read more »

Mark Twain-Approved Music

polk_millerPolk Miller & His Old South Quartette – s/t (Tompkins Square)

When was the last time you saw a new CD that comes with a supporting quote from Mark Twain? "I think that Polk Miller and his wonderful four, is about the only thing the country can furnish that is originally and utterly American. Possibly it can furnish something more enjoyable, but I must doubt it until I forget that musical earthquake, 'The Watermelon Party.'" Read more »

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