Music Review

Flying Lotus Reaches New Heights on Cosmogramma

CosmogrammaFlying Lotus: Cosmogramma (Warp) Steven Ellison, the artist known as Flying Lotus, was already widely praised for his 2008 album Los Angeles, but Cosmogramma is a jaw-droppingly awesome leap forward in imagination and creativity. In a year that's already gifted us with many fine and surprising electronica albums, in my non-specialist opinion this is the main contender for best of 2010.

The Last Exquisite's Gasp

robert-campbell-cdRobert Campbell Living in the Shadows of a Downtown Movie Show (Decca) A dandy from the wonder world of finer things, shot through by moments of rarefied charm, the 1977 LP Living in the Shadows of a Downtown Movie Show is probably the last orchestral gasp of Glam at its most mannered and sublime. Robert Campbell represents the poise and attention to detail that punk would ruthlessly eclipse in a chorus of sneers, a shower of spit, and an avalanche of noise. He seems to have quietly slipped into the shadows mentioned in the album's title.

A Life of Improbable Facts

lady-walton-obitLADY SUSANA WALTON 1926-2010 Some lives read as improbable fictions. Too far-fetched to be viable in a novel, their tribulations tax all credulity. For an individual to live through such calamitous moments, betrays a strength of spirit, and a well of emotional resources most souls could never call upon. One such passage from the cradle to the grave was the life of Susana Valeria Rosa Maria Gil. Passo. Her ability to adapt to a world she could never never envisaged as a good Catholic girl in Buenos Aires, was an amazing feat of endurance. And to have survived it and thrived, is even more remarkable. That world was to be London's high society just after World War Two, where she proved herself as a perfect wife to a talented but far from perfect man.

The Primitives Comeback Reaches U.S.

Primitives-liveThe Primitives / Frankie & the Outs / Palomar The Bell House, May 8 The Primitives formed in Coventry, England in 1985 and in the two following years released some singles on their label Lazy that John Peel playlisted, prompting RCA to acquire Lazy. The time was right for a jangly guitar pop band fronted by a blonde bombshell, and in 1988 the Primitives became one of the most popular British bands on the strength of the hit single "Crash" (#5 on the English singles chart, #3 on the Modern Rock Tracks chart in the U.S.), the lead-off track on their debut LP Lovely, and a follow-up single, "Way Behind Me" (#8). Their 1989 sophomore LP Pure, was not quite as popular but still yielded a few more Modern Rock Tracks charters ("Sick of It" at #9, "Secrets" at #12).

David Grisman's Acoustic Oasis Beckons!

david-grismanAnd now a message from our friend, Mr. David Grisman... Dear Acoustic Music Lover, I'm very pleased and excited to announce the arrival of my new website,, featuring new and previously unreleased projects that are now available to you as high-quality digital downloads, exclusively through this site. All projects include downloadable graphics (CD covers, tray cards and labels) and cost is less than most other download sites.

ANNIVERSARIES: Earl Hooker Died 40 Years Ago

2-bugs-roachrEarl Hooker: Two Bugs and a Roach (Arhoolie) Earl Hooker ought to be more famous than he is, but between shyness about his vocal abilities and dying at just 41 years of age, this guitar whiz's public profile remained low. His fellow musicians knew how good a player he was, though; Hooker played on records by Muddy Waters (whose "You Shook Me" was overdubbed atop Hooker's instrumental "Blue Guitar") and Junior Wells, among others. He was especially admired for his slide playing, but using standard tuning, he was able to easily switch from slide to picking.

The Updated Cabaret of Barb Jungr

barb_jungrBarb Jungr: The Men I Love: The New American Songbook (NAIM) Odd how the "Great American Songbook" only covers about 50 years (roughly 1915-65). Part of that comes from simple snobbery, but part is that an uptempo swing version of a rock song too often comes off like a lame joke or cheap irony. British cabaret singer Barb Jungr, who's been making intriguingly programmed albums for 15 years, avoids that problem here through judicious song selection and a stylistic tendency to stick to ballads.

Refinement in Unlikely Places

emmanuel-and-fearEmanuel and the Fear 4th April 2010 Dulcimer, Manchester, England Easter Sunday, the time of nails and wood, and the singular emptiness of a Sabbath Bank Holiday stretches ahead, a hollow prediction rung true. An email informs that a band, Emanuel and the Fear, will be playing Dulcimer, a minute's walk away. There's eleven of them, a mini orchestra, so things will be a little cramped on the venue's tiny stage. As they've come from New York, and the other alternatives are of the four walls at home variety, it really is the best offer of a quiet day.

From Box Top to Big Star

alex-chiltonAlex Chilton 1950-2010 Great influence in the creative lives of others isn't always the result of major commercial success. Alex Chilton tasted both, but his true legacy isn't rooted in his moments of '60s teenybop chart placements with the Box Tops, best known for "The Letter," and later "Neon Rainbow," but in his three albums with the band he followed them with, Big Star. Their records sold poorly, despite reaping excellent reviews, but fell into the right hands, heads, and ears -- The Replacements, Teenage Fanclub, and R.E.M., to name but three. They continue to reap much-deserved plaudits and respect, and their "September Gurls" provided The Bangles with one of their finest moments and Chilton with an early pension plan.