Music Review

William Kapell Recordings Resurface After 55 Years

kapellWilliam Kapell
reDiscovered: The Australian Broadcasts
(RCA Red Seal/Sony BMG Masterworks)

William Kapell (1922-1953) died in a plane crash at the age of 31, in the midst of the twelfth year of his recording career. He was one of the few great American-born and -educated pianists of that era, and had already firmly established himself as a star by the end of the 1940s. Read more »

Jazz Vocals with Philippine Flavor

clamorCharmaine Clamor: Flippin’ Out (FreeHam)

This Filipina jazz singer lived in the Philippines until age 16, when her family moved to the U.S. Long based in Los Angeles, she has progressed from karaoke hostess to adored torch singer, and now has made her second album.

Clamor starts it off with a sociopolitical rewrite of “My Funny Valentine” that turns it into “My Funny Brown Pinay,” an exhortation to the brown-skinned women of her native country to not be ashamed of their color. Read more »

Captain Beefheart Album Survey, Pt. 2: Weird Scenes

beefheart_troutTrout Mask Replica (Bizarre/Straight)

Beefheart's weird genius was finally unleashed to the fullest in 1969. It came partly thanks to a switch to his pal Frank Zappa's label but mostly, it would seem, because Beefheart found a new way to make his music. On Strictly Personal, intricate structures of intermeshing motifs had alternated with hippie-jam slackness. Now he took complete control and made the music largely consist of composed modules. Beefheart later explained to Lester Bangs that his compositional process involved recording demos of his pieces himself, "usually on a piano or a Moog synthesizer. Then I can shape it to be exactly the way I want it, after I get it down there. It's almost exactly like sculpture." Read more »

An Intensity of Exile

american_gothicDavid Ackles: American Gothic (Elektra)

"Absence lessens moderate passions and intensifies great ones, as the wind blows out the candle but fans up a fire." Le Rochefoucauld (1630-1680) expressed a subtle sentiment that uncannily enfolds the strange scale and scope of the third album David Ackles delivered to Elektra Records in 1972. That a dusty aphorism by a dissolute French nobleman should be evoked to suggest the essence of a record so essentially laced with Norman Rockwell interludes, but of a darkness that master of idealism never allowed to enter his sententious world, might seem needlessly perverse. Read more »

Heavy Texture and Tone

kloot_cdI Am Kloot: Play Moolah Rouge (Phantom)

Strange fruit is I Am Kloot. A heady mixture of hurt and defiance, self-loathing and self-belief, tenderness, compassion and snarling rage, this maverick combo has just released Play Moolah Rouge, a tour-only, ten-song collection, as various as the previously listed traits.

Recorded over three days of intense sessions, it shows what can be done with quality songs, accomplished musicianship, and a distinct absence of prissiness. Read more »

Captain Beefheart Album Survey, Pt. 1: Beginnings

beefheartAs promised in my review of the Knitting Factory's tribute to Captain Beefheart, I'm going to take a walk through the many high points of the Beefheart discography. Altogether, this will add up to a Beefheart Top Ten, but since it'll be more in-depth than I usually go in such pieces, we're serializing it. First up, a look at his 1967-68 output, encompassing his first three LPs.

Safe  As Milk (Kama Sutra/Buddah)

There's earlier material eventually collected as an EP titled The Legendary A&M Sessions, which includes a legendary "Diddy Wha Diddy," but it's safe to start the Beefheart story with Safe As Milk, reportedly a favorite album of John Lennon's. Read more »

A Small Portrait of Absence

shelagh_mcdonaldShelagh McDonald: Let No Man Steal Your Time (Castle)

The debut album by young Scottish singer songwriter Amy MacDonald is housed in a retro-style sleeve that suggests it has been scuffed and dented by years of careless sifting and neglect. She is garnering enthusiastic reviews, has the grit of the late Kirsty MacColl, and seems assured of long and major success. Read more »

A Garage Scrapbook

paul_martinPaul Martin: Paul Martin (Distortions)

If finding brings joy, then seeking permits that beguiling whisper of reward. Paul Martin's extremely select excursions into the vinyl wasteland are alluring items of suitable cachet, Two singles in '66 and '67, then not a whisper till 1996 when Distortions issued an album, limited to 1000 units, compiling these and fifteen other lost songs culled from acetates and four track demos. It proved to be an Aladdin's Cave of well-crafted garage pop; the ripples it created quickly vanished, and the record is now sadly deleted. Read more »

Jimmy Giuffre R.I.P. (April 26, 1921- April 24, 2008)

jimmy_giuffre.jpgJimmy Giuffre, the great modern jazz clarinetist (and saxophonist and flutist), died on Thursday (4/24) of pneumonia, two days before he would have celebrated his 87th birthday. If not for that, this article would have appeared on May 27 to commemorate the 15th anniversary of his last recording before Parkinson’s Disease ended his playing career. That recording,Conversations with a Goose, still stands as a superb valedictory album. Read more »

When Elvis Met Lou

elton_elvisThank heavens for going off script. In terms of mass media (what's left of it anyway), we live in such a heavily scripted era -- everything managed, sanctioned, picked over, obsessed upon; it makes the 1950s look like a time of cultural hedonism. But at a recent (April 16) taping of the new, Elton John-backed TV show (remember TV?) Spectacle: Elvis Costello With ..., scripts were checked at the door.

What else would one expect when you get Elvis Costello interviewing Lou Reed? Read more »

An Inspired Evening of Beefheartiana

captain_beefheart2It has been over twenty-five years since Captain Beefheart’s last official studio album, Ice Cream for Crow, was released on Virgin in 1982. At the time it seemed like the musical career of Beefheart, the nom de plume of Don Van Vliet, was on the ascent, but he then abandoned music and built a second career as a painter. His musical hiatus has lasted much longer than his musical activities did. (It is rumored that health problems have been a factor.) This is a great loss to us music lovers, as he was one of the most original creators and performers of his time, unique in rock despite having influenced many (look for an overview from me in a day or two). Read more »

R.E.M. Picks Up Speed

rem-accelerateR.E.M.: Accelerate (Warner Brothers)

As The Who, Van Halen, and so many other rock bands have shown over and over, a group cannot lose a member without irrevocably changing things. Consider the case of R.E.M., whose original drummer, Bill Berry, retired eleven years ago; they smartly never tried to replace him. Though mostly good, their three Berry-less albums - 1998's Up, 2001's Reveal, and 2004's Around the Sun - have been increasingly…less enthusiastic. Read more »

A Later Limelight

somethings_bunyanVashti Bunyan: Some Things Just Stick in Your Mind (Fat Cat)

The critical and commercial resurgence of Vashti Bunyan – from a sort of leftfield Marianne Faithfull (without the vulnerable success, or the tragedy) to bona-fide Sixties siren and revitalized recording artist – has been painstaking, unlikely, and snail-like. Never a star, though she knew plenty who were, she was cursed with a name that tripped off the tongue for all the wrong reasons, and possessed a wanderlust that wasn't the best approach for maintaining a career. Read more »

Paying the Piper, Calling the Tune - Ashley (Kristen) Dupré Sells Us Our Dreams

ashley_dupreThere are many roads to the top of the musical mountain. For some, it is Julliard and years of practicing. For others, it's touring from the back of a battered van across the North of England or the South of America. For some, it's the Mickey Mouse Club. And then there's Ashley Alexandra Dupré. Otherwise known as "Kristin." Otherwise known as the, well, you know what she's known as.... But this is a music review, not a social review. So, what's the story on her musical chops? Like almost a million other Americans, I dropped 98 cents into the internet and got her song, "What We Want." So? I'd say it was worth about 58 cents. Not terrible. Of course it's pulling in the candy for her; by some counts she's a million bucks richer today than she was yesterday. One thing I'll give this gal, she knows how to make people pay for it. (Interesting that she is being represented by Don D. Buchwald, a "New York Lawyer," according to the Associated Press. He may not be the same Don Buchwald who is Howard Stern's agent, but even the fact that they have the same name has a certain poetic justice. But I'm straying, I'm straying.) So, Ashley as artist? Read more »

Peach Fuzz and Peppermints

tarantula_coverTarantula: Tarantula (A&M)

What was quintessential can quickly fade. It then becomes the gift of those who decide where relevance exists, and there lies a problem. History is largely a composite, a construct by those who were not present. Much of what is deemed to be wholly representative of an era was largely ignored at the time: the poetry of Rimbaud, the paintings of Van Gogh or the songs of Nick Drake. Messages can take a long time to get through to receptive ears, and one such missive that remains in transit is Tarantula's sole album, from 1969. Read more »

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