Music Review

All-Ages Soul

home_schooledHome Schooled: The ABCs of Kid Soul (Numero)

The soul aficionados at Numero have dug deep into the crates for this one – only experts will recognize any of these artists – and handily matched the glories of their Eccentric Soul series. “Children should be seen and not heard” definitely doesn’t apply to the kiddie acts featured here – more like “you’ve got to hear this to believe it.” Yes, Michael Jackson wasn’t the only prepubescent popster making the scene in the Seventies. Read more »


electric_chubbylandPopa Chubby: Electric Chubbyland, vols 1&2 (Blind Pig)

Let me continue the tradition of virtually every reviewer feeling compelled to mention that Popa Chubby began life as one Ted Horowitz in The Bronx, in the neighborhood, as the promo material points out, “immortalized in Robert DiNiro’s film A Bronx Tale. So, Popa and I actually share the same childhood neighborhood, except I was born almost 20 years earlier than him and actually in the time the movie was set in. Read more »

Max Roach January 10, 1924 – August 15, 2007

max_roach1.jpgWith the death of Max Roach, we have lost the last of the first generation of bebop innovators from the circle of players who cohered around the core of Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie and Thelonious Monk in New York in 1941-45. Roach started playing in jam sessions with Parker in Harlem in 1942, joined Gillespie's band in 1944, and was the drummer on Parker's first recording session as a leader (November 26, 1945 for Savoy), taking a solo on "KoKo," Parker's brilliant and challenging extrapolation from the standard "Cherokee." Even if Roach had never done a session as a leader, his '40s-'50s work in the bands of Gillespie, Parker, Monk, Bud Powell, Miles Davis (including the Birth of the Cool sessions), Dexter Gordon, Coleman Hawkins, Sonny Rollins (Saxophone Colossus and Freedom Suite), and many more would ensure his reputation. Read more »

Max Roach, R.I.P.

max_roach.jpgIf music is the pulse of life, drums are the lifeforce. And with the passing of Max Roach, the earth will be spinning a little slower. Explore everything he made -- his dazzling cymbal work, the bombs he dropped with his bass pedal, the snap of his snare, the way he wove a tapestry that enticed everyone from Bird to Diz to Monk to Clifford Brown and kept musicians of all stripes on their toes practically right up to the end.

Max Lives!

ANNIVERSARIES: David Crosby Born August 14, 1941


David Crosby: Voyage

If I Could Only Remember My Name... (Atlantic/Rhino)

David Crosby's troubled life has overshadowed his brilliant art. Back when Melissa Etheridge and then-partner Julie Cypher picked Crosby to be their sperm donor, my friends would make dumb jokes about it or question why anyone would want their child to have the genes of an obese ex-con ex-crack addict, I would answer along the lines of "he's the best musician in one of the most successful bands of all time," by which I meant Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. Read more »

Sviatoslav Richter Top Ten + Four

richterFor a decade now we have been deprived of the physical presence of the man many consider the greatest pianist of the modern age. Fortunately, we can console ourselves by listening to his vast recorded legacy, for he was long perceived as a phenomenon and his performances were documented assiduously, if not always in high fidelity. There have been at least 200 Richter albums released (at least a few against his wishes), which come and go according to the whims and misfortunes of the music biz -- much more than the casual listener can sort out. I'll try to help with that, but first a look at Richter's life and career. Read more »

Bad Title, Good Blues

bishop.jpgElvin Bishop: Booty Bumpin’ (Blind Pig)

Back in 1966 Elvin Bishop was a skinny, guitar-carrying college kid from Tulsa chasing down his blues dream in Chicago. He ran into Paul Butterfield, was endowed with the alias “Pigboy Crabshaw,” and helped make some blues history. By the early '70s Bishop was recording, leading his own bands and establishing his own blues footprint. Over the years, Bishop forged a reputation as a showman who could deliver, had a few hits, recently had deep personal setbacks, and prevailed. Read more »

John Coltrane: An Album Per Year

John Coltrane, considered by many to be the greatest saxophonist in jazz history, had a short recording career. He made his first album as a leader in 1957, when he was already 30 years old; he died of liver cancer on July 17, 1967 -- yes, forty years ago today. We are blessed that he made so many great recordings in those ten-plus years. Here's a walk through some highlights on that timeline, using recording dates rather than release dates. Read more »

Sweet Music from The Summer of Love

summer_of_love.jpg67 from 1967

I ingested the Whitney Art Museum's Summer of Love exhibit a month ago and it left me rather dazed. I wasn't blown away by this nostalgic Baby Boomer's Utopian moment hanging on the walls with psychedelic posters and even framed acid sheets, but rather inspired by the richness of the music and how it permeated the world's culture. So with that in mind I approached our site's editor Steve Holtje and asked him to compile the most essential music from this pivotal year in pop culture.

Take it away, Steve! Read more »

The Erratic Career of a Torch Singer & Suburban Decadent

simon_warnerSimon Warner: Waiting Rooms (Rough Trade)

Some artists are prolific, whilst other have longer, Blue Nile-like periods of gestation before presenting their glorious wares to the world. One such vagabond of taking time and creating an air of anticipation and mystery in the process is the delightfully dandified Simon Warner. In a career spanning two decades, he has produced one album, the achingly beautiful and string-soaked Waiting Rooms, and a trio of singles. He appears to be in no hurray to add to this select canon of work. Read more »

The Absolutely Essential Progressive Rock Listening Guide

pink_floyd_fisheye.jpgJune 1, 2007 marked the 40th anniversary of what was the first "progressive rock" album to receive mainstream acclaim as such: The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper. In that spirit, we asked Ian Alterman -- a founding moderator and senior writer for (the number one prog website in the world) -- to undertake a truly hopeless task for Culture Catch: create the definitive Top Ten list of prog albums. He provided that and more. Take it away, Ian....

Imagine yourself -- a progressive rock aficionado -- on that hypothetical desert island to which you can only take a given number of albums (usually around 10). Now imagine that you are going to share that island with someone who has a keen interest in, but little real knowledge of, progressive rock music, and you are looking to choose the dozen or so absolutely essential albums that will not only serve to give this person a fairly broad perspective of "prog," but will not become tedious after a few hundred listenings: i.e, the cream of the genre. Read more »

Beyond the Speed of Light

sgt_pepper.jpgThe Beatles: Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (Capitol)

So, The Beach Boys lit a fire under the lads with Pet Sounds. They stopped touring and had 600 or so hours to kill. It's not Lou Reed and the Velvets. It's far too neat for Floyd, not messy enough for the Satanic Majesty of The Stones, but, stop, look, listen. June of 1967, a fake band emerges (meta-art, how cool?) and all the lyrics are all over the back and it opens and it's got this weird cover and everyone's got their favorite and it's got "A Day in the Life" and it's a total and utter and complete fuggedaboudit. (Floyd, who were recording Piper just down the hall, came in on the second take of "Getting Better." Yes, things were getting better. Read more »

ANNIVERSARIES: Lemonheads' It's a Shame About Ray released 15 years ago on June 2, 1992

lemonheads.jpgLemonheads started out in Boston in the mid-1980s playing hardcore punk, but mellowed a bit and had a college radio hit with its cover of Suzanne Vega's "Luka," leading to a deal with Atlantic Records. It's a Shame About Ray was the group's second album on Atlantic, and its best, one of 1992's finest releases. It spent some time atop the Gavin Report College Albums chart and reached No. 68 on Billboard's album chart, not spectacular but pretty good for a quirky alternative band.

Lemonheads leader Evan Dando hit the songwriting jackpot here. Read more »

Coffey Break!

coffey.jpgDennis Coffey: Big City Funk (Vampi Soul)

Back in the '80s I was working college dorm security at an inside post and one of the uniformed outside guards was a guy who also deejayed as Super Dan. Every few hours he had to do a tour of the building. I was always listening to a portable tape player (yeah, that’s how long ago it was), and we inevitably ended up talking about music. The best tip he ever gave me was to keep an eye out for Dennis Coffey’s “Scorpio.” Read more »

Lee Johnson: Dead Symphony No. 6

dead_symphony.jpgThis piece, subtitled “An Orchestral Tribute to the Music of the Grateful Dead,” is considerably classier than most such offerings, because Johnson is an ace arranger with a fine ear for orchestral color. As he strings together ten Dead tunes – some quite familiar, others less so – he contrasts timbres and moods with subtlety, avoiding garishness (and often bringing to mind the words of one of my teachers: “the viola is the workhorse of the orchestra”).

Johnson, who conducts the Russian National Orchestra in the performance, is not merely transcribing notes off of Dead LPs and assigning them to instruments; the songs’ raw materials are used (or omitted) with a discerning ear for taste and proportion, with new elements introduced to abet their adaptation to this very different context. Read more »

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