Listening to Spoon is best done as described in singer/songwriter Britt Daniel’s own words: “You gotta feel it/ Don’t take notes/ Just clear out your mind.” Fans of Spoon’s five albums and two EPs, issued over the past twelve years know very well the feelings brought to mind when listening to these songs: they range from yearning, heartbreak and frustration, to isolation and desperation, to tenderness, lust, and satisfaction from a job well done.
Almost immediately on entering the analog marketplace in 1982, Franc Kuzma, a mechanical engineer based in Slovenia, then part of the former Yugoslavia, established a reputation for manufacturing finely engineered, high-performance products that sold at reasonable prices. Kuzma's early industrial designs, however, while serviceable, looked less than distinguished.
After collapsing on stage three years ago and nearly dying of complications brought on by Hepatitis C, Austin, Texas based rock and roller Alejandro Escovedo returns with a deeply moving John Cale produced album that reclaims his past musical ferocity, while moving the 55 year old survivor forward into sensitive new musical and lyrical territory.
Joni Mitchell’s “road weary,” intensely personal adult confessional, released in 1971, shattered forever what appeared to be her carefully cultivated “hippie chick” image at a time when her star had ridden it to unimaginable heights on an almost vertical trajectory.
Bop clarinetist Tony Scott (born Anthony Joseph Sciacca in Morristown, NJ), who plays on this Sarah Vaughan album as part of an octet that includes Miles Davis (then 24), passed away the day before this was written, on the last day of March, 2007. An obit I read says that the eclectic Mr. Scott also arranged “The Banana Boat Song (Day-O)” for Harry Belafonte. As I write this sentence, his velvety clarinet sings prettily behind Vaughan at the end of “It Might As Well Be Spring.”
It’s taken almost forty years for someone to be sufficiently inspired by Van Dyke Park’s epic Song Cycle to attempt an equally grand and ambitious musical undertaking, but with the release last year of this album by 25 year old Bay area harpist/composer Joanna Newsom (San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom is a second cousin), the wait has proven worthwhile.
Cynics tired of the RHCP’s act say they’re running on fumes. Yes, well then what accounts for the remarkable success of this album, packed with the band’s usual rap/rock/funk mix? That’s an easy question to answer. It’s reliably hard, funky, powerful, spare and big. It goes down easy but still engages.