Michael Fremer  |  Jun 29, 2003  |  1 comments

Song Cycle dominates the Van Dyke Parks discography the way "Citizen Kane" overshadows Orson Welles' cinematic output. That simply cannot be denied, though Welles created other outstanding films- "The Magnificent Ambersons" and "Touch Of Evil" for example.

Michael Fremer  |  Jun 22, 2003  |  0 comments

Friday afternoons around 4PM, after a hard week’s schooling back in 1968, my roommates and I at Cornell University engaged in a particular ritual: one of us would go into the garage behind our rented house and retrieve our well-hidden pot “stash.” The most skilled roller amongst the 4 of us would produce a doobie, and then we’d smoke away our tensions while listening to? Charles Lloyd’s Forest Flower (Atlantic SD 1473), recorded live at the 1966 Monterrey Jazz Festival.

Michael Fremer  |  Jun 22, 2003  |  0 comments

It is difficult to grasp the date this session was recorded: December of 1956. That makes it almost 50 years old. Yet the music is as utterly fresh and full of surprises and good humor as it was in 1956. And the sound remains vibrant and full bodied as well; the highs extended and crisp, the transients sharp and clean. In fact, this double 45rpm set positively kills the Riverside original in every way: I know, because I’ve owned a copy since the mid ‘60s. During my first year at Cornell in 1964, either Riverside was going out of business or needed some quick cash, because the book store had what seemed like the entire Riverside catalog on sale for $1.98. I bought as many as I could afford.

Michael Fremer  |  Jun 01, 2003  |  0 comments

For once, all of the hype is justified: Kathleen Edwards is a genuine, fully formed musical force. Failer, her debut, delivers everything one could want from a record except great sound, but that one failing will not interfere with the pleasures to be derived from this 10-song gem recorded on a shoe-string budget. The 24-year-old Canadian mid-tempo rocker/singer/songwriter has been compared to Lucinda Williams, but Neil Young backed by Crazy Horse is more apt in my book.

Michael Fremer  |  Jun 01, 2003  |  0 comments

While this much-loved Blue Note lists Adderley as the group leader, this pick-up session--recorded in 1958, just before Kind of Blue--sounds, for the most part, as if Miles Davis is in control: or at least that his sensibilities at the time had deeply influenced Adderley's musical thinking. With Hank Jones on piano and the rhythm section of Sam Jones and Art Blakey, whoever is in charge leads the group through a set of three standards ("Autumn Leaves," "Love For Sale," and "Dancing in the Dark") and two originals (Nat Adderley's funky "One For Daddy-O" and Davis' own "Somethin' Else").

Michael Fremer  |  May 28, 2003  |  0 comments

This odd scenic detour on Herbie Hancock's career path is well worth visiting 36 years later, both because of the intrinsic value of the music he created for the movie and because it resonates so effectively with the current interest in the "swinging '60s" popularized by (and sent-up in) the Austin Powers flicks--though on a far more cerebral plane than Powers could ever hope to reach. These culturally repressed and repackaged, often dead-ended times make looking back at Blow-Up--the movie--all the more alluring for its promise of excitement, sexual liberation, and a progressive changing of the socio-sexual guard.

Michael Fremer  |  May 26, 2003  |  0 comments

I've always wondered whether Otis Redding's Live in Europe, newly reissued on vinyl by Sundazed, was actually recorded in Europe. Frankly, I doubt it. The liner notes quote Redding reviews from Paris and the various cities in the UK, but they also refer to a Stax-Volt review featuring many artists, none of whom were given an album's worth of stage time, that's a guarantee. The audience here sounds as if it is predominantly Southern black Americans, and it's not racist to say you can tell the race and nationality of the woman who screams at Otis, "Sing 'Good to Me,' baby!" And the opening announcer sounds generically white-bread American (Little Feat's announcer on Waiting For Columbus copped this dude's riff). Maybe he was part of Redding's traveling entourage, but I doubt that too. Not that it matters where this supercharged performance took place.

Michael Fremer  |  May 26, 2003  |  5 comments

Sound quality aside, the very fact that this album has been reissued by Rhino on vinyl (anonymously mastered at Capitol from the original analog tapes) is astounding. More than a dozen years ago, Rhino begin a limp-wristed "Save the LP" campaign. Predictably, it went down in flames and the company issued a 12-inch package of Rhino catalog items called (I Guess We Didn't) Save the LP containing a three-CD set in a 12-by-12 slide-out insert. Cute.

Michael Fremer  |  May 26, 2003  |  0 comments

Being out of the record-biz hype loop has certain benefits. Until I bought this album I knew nothing about Ryan Adams other than the name and a vague notion that he was an extremely talented kid who used to front an alterna-country band called Whiskeytown. I'm willing to admit to being two years behind the hype curve. So be it. That Gold was issued on a nicely packaged two-LP set (as are many Lost Highway releases) put me in a positive frame of mind. I wanted to like this record and Ryan Adams both. But when I saw the American-flag-draped cover and Adams' contrived pose, my bullshit detector went off and it didn't stop ringing throughout the four sides of this set of well-recorded musical comfort food.

Michael Fremer  |  May 01, 2003  |  0 comments

On her 18th album--and her first in eight years--Joan Armatrading offers a mostly light-hearted exploration of love and affection on Lover's Speak, a set of 14 melodic, hard-rocking, well-crafted songs. Whether leading with her husky, low-end growl or vulnerable, breathy falsetto, the 52-year-old veteran performer's distinctive voice remains remarkably supple--her mid-'70s power barely diminished by time.