Monday, September 13, 2010

Lord Newborn & The Magic Skulls-Self-Titled

The opening track on Lord Newborn & the Magic Skulls' self-titled album on Ubiquity tells you everything you need to know. "A Phase Shifter I'm Going Through" features slippery, bluesy, psychedelic electric guitar, a bubbling, repetitive bassline playing 12-bar blues, and shimmering hi-hats and snares — all wrapped in a loose groove that might have been an outtake from Jimi Hendrix's "Rainy Day, Dream Away." Voices hum along in harmony, and the entire track just slithers and adds to itself with the sound of sampled sitars, fuzzed-out guitar, more percussion, and breakbeats, while never losing its groove. Lord Newborn & the Magic Skulls are the studio collaboration between Shawn Lee,Money Mark, and Tommy Guerrero. Together they've responded to Ubiquity's penchant for psych-driven beats and grooves and come up with a messed-up, acid-drenched, rhythm-heavy mosaic of sounds, textures, open spaces, and EFX. The grooves are deep and dubby — reminiscent of some of Lee's work with Clutchy Hopkins and his own middle-period recordings. Money Mark's killer instrumental work is very similar to the stuff he did for Mo' Wax. And what can you say about former skateboard champ turned rocker Tommy Guerrero? The instrumental work here resembles — at least texturally — his Soul Food Tacqueria album. Soul-jazz and early soul-esque funk are all wrapped up and layered inside the rockist stance. The set's best cuts are the opener, the beautifully woven "Rainy Day Dog" (check out those flute sounds), the completely flipped-out and acid-inspired "L.I.V.E," and the dubby funk of "Ancient Scrolls." Hopefully this isn't a one-off and these cats can find time to work together again; while what's here is deeply satisfying, the possibilities they introduce on this set are nearly limitless. by Thom Jurek (AMG)

Click Title for Link


The Lions are something of an underground Los Angeles supergroup — an ad hoc assemblage of current and former members of bands as diverse as Breakestra, Sound Directions, PlantLife, Orgone, and Poetics, among others. In late 2006 this motley crew of rock and funk musicians came together at Killion Studios and put together a ragged but enjoyable set of reggae, soul, and funk. There's no electronica here, no synthetically smooth soully and jazzy reggae, just lean and crunchy old-school grooves that sound like they could have been recorded and mixed at Dynamic Studios or the Black Ark in the early '70s. Opening with the dubwise slide guitar showcase "Thin Man Skank" (somewhere David Lindley is smiling), Jungle Struttin' then proceeds to explore instrumental funk ("Jungle Struttin'"), vintage rocksteady ("Think [About It]," featuring the fine and soulful singer Noelle Scaggs), and even some faintly Latin grooves ("Hot No Ho," "Cumbia de Lion"). "Lankershim Dub" is a melodica showcase in the style of Augustus Pablo, and "Fluglin' at Dave's" combines a mellow jazz horn sound with Skatalites-style early reggae. That last track is great, but would have been even better if the flügelhorn were in tune. Very nice overall. by Rick Anderson(AMG)

Click Title for Link


During his last years, Frank Zappa concentrated on his "serious music," trying to impose himself as a composer and relegating the rock personality to the closet. His last two completed projects topped everything he had done before in this particular field. The Yellow Shark, an album of orchestral music, was released only a few weeks before he succumbed to cancer (the computer music/sound collage album Civilization Phaze III was released 14 months later). This CD, named for a plexiglas fish given to Zappa in 1988, culls live recordings from the Ensemble Modern's 1992 program of the composer's music. The range of pieces goes from string quartets ("None of the Above") to ensemble works, from very challenging contemporary classical to old Zappa favorites. The latter category includes a medley of "Dog Breath Variations" and "Uncle Meat," "Pound for a Brown," "Be-Bop Tango," and the Synclavier compositions "The Girl in the Magnesium Dress" and "G-Spot Tornado" transcribed for orchestra. Being more familiar, these bring a lighter touch, but the real interest of the CD resides in the premiere recordings. "Outrage at Valdez," the piano duet "Ruth Is Sleeping," and "Food Gathering in Post-Industrial America, 1992" are all the gripping works of a mature composer, strongly influenced by Varèse and Stravinsky but overwhelmed by them. But the crowning achievement is "Welcome to the United States," a more freeform piece based on the U.S. visa form. Zappa shined when ridiculing stupidity. The average fan of the man's rock music will most probably feel lost in The Yellow Shark, but for those with interests in his serious music it is an essential item, more so than the London Symphony Orchestra and Orchestral Favorites albums. by François Couture (AMG)

Click Title for Link

Sunday, January 10, 2010


Tindersticks' second consecutive, eponymously titled double-LP set refines the approach of their debut; while every bit as ambitious and adventuresome, it achieves an even greater musical balance, stretching into luxuriously long compositional structures and more intricate arrangements. While Stuart Staples' songs remain as obsessive and haunted as before, he wards off his demons with fits of pitch-black humor (the narrative "My Sister") and a more tender perspective; similarly, while his funereal vocals remain the focus, there's a new reliance on extended instrumental passages, and even a pair of duets (the centerpiece, "Travelling Light" — a gorgeous collaboration with the Walkabouts' Carla Torgerson — is akin to a Lee Hazlewood and Nancy Sinatra record trapped in emotional purgatory). Another awesome triumph of mood and atmosphere. By Jason Ankeny AMG


Saturday, January 9, 2010


This is an astounding record by an artist who has been criminally neglected. The list of those who could make out jazz funky is a short one. Ornette of course springs to mind as do the musicians of the Art Ensemble and their Chicago brethren. Drummer Steve Reid must now be added to that list. From the swaggering thunder of "Lions of Juda," to the gentler songs that close this album, there's nary a misstep. This music is as beautiful and dangerous as a shower of broken glass — just when you think you've got a song figured out, this clever group of largely unsung musicians heightens the tension and takes things careening off in an unexpected direction. Have no fear though, these men are always nothing if not firmly in control. This is a wonderful document of a long vanished New York scene that was long on every emotion, not just fury. Find this album and buy it. By Rob Ferrier AMG


Friday, November 20, 2009

ANTHONY BRAXTON- The Charlie Parker Project

Braxton uses the melodies and some of the original structures of such tunes as "Hot House," "Night in Tunisia," "Bebop," and "Ko Ko" as the basis for colorful and often-stunning improvisations. He does not feel restricted to the old boundaries of the 1940s and '50s, preferring to pay tribute to the spirit and chance-taking of Charlie Parker rather than to merely recreate the past. The passionate and unpredictable results are quite stimulating and full of surprises, fresh ideas and wit. It's highly recommended to those jazz followers who have very open ears. By Scott Yanow AMG


Tuesday, November 17, 2009


Few instruments would seem as ill-suited as clarinet, with its fragile tone and fussy fingering, to the raucous, high-volume climate of the 1960s avant-garde. Yet Perry Robinson cut out a niche for himself in that heady period playing with the likes of Archie Shepp and Carla Bley. That some four decades later he still has the chops to keep pace with a new generation of progressives is evident as he steps forward in a feature role with bassist, composer, and impresario William Parker. The trio session -- the ensemble filled out by drummer Walter Perkins -- offers plenty of room for unfettered blowing, and each member takes full advantage of the format. Robinson has a stiletto tone that if it evokes any other licorice sticker it would be iconoclast Pee Wee Russell. Parker has a rich sound that resonates from the finest grain of his acoustic bass. And Walter Perkins proves to be exactly the flexible groove master needed for a date that ranges from free blowouts to the traditional blues of "Blue Flower." The full resources of the trio are explored most fully on "Fence in the Snow," which opens with delicate bells and has, before it ends, each member stretching his capabilities to the point of shouts and sonic explosions. by David Dupont AMG


Monday, November 16, 2009


This is definitely one of the more daring Ellington tributes that came out of the '90s. Instead of inundating us with standards that we've heard time and time again, Koglmann provides arrangements of such underexposed Ellington pieces as "Love Is in My Heart," "Zweet Zurzday" (which he co-wrote with Strayhorn), and "Lament for Javanette." In fact, one could be a serious Ellington enthusiast and be unfamiliar with these compositions. The best-known song on the CD is "The Mooche," which Ellington unveiled in 1928. Although "The Mooche" can hardly be considered obscure, it hasn't been done to death à la "In a Mellow Tone" or "Cotton Tail." Koglmann's arrangements have strong classical/chamber music leanings, and his admiration for Gil Evans is evident. For those seeking an Ellington tribute that is adventurous rather than conventional, We Thought About Duke is highly recommended.
Alex Henderson AMG


Wednesday, November 11, 2009

GLENN GOULD- Goldberg Variations 1955

Now is a good a time as any to post Glenn Gould's landmark 1955 GOLDBERG VARIATIONS, as startling a debut in music as any, comparable to Bob Dylan or the Beatles. Gould represents pure intellectual (and jokey) energy as well as a particular kind of quirky secular culture that was all the rage in the supposedly conformist '50s. This was the age of Holden Caufield and James Dean, not to mention Thelonious Monk and Jackson Pollock. Gould fits in with all of them. (So u nd so up)


OMAR SOSA (DUO)- Ayaguna

This time, Sosa forms an intimate duo with Venezuelan drummer Gustavo Ovalles, who plays a variety of Latin percussion...Sosa is a lively yet lyrical improviser who combines Latin and African elements with the influence of McCoy Tyner, Chick Corea, and George Duke (among others). And because he doesn't have a whole ensemble to worry about at this Japanese concert, his playing tends to be especially free-spirited and uninhibited. Ayaguna is a pleasing addition to Sosa's catalog. by Alex Henderson AMG


WYNTON MARSALIS QUARTET- Live at Blues Alley 1986

This double album features the great trumpeter Wynton Marsalis and his 1986 quartet, a unit featuring pianist Marcus Roberts, bassist Robert Hurst and drummer Jeff "Tain" Watts. Although Marsalis during this period still hinted strongly at Miles Davis, his own musical personality was starting to finally shine through. With the versatile Marcus Roberts (who thus far has been the most significant graduate from Marsalis's groups), Wynton Marsalis was beginning to explore older material, including on this set "Just Friends," and "Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans?" other highlights include lengthy workouts on "Au Privave" and Kenny Kirkland's "Chambers of Tain." This two-fer is Highly Recommended. By Scott Yanow AMG



Dutch pianist Misha Mengelberg is in full reverie with this trio. He is teamed with Americans Brad Jones (bass) and Joey Baron (drums), who pretty much act as Mengelberg's supporting cast, never getting too rhythmically flashy. The pianist's sound is a witty combination of modern harmonic invention and melodic improvisational forays into Cecil Taylor territory. Many tuneful compositions crop up during the 11 tracks, all Mengelberg originals. Each composition is a great example of the pianist's enormous musicianship. This is Mengelberg's finest hour. (AMG)


Sunday, November 8, 2009


Stax of Funk makes a welcome switch to the company's harder-edged, funk-based material from the era, much of it pretty obscure, whether it's by well-known artists or not. There are a bunch of familiar names on this 21-cut-strong comp, including Rufus Thomas, the Bar Kays, Kim Weston, Jean Knight, the Sweet Inspirations, and Inez Foxx, although they're outweighed by the less renowned ones. Those include a couple of figures you wouldn't automatically peg as funksters: Roy Lee Johnson, more famous as the Dr. Feelgood who did the original version of the Beatles' "Mr. Moonlight," and film director Melvin Van Peebles. Regardless of the collectability of the originals, this is quality soul-funk, with more song-oriented and pop-friendly leanings than much funk, though not so much so as to dilute the grit. Some of the stronger numbers include Knight's "Do Me," something of a womanly counterpoint to Bill Withers' "Use Me"; Bobby Holley's James Brown-ish "Movin' Dancer"; Kim Weston's "Brothers and Sisters (Get Together)," with the vogueish, socially conscious soul lyrics of the early 1970s; Little Sonny's "Eli's Pork Chop," which puts his blues harmonica to a funk beat without sounding like a gimmick; and Harvey Scales' "Broadway Freeze," which offers more James Brown-isms. The collection's unequivocally recommended to both funk and Stax fans. [This U.K. import is not available for sale in North America.] by Richie Unterberger AMG



Oh, and in case you were wondering, the album's title refers not to teen-centric pop music, but a line from his song "Bombed": "When I'm bombed, I stretch like bubblegum/And look too long straight at the morning sun." But Lanegan was also of a mind to rock out a bit while making this album (or figured that his newer fans were expecting it of him), and with his QOTSA pals Josh Homme and Nick Oliveri helping out on a few cuts, he does indeed deliver the rock, most notably the clanking menace of "Methamphetamine Blues," the straightforward bash of "Sideways in Reverse," and the organ-driven ooze of "Hit the City" (featuring PJ Harvey in an inspired duet appearance). But while most guys making a solo album after a stint with a successful band create music that speaks of freedom and release, Bubblegum finds Lanegan digging ever deeper into the obsessions and appetites that drag him into the same corner every time. It sure doesn't sound like a life most of us would wish to lead, but it makes for damned compelling art, and the dank emotional caverns of Bubblegum offer some territory well worth exploring for the strong-willed.
by Mark Deming AMG



It's an inspired mix of cinematic hip-hop instrumentals and Sun Ra-style jazz exotica with horns and percussion a-plenty. Some of the shorter tracks serve more as interludes, sometimes using spoken samples from film that all relate to the concept of a journey "out there" to the cosmos and back, but the vast majority of the album is instrumental. It's more about the grooves than the solos, although flutist Jack Yglesias and synth player Mike Burnham have some really nice moments. Speaking of the groove, drummer Malcolm Catto and bass player Jake Ferguson keep it solid, aided on percussion by practically everyone else in the band. If funky beats, riffing saxophones, and an anything-can-happen mentality strikes your fancy, you might want to give a listen to the Heliocentrics. by Sean Westergaard AMG


NATURAL YOGURT BAND- Away With Melancholy

“Authentic, psychedelic library vibes from the golden era meticulously recreated in the new millennium.”



"The tracks are funky and experimental and cool enough to appeal to a music fan looking for new sounds, but obscure enough to teach even a seasoned crate-digger a couple of things." -Marisa Brown AMG