Tuesday, February 8, 2011

If It's Tuesday, It Must Be Street Date: 2/08/11


What makes Jersey girl Nicole Atkins stand out from other singer-songwriters is her ability to create great records out of good songs. She's got a powerful voice and puts a powerful sound behind it. I rediscovered her first record, "Neptune City," at the encouragement of my friend Joe Eskenazi, who is a big Atkins supporter. As he said,  "The new one is a total departure from Neptune City. Neptune City was a cheery record and Mondo is pretty dark and aggressive. Her vocals are still amazing and the album tells a story about a break up of relationships and break away from her record company."

I am never bored when I listen to her. "Mondo Amore" is her first release in 3 years, and it's a strong one. There's a bit of Neko Case and believe it or not, more than a bit of Edith Piaf in her phrasing...if...you know... she had spent more time in Rumson instead of Paris. (Listen to it, and you'll see I am not out of mind.)



As one friend put it, "Motorhead is not like a box of chocolates. You know exactly what you're getting." That may be so, but is that a bad thing? Of course, you need to like Lemmy and his brand of rock and roll in the first place, which is essentially loud, fast and hard. The formula works and I stand behind "The World Is Yours."


(as told by friend and fan, Harry Greenberger)

Aside from bearing the stamp of Joe Henry's production (always interesting for percussion choices and overall atmosphere) Over The Rhine deliver an album much like all their others. I'm one of their biggest fans and supporters (full disclosure: I donated to help pay for the making of this record, and my name is on it in incredibly tiny print), but like all of their previous records and even their live shows, it's a mix of one third tedious, sometimes mediocre songwriting, another third average, listenable background music, and one third stunning, sublime beauty, truly well worth the wait.

Karin Berquist's voice still mostly carries off even the worst moments, but on the strongest material she sounds like an unknown legend. All of their other records have 1-3 transcendent songs hidden among them that I carry with me for years after, forgetting how weak the rest of the record was. On this one, it's "Oh Yeah, By The Way," achingly beautiful, even though the demo was better. (sending Sal the demo in case he wants to post it) Karin's voice here is the captivating instrument it always is when the material is worthy of her, like Gillian Welch or Allison Krauss trying to sing a baby to sleep.

At their best, they sound magical, but that's usually only for a song at a time. At their worst they sound like a quiet night at a classy piano bar, pleasant, easy listening. Their albums always seem to have one major cringe moment.

Last one had their Tom Waits tribute "Waiting For Tom." This one has "Infamous Love Song." She actually uses the line "I sing the Be Bop Apocalypse" Also, Lucinda Williams sings on the track "Undamned," but even that isn't enough to help much. I think she sounds "unnecessary."

PS. I wholeheartedly recommend to anyone who hasn't heard it the "Good Dog Bad Dog" album from these guys. "Latter Days" is as gorgeous a song as I've ever heard from anyone




Getting proper remasters of the Thin Lizzy catalogue released has been an ongoing task from hell. Japanese remasters from 1996 seemed to be the ones to have, until someone from the Lizzy camp said that they weren't. Actually, I've been quite happy with them.

Metal Blade took care of the WB albums, but they were no frills releases. They'll have to do. Through all of this, no one ever bothered to mention 1974's "Night Life." I still don't understand why. The albums before got an upgrade, as did the albums after. Anyone? Gorham? Gorham? Gorham?

About 3 years ago, UMG in the UK, announced the first three albums, "Thin Lizzy," "Shades Of A Blue Orphanage" and "Vagabonds Of The Western World," as deluxe editions with myriad bonus tracks. They only just got released....and they are spectacular. They are here. .http://www.amazon.co.uk/Vagabonds-Western-World-Deluxe-2CD/dp/B000O590I4/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1297131272&sr=1-2

So maybe...these new expanded versions of "Jailbreak," "Johnny The Fox," and in the UK only, the legendary "Live & Dangerous" are the real thing.  Each gets bonus tracks, studio outtakes, BBC offerings and more, while "L&D" gets a DVD. Joe Elliott is involved...if that means anything.



There is a great piece in yesterday's New York Times about Teddy. You can read it HERE.  I agree with most of it, though I do find his records just miss the mark.  He is a clever writer with a sweet voice, that at times resembles his dad Richard's, if only by the similar lack of range they both possess. "Bella" is Teddy's most upbeat release so far, and without question deserves more of an audience than what it will ultimately see.



The last two releases of Todd Rundgren and the boys, 1984's "Oblivion" and 1985's "P.O.V." have been long out of print. UK label Esoteric, rights that wrong with new remasters, each with bonus material. "Oblivion" adds a bonus DVD featuring the 1981 Royal Oak concert, once available through Rhino video, while "P.O.V." adds the b-side "Man Of Action," along with the two tracks recorded for the also out of print collection "Trivia," "Fix Your Gaze" and "Monument."

Both of these records are very uneven, though time has been kinder, at least to my ears, to "Oblivion."

Finally, "Utopia Redux: Live In Japan '92" gets the same treatment, as well, with a new remaster that also includes a DVD of this reunion show.



Fielding said...

i read that article on Teddy. Not familiar with him at all but a co-worker who was a fan when he was with Rufus showed me the article - seems like a nice enough guy and talented but hard for you to complain you're not making the big bucks and haven't "made it" in the modern world and on the radio when your dream is to be on the "Prairie Home Companion" - should tell you something.

steve simels said...

Johnny the Fox -- excellent!

"Old Flame" is one of my all-time favorite records period.

Meanstreets said...

Lucinda Williams is " always " necessary " Sal...........

cmealha said...

Lovin' Nicole Atkins