Wednesday, April 11, 2012

If It's Tuesday, It Must Be Street Date...On Wednesday, 4/11/12


For all intents and purposes, the Alabama Shakes should be right in my wheelhouse. But alas, it is not.  I fear, this record will become my "Blade Runner" for 2012. (More on that HERE)  Friends, Romans AND countrymen have talked up this band with great passion, but after four attempts, all ending at track 8, I am left cold.

James Christopher Monger over at AMG says this, "Originally simply called the Shakes, the band’s not-so-subtle blend of fiery blues-rock and hard-hitting Southern soul has drawn comparisons to the Black Keys, the Drive-By Truckers, the Detroit Cobras, and even Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings." Trust me, the Alabama Shakes sound NOTHING like the Detroit Cobras or Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings. The record is not so "fiery" either. At best, they sound like lightweight Drive By Truckers, or worse, Kings Of Leon with a female vocalist.

Brittany Howard has an interesting voice, sounding for the most part like a meatier Amy Winehouse, especially on "Rise To The Sun." Musically, there is an absolutely soulful, Muscle Shoals influence, but nothing on the record takes flight. Howard's melodies are choppy. Nothing flows. Nothing is musical. Songs like "Hold On" and "Heartbreaker" are built around Howard's big delivery, but those songs, like most of the record, feel like they are being plopped at you. I'm hearing plenty of ideas that just seem to peter out before actually peaking and landing that killer punch. The Otis-inspired "You Ain't Alone" again, sounds right, but take away the reverb and what you have is a melody that sounds more like what Janis might have vamped at the end of a song, not something that a song should have been built around.

Sorry, these guys may pack a bigger wallop live, but on record, they need more than just sonics and good intentions.

AMAZON DOWNLOAD  is 5 bucks.


Following what I thought were two of the strongest records of her career, 2002's "Silver Lining" and 2005's "Souls Alike," the great Miss Raitt is back after a 7 year layoff, with Joe Henry at the controls.

After a shakey start--a standard funk workout on the opener and the bad idea of turning Gerry Rafferty's hit "Right Down The Line" into lightweight reggae--Bonnie Raitt's "Slipstream" falls right into that place we've known and loved for so many years. Takes on Dylan's "Million Miles" and "Standing In The Doorway" are brilliant, thanks to Raitt's aged but still powerful and effective voice. Yes, she has gotten better.

Joe Henry's production is perfect, as usual, giving Raitt and her band the right amount of space. It's a cozy record, with a warm sound. Big Al Anderson and Bonnie Bramlett turn in "Ain't Gonna Let You Go," a greasey, upbeat blues with classic Bonnie slide and some fine work on the organ from Mike Finnegan. And the reading of another Big Al tune, "Not Cause I Wanted To," could be the ballad of the year. That one, simply knocked me down and out. This is Bonnie Raitt exactly the way we want her, even if it's one of the worst album covers I've ever seen.



For those of us who adore Karl Wallinger and World Party, you know it's not easy getting new music. 5 records in 25 years, to be exact.  It's been harder for Karl, who had to overcome a brain aneurysm and learn how to play music all over again. The good news is, Karl's a very big way.

"Arkeology" represents 25 years of mostly unheard material, scattered over 5 CDs in a brilliant package. Doing away with the standard "jewel cases in a boxed set" format, Wallinger decided on an any year calendar in a ring binder, with photos and notes. Everything about this set is a winner, including the low, $35 list price.

For those unfamiliar with World Party, let me explain. Karl Wallinger is a songwriter who is not afraid to wear his influences on his sleeve. Bob Dylan, Lennon and McCartney, Brian Wilson and Prince all make spiritual appearances on many of Wallinger's tunes, but that is not to say he is not an original. This set is a perfect starting point, if maybe a bit too much, for the unitiated, and a treasure trove for long time followers.

There are familiar tunes such as "Ship Of Fools," "She's The One," and "Way Down Now" in live settings. Covers of "Dear Prudence," Sly's "Stand," Dylan's "Sweetheart Like You" and "Like A Rolling Stone" and Macca's "Man We Was Lonely," among others. New songs and old songs, b-sides and more.

I can't say enough about this incredible and wonderfully sequenced set of music.

Full track list below:

1. “Waiting Such A Long Time”
2. “Nothing Lasts Forever”
3. “Everybody’s Falling In Love”
4. “Where Are You Going When You Go”
5. “Photograph”
6. “Everybody Dance Now”
7. “Closer Still”
8. “I Want To Be Free”
9. “I’m Only Dozing”
10. “No More Crying”
11. Interview/”Sweet Soul Dream” (Live Radio)
1. “Lucille”
2. “The Good Old Human Race”
3. “Put the Message in the Box” (Live)
4. “Trouble Down Here”
5. “Basically”
6. “Silly Song”
7. “Man We Was Lonely”
8. “She’s The One” (Live)
9. “Ship of Fools”
10. “Mystery Girl”
11. “This is Your World Speaking”
12. “All The Love That’s Wasted”
13. “Lost in Infinity”
14. “New Light”
1. “Words”
2. “Dear Prudence”
3. “Call Me Up” (Live Radio)
4. “Like A Rolling Stone”
5. “Sooner Or Later”
6. “Love Street”
7. “Time On My Hands”
8. “Who Are You”
9. “Sweetheart Like You”
10. “Another World”
11. “You’re Beautiful, But Get Out of My Life”
12. “Living Like The Animals”
13. “Stand” (Live)
14. “Thank You World” (Original Jam)
1. “Break Me Again”
2. “Baby” (Demo)
3. “Ship Of Fools”
4. “Put The Message In The Box”
5. “When Did You Leave Heaven”
6. “Nature Girl”
7. “It’s A Pity You Don’t Let Go”
8. “My Pretty One”
9. “De Ho De Hay”
10. “We Are The Ones”
11. “World Groove”/”Mind Guerilla”
12. “Happiness Is A Warm Gun”
13. “Kuwait City”
14. “Do What I Want”
15. “All We Need Is Everything”
16. “Outro”
1. “Mystery Girl” (Early Version)
2. “What Is Love All About” (Outtake)
3. “I Hope it All Works Out For You”
4. “And God Said” (Long version)
5. “It Ain’t Gonna Work”
6. “Another One”
7. “I Am Me”
8. “It’s Gonna Be Alright”
9. “In Another World”
10. “Thank You World”
11. “Cry Baby Cry”
12. “Temple Of Love”
13. “Fixing A Hole”
14. “Way Down Now” (Live)
15. “Change The World”



The slow-moving Todd Archive series is finally back with this release, a newly remastered version of the legendary London show from 1975. The sound is fantastic, though the setlist may not be for everyone. Yes, it covers every aspect of Todd's career to date, with songs like the Nazz's "Open My Eyes," "Couldn't I Just Tell You" from "Something/Anything?," a cover of The Move's "Do Ya," as well as Utopia's "Freedom Fighters" and "The Last Ride" from "Todd." But they are all given the Utopia reading, which is either good news or bad, depending on when you gave up on Todd Rundgren.


There are also new records by Counting Crows, M. Ward, Monica, Nanci Griffith and Amadou & Mariam, if you're interested. Me, not so much


steve simels said...

The World Party set sounds absolutely wonderful.

Fortunately, I have a little disposable income this week....

ASH On The Beat said...

How Do Sal,

World Party - I am so jealous. The release has been delayed in the UK, I have a review copy on the way at some stage which will be just the discs and have pre-ordered the box set months ago.

Bizarrely in the UK have the set available for download at £13.99 but it's barmy for me to buy that as well, I'll just have to twitch on my seat.

Interestingly Amazon UK have some chancer selling it for 55 quid now and showing one copy. My pre-order copy from elsewhere was £32.

Typical frustrating marketing which sums up Karl Wallinger's career. Sheesh!!!

On the bright side, I'm loving having a proper release of Hammersmith 1975, one of my favourite boots.

I'm with you on Alabama Shakes, I'm told by members of the ASH Clan that I should love them and I'd generally respect their opinion, but I don't get it. I've tried and mediocre isn't the word, it's incredibly dull.

Over and out.

Anonymous said...

Hey Sal,

Add me in as another who is left wondering about the Alabama Shakes. I have not seen them live so all I have is the buzz. I grabbed a copy of the vinyl last week and have given it a few spins but...I got nothin'. Is it awful? No, but it is not even close to worthy of the buzz. I think you used the phrase "choppy" and that kind of hits it on the head. Nothing special here, at least as evidenced by the record.

Les said...

Alabama Shakes - I was excited, I streamed, I forgot I was listening to it and went about my day.

I'll for sure check out the Bonnie Raitt.

jeff k said...

up yours for informing me about the world party box set. what do you think I'm made of money? this is tax month, could you please just review shit for the next few weeks?

Shriner said...

What about the new Wilson Phillips record?

Noam Sane said...

All these new R&B bands - Shakes, Keys, Dap-kings, etc - are so retro. There has to be a way to move the form forward, even baby steps would be nice. Otherwise, it's just another artistic cul-de-sac. Which is what these bands strike me as.

I've plugged the last Was/Not Was record, "Boo!," here before, but there's an example of an R&B album the looks both forward and backward, and is more compelling because of it. It's a fun and fine record. (Including the song "Mr. Alice Doesn't Live Here Any More," which was composed by Don W. with Bob Dylan as “Shirley Temple Doesn’t Live Here Anymore” and pitched to Paula Abdul, back in the day.)

I'm gonna check out that World I really want to hear another cover of Like A Rolling Stone?

Sal Nunziato said...


I don't think there is anything really retro about the Black Keys. They seem to be playing raw blues and rock and roll. And though the Dap-Kings are obviously retro, my feeling there is that the production isn't a mask for lack of hooks and melodies. It might not be forward thinking, but at least Sharon can sing and the band can play.

The hype surrounding the Shakes is not only unwarranted, it isn't even accurate.

As for World Party, listen to Like A Rolling Stone last.

Jeff Matthews said...

The Alabama Shakes play Lollapalooza this year, so I'm planning on checking them out (Patterson Hood seems to rave about them). Unfortunately I bought a 3day pass to Lolla before finding out that the Chili Peppers and Black Sabbath are headlining. Uggh - worst lineup of the six years we've been in Chicago.
Can't wait to get the World Party set - Karl Wallinger is in my pantheon.

ASH On The Beat said...

I've got the World Party off Spotify for now, but what I wanted was it here and to sit back in the comfy chair and do what i rarely do these days, press the button to open the cd drawer, switch on the amp and crank it up.

Lots of abuse being dished out re the UK release over here, pointless, we are used to waiting eons for anything Wallinger related. Is it just jealousy, maybe?

BTW, I do like the Bowie Ronson cover of LARS off Heaven and Hell, could be my fave.

William Repsher said...

Only gave Alabama Shakes a cursory listen on Emusic, but hear enough that I'm willing to buy the whole thing (cough, on Amazon for $5.00, cough), which is rare for me. I've learned to disregard hype, especially for indie music, because these days, it's always overblown. The big hype band this week -- The Yellow Dogs -- just sound like more warmed-over 80s, the kind of stuff that wouldn't have and didn't cut it in 1983, but now gets raved about by critics as if it's the second coming of The Talking Heads. It aint even the first coming of The Fabulous Poodles, but I guess the hookline of an Iranian new-wave band is too hard to ignore.

I seriously think a lot of the hype has to do with writers who either have no precedents in their (relatively short, compared to ours) musical history/development, or writers who are just generally dishonest and feel the need to hype along to keep their jobs. Besides which, it spares them a few capsule reviews of pretending they like hiphop, so it must be a relief to rave about something up their alley in some sense.

That Justin Townes Earle album from a week or two ago hit me the right way, too, despite having a bleh attitude towards the guy for the past few years. Seems like a lot of good music is floating around lately.

whattawino said...

I also have to say "No, Thank You" to the Alabama Shakes record. I liked the first track and got mentally
prepped for an experience that never manifested. The vocals are a big part of that disappointment for me. There is a strident quality that just bugs me. Sorry to say, the songs don't seem to go anywhere either. Too many "easy pickin's" as to the influences attributed to the band and I disagree with all of them. The only thing
in common with the Detroit Cobras that I can get is the name of the band brings to mind Otis' Shout 'Bamalama
(which the Cobras knock out of the park!) OK, I'm done.