Wednesday, January 30, 2013
Wednesday Quick Picks
I don't know much about Portland's John Amadon, but I decided to listen to his new release "The Bursting Sheaf" because names like George Harrison, Wilco and Big Star were tossed about when describing his sound. After the rather strange and rather dull opening instrumental "Saltwater Crocodile," what I heard for about 4-5 songs was some truly wonderful songs and arrangements that sounded like George Harrison fronting Wilco. Really. The record starts to fizzle out when Amadon puts on his best Elliot Smith for the second half. I never liked Elliot Smith, but if you did/still do, you might want to check out "The Bursting Sheaf." Good stuff.
Ben Harper has been around for a long time and has a tremendous following, as well as plenty of respect from his peers. Personally, his brand of roots, reggae and R&B has always missed the mark for me. Ben Harper is a jack of all trades and to my ears, a master of none, so Harper's records have plenty to like in theory, but mostly they just fall short, boasting style over substance. There was one record though that knocked me out and that was his 2005 collaboration with the Blind Boys Of Alabama, "There Will Be A Light," a truly fantastic collection of songs and performances. Now, Harper is back with a new collaborator, Charlie Musslewhite, and he has hit paydirt once again. "Get Up!" is a killer. Maybe it's Musslewhite's screaming harmonica giving Harper a little more inspiraton, or maybe it was just in the cards for the talented Harper to finally nail a genre, but "Get Up!" is a strong and soulful set of acoustic and electric blues that works from head to tail.
You have to hear "Petra Haden Goes To The Movies" to believe it. I can't imagine going back to this record more than once or twice after the initial play. It's just too much of a novelty. But holy moly, what a novelty and what fun. Haden has recorded a collection of movie themes and songs, using nothing (for the most part) but her voice. The results are occasionally mind-blowing. Every violin and cello from Bernard Hermann's opening theme to Hitchcock's "Psycho" is all Petra's voice. Same with Herrmann's music from "Taxi Driver," though on this tune, "God's Lonely Man," she creates the sounds of drums, rain, smoke and every other nuance from that fantastic score. There is a also a very moving rendition of "It Might Be You" from "Tootsie" that has acoustic guitar accompaniment from Bill Frisell that really blew me away. The problem, as I said, is that after your intial "Wows!," you will file this and forget it, just like you probably did with Haden's all a capella version of "The Who Sell Out" years before.