Saturday, November 30, 2013

Kevin Salem Ecstatic 2001

Kevin Salem made this near perfect rock record back in 2001. While most of his more recent work has been in producing, recording, writing, and mixing for other artists, this masterpiece should have been huge. Quality modern rock & roll either doesn't have the audience it should, or there's just too much good stuff to choose from.

Featuring a host of guests, the record is nonetheless all about Salem's smart writing and arranging. And he's a passable singer, too. There's plenty of mid-tempo singer-songwriter fare (1000 Smiles, Kindness, Party Song), but there's also some serious rocking (The Medicine Down, Gold Diggers, Magnetic), and a few choice ballads (End Of The Addiction, Home Again).

There isn't a bad song on the record. There's a little Freedy Johnson, a little Brendan Benson, and a little male version of Aimee Mann. If you've got room for one more slice of smart rock, produced and arranged as well as any, look no further.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Great Lines

Sometimes a lyric is just perfect. Here's a few.

Up on Cripple Creek, she sends me
If I spring a leak, she mends me
I don't have to speak, she defends me
A drunkard's dream if I ever did see one
   -Jaime Robbie Robertson

She's just your size
She's sexy, she's beautiful
Does she talk?
   -Matthew Sweet

Sometimes she looks at me, and says
"Babe, my heart just stalled"
But what I think she sees ain't me at all
   -Justin Currie

You are such a lovely mess
Hearts have left a wreck
It's beautiful I guess
   -Erin McKeown

When you whispered in my ear
And asked me if I was leavin' with you or her
I didn't realize just what I did hear
I didn't realize how young you were
   -Bob Dylan

Whenever I put my foot in my mouth and you begin to doubt
That it's you that I'm dreaming about
Do I have to draw you a diagram?
All I ever want is just to fall into your human hands
    -Elvis Costello

And I warn you now
The velocity I'm gathering
Will knock you down
Send the chairs and lamps all scattering
'Cause I'm a superball
   -Aimee Mann

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Dr. Dog B-Room 2013

I like this band quite a bit, and this new one continues a string of excellent records that started with the near-perfect Shame, Shame in 2010. Their earliest records suffered from lo-fi recordings and the general sound of a band and its songwriters finding their way. Well, they've found it, and now they are just going to try to keep it going. So far, so good. Shame, Shame 2010, Be The Void 2012, and the EP Wild Race 2012 all feature their unique blend of all things sixties and seventies pop-rock-psychedelia; danceable beats, multiple voice singalong choruses, interestingly spacey lyrics, fine arrangements and strong musicianship.

Some critics have given them a hard time recently for an apparent lack of growth, doing the same thing again. You gotta wonder what would make these jokers happy. The band finally gets it right in every way on Shame, Shame, and when they try, mostly successfully, to duplicate that record's success, they get beat up in the press for not branching out.

I don't get it. Just about everything here works. Broken Heart, Minding The Usher, Distant Light, Phenomenon, Long Way Down, Rock And Roll, and Love are all as good as anything they've done. Only the spare Too Weak To Ramble and the ethereal ballad Twilight disappoint, and I may be getting too picky just because of the strength of the rest of the songs.

Complaining that this band isn't progressing appropriately is much like saying the first four Beatles albums sound too much the same. Get over it. Enjoy another heaping helping of Dr. Dog.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Jeanie Bryson sings songs of Peggy Lee Some Cats Know 1996

Jeanie Bryson has a very Peggy Lee-styled voice to begin with, sultry and smooth, deceptively easy-going. So the idea makes sense.

Telarc is certainly renowned for clean, pristine recordings, and this one is no exception.

The song selection is just right, focusing on Lee's hits and well-chosen non-hits. I Don't Know Enough About You, Some Cats Know, Why Don't You Do Right?, You're My Thrill, Fever, You're Blasé, and I'm Gonna Go Fishin' are all delightful. There are no particularly weak tracks.

And the band is unusually good. John Chiodini on guitar, Terry Trotter on piano, Jim Hughart on bass and Harold Jones' drums lay down the rhythm while several soloists provide sax (Red Holloway), clarinet (Paquito D'Rivera), or trumpet (Ronnie Buttacavoli) on individual songs. They swing with vigor.

It won't bowl you over, it just simmers on the back burner most of the time. And as a Peggy Lee tribute, what could be more perfect? I've put it on so many times over the years, and I always enjoy it. Late night, candlelight jazz done right by an artist perfectly suited to the task, and an all-star supporting cast.