Monthly Archives: February 2011

The David Mayfield Parade – The David Mayfield Parade

January 01, 1970

(9th Grade Records)

 

www.thedavidmayfieldparade.com

 

David Mayfield is one versatile Nashville cat. He used to
gig around as a hired gun, playing guitar for country ace Andy Griggs, and he’s
spent the last couple years as a member of experimental newgrass crew Cadillac
Sky. Recently, though, Mayfield was encouraged by his buddies the Avett
Brothers to make a solo record. The result, The
David Mayfield Parade
, is a new direction with Mayfield moving toward
lovesick vintage country and old-school soulful pop.

 

One thing Mayfield definitely took from the Avetts is that
there’s no shame in wearing your heart on your sleeve. With a voice that’s as
cozy and comforting as James Taylor by a winter evening fire, Mayfield spends
the album’s 11 tracks trying to perfect the love song. Whether he’s playing it
through the scope of a Buddy Holly-style rocker (“Noreen”), a delicate folk
ballad (“Blue Skies Again”), or a waltzing duet with Caitlin Rose (“Faraway
Love”), Mayfield finds plenty of interesting ways to deliver his heartbroken
troubadour message.

 

He also gets plenty of help from his friends, as Scott and
Seth Avett lend their typically infectious ragged harmonies to the rootsy
stomper “I Just Might Pray,” and Mayfield’s singer-songwriter sister, Jessica
Lea, adds soft backing vocals to the album’s lone cover, a fitting rendition of
Don Gibson’s “Sea of Heartbreak.”  

 

DOWNLOAD: “I Just
Might Pray,” “Blue Skies Again” JEDD FERRIS

G. Love – Fixin’ to Die

January 01, 1970

(Brushfire Records)

 

www.brushfirerecords.com

 

G. Love has chosen wisely to put hip-hop freestyling on the
backburner and wander down the dusty back roads of the blues. Helping him along
the journey are Americana dominators the Avett
Brothers, who brought Love down to the North Carolina Mountains
to record this roots orgy that mixes reverence to the past with
forward-thinking urban swagger.

 

The title track starts off with a roar, as the Bukka White
Delta traditional gets turned into an energetic hipster tent revival with
soaring ragged harmonies and a pulsing stomp-clap backdrop. Love also sweetly
delivers his own Appalachian folk-style ballad in perfect harmony with Scott
Avett’s lullaby banjo roll on “Katie Miss,” and there’s a killer
harmonica-driven hoedown outro to the stripped take on Paul Simon’s “50 Ways to
Leave Your Lover.”

 

On the down side, weary traveler lament “The Road” is only
made believable by the Avetts’ genuine Southern accents, and the hill country
pluck of “Milk and Sugar” deserved better subject matter than coffee
condiments. Love hasn’t quite hit the crossroads, but he’s headed in the right
direction.

 

DOWNLOAD: “Fixin’
to Die,” “Katie Miss” JEDD FERRIS

Psychic Paramount – II

January 01, 1970

(No Quarter)

 

www.noquarter.net

 

An explosive burst of noise sets this CD in motion, red hot shrapnel
of guitar noise flying every way from the center.  Only when the shock waves have settled, does
the driving, motorik beat kick
in.  From this point on, whistles keen,
guitars scramble, bass pushes continually, frantically forward.  The reckless pace continues through seven
tersely named, ferociously driven tracks, with only the briefest of lyrical
interludes (the end of “Intro/SP” going into “DDB” for instance). This is
post-rock kamikaze-style, engines screaming engines, flames enveloping, as the
music cuts a brilliant arc through space.

 

Two of Psychic Paramount’s players — the guitarist Drew St. Ivany and
the bass player Ben Armstrong –come from disruptively brilliant, free-noise
innovators Laddio Bolocko. (The third member, drummer Jeff Conaway, played in
Sabers.)  II follows their opening salvo Gamelan
Is the Mink Supernatural
by more than five years. Gossip has it that the
recording process was torturous, and that much of the material had to be redone.
If that’s so, II shows no signs of
belabored-ness, or even much premeditation. Every cut vibrates with unharnessed
energy. A green sheen of radioactivity hangs over pounding, pulsing,
head-bending repetition.

 

Occasion intervals of clarity – “RW” for instance – link Psychic
Paramount to post-rock. Bits of noisy contradiction underline the connection to
Laddio Bolocko. Yet for the most part, this is too hot for Tortoise
comparisons, too groove-oriented to match up with Laddio. Production is such
that much of what you hear is swathed in vibrating distortion — the
continuous, roll-over-the-toms drum freakouts, the howling skree of feedback —
yet the fog only heightens a sense of risk and mayhem. This is one of the most
viscerally exciting rock albums of the year.

 

DOWNLOAD: “DDB,” “N5” JENNIFER KELLY

 

Low Anthem – Smart Flesh

January 01, 1970

(Nonesuch)

 

www.nonesuch.com

 

Arriving on the heels of last year’s lavishly praised Oh My God, Charlie Darwin,   Smart Flesh further affirms the Low
Anthem’s stealth-like m.o., a remarkably restrained approach that finds a
compelling case for hushed, hollow-eyed introspection and their often opaque
musings. The band is still relatively untested after only two previous albums,
but their strong showing last time out – specifically, their ability to make a
dramatically emphatic statement in spite of such sparse circumstance — says
much about both their finesse and assurance. Yet, there are indications that
the Low Anthem is drifting into oddly obtuse terrain; opening track “Ghost
Woman Blues,” for example, may be the most nondescript intro ever, given its
mournful wail and spectral terrain. From that point on, few of the tunes rise
above a whisper, with songs like “Love and Altar,” “Matter of Time” and the
title track establishing a sense of solitary despair and persistent
melancholia.

 

Fortunately, Smart Flesh still manages to betray its charms, even in the midst of its ethereal ambiance.
“Boeing 737” actually packs a punch, bringing the Low Anthem their closest
contender to an actual anthem-sized entry, while the rolling folk rock motif of
the aptly-titled “Hey, All You Hippies!” and the traditional-sounding
“Apothecary Love” reaffirm their penchant for genuine folk finesse. Likewise,
the band’s ability to craft such a distinctly dreamy sound can’t help but
ensure a certain allure and fascination. After all, few outfits can carve such
a distinctive sound and sustain it over the course of an entire career, much
less a single outing. So while the snooze factor is always on the verge of
intruding, their seductive sensibilities manage to keep that threat at bay.

 

DOWNLOAD: “Boeing 73,”
“Hey, All You Hippies!” LEE ZIMMERMAN

 

 

Toro Y Moi – Underneath the Pine

January 01, 1970

(Carpark)

 

www.carparkrecords.com

 

The art for Underneath the Pine is almost grossly sensual, a sweat-glazed, mustache fringed mouth in extreme
close-up, with some sort of soft pinkish growths protruding from the lips. Further
inspection identifies the pink substance as grapefruit segments, not the most
erotic of snacks in other contexts. Yet the photo is so oddly, so exquisitely
arranged that even this reducing-diet staple looks sexual.

 

In the same way, Underneath the
Pine
wreathes delicate little melodies and fleeting thoughts in a haze of
1970s funk-psych-soul pheromones, so that even the most calorie-free sentiments
achieve the heft of sensuality. To say that Underneath the Pine is heavier on
style than substance is to miss the point. Its glossy, glassy style is so
extreme as to become the substance.

 

Bundick has been recording as
Toro Y Moi for about a decade, at first at home for his own amusement, and
later, as one of the leading progenitors of the chillwave movement. Chillwave’s
innovation is to link the introspection of bedroom pop to the sleek undulations
of the dance floor – and Bundick is very, very good at this.

 

“New Beat,” for instance,
follows rubbery basslines and vintage ‘70s synths down a funk-disco rabbit
hole, its fundamentals all butt-shaking physicality. Still, as in Alice in Wonderland,
there’s a psycho-tropic potion at the bottom of the barrow, and Bundick drinks
it down. Layered over the disco are the dreamiest layers of inward looking
vocals, the sheerest gauzes of shimmery sound. If you spliced the trippiest
elements of, say, Earth Wind and Fire with the wordless vocalizations of Animal
Collective, it might sound a little bit like this.

 

Bundick slathers the most obvious
disco touches onto songs at the beginning and the end of this disc. Towards the
middle, funk and R&B subside into a flavoring, rather than the dominant
element. Wordless “Divina,” for instance, conjures quiet storm soul with fat
pulses of bass and elegiac keyboards, while “Before I’m Done” is an almost
folky mesh of guitar and voice, with Black Moth Super Rainbow’s electronically
hazed flute borrowed for the background.   

 

These mid-section songs are
beautifully arranged, with a multiplicity of elements coexisting in a clean
white space. Still even as “Got Blinded”‘s “ah-ah-ah-ah” vocals climb into
clouds of glory, you can’t help looking for a bit of substance. These are
exquisite mirages, floating upward on the slightest draft of air. Pretty
enough, but feather-light.

 

DOWNLOAD: “Before I’m Done” “New Beat” “Got Blinded” JENNIFER KELLY

Emerson, Lake & Palmer – Live At Nassau Coliseum ’78

January 01, 1970

(Shout!
Factory)

 

www.shoutfactory.com

 

By 1978,
the progressive-rock supergroup Emerson, Lake & Palmer were definitely on
their last legs, the trio’s new album, Love
Beach
, coasting mid-way up the Billboard album chart with momentum created entirely by the band’s increasingly tarnished
reputation. The two previous ELP albums were no more than collections of solo
works and studio outtakes by keyboardist Keith Emerson, guitarist Greg Lake,
and drummer Carl Palmer, released to “get something out” after a
four-year band hiatus (and, to some extent, the ploy worked, as the two-album
set Works, Volume One would climb to
number 12 on the charts and sell better than a half-million copies).

 

ELP was
clearly a band just “going through the motions” when they climbed on
the stage at the Nassau Veteran’s Memorial Coliseum in February 1978, the individual
members collecting a paycheck with an eye towards some indeterminate musical future
that, sadly, didn’t include any of their other mates. It’s telling that Live At Nassau Coliseum ’78, a two-disc
set documenting the band’s performance that night, doesn’t include a single
song from Love Beach, as clear a sign
of ELP’s lack of confidence in the new material as you’ll ever see from a band.
Instead, they people this live set with mostly well-known and well-traveled
material, sometimes diving over the top with their instrumental zeal in an
attempt to flog another dollar from the prog-rock punters that comprised their
shrinking audience.   

 

Disc one
of Live At Nassau Coliseum ’78 opens well enough,
the band’s synth-dominated take on Aaron Copland’s “Hoedown”
featuring Emerson’s lively keyboard-banging and Palmer’s thundering drumbeats.
The time signature changes, offbeat rhythms, and general discordance of this
17-minute version of “Tarkus” provide plenty of space for the three
band members to stretch out and do their thing, from Lake’s tortured vocals and
dark fretwork to Emerson’s imaginative keyboard play and Palmer’s Latin-influenced
percussion. The more measured (and shorter) “Take A Pebble” creates a
fantasia vibe with Lake’s ethereal vocals, Palmer’s flurries of drumbeats and
cymbal-brushes, and Emerson’s rolling, and often jazz-tinged piano notes.

 

However,
the five-minute-and-twenty-one-second performance of Emerson’s “Piano
Concerto 1 (1st Movement)” is pure musical masturbation, a “look at
me Ma! See what I can do!” moment that breaks the mood and mystery of the
previous two songs with a disconcerting crash that hits your ears much as a
root canal tickles your mouth. It shows how much Emerson had come to dominate
the band’s sound, and not for the better, as it puts the chemistry of the three
band members badly out of balance.

 

Luckily,
the jaunty and almost hysterical “Maple Leaf Rag” shakes the audience
back into reality, while a pair of Lake compositions – “C’est La Vie”
and the hit “Lucky Man” – salvage the remainder of the set. Lake’s
lofty vocals and filigree guitarwork, with just a hint of synth near the end, help
create an enigmatic atmosphere for the former; while the latter’s well-worn
familiarity is complimented by Lake’s haunting voice and beautiful fretwork.
The disc closes out with “Pictures At An Exhibition,” another fine
example of the band’s chemistry when they’re at their best, the
fifteen-minute-plus performance a carnival funhouse of varying moods and
textures, Emerson creating some downright odd sounds with his wall of
synthesizers, Palmer’s syncopated drumbeats sounding more like King Crimson
than even Bill Bruford’s work for that band, and Lake’s soaring guitar lines
helping form an interesting musical ambiance.

 

The second
disc of Live At Nassau
Coliseum ’78
opens with the lightweight “Tiger In A Spotlight,”
an outtake first included on Works, Volume
Two
that sounds a little out-of-place here as Lake
tries an ill-fated attempt at a hard rock vocal style above a rinky-dink piano
and drum accompaniment. Safe to say that it’s not ELP’s best musical moment,
but it’s easily redeemed by the shimmering beauty of Lake’s heartfelt
“lullaby” “Watching Over You,” his emotional vocals
complimented by a wonder guitar construct and Emerson’s gently humming
keyboards. The refreshingly chaotic “Tank,” from the band’s 1970
self-titled debut, is a short, sharp shock of blazing synthesizers, blasting
drumbeats, and taut bass lines that, unfortunately, leads directly into
Palmer’s extended drum solo, which sucks the oxygen and enthusiasm out of the
room faster than you can say “1970s cliché.”

 

The brief,
blistering “The Enemy God Dances With The Black Spirits,” adapted by
composer Sergei Prokofiev’s “The Scythian Suite,” is actually a much
better showcase for Palmer’s rhythmic talents than his meandering drum solo.
Placed in context with Emerson’s own percussive keyboard-bashing, Palmer’s
carpet-bombing of beats and cymbal crashes vie admirably with the keyboards as
the song’s lead instrument. Live At
Nassau Coliseum ’78
closes with two extended performances that, together,
run nearly half-an-hour; “Pirates” certainly has its moments, but
mostly it just illustrates the oft-criticized excesses of the prog-rock genre,
with a little too-much instrumental noodling even for this died-in-the-wool,
prog-lovin’ rockcrit.

 

By
contrast, the band dips back into the Copland songbook for an extended look at
the composer’s “Fanfare For The Common Man,” Palmer’s explosive
percussion and the epic sweep of Emerson’s keyboards setting the stage for a
perfect blend of technical virtuosity and creative imagination. The song’s
driving rhythms are cleverly punctuated by Emerson’s constant riffing, while
Palmer’s workout on the skins is both massive and impressive, with jazzy licks
and Latin rhythms flying under the radar. Lake’s rhythmic fretwork rides low in
the mix, providing a solid foundation for Emerson’s rampaging synth-mania.

 

Tally up
those invigorating musical moments on Live
At Nassau Coliseum ’78
and compare them with the all-too-frequent
infuriating interludes and you’ll come up about 50/50 – good enough for any
major league B-baller, but kind of shabby for talents the scope of Emerson,
Lake and Palmer. While the band has
several live albums in its catalog, including the three-disc Ladies and Gentlemen, there has yet to
be a really stellar document of the band’s performance art captured at its
best…and that includes Live At Nassau
Coliseum ’78
, where the band comes up with too little, too late in the
game.

 

Definitely
designed for the hardcore fan in mind, the curious would be better served
introducing themselves to ELP through one of the band’s first four acclaimed studio
albums. As for the rabid prog-lovin’ droog, check out the uniformly excellent A Time And A Place four-disc collection of
live ELP from Shout! Factory (reviewed here at BLURT). That box not only includes
several of the most thrilling performances from Live At Nassau Coliseum ’78, but
also provides a career-spanning overview of the best of Emerson, Lake and Palmer in a live setting.

 

DOWNLOAD: “C’est La Vie,” “Lucky
Man,” “Watching Over You,” “Tarkus” REV. KEITH A.
GORDON

    

David Dondero – A Pre-Existing Condition

January 01, 1970

(Ghostmeat)

 

www.ghostmeat.com

 

Throughout a career that’s now reached the nearly 20-year
mark, David Dondero’s made a habit of picking up the tattered threads of withered
Americana and frayed folk music, and weaving them into a hushed whisper that’s
all his own. At first glimpse he appears not all that unlike those other
weary-eyed, heavy-lidded troubadours that count themselves among the so-called
nu-folk populace these days, although he’s constantly exhibited a headstrong
determination that lifts him beyond that malaise. On his latest effort, a rapid
follow-up to last year’s Zero with a
Bullet
, Dondero parts the curtains and brandishes his influences, offering
up some notable covers alongside a spate of original compositions. Showing
subtlety and skill, he affirms his everyman aspirations, retracing the likes of
Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan, Jimmie Rodgers, Neil Young and Lowell George while
mooting any attempt at pandering or presumption.

 

As a result, A Pre-Existing
Condition
is informed by Dondero’s reverence for his predecessors
and his deft interpretation of selected gems from America’s most literate
songbooks. Kicking off the album with a surprisingly assured take on Little
Feat’s “Willin’,” Dondero plays with the refrain, pausing the chorus at key
intervals to give the words greater weight. “T For Texas” becomes an anthem of
sorts, without sacrificing its restless appeal. “(Is Anybody Going To) San
Antone” finds new urgency, transformed from the jocular sing-along that marked
the treatment given it in duet form by Dylan and Doug Sahm. Dylan’s own “Let Me
Die In My Footsteps,” once a hoary ode to regret and mortality, finds a new
measure of hope and circumspect, now in the form of a plucking banjo serenade.

 

Dondero’s own compositions parallel many of the themes and
melodies present in the traditional offerings and older standards, even going
so far as to offer an ode to a legendary country icon with “Song For Buck Owens”
(“Let’s drink to the Buckaroos”) and to concoct some legitimate blues of his
own via “Please Hand Me Over to the Undertaker” and the title track. Taken in
tandem, A Pre-Existing Condition becomes an unconditional expression of admiration, and, in turn, Dondero’s most
emphatic effort yet.

 

DOWNLOAD:
“Willin’,” “(Is Anybody Going) to San Antone,” “Let Me Die In My Footsteps” LEE
ZIMMERMAN

Caribbean – Discontinued Perfume

January 01, 1970

(Hometapes)

 

http://www.home-tapes.com

 

Despite all its quietness and deliberateness,
there’s something defiant about the Caribbean’s music. Pinpointing the exact
source of that feeling isn’t easy, however. The songs demand close listening,
the rhythms are patient, the studio craft is clever, and the lyrics are
penetrable even if they’re not linear. The D.C.-area band isn’t messing
directly with the consumer.

 

But the Caribbean messing with something,
usually. On Discontinued Perfume, the
target seems to be the idea that a band needs a mythos. What else would explain
the weirdly heightened sense of ordinariness that floats through the 11 songs?
Singer Michael Kentoff has always had a quirky, nasal delivery, but on this
album it’s almost aggressive: He’s more than just a storyteller; he’s the
regular guy right in the middle of the headphones. Like the text in the middle
of the CD cover-art says: “Discontinued Perfume seems to be about living a
strong, practical, grown up life and being comfortable with leaving that world
and accepting the unknowable.”

 

Of course, even that blurb uses the verb
“seems.” That’s because the Caribbean makes art-pop, and art-pop is
rarely tidy. Discontinued Perfume,
the band’s fifth full-length, would be more instantly gratifying if there were
a speaker-blowing Flaming Lips-style explosion somewhere; instead, there’s
genius in the left-field banjo playing on “Municipal Stadium,” the
jagged guitar solo at the end of “Outskirts” and the clock-hand tempo
of “Mr. Let’s Find Out.” The chorus of “Artists in Exile”
easily could soar off into the ’70s ether, but it doesn’t; the acoustic chords
and steady drumbeat just keep going (like the song’s subjects — the people who
are compelled to make art after the kids are in bed). And just once, somebody
could mash an effects pedal during the spacey “Collapsitarians,” but
nobody does, and you’re left to imagine what the shoegazer version would sound
like.

 

And it’s all for the better. These guys aren’t
bigger than life. They’re smart, they’re careful and they dwell in the same
world as the rest of us. If there’s anything unknowable or opaque in Discontinued Perfume, it’s the point
where instinct ends and thought begins. And if there were a precise answer —
or if the music landed more heavily on one side or the other — the Caribbean
would be far less interesting.

 

DOWNLOAD: “Mr. Let’s Find Out,”
“Collapsitarians,” “Municipal Stadium” JOE WARMINSKY

Edie Brickell – Edie Brickell

January 01, 1970

(RacecarLOTTA)

 

www.ediebrickell.com

 

It’s been eight years since her last solo record and Edie
Brickell – the one time college dorm room music staple – makes up for lost
time, by jumping quickly back into her brand of infectious, jangly folk rock.
From the opening track off of her self-titled release (“Give it Another Day”),
Brickell reminds the world that female-fronted pop music is much more than the US Weekly-ready antics of Lady GaGa and
Katy Perry, and actually concentrates on solid songwriting and powerful vocals.

 

The album’s genesis dates back to 2003 when she first
started writing the songs, but was put on hold to focus on other musical
collaboration including a reunion with The New Bohemians and an album by the
group The Heavy Circles, a band with her step-son Harper Simon. Far stronger
than her first two solo records, this self-titled 10 track release boasts a
much more confident Brickell. The only weak track (“Pill”) comes early on but
is quickly forgotten thanks to a slew of memorable songs.

 

Along with the Charlie Sexton-producer solo effort,
Brickell has also just put out a debut record with the band The Gaddabouts (The Gaddabouts, featuring industry
veterans Steve Gadd, Pino Palladino and Andy Fairweather-Low), an
equally powerful album that sounds… well, pretty much like another Brickell
solo effort.  We missed ya.

 

DOWNLOAD: “Give It Another Day” and “Been So Good”   JOHN
B. MOORE

Travis & Fripp – Live at Coventry Cathedral

January 01, 1970

(Panegyric)

 

Though it sounds like a comedy team, Travis & Fripp is,
of course, British saxist/flautist Theo Travis and guitarist Robert Fripp. Live at Coventry Cathedral is an album
of entirely improvised duets performed in concert at the titular venue. Fripp
is in soundscape mode here, eschewing lead lines or riffs for lush beds of
orchestral washes on which Travis can comfortably lie.

 

Perhaps too comfortably – while one might expect some sparks
to ignite from an improvisatory setting between these two old friends, it’s
clear that the goal was to soothe rather than simmer. Travis’ lugubrious tone
certainly goes down easy, and Fripp occasionally shows signs of cutting through
the gossamer. But mostly this is simply aural wallpaper, its improvised status
having little meaning in this context. Connoisseurs of ambient music and Fripp
fanatics will likely find much to love here, but anyone who prefers music with
more propulsion will probably have little interest.

 

DOWNLOAD: “Blue
Calm,” “The Offering” MICHAEL TOLAND