Review of 7 albums.
by travis catsull
Some day I’m going to figure out how many new albums I listen to each week. Then I’ll probably realize how much money I’m spending w/ iTunes and how much time I spend downloading albums from various sites and that’ll make me sad, for a split second. Every few days I think about writing a post like this that quickly reviews the albums I’ve been listening to, but such is life. I listen to each album in its entirety. Most of the time I listen to the album more than once. Usually, I’ll swipe a few tracks from the album and add it to a list or compilation I keep called, “Cool Shit”. Here’s what I’ve been listening to the last few days.
THE BLACK KEYS – BROTHERS. This is a recent favorite. I’ve actually listened to this album many times since I’ve bought it. It’s the new Black Keys album and I have to admit I’m late on this particular bandwagon. At first glance this album is like Ghostland Observatory meets White Stripes especially on the first track , “Everlasting Light”. Surprisingly, the album conveys a great deal of soul and that alone is refreshing. I’ve been searching for a backbone in new music and it’s insanely hard to come by. I’ve actually had to go way, way, way back to find something substantial. Anyhow, this album will find a good deal of play on my iPod this summer.
DANIEL HIGGS – SAY GOD. Say Davendra Banhart got really fucking old and went crazy. Crazier than he already is and started talking about socialism, commercialism and most of all, religion. You’d get Daniel Higgs. I really wanted to like this album and I tried very hard to enjoy this latest Thrill Jockey release, but it’s not doing it for me. I’ll admit I’ve only listened to it a few times, but the songs aren’t clever, interesting, moving 0r very well written. The songs are uninspired sermons spoken or sang from an average hobo. Plus, the songs go on and on and on. For 17 minutes sometimes and there may be only a wheezing accordian to keep the pace. This album is usually exactly what I’m looking for so I’m going to keep trying to like it.
JACK JOHNSON – TO THE SEA. If you’re a huge Jack Johnson fan then you’ll love this latest album because it sounds exactly like everything else he’s ever done. He’s still a huge proponent of love, austerity and half clever chorus lines entertain through out and I don’t mind it. I like to put on a Jack Johnson album when I don’t want to think about anything, listen to anything as his lyrics aren’t full of (too many) cliches and seem to sink right into the brain and make you feel happy-go-lucky. One of the things Jack is great at is writing songs to his kids. I don’t have kids, but I get a little sentimental when I hear him sing to his. He also reminds me of Hawaii and I have great memories of my time there. He redoes “Better Together” on this album with a female singer accompanying him, but I think the original is better. This album ain’t that bad, but it ain’t any better than his others.
SHUGGIE OTIS – HERE COMES SHUGGIE OTIS. If you don’t know who Shuggie Otis is, then pick up an album. His album Inspiration Information is fucking great and I’ve been rocking it for years. Though “Here Comes Shuggie” is his first solo album released in 1970 and it’s not as mature, but it’s still a fine album for any time of the day or night. Put this album on at your next house party and jump to the instrumental jam, “Bootie Cooler” and you won’t be disappointed. Shuggie was a pure guitarist as any guitarist will agree. One of the better guitar tracks is “Shuggie’s Boogie” when he goes through a bunch of blues licks from his favorite blues guitarist. I could go on about this album, but this is certainly worth an add to anyone who prides themselves on having a diverse collection of great albums.
SOLOMON BURKE – THE VERY BEST OF. An issue or so ago Rolling Stone Magazine did a long story on Solomon Burke and it reminded me of what a genius this guy was, maybe still is. Let’s forget he has 21 children by 4 different women, 90 grandchildren and 19 great-grand children and let’s remember he’s been an ordained minister since we was 12. Solomon is one of the original gospel to pop singer crossovers of the late 50’s. It’s a long list of famous musicians who have covered his material including his most famous song, “Everybody Needs Somebody to Love” made famous by The Rolling Stones. This album covers numerous genres and my friend, it’s body swaying, relaxing and above all, soulful. This man had it and he still does. After gaining too much weight to walk he now performs on stage sitting on a throne adorned with jewels and beads while wearing a purple suit. Did I mention he’s performed for two different popes?
LEE “SCRATCH” PERRY & THE UPSETTERS – SUPER APE. Ah, the founder of dub music. Reggae has a place in my life and I suppose it always will. Now, I used to smoke a lot of weed and reggae is always great for cooling out, but these days I put on a bad ass reggae album and write or maybe organize my office. It’s great background music. Many people call “Super Ape” the gateway to Scratch Perry and I don’t disagree as this was the peak of Perry’s creative prowess and acid consumption. Common reggae subjects like weed and Zion are predominant throughout the lyrics, but it still feels so nice and easy to consume. In fact I find it easy to drift off into my own dub infused world of whatever it is I was thinking about before I decided to place this landmark album into my subconscious for awhile.
LOU REED – ROCK AND ROLL HEART. First off, this isn’t a rock and roll album. It’s more of some type of pop-jazz album though it’s reported this album rescued Reed from bankruptcy so I’m guessing he didn’t owe a great deal of money. Rock and Roll Heart was Reed’s 7th album and was released in 1976 and if you’re itching for a classic sounding track skip right to “Temporary Thing” as it might be the best track on the album. For Velvet Underground fans who are looking for that familiar sound you’ll enjoy the masturbatory “Banging On My Drum” that drives like you want it to. This album isn’t going to get a lot of rotation in my world, but it’s worth a once through. If you’d have told me this album was released in 1982 I would have believed it. The Barbara Mandrell piano on “Follow the Leader” and all the other lazy music doesn’t really do it for me. Like most Lou Reed stuff, this album is half-hearted, but I guess that’s to be expected.
I’m going to stop here as the review is getting long. I’ll return with the complete discography of Freakwater, Kristofferson’s first album, the new Melvins and a great many Library of Congress field recordings.