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Everywhere At Once
Everywhere At Once
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars +1/2 - The musical soul of Microsoft's co-founder, August 16, 2013
This review is from: Everywhere At Once (Audio CD)
Paul Allen is (and will forever be) known as the co-founder of Microsoft and a generous philanthropist. But it's a fair bet that if he could trade in that notoriety (though perhaps not the riches) for fame as a guitarist, he'd have to think it over. Allen's been an ardent music fan and regular player since he was a teenager, and his philanthropy has included several music-related projects, including Seattle's EMP Museum. So though he's never made a career in music, his connections are deeper and more long-standing than that of a dilettante. Allen's connections have provided opportunities to play with many of his heroes and develop the relationships upon which this album of blues-, country-, soul- and funk-flavored rock was built. In addition to Allen's own guitar, he's joined by Los Lobos' David Hidalgo and Derek Trucks, and fronted by Ann Wilson, Ivan Neville, Chrissie Hynde, Joe Walsh and others. The songs are originals, written by Allen with a variety of partners, and though not blazing any new trails, they provide enough meat for his assembled friends to create something tuneful and heartfelt. This album is the product of a true music nerd - one who's listened intently, played on the sidelines for decades, and given the chance to lead the band, shows real talent for making music. 3-1/2 stars, if allowed fractional ratings. [©2013 Hyperbolium]

The Barn Birds
The Barn Birds
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Country-folk duets from Jonathan Byrd and Chris Kokesh, August 15, 2013
This review is from: The Barn Birds (Audio CD)
The Barn Birds are singer-songwriter-guitarist Jonathan Byrd, and singer-songwriter-fiddler Chris Kokesh. Each was well established individually on the folk festival circuit when they met and began working together several years ago. Their debut as a duo was written primarily by Byrd with collaborators (Anais Mitchell, Chris Kokesh, Anthony da Costa, Amy Speace, Luke Dick and Carey West), but they're paired equally as duet singers, and Kokesh's fiddle often adds a third melodic voice. Recorded live in a single day with sparse backing, the music is surprisingly rich. The instruments spend most of their time supporting the duo's vocals; the voices meld together into the magical new voice of a well-realized duet. Kokesh adds a few well-placed solos, such as the drowsy sixteen bars of "It's Too late to Call it a Night," but the focus remains primarily on the singing, whether in harmony, unison, or in the cappella breakdown of "Desert Rose." The music is folk and country, with an old-timey sound for the sweet "Sundays Loving You" and gypsy-jazz fiddle and rhythm guitar on "One Night at a Time." This is a wonderfully unassuming album, laid down by two closely connected musical souls who've let us eavesdrop on their conversation. [©2013 Hyperbolium]
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Raw Spitt (Remastered)
Raw Spitt (Remastered)
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27 used & new from $0.86

4.0 out of 5 stars Socially-charged soul from the Swamp Dogg stable, August 15, 2013
This review is from: Raw Spitt (Remastered) (Audio CD)
"Raw Spitt" was the alter ego laid on Charlie Whitehead by his friend and mentor Jerry Williams, Jr. The latter had recently renamed himself "Swamp Dogg," and was beginning to build a stable of artists. Williams and Whitehead had met in New York, and they developed a rich musical relationship that included both songwriting and original performances, with Williams producing Whitehead for this 1970 release on the Canyon label. Whitehead would release later material under his own name, but it's the socially-charged songs of this rare full-length debut that minted the singer's reputation with soul fans.

Written primarily by Williams and Troy Davis, the album is apiece with Swamp Dogg's own debut, Total Destruction to Your Mind, and this reissue includes a version of Total Destruction's "Synthetic World" among the five bonus tracks. Aside from a few pop and soul covers ("Put a Little Love in Your Heart," "This Old Town" and "Hey Jude"), the album is populated with outspoken songs of social malfunction - rough childhoods and racially proscribed adulthoods - and anthems of unyielding will and self-empowerment. As on Total Destruction, the surface-level absurdity found in some of the song titles and lyric hooks quickly gives way to deeper messages; Williams was a man with much to say, and having found a forum, he was going to say it with little indirection.

Whitehead proved a superb front man for these songs, with a voice that was deeper than Williams' own, with a ragged, soulful edge that suggested Otis Redding. Williams' funky, soulful productions were well-served by Capricorn's studio in Macon and a backing band that included James Carr, Johnny Sandlin, Robert "Pop" Popwell and Paul Hornsby. Long out of print, the album's ten tracks previously appeared on the import Charlie Whitehead Anthology. Alive's reissue restores the original album artwork, and includes two bonus tracks ("Synthetic World" and "Hey Jude") that didn't appear on the earlier compilation. This is a great find for those few who knew of Raw Spitt, those tracking down Williams' work as a producer, and anyone seeking new veins of fine '70s soul. [©2013 Hyperbolium]

Travelling Companion
Travelling Companion
Offered by skyvo-direct-usa
Price: $17.28
40 used & new from $4.41

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Liverpool folk trio with country backings in Los Angeles, August 13, 2013
This review is from: Travelling Companion (Audio CD)
This Liverpool, UK folk trio's third album is given an extra helping of twang by Los Angeles producer Rick Shea and a lineup of backing musicians that includes Greg Leisz and a pair of fiddlers. The trio's vocals suggest both the '60s folk of Peter, Paul & Mary and the West Coast country-rock of Gram Parsons, and singer-guitarist Peter Davies' original songs (and a cover of A.P. Carter's "Gold Watch and Chain") show the band's view of folk-to-country as a continuum that stretches naturally from Bristol to Nashville to California. Though he invokes nostalgic icons like railroads and Hank Williams, his songs are rooted in timeless themes of faded love, injustice and mortality. He writes in the simple poetics that is often heard in folk music; his images and situations strike an immediate resonance, but his details linger and grow. The group's harmonies add color, and the production's country elements link these songs to a time before folk and country were so commercially separate. It's no longer a surprise when Americana sounds arrive from other continents, but having them return from the birthplace of Merseybeat is a trip. [©2013 Hyperbolium]

South Side of Soul Street: The Minaret Soul
South Side of Soul Street: The Minaret Soul
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Price: $15.51
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Killer soul from should-be-legendary Florida studio and label, August 13, 2013
Stax, American Sound, FAME, Hi and Muscle Shoals Sound are all rightly famous studios, as are the artists who recorded there and the records they produced. But Valparaiso, Florida's Playground Recording Studio and its associated Minaret label should be just as famous. From 1967 through the mid-70s, producer Finley Duncan waxed a series of soul singles that are as good as they are rare and highly prized by collectors. Incredibly, much like Leiber & Stoller's Daisy/Tiger labels, Minaret's soul sides failed to make even a faint mark on the charts. But the lack of commercial impact wasn't due to a lack of goods: Minaret had records that were the equal of Stax, Atlantic or Hi, including B-sides that were as good (or in some cases even better) than their plug sides. How these records have remained unknown to all but the most dedicated crate-diggers is a mystery.

Minaret's artists won't roll off the average listener's tongue, but even a cursory spin of these archival treasures will alert your ears to something big that was missed the first time around. Otis Redding, meet Big John Hamilton; Wilson Pickett, say hello to Genie Brooks; and if you're one of the arranger-songwriters who brought life to Stax, you should probably get to know club member R.J. Benninghoff. Minaret's house band was even more obscure than the studio's performers (if that's really possible), but - amazingly - the musical equal of the bands found at FAME and Stax. Bill Dahl's detailed liner notes provides some detail on the players and their backgrounds, but it's so completely revelatory as to almost feel like a hoax; as if someone wrote fictional histories for a make believe Pebbles volume of soul.

A rundown of the set's best sides would list just about every track in the 2-CD collection. Though not every song, vocal or instrumental performance is equally strong, there's something in each and every recording that's worth hearing. Special mention must go to the B-sides, which include both vocal tracks and instrumentals; there were much more than throwaways meant to goose airplay of the A-sides. Omnivore's forty-track set collects both sides of twenty singles, all but three mastered from the original analog tapes. "Juanita," "I'll Love Only You" and "Don't Worry About Me" were mastered from original 45s, and sound fine. The twenty-page booklet includes liners, photos, label reproductions and discographical information. This is easily the year's greatest surprise so far, and leading the race for the best reissue. [©2013 Hyperbolium]

Roll Me, Tumble Me
Roll Me, Tumble Me
Price: $10.99
73 used & new from $1.39

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars +1/2 - Acoustic string band that goes beyond Bluegrass convention, August 11, 2013
This review is from: Roll Me, Tumble Me (Audio CD)
This Boston-based quintet sports a traditional string band lineup of guitar, banjo, fiddle, mandolin and bass, and though that adds up to the acoustics of a bluegrass band, their original material is something distinct from that of the typical festival players. The differences likely stem from the varied background of the band members: fiddler Mike Barnett, bassist Sam Grisman (son of mandolinist David) and mandolinist Dominick Leslie had traditional childhood immersions in acoustic music, while banjoist Greg Liszt had a dual life as a picker (with the Crooked Still) and a scientist (including a Ph.D. in molecular biology from MIT), and guitarist Stash Wyslouch followed a route through rock and heavy metal before settling into country and bluegrass.

The band's moved closer to traditional song structures over their five years and three records, but the remnants of earlier experiments are still to be heard. Their harmonies, for example, range from traditional high-low bluegrass singing to unison passages they've characterized as "gang vocals." There's also a helping of country that suggests harmony acts like Alabama and the Statler Brothers. There's a hopefulness to their tone, even when singing lyrics of failed love, buoyed by rolling banjo, sawed fiddle and fluttering lines of mandolin. The tempos leave little time for dwelling on failure; "Bored of the Raging" emerges from a crawl to a run, and "A Faded Star" waves off inevitability in favor of the changeable present moment.

In contrast, the passing years of "Now is Not the Time" and stagnant living of "Working" seem to spark genuine worries (though the latter does manage a rare use of the word "wankfest" in a song lyric). The band's hopefulness is also interrupted by the dichotomies of "Beautiful's the Body" and "It'll End Too Soon," each serving up conflicting impulses and no clear answers. Greg Liszt's songwriting straddles portrait and poetry, drawing characters and situations that layer abstraction on concrete foundations. His optimistic joys and thoughtful concerns give the album a believable outline whose emotional details are inked in by the band's talented and soulful musicianship. 3-1/2 stars, if allowed fractional ratings. [©2013 Hyperbolium]

Elvis At Stax: Deluxe Edition (3CD)
Elvis At Stax: Deluxe Edition (3CD)
Price: $25.79
55 used & new from $22.21

71 of 75 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Elvis at Stax in 1973 - masters and outtakes, August 6, 2013
Starting with his '68 Comeback Special, a reawakened Elvis conjured a remarkable late-career hot-streak that included 1969's From Elvis in Memphis, the revitalized Vegas stage shows documented on That's the Way It Is and On Stage, and a return to his country, blues, gospel and rockabilly roots on 1971's Elvis Country. In January of 1973, Elvis stormed the airwaves with Aloha from Hawaii via Satellite, and soon after signed a new seven-year contract with RCA. In July and December of that year he booked himself into the legendary Stax studio on McLemore Avenue, adding to a string of Memphis studios that had been good luck charms: Elvis had launched his career at Sun, and revived his sense of self at Chip Moman's American Sound in 1969.

The July sessions produced ten masters, eight of which were released on 1973's Raised on Rock, and two held back for 1974's Good Times. Four were also issued as singles, , with "Raised on Rock" climbing to #41 on the Hot 100, Tony Joe White's "I've Got a Thing About You Baby" peaking at #4 country, and "Take Good Care of Her" making the Top 40 AC. All ten of the masters were solid, though by no means extraordinary. Elvis was in good voice, but neither the material nor the band assembled from road regulars and Memphis guests sparked anything really deep. Elvis connected well with bluesier material like "Just a Little Bit" and Leiber & Stoller's "If You Don't Come Back," and gospel-tinged backing vocals add weight to a few ballads, but the sessions never lift off in the way of his earlier work at American Sound. Two tracks - "Girl of Mine" and "Sweet Angeline" - swapped in players from the Stax house band, including the MG's rhythm section of Donald "Duck" Dunn and Al Jackson, but you'd barely know it from the final outcome.

The December sessions were a great deal more productive, both in final output - 18 finished masters - and in musical vitality. The results were split across 1974's Good Times and 1975's Promised Land, further dissipating the sessions' unity and squandering the marketing value of "Elvis at Stax." But even with the inept marketing, the sessions turned out three Top 20 hits on each of the pop and country charts, and a country chart topping album in Promised Land. Elvis sounds much more deeply engaged than he had in July, and the material and arrangements are a great deal stronger. Highlights include a fiery take on Chuck Berry's "Promised Land," the strings, horns and deep bass of "If You Talk in Your Sleep," the gospel-funk "I Got a Feelin' in My Body," Jerry Reed's revival-charged "Talk About the Good Times," and feeling covers of "Good Time Charlie's Got the Blues" and "You Asked Me To." Two ballads, "It's Midnight" and "Loving Arms," feature deeply touching, standout vocal performances.

Beyond the twenty eight masters, this 3-CD set includes a generous helping of alternate takes and one unfinished track. All of this material has been released before, but scattered across a number of posthumous collections and expanded reissues. Augmented with bits of studio chatter, the outtakes give a more organic view of Elvis' presence at Stax than did the dispersed master takes. What you'll hear is an artist who's really committed to most of the material, and though the master takes were chosen for their commercial viability, the alternates are filled with vitality. Unlike the many soundtrack sessions through which Elvis often sleepwalked, and despite the Stax sessions being the product of a contractual obligation, Elvis was ready to make great music of his own volition. Freed from the confines of Hill & Range's catalog, Elvis drew from both longtime suppliers and contemporary songwriters, recording songs with which he felt a personal resonance.

That personal resonance also applied to the assembled players, who were drawn from Elvis' road band and key Memphis and Muscle Shoals players such as guitarist Reggie Young and bassist Norman Putnam. But the results weren't as deeply impacted by Southern soul as were the earlier sessions at American Sound; Stax, it turned out, was more of a conveniently located venue than a sound with which Elvis wanted to engage. The label's legendary musicians were barely involved in the July sessions, and not at all in December. By the time the later dates came around, even the Stax recording equipment had been swapped out in favor of RCA's mobile unit, leaving the converted movie theater studio as Stax's only real participation. Still, Elvis was home in Memphis, riding the crest of a remarkable career resurgence, and mostly (modulo the Colonel's lingering machinations) in control.

The 3-CD set is delivered in an 8x8 box that includes a deluxe 42-page booklet stuffed with photos, ephemera and notes by Roger Semon and Robert Gordon. The discs are screened with images of tape reels, and slid into the pockets of a tri-fold cardboard insert, from which fans will likely want to relocate them to jewel cases or other appropriate storage. Collectors who already own Rhythm and Country and the FTD reissue of Raised on Rock, Good Times and Promised Land will have most of the tracks in this set, though having them all together in one (affordable!) place produces a uniquely coherent view of the sessions. One thing that becomes clear is that Elvis had a great album in him, but a contract that demanded two albums and multiple singles per year dug deeper than the sessions could support. What's great here is really great, and what's good is still passable. Though he'd record more in 1975-76, these Stax sessions are the last major sessions in his remarkable comeback. [©2013 Hyperbolium]
Comment Comments (6) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 28, 2014 7:33 PM PDT

Sings Songs from Valley of the Dolls / Sings Folk Songs - Time To Move On
Sings Songs from Valley of the Dolls / Sings Folk Songs - Time To Move On
Price: $14.69
30 used & new from $6.10

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Patty Duke's third pop album and a resonant folk set, August 2, 2013
Actors crossing over to the recording arts and sciences have had a long and spotty history. For a precious few, recording was a return to an earlier music career that was subsequently given a boost by their acting fame. For many others - think William Shatner or the cast of Bonanza - records were a quick cash-in that provided new marketing opportunities and gave fans an unusual musical memento. Capitalizing on her childhood stardom in film, theater and television, United Artists launched Patty Duke into the music world with four albums and a short string of hit singles. Though Duke wasn't as vocally refined as her chart contemporaries, her theatrical talent, confidence and professionalism proved to be valuable assets in the recording studio.

Patty Duke's first album had yielded the Top 10 hit "Don' t Just Stand There," but subsequent singles charted lower and lower. By the time she released her third album, Songs From Valley of the Dolls, Duke's television program had ended, and her acting turn in the title film had left her wholesome teenage image behind. The material for her third album reflects this transition, having moved on from teen-themed love songs to more sophisticated and theatrical compositions by Dory and Andre Previn, including the film theme from Valley of the Dolls. As on her earlier albums, Duke shined more brightly as a dramatist than a vocalist, though by this point she (or more likely, her producers) felt comfortable enough to often leave her voice undoubled, exposing some pitch problems but letting her expressiveness and emotion shine.

Unlike he crooning of her teen hits, Duke sings the Previns' material in the muscular style of a Broadway show, and it suits her well. The wear in her delivery gives the film's title theme a wholly different feel than Dionne Warwick's hit (which, incredibly, reached #2 as the B-side of "I Say a Little Prayer"), one that's clearly emblematic of Neely O'Hara's condition at the end of the film. The second half of the album departs from the Previns' material and returns to lighter fare produced in the pop vein of Duke's earlier albums, including the empowered "My Own Little Place" and the fuzz-guitar, bass and horn-driven "A Million Things to Do." In addition to the album's eleven tracks, the previously unreleased contemporary pop "I Want Your Love" is included.

Duke's last album for United Artists is a collection of surprisingly compelling covers of contemporary and classic folk songs. The album was left in the vault at the time of its 1968 recording, though a single of "And We Were Strangers" backed with "Dona, Dona" was released with little fanfare. The expressiveness of Duke's voice is better served by these gentler backing arrangements, and relieved of the need to belt out teen-oriented material, she really shines. Her recitation of "The Bells of Rhymney" is a memorably original approach to a song whose association with the Byrds is nearly unseverable. United Artists apparently didn't think the record buying public would gravitate to a post-teen TV star's interpretations of folks songs, which is a shame, because this is Duke's most musically satisfying of her four albums for UA.

Those who remember Duke's singing career most likely remember her earlier records, particularly the single "Don't Just Stand There." Her first two albums will generate a stronger element of nostalgia, but this second pair is actually the superior musical experience. All four albums provide charming memories of Duke's years as the world's most famous teenager, and the immediate years thereafter. This twenty-four track set is delivered with a sixteen-page booklet that includes full-panel cover reproductions for Valley of the Dolls, the prospective front cover for Sings Folk Songs, and detailed liner notes. [©2013 Hyperbolium]

Don't Just Stand There/ Patty
Don't Just Stand There/ Patty
Price: $14.69
30 used & new from $9.63

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars +1/2 - The world's most popular teenager's first two albums, August 2, 2013
Actors crossing over to the recording arts and sciences have had a long and spotty history. For a precious few, recording was a return to an earlier music career that was subsequently given a boost by their acting fame. For many others - think William Shatner or the cast of Bonanza - records were a quick cash-in that provided new marketing opportunities and gave fans an unusual musical memento. Capitalizing on her childhood stardom in film, theater and television, United Artists launched Patty Duke into the music world with four albums and a short string of hit singles. Though Duke wasn't as vocally refined as her chart contemporaries, her theatrical talent, confidence and professionalism proved to be valuable assets in the recording studio.

Duke's debut was titled after the album's first and biggest hit, "Don't Just Stand There." The Top 10 single is a brooding piece of orchestrated pop whose mood and double-tracked vocals closely resemble Leslie Gore's "You Don't Own Me." Duke didn't have the vocal depth of Gore, but as an actress she imbued the lyrics with intrigue and emotion. The album's second hit, "Say Something Funny," is a nicely wrought song of concealed heartbreak, written by the same team (Bernice Ross and Lor Crane) that had penned "Don't Just Stand There," and once again providing Duke an opportunity to create pathos from the song's emotional storyline. Ross and Crane also contributed the waltz time "Ribbons & Roses," whose dramatic arrangement and folk-tinged melody are a good fit for Duke.

The breezy "Everything But Love," Gary Lewis' "Save Your Heart for Me" and Skeeter Davis' "The End of the World" lend Duke the charm of earlier girl singers like Annette Funicello and Shelley Fabares. Less successful is an unsteady remake of Nat King Cole's early '50s ballad "Too Young," and covers of then-contemporary pop hits, "Downtown," "Danke Schoen," "A World Without Love" and "What the World Needs Now is Love." Stacking these covers against the originals of Petula Clark, Wayne Newton, Peter & Gordon and Jackie DeShannon, Duke's versions sound more like novelties than artistic reconsiderations. A pair of bonuses from the film Billie includes the sweet Top 100 single "Funny Little Butterflies" and a stagier flip that reused the melody of the A-side.

Duke's self-titled second album was released in 1966, the year after her debut, and followed a similar template of combining new material (including the minor hit "Whenever She Holds You") that suggests earlier girl vocalists, with covers of recent pop songs. The latter, particularly the Beatles' "Yesterday," play well to Duke's dramatic abilities, but aren't always well-served by her limited vocal accuracy. Double-tracked vocals are used to agreeably sweeten several tracks, such as covers of Gary Lewis' "Sure Gonna Miss Him" and the Everly Brothers' "All I Have to Do is Dream." Both albums provide charming memories of Duke's years as the world's most popular teenager, and the sixteen-page booklet includes full-panel cover reproductions and detailed liners by Matt Tunia. [©2013 Hyperbolium]
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 29, 2014 7:20 PM PDT

Hell and Half of Georgia
Hell and Half of Georgia
Price: $12.99
29 used & new from $4.50

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Houston immigrant adds muscle to his honky-tonk, July 31, 2013
After nearly twenty years on the Los Angeles honky-tonk scene, a place at which he'd arrived from his native Virginia, Mike Stinson moved on to Texas. But not the blue dot Texas of Austin, he moved to the blue-collar Texas of Houston. His twangy, throw-back country music quickly found a sympathetic partner in Jesse Dayton, who produced and lent his band to back 2010's Jukebox in Your Heart. But recorded in Willie Nelson's Pedernales Studios, Jukebox had an earthy quality that still had one foot in California. This follow-up, produced by R.S. Field, is heavier on rock and blues bar sounds, with organ, electric guitar (courtesy of Lance Smith and Dave Gonzalez) and backing vocalist that give the arrangements a kick. The hoarse edge in Stinson's voice turns into an appealing husk in this milieu, and his sung-spoken delivery is nicely framed by the hotter settings.

Stinson wears his new-found residential fealty on the sleeve of "Died and Gone to Houston," one of the most unabashedly affectionate songs ever written about Space City. Juke Boy Bonner knew the ups ("Houston, The Action Town") and downs ("Struggle Here in Houston"), but it takes an immigrant's eye to stay focused on a town's sunny side. When the arrangements back off and twang a bit, such as on "Walking Home in the Rain," the cracks in Stinson's voice even suggest the Houston-born Rodney Crowell. Stinson is romantically blunt and intense on "I Got a Thing for You" and "This Year," but he turns affectionate for his inventory of a musician's tools, "Box I Take to Work." He can also be wry, even ornery, as on "Late for My Funeral" and clever, as on "Broken Record." Houston's clearly lit a new fire in Stinson's music, and R.S. Field turns out to be the right man to get it on tape. [©2013 Hyperbolium]

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