Music » Music Reviews

Music Reviews 4.12.06


Music from the Emerald Isle
MAD 00

Like a shot of Bailey’s, Irish folk songs can be cloying. In Music from the Emerald Isle, Rochester chamber choir Madrigalia serves them up sweetly, but not sickeningly so.

If you’re used to the Cambridge Singers’ recordings of part songs by Charles Villiers Stanford, you may appreciate Madrigalia’s more passionate, full-throated interpretations of “The Blue Bird” and “When Mary Thro’ the Garden Went.” The men deliver an especially sonorous tone in “Down by the Salley Gardens” and “Shule Aroon.” My favorite cut on the roughly 40-minute CD is “I Wish I Were a Shepherd’s Lamb,” which gradually accelerates in a jaunty arrangement that’s joyous and expressive and fun. Plus, who can resist the line, “I wish I had a yellow cow” sung with utter conviction?

Alisa Curlee, who accompanies some of the songs, strikes the perfect balance of delicacy and strength.

Conductor Roger Wilhelm is famous for his attention to detail during rehearsals. In Music from the Emerald Isle, that meticulousness pays off in measures of clarity and warmth. Like a mug of Irish coffee on a chilly night, it’s just about irresistible.

--- Brenda Tremblay


Show Your Bones
Interscope Records

The Yeah Yeah Yeahs aren’t really growing up, they’re simply on to Phase 2 --- and well on their way to cult status. The NYC trio’s preceding Fever To Tell, along with two earlier EPs, were certainly a wild garage rock wall of Warhol madness and ingenuity. But did you really want them to make the same record again?

YYY’s new-found reserve on Show Your Bones has the band sounding a little less lo-fi. But it’s still plenty raw. Nick Zinner’s tonally diverse, all-encompassing guitar sporadically plugs in to the band’s herky-jerky, frenetic sound with some really cool atypical guitar riffs and patterns. It’s a kind of minimalism with excess on its mind. Still inhabiting the fringe, vocalist Karen O doesn’t shout quite as much. And the drums powering this vehicle span rhythms that are anthem big --- dig the Queen vibe on “Phenomena” --- to shufflin’ Memphis roots on the cut “Mysteries.” “Cheated Hearts” is more textbook YYY for the diehards. Short answer: punk, long answer: genius. Either way Show Your Bones rocks.

--- Frank De Blase


Rainbow Quartz International

Here’s yet another Jim Diamond nob-twiddled gem. It’s hard to imagine something as sweet sounding as singer Denise James rising out of the Motor City smoke nowadays. But then again, there were all those girl groups, of which James sounds as if she could’ve easily been a member.

On this, her third disc, James intones with a Shangri-Las casualness and uber-vixen sexiness. Plenty of dreamy reverb, gentle psychedelic vocal layers, and Byrdsy jingle-jangle make this album really retro-specific. The kids are gonna dig it just the same. I promise.

--- Frank De Blase


Lost & Found
Delta Groove Productions

When a blues artist successfully rides the train between broke-dick desperation, desire, and overwhelming joy, the blues, in my mind anyway, are truly defined. St. Louis’ John Long plays those stripped-down, countrified blues on his new CD Lost & Found, featuring 12 tracks of pre-war Delta and Chicago blues recorded in one day, baby.

Born in 1950, Long has been playing for 30-plus years and yet surprisingly this is his first full-length release

But where a lot blues artists get bogged down in the rudiments, Long embraces the ol’ tried ’n’ true and gets more out of a dobro and the stomp of his shoe (just dig “Foot Stompin’ Daddy”) than most can wring out of a whole band. The music herein boogies and boils. It is mesmerizing and electrifying and will stop you where you stand.

John Long is mucho authentic. He’s got cats like John Hammond salivating and singing his praises. I mean, Muddy Waters himself gave the man his blessing and the thumbs up more than 20 years ago. What else do you need, for crissakes?

--- Frank De Blase


Freak ‘n’ Roll… Into the Fog
Eagle Rock Entertainment

The Black Crowes, who made the crowd forget about the torrential rain during their Silver Stadium set in 1990, were full of swagger and oh-so-tight, heirs to the Aerosmith throne. But if you don’t mind that after 15 years they’ve evolved into a bloated jam band, then put down that bong for a few minutes and pick up their new concert DVD, Freak ‘n’ Roll. You’ll be treated to more than two hours of indulgent noodling and surprisingly lousy sound at the famed Fillmore Auditorium, laced with grainy images of the band members wandering through the streets of San Francisco. The disappointing extra footage (to call it “bonus” would be kind) consists of 14 minutes of rehearsal scenes --- including a Grateful Dead cover, naturally --- and singer Chris Robinson’s famous wife mugging for the camera. There are a couple of highlights, such as the chugging blues of “My Morning Song” (before it turns completely masturbatory) and the gorgeous “Non Fiction.” But where’s the onstage banter? The volatile kinship between wiseass Chris and his grumpy guitarist brother Rich is what fueled the Crowes. Perhaps the herb has siphoned their proverbial tanks.

--- Dayna Papaleo


Hammersmith Odeon, London ‘75
Columbia Records

You’re not seriously still reading this. What more do you need to know? It’s Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. Live. In 1975. Springsteen and his scrappy combo hit the Old World in the wake of more than a little advance hype on the eve of Born to Run’s UK release, and this is the long-lost recording of an artist who still had something to prove. Thirty years have passed since Springsteen blitzed London, so eventual warhorses like “Thunder Road” and especially “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out” are suffused with an infectious urgency, while lesser-known classics like “Kitty’s Back” and “It’s Hard To Be a Saint in the City” get another deserved moment in the sun. Keep in mind that Springsteen is still just 26 years old at the time of this concert as you listen to an elegant piano-and-vocal rendition of “For You” and the absolutely brilliant “Lost in the Flood,” by far the standout of this essential collection.

--- Dayna Papaleo