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by Souleo

14 Sep 2010


When you’re a musician who has spent the past 20 years existing safely within the circle of various bands, stepping out on your own brings no small amount of pressure. Jody Porter, guitarist for the power-pop group Fountains of Wayne, is feeling that pressure with the release of his debut solo album, Close to the Sun.

No longer able to hide within his former indie bands such as the Belltower, the Astrojet, or the previously mentioned Fountains of Wayne, Porter is adjusting to being front and center by focusing on what comes most naturally to him: making great music.

by Jason Cook

13 Sep 2010


Somewhere on the downbeat in The Heretic’s “Magic and Ecstasy” are the ghost notes that the film’s teenage Regan must find alarming, like a Trashmen record played at the wrong speed. One of the coverable tracks on the album, the song tries very little to scare its listeners in the way they may have expected after hearing either incarnation of “Regan’s Theme”. Instead, a drum kit cobbles through a Voodoo Child rock beat, accompanying a fuzzed-out bassline that leads us into Hell.

“Magic and Ecstasy’s” psychedelic tendencies aren’t at all at odds with The Heretic’s imagery. In fact, if one were to excerpt the film’s African possession scenes (yes, Exorcist II has plenty of strange scenes set in an Ethiopian dreamworld, from the perspective of a third-person psy-locust controlled by Linda Blair’s thoughts—see what I’m getting at here?) and contrast them with those of a bandanna-clad Band of Gypsies, add a few wavering King Crimson solos, and, well—I think Ennio Morricone had it right here.  At its most interesting moments, The Heretic is fairly entertaining, and mainly during its dreamworld sidebar. We see stampeding wildebeest, red rocky caverns, perspective-skewed savannah after grassland after dark reddened riverscape. James Earl Jones shows up as an entomologist. At one moment, Blair’s Regan tells us commandingly as she flies in locust-form: “Come; fly the teeth of the wind. Share my wings”. All of this Morricone watched in a mixing room as he wrote “Magic and Ecstasy”.

by Dylan Nelson

10 Sep 2010


Heart of the Congos is widely considered a landmark of the roots era. It has had a loyal following of aficionados and fans since its limited Jamaican release in 1977, but that same year, when Lee Perry sent the master tapes to Island, the label decided not to issue the album. What ensues is a long and somewhat hazy history of reissues and interpersonal intrigues driven by the mounting frustration of artists and audiences alike that the recording was so hard to find. Not least among them is the story recounted by Lloyd Bradley in his book, This Is Reggae Music, that Perry, frustrated by the album’s neglect, broke into an office somewhere and actually stole back the original tapes. Some claim that the LP was just one among many victims of a conspiracy to promote Bob Marley at the expense of lesser-known artists, and David Katz has speculated that the dreadful state of the masters (which included the remnants of another previously recorded song on two channels) contributed to Island’s regrettable decision. One thing is certain: Blood and Fire’s loving 1997 reissue came as a relief and a blessing to a generation of reggae lovers who had spent years searching for rare copies or had endured the low-quality versions that came before.

I’d like to imagine, though, that the obscurity and the impurity of the recording as it existed for so long was an almost serendipitous fate for Heart of the Congos. There’s something akin to the sonic compulsion of noise rock’s senseless crescendos or ambient electronica’s diminutive abstractions in the way that Perry clutters these tracks with interference, like the lowing cow that punctuates “Ark of the Covenant” and “Children Crying” or the explosions of tape hiss which are used as a rhythmic device on “Can’t Come In” and “Sodom and Gomorrow”. The album can be off-putting at first because the simple, repetitive songs are veiled by the sheer amount of noise in the mix. So the thought that Cedric Myton, Roy Johnson, and Watty Burnett had to somehow make themselves heard through shoddy remasters, scratched vinyls, or the fog of scarcity on hi-fis around the world is fitting, because belting it out on Heart of the Congos they were already competing with Perry’s manic orchestrations.

by Jason Mendelsohn and Eric Klinger

9 Sep 2010


The Canon. The Greatest Albums of All Time. For decades, they’ve been analyzed, ranked, charted and graphed—so much so that a Swedish statistician has developed a mathematical formula to enumerate them for posterity at Acclaimedmusic.net. But after so many years and so many lists and so many spirited arguments in pubs and record shops around the world, one question remains: do these critics’ darlings really hold up, or are they just hyped up?

Enter Jason Mendelsohn and Eric Klinger. For years, Mendelsohn and Klinger toiled through a tag-team article called Counterbalance, hashing out the relative merits of new releases for their local Chicken Dinner Newspaper. But that was a long time ago—before the economy crashed, sending their frivolous Arts & Entertainment section down in flames.

After wandering in the wilderness, lost and directionless, Mendelsohn and Klinger have returned to take on their most challenging assignment: the Greatest Albums of All Time. They begin with the Granddaddy of Them All—the Beach Boys’ 1966 opus Pet Sounds. Hang on to your ego!

by Sean Murphy

8 Sep 2010


The year 1959 was a watershed for jazz music (arguably the greatest single year for jazz in all history—which is saying a lot). Here’s a taste: Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue, John Coltrane’s Giant Steps, and Charles Mingus’ Ah Um. That is like the holy trinity of jazz music, all from the same year. But in the not-so-silent shadows a young, relatively unknown alto saxophonist was poised to cause a stir that still reverberates today: Ornette Coleman, who created the provocatively titled The Shape of Jazz to Come.

Kind of Blue is correctly celebrated for establishing modal music and as a genuine evolution from bop and post-bop; Giant Steps is the apotheosis of the “sheets of sound” that John Coltrane had been practicing and perfecting for a decade; Ah Um is an encyclopedic history of jazz music, covering everyone and everything from Jelly Roll Morton to Duke Ellington. Each of those albums were immediately embraced, and remain recognized as genuine milestones today. But The Shape of Jazz to Come was incendiary and complicated; it inspired as much resistance as it did inspiration. Some folks (Mingus included) bristled that it was all so much sound and fury, signifying…little. But what Coleman (along with trumpet player Don Cherry, bassist Charlie Haden and drummer Billy Higgins—representing as solid a quartet as any that have made music, ever) achieved was, arguably, the most significant advancement since Charlie Parker hit the scene.

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