Music

Acoustic Alchemy: This Way

Blue Note issues easy listening, "pop-jazz" -- not entirely without jazz, far from entirely jazz.


Acoustic Alchemy

This Way

Label: BlueNote
US Release Date: 2007-06-05
UK Release Date: 2007-05-14
Amazon
iTunes

The point of this band's name isn't that their music is acoustic (which it isn't), but that at the centre of their electrically powered (as in guitar) and electronically worked or generated sound, there have usually been a pair of acoustic guitars. Here, it seems there is at times only the one acoustic guitar, with Miles Gilderdale switching to electric on some numbers . The notes sent to reviewers quote Gilderdale's colleague Greg Carmichael very carelessly (not Mr. Carmichael's fault) to the effect that "Our fans might be surprised to hear Miles play so much electric guitar, but in essence that's what he is by trade."

Mr. Gilderdale is a professional electric guitar?

Blue Note Records, whose long history as an independent company had nothing to do with the sort of thing involved here -- taking up a (their phrase) pop-jazz band in collaboration with another label and daring anybody to deny that there is some jazz on their latest album -- seem now as a feather in the EMI wing remarkably interested to relate the history of this band on their blurb: a very lengthy CV.

Initially, Gilderdale's place was filled by, says the blurb, "a guitarist called Simon James." This is surely unpleasantly patronising. It makes Mr. James sound rather disposable. I'd have thought at least a man called Simon James, who may be around deserving an apology for this, since he was presumably no less real than Miles Gilderdale's other predecessor, the late, lamented Nick Webb.

Acoustic Alchemy are hardly flattered by the other statement in the blurb that "Acoustic Alchemy's rich legacy is based on the extraordinary airplay, sales and critical recognition given the many...recordings." One would have hoped that their success and recognition might have been seen as dependent on the quality of their music, rather than of the work of colleagues and predecessors of the blurbists happy to claim so much for their own fellow-professionals.

And why print Carmichael's quote to the effect: "This Way [has] got so much more playing on it than we've done before." While this does bring to mind the departed impresario whose most lucrative charges' live gigs involved speakers wired up to equipment backstage, the quote presumably means that the guitarists got to make instrumental contributions of a more creative than routine sort.

For all of which the music is what might be called (present reviewer's coinage) "smoosion", beginning with a pastiche soul number and including a tribute to the estimable Ernest Ranglin, less lively than that Jamaican guitarist's fairly comparable set not so long back with Monty Alexander and other fellow-Jamaicans. It was nice, though, to see the name of Dennis Rollins guesting on trombone, playing well if not with the liveliness I've heard elsewhere.

A reference to the "wild percussion" of Greg Grainger on "Carlos the King" does imply the responses of a douce maiden aunt who'd have been shocked by Gene Krupa or Buddy Rich or Elvin Jones. The "powerful flugelhorn improvisation" by Rick Braun is impressive without being any especially powerful flugelhorn improvisation. A lot of work would seem to have gone into trying to create excitement without the music, though lively, ever being very much more than tame and carefully crafted and highly professional, and no doubt welcome to fans whose noses might wrinkle if you told them their admiration was founded on the work of PR professionals.

5

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less
3

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less
9

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image