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Juan Mobili (Valley Cottage, NY USA)
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Antony And The Johnsons
Antony And The Johnsons
Price: 8.99

67 of 69 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Debut of An Amazing Artist, 21 Sep 2005
This review is from: Antony And The Johnsons (Audio CD)
If you read the reviews of any of Antony's albums and EPs, here or the UK site, you may find that being rendered speechless after listening to his music is mentioned frequently. I consider this not only accurate but also likely to happen to anyone who may listen to this, his debut, album or its follow-up, the Mercury Prize winner "I Am A Bird Now."
It has been a long time since a singer or songwriter -Antony is both- has moved me so deeply with the dramatic range of his voice, the enveloping depth of his melodies or the courage of his words.
Just consider "Cripple And The Starfish" and "Hitler In My Heart," the second and third cuts, that -particularly if listened together- will absolutely floor you with the tender courage of their lyrics and the glorious beauty of Antony's voice.
For those who may not know his work, I may not be able to offer the kind of references that can serve them well. In term of genre, you can't call it Pop or Alternative, for instance, and expect to have a reliable idea of what you'll hear. If I have to put a style label to this music I'd have to coin a new one, "Alterative," because that's exactly what it might do to you: alter you.
Finally, since I haven't mentioned them yet, a word about The Johnsons. Their sound -almost a chamber ensemble, with the addition of drums and bass- is particularly suited for this music and exquisitely performed. "Divine," a beautiful tribute to the star of many John Waters films, "Twilight" and "The Atrocities" are another three great examples of the band's gift for accompanying Antony.
Although, to my taste, I Am A Bird Now of some songs in the recent EPs (I've reviewed them too, in their pages- may be even more mature statements, this album must be given your full attention. This is a solid five-star album and the first powerful document of an amazing new voice.


Chaos And Creation In The Backyard
Chaos And Creation In The Backyard
Offered by best_value_entertainment
Price: 7.94

9 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars McCartney's Best In A While, 19 Sep 2005
I considered calling this review "McCartney's Most Honest and Restrained Album In A While" but was concerned that it may be interpreted as some sort of criticism rather than describing the two elements that make it his best in a long while.
Several songs in this album, which offer more breadth and depth that I've listened from Paul in recent albums, showed a more introspective and unsentimental view of life. I would not call this set solemn as much as restrained, avoiding a certain indulging of his cheerful side that, in my opinion, has accounted for uneven albums in the past.
Tunes like "Riding To Vanity Fair," "Jenny Wren," and "Anyway" are great examples of McCartney's extraordinary gift for tender melodies, yet manage to stop short from "precious Pop."
To this point, in addition to these songs being a very inspired batch, Nigel Godrich's production is a key factor. It seems, from what I read, that he was able to push back on Paul enough to reveal the best and most sincere these songs have to offer, the ones mentioned before -as well as "Too Much Rain" and "A Certain Softness, for the sake of additional examples.
That's, I think, a great producer's gift, to reveal -not to create- the inner beauty of music and words, to provide the sound and mood that makes them stand out -think Rubin with Cash, or Lanois with Emmylou Harris. He did not make this album better, perhaps, but as great as it should be.
So, for me, there is enough natural beauty and thoughtful craft in "Chaos And Creation In The Backyard," to give it album five stars.


Coles Corner
Coles Corner
Price: 6.97

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A True Romantic Corner, 16 Sep 2005
This review is from: Coles Corner (Audio CD)
Richard Hawley -a favorite of Nancy Sinatra and Ryan Adams- may just have earned a place in the lineage of singers and songwriters who have a legitimate gift for genuine romanticism, in a tradition wide enough to include Bacharach, Scott Walker, Dion and Roy Orbison.
I know that's quite a strong statement to make, yet Hawley belongs there by his capacity to evoke a certain nostalgia and joy of true romance that is authentic and exquisitely crafted, without ever indulging in trite sentimentality.
Whether you are already familiar with Hawley or not, Coles Corner, his most accomplished album thus far, is a perfect place to take delight on this man's work. Hawley has a distinct voice tone and sense of phrasing that can conjure up the many moods of love that many of us have felt, and that those people mentioned before have so memorably expressed.
I would add that the fact that these songs are written by him may clearly contribute to the confidence and credibility of his delivery. Whether is the longing in his voice in "Coles Corner" or "Wait For Me," which reminded me of Orbison, or the romantic pleas of "The Ocean" or "Born Under A Bad Sign"- he hits the mark.
Another remarkable fact is that Hawley is not even a singer first, his guitar work -a fixture in Pulp's sound in recent years- is what he's been originally recognized for, and in this album he confirm that too. This is one of those rare cases of virtuosity without showing off, confessional without self-consciousness, gorgeous chords and subtle solos weaving seamless stories between words and melodies.
Coles Corner, it's conveyed in the liner notes, was a place where everyone in Sheffield met -specially those looking for romance- and although, many of us were never there, it would feel like a familiar place. Whatever "your corner" was called, or my memory takes me, this music could probably be how those places sounded when we looked for love.


Arcade Fire
Arcade Fire
Price: 6.07

17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Arcade Fire's Promising Debut, Remastered, 15 Aug 2005
This review is from: Arcade Fire (Audio CD)
Solinas is right when he says that "it's hard not to be smitten" with this band. Having listened to Funeral, a few months after its release -lost months I feel, given how grand that album is!- and in the absence of any new material, I felt compelled to buy this EP.
Certainly, although I would not give it five stars, I was far from disappointed, and I believe that in it you will find some of the basic musical DNA that made their first full album such remarkable feat.
Although their sound does not have the emotional conviction that Funeral exudes, there's enough here to expect greater things from this band, which indeed they proved to be the case with the above mentioned full-length release.
For instance, "Old Flame," the opener, already shows some of the band's trademark arrangements and carries you away with the kinnd of fierce nostalgia they will perfect later.
As far as the alledged missing confidence of this debut, you may find that that's not quite the case. Win Butler and Régine Chassagne's vocals are passionate and poignant respectively already, although they may not reach the urgency and deep murning that informed Funeral.
For me, there are two gems that deserve enough praise to warrant purchase of this EP, "My Heart is an Apple" -that grows in intensity as the song develops and includes a touching passage beautifully sung by Régine- and "Vampire / Forest Fire," probably the best song in this EP and worthy of the best of Funeral's, in which Butler sounds like Neil Young circa OnThe Beach.
All in all, this is more than a respectable debut, and worth having, if you fell under the Arcade Fire's spell.


Minas
Minas

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of Milton's Masterpieces, 14 Aug 2005
This review is from: Minas (Audio CD)
After the Sgt. Pepper-like revolution of 1972'a Clube Da Esquina, in my opinion his earliest masterpiece, and the gorgeous set of songs that became Milagre Dos Peixes, Nascimento decided to write and to pay homage to his native land, Minas Geraes.
Rather than releasing those songs as a double album -something rather common already in 1975 in the US but highly unusual in Latin America- Milton's gems became individual albums, Minas in '75 and Geraes in '76.
In a sense, although it may have been the result of his label's marketing demands more than anything else- it seems appropriate that this was the case since each album has such strong personality of its own.
Risking to abuse an already abused metaphor, whereas Geraes may conjure up the sun of his birth town and the music that its people live their day by, Minas' mood speaks of the magic that begins when the sun sets, and the moon -with all its stories and its creatures- reigns.
The beauty begins with "Minas" with its memorable children chorus which along with Milton's voice seems to invoke the very soul of his native land. This one "melts" into "Fe Cega Faca Amolada" -sung along with Beto Guedes- that shows early the great musicianship that the people Milton assembled are capable of -particularly and throughout this album, Toninho Horta on guitars, Novelli on bass, and Nivaldo Ornelas on soprano sax.
"Beijo Partido," the wondrous "Saudade Dos Avioes Da Panair," and "Gran Circo" begin to show the stunning gift of range in Milton's voice, particularly the latter manages a wider diversity of moods and themes in the confines of a song that some people may not achieve in full albums.
And then there's that magical voice of his -I know I repeat myself but it's inevitable!- taking you to heights and depths of your soul that, at least in my case at that time, I have not known before. Such is the case with "Ponta De Areia" which is built on the first song's melody and brings back the children chorus throughout.
From then on, things get even more nocturnal, with "Idolatrada" and "Trastevere." I'd rather call them"nocturnal" than "dark," a term that has been reduced to signify something sinister or depressing, and might miss on the hidden richness and complex feelings that are present here.
The next two songs from the original album -" "Leila" and "Paul E Bebeto"- are probably among his most famous melodies from that period, and "Simples" is a remarkable end to this amazing work.
The two bonus tracks on the remastered edition are, unlike it's often the case with these additions, worth being included and surprising to me that they have been outtakes for so long, specially his very personal version of "Norwegian Wood.
One thing worth noting: Amazon has listed two albums with the word "Minas" in it, one being this one, the real Minas, and the other being an A&M recording referred to as "Milton (Minas)" which is a completely different, both in songs and personnel. The latter CD is far from a masterpiece, although a good album, and should not be confused with the classic.
If you know Milton and you don't have the original "Minas," you must listen to it as soon as you can. If Milton is a new taste for you, this album -along with Geraes- is the equivalent with starting your climb at the top of the mountain, which I recommend. Then get Clube Da Esquina and Milagre Dos Peixes, and you'll be set for a long time.
Milton Nascimento, acknowledging the obvious genre differences, belongs to the same pantheon of great ones like Marvin Gaye or Bob Dylan, and this album is one of the most stunning examples of his musical stature.


Courage
Courage
Offered by Fulfillment Express
Price: 9.49

14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Milton's Best and Earliest Album in English (Remastered), 8 Aug 2005
This review is from: Courage (Audio CD)
This is Milton Nascimento's first album for A&M where he sung mostly in English. Recorded between in mid-December of '68 and finished in late February of the following year, this set consists of songs he had already recorded in Brazil, in different albums, that hail from his most creative period compositionally speaking and when his voice at his peak.
Milton would go on to record in the States again and again over the years -there are rumors that there's even a reel in some vault holding songs with Crosby, Stills and Nash- yet this album as well as his collaboration with Wayne Shorter, Native Dancer, are by far the best of his output, away from his native land and language.
In part, I believe, this is due to Eumir Deodato's great arrangements which, although they sport CTI's strings production style, fit well with these versions and serve, without dominating it, his soaring voice.
In addition to Deodato, the core band includes Airto Moreira's percussion and the great Herbie Hancock in piano, the former providing an authentic Brazilian flavor and Hancock contributing new colors for the original melodies.
If you love Milton, particularly from the mid-Sixties through Clube Da Esquina 2, this album is bound to move and satisfy you. Although there's no weak song here, in that context, the classics here are "Bridges," Morro Velho," "Outubro" and "Courage."
If you don't know Milton, perhaps this is not where you ought to start, "Geraes" or the first "Clube Da Esquina" are much more representative and stronger outings -the third great album is Minas although not first one I'd listen to if new to this man.
Still, although this album, a bit less than a classic and much more than an interesting "document," holds its own quite well, even now. Truer to the original strength of the artist than, let's say, Wes Montgomery's Pop albums when he, too, recorded for CTI.
The remastering also does its bit. The sound will not be unrecognizable for anyone familiar with the original, yet it contribute clarity to the whole, and enhances Milton's voice and guitar as well as Herbie's piano.
All in all worth buying -or buying again, as I did- without having to be a completist nor possessing an sound engineer's ear.


Lake (Ep)
Lake (Ep)
Price: 12.48

44 of 44 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gorgeous Songs From A Genuine Artist, 7 Aug 2005
This review is from: Lake (Ep) (Audio CD)
For many people, Antony's arrival is associated with his stunning "I Am A Bird Now" album, but this is far from the beginning of his story. Not only his prior -and first- album is rather impressive and mature- but also, specially if you live in New York, you may know that he's been presenting his work for at least ten years.
This EP consist of three gorgeous tunes, each of which is reason enough for getting this disc. Included are the first single from "I Am A Bird Now," Fistful of Love, and two songs never released before: The Lake and Horror Has Gone.
Of the three, the most remarkable one is The Lake, a song based on an Edgar Allan Poe's poem, and recorded in the studio with Kevin Barker and Julia Kent. Please note that, as it's erroneously mentioned elsewhere in this page, this is not the live version recorded in London at St. Olave's Church, a couple of years ago. So, if you have that one already, buying this EP will give you the only other recorded version of this song. By the way, both are worth owning.
At least as far as I'm concerned, the term "artist" is awarded to many people either too quickly in their careers or without much consideration for the level of achievement and continuous dedication it might entail. In Antony Hegarty's case, the term may not be used often enough.


Black Coffee
Black Coffee
Offered by Fulfillment Express
Price: 10.00

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Al Kooper's Glorious Return To Form, 5 Aug 2005
This review is from: Black Coffee (Audio CD)
Al Kooper, along with Leon Russell, belong to that select group musician-composers whose mark in Rock ... in popular music, really, is indelible although they never reached star status.
His resume has been impressive, just think of his organ riff in Like A Rolling Stone, or Blood, Sweat & Tears' first album -a band he actually founded- or his legendary jams with Mike Bloomfield and Stephen Stills. The man is not just part of Rock's history, he helped writing it.
Yet, for many years his presence and influence has been limited, in part due to his frustration and disdain for the music business -to give you a picture of it, let's just say that his autobiography is called "Back Stage Passes & Backstabbing Bastards- as well as due to limited and less than stellar output.
This last statement, fortunately, must be read in past tense. Kooper new album, Black Coffee, has changed that wit its set of self-penned beauties and strong covers. This is Mr. Kooper's glorious return to form.
Among the best songs here are the laid back R&B of opener "My Hands Are Tied," three killer ballads -"How My Ever Gonna Get Over You," "Imaginary Lover" and
and the Gospel-like " (I Want You To) Tell Me The Truth"- and the slow burner "Keep It To Yourself" which may remind you of Boz Scaggs. The great tunes don't end there yet, to avoid your attention, I will.
Last but not least mention must be made of the Funky Faculty, the band mainly counting on Al's fellow instructors at Berklee School of Music -where Kooper taught for a few years until 2001- and the extraordinary back-up singers. Their skill, soul and tight connection with this music made this music shine, particularly Bob Douzema on guitar and Daryl Lowery on some smoking alto sax.
This a special album, equally capable to make you groove and move you deeply, in turn ready to get the party going or provide the sound of an intimate moment. For me, "Black Coffee" a shoe-in for the "best of 05" list.


Honeycomb
Honeycomb
Price: 12.51

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Frank Black's Restrained Passion Shines, 4 Aug 2005
This review is from: Honeycomb (Audio CD)
Certainly, any fan of the Pixies unfamiliar with Black's solo output may cry out at the apparent sacrilege this album is, yet in further examination anyone would appreciate that Honeycomb is both a sign of musical maturity and, ultimately, -I''m going out on a limb- a quiet, Country-like form of the Pixies' angst-ridden message. I know some will frown at this, so I don't ask to believe me but give this idea a chance.
For those who already enjoy Black's former albums -particularly with the Catholics- this may be a reason to rejoice. Although, to my taste, it may not reach the emotional depths of Dog In The Sand, Honeycomb is a pretty solid album.
The story goes that, on the eve of his first Pixies tour in years, he retreated to Memphis with a bunch of songs he's been wanting to record -most of which are his own compositions- and with the glorious aid of some session-playing legends, proceeded to lay down these tracks.
Speaking of "the band," since these people have a lot to do with the quality of this album, the work of Steve Cropper on guitar, Spooner Oldham on keyboards and Anton Fig on drums, definitely stand out. In addition to them, Buddy Miller's presence must be mantioned although the lack of specific reference makes me unable to say for sure what tunes he's on.
Now on to the songs, there are several great ones here. Specifically: "Selkie Bride" with its great chorus supported by Ellis Hooks' vocals and some of the most honest lines I've heard, in an after-the-breakup song -"if you return again / I'll be the saddest man / my lip will burn your skin / if you return again / please don't return again"- which are likely to stay in your mind for a while.
Besides "Selkie Bride," I'd list Doug Sams's "Sunday Sunny Mill Valley Groove Day," the country-like Leonard Cohen'ish feel of "My Life Is In Storage," "Violet" and the Southern Soul mood of "Dark End Of The Street."
All in all, this an album to own and appreciate through repeated listenings -particularly in the early morning or late at night- and let yourself be enveloped by the unhurried feel of Black's confessions. This is not mellow but quiet, the restrained passion of personal wisdom, fierce in its own way, willing to let you in on some truths about love and loss.


Chavez Ravine
Chavez Ravine
Price: 13.20

44 of 45 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Master Cooder's Latest Gem of American Music, 22 Jun 2005
This review is from: Chavez Ravine (Audio CD)
I will begin by declaring my enormous respect and love for Cooder's music. Ever since Chicken Skin Music -ironically, another beauty honoring the Mexican influence on American music- Cooder has been one of the "saints of my devotion," as my father used to say.
In Chavez Ravine, an album he's been working on for about three years, Cooder researched the disappearance of an area of Los Angeles, and long-standing Mexican community, that was erased to make way for what would become Dodgers Stadium.
The album that has resulted from his interest is, then, a political statement about the legacy of Joe McCarty, an elegy about old neighborhoods paved over by a twisted sense of progress, and an amazing group of songs showing the deep gift of Mexican-American music.
With the same cool touch and deep affection that Cooder already demonstrated for Malian music (Talkin' Timbuktu) and Cuban grooves (Mambo Sinuendo and Buena Vista Social Club), Ry gathered a host of incredible Mexican-American musicians from the Fifties, to invoke the spirit of this story.
Ersi Arbizu, Lalo Guerrero, Don Tosti and Little Willie G. -all great performers, most of which may be unknowns to most of us- take turns singing songs that conjure up the longings, loves and betrayals from the Chavez Ravine odyssey.
Now, let's be clear, do not think this is ethnographic research for the Smithsonian archives or a dry document of music gone by.
This album grooves ("Poor Man's Shangri-La" or "Onda Callejera") and gets down ("Muy Fifi" and "3 Cool Cats") as well as it will move you with some slow burners ("It's Just Work For Me") and beautiful ballads ("In My Town," "3rd Base, Dodgers Stadium" and "Soy Luz Y Sombra").
In conclusion, this is some of the most soulful music you may come across this year. It proves, too, that you can move your body with abandon and reflect on serious issues at once.
Meaning and grooving, with passion and concern, master Cooder takes us for another ride through the real America, where great and forgotten voices get to sing aloud again.


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