Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Various Artists - The Best Of Bond...James Bond

Written by Puño Estupendo

James Bond films are among my favorites. I consider myself more than a casual fan but not maniacal when it comes to the adventures of Mr. Bond on the screen. Among many highlights of these films are the opening credit sequences. At their best you get amazingly stylish visuals involving the silhouettes of naked women (which felt like I was getting away with seeing something naughty when I was a kid) matched up with fantastic theme songs. At their worst, wannabe visuals and a throwaway song.

The Best Of Bond...James Bond collects these themes and, by default, also gives you an overview on the good, the bad, and the more forgettable entries in the Bond franchise. Depending on which camp you fall into as far as who your favorite representation is, Connery or Moore, you're probably going to have a warm spot for some songs and not others. I'm a Connery man myself, but that doesn't take away from the fact that the Roger Moore films had some of the best theme songs in the series, including "Nobody Does It Better" by Carly Simon and Sir Paul's "Live and Let Die." Listening to this CD from start to finish encapsulates the entire history of Bond flicks and audibly tells you where the stinker ones are.

Just like the films with Sean Connery, the tracks get off to a great start. Stylish and of a time where the spy game seemed to be more romantic and grand in movies, the John Barry Orchestra slides in with the "James Bond Theme," using horns as lead instruments and not just the over-the-top accentuations they've gone on to become in movie scores. This sets up a great run of tracks with "From Russia With Love" to "You Only Live Twice." These songs are the template for all Bond themes, whether they know it or not. Even the newest themes still try to throw in nods to the arrangements and styles of the songs from back then. Call it an homage or a modern interpretation, there's a certain romanticism in the classic tracks that cast a huge shadow over any newer stuff.

Mirroring the films themselves, the themes start waning when the movies do. It's a noticeable decline right where Roger Moore hung it up and Timothy Dalton came on board. Moore's last film has Duran Duran's "View To A Kill" and Dalton gets A-Ha's "The Living Daylights." Ever heard an A-Ha song other than "Take On Me"? Exactly. Your ears are letting you know the franchise is slowing down right there. "Goldeneye" reflects the change from Dalton to Brosnan, better but not necessarily as good as past glories. Prefacing the last change in the role, Madonna's "Die Another Day" is a pretty sad entry in this context. It's like a last gasp, it's an all right dance song for clubs, but a fairly sad statement as a James Bond theme.

With the reinvention of the films with Casino Royale and bringing Daniel Craig on in the lead, the theme song "You Know My Name" by Soundgarden/Audioslave singer Chris Cornell reflects "Goldeneye." It's better, not the best, but it's going back in a better direction. With the internet leak of Jack White's theme for the upcoming Quantum Of Solace being even better, it kind of amazes me why they're not holding off on this CD for a minute so they can include his duet with Alicia Keys as the final track. All in all though, this is a great collection of wonderful themes, and really made me enjoy being a fan of these films.

Editor's Note: The review copy only had the music on it.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Cannonball Adderley: Live in ‘63

Written by Fumo Verde

Once again Jazz Icons brings us another master of the sax, alto this time, with Julian “Cannonball” Adderley. This DVD contains two shows which only scratches the surface of the talent of this man. Adderlly didn’t come from the so-called “jazz cities” such as New York, Chicago, or St. Louis; his roots are planted in the southern state of Florida, where he honed his talents with brother Nat. As Rollins is to the tenor, Cannonball is to the alto and the spirit Adderley sure comes alive in these recordings.

Adderly plays with his sextet that includes such great musicians as a Sam Jones on bass, Yuesf Lateef on tenor sax, flute, and oboe. Brother Nat is also there on cornet along with Louis Hayes on drums and Joe Zawinul on piano. Adding these three instruments definitely gives a full body sound to what the sextet are looking for. Adderley knows how to use this fullness too. Be it big band, swing, or bebop, Adderley keeps it fresh and moving.

First show out of the box was in Lugano, Switzerland on March 24, 1963. The film looks old, like from a Jackie Gleason show but once the music starts the old-looking film just adds flavor to the project at hand. “Jessica’s Day” by Quincy Jones, originally named “Jessica’s Birthday,” opens up the show and it had me bopping about as I read through the 24-page booklet with liner notes and pictures. This show also includes “Dizzy’s Business,” “Trouble in Mind,” “Bohemia After Dark,” “Work Song,” and “Unit 7,” and of course, one of Cannonball’s most recognized tunes, “Jive Samba.” Let me not forget “Angel Eyes” where Lateef puts down his sax and picks up the flute. Coming off of a big booming jam like “Jessica’s Day”, “Angel Eyes” draws down the tempo, giving the show a softer side. “Jive Samba” follows it with its Latin flavor and quick tempo; the Swiss crowd gets into the rhythm.

The second show is in a studio, giving it that polished feel. It was in Baden-Baden, West Germany, March 22, 1963 and contained the same sextet from the former show. Adderley tells the German host while being questioned between sets that with the addition of Yuesf Lateef don’t just make them a sextet, because of the many instruments Lateef can play. They open with “Jessica’s Day” and play it with a ferocity. This is followed by “Brother John,” which starts out slow and soothing but picks up the tempo, giving Cannonball the chance to let his sax wail and weep. They close with “Jive Samba” ending the night on an up-rhythm drive. The brilliance of talent of which Adderly has brought together makes this DVD a rare treasure to unearth.

One thing I have to say or Jazz Icons, they sure know how to keep alive the great musicians of a time where most only remember the Rock ‘n’ Roll songs of the Beatles and Jimi Hendrix. Cannonball Adderley – Live in ‘63 is a must-own for any jazz enthusiast or lover of music. Adderley is one of jazz’s most influential players and his music will be around for years to come, starting with this DVD here.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Sonny Rollins: Live in ‘65 & ‘68

Written by Fumo Verde

I’ve always liked Sonny Rollins so when I had the chance to Live in ’65 & ’68 I was all over it. As much as I like jazz I always feel that I don’t know enough. Pictures on album covers and bios on the Internet shed some light on the artist and how they act and react to their own tunes, but seeing them live or even on DVD as it is here, truly opens the portal between the musician and their music.

This DVD contains two shows both recorded in Denmark, the first at Tivoli Halls, Copenhagen on October 31, 1965. Rollins appears with Alan Dawson on drums and Denmark’s own Niels-Henning Orsted Pendersen on bass. “There Will Never Be Another You” is the opening number and the camera enters from behind Rollins and Dawson. This jam plays for a while and as I was reading the extensive liner notes, 23 pages worth, I learned there were three microphones set up, one in the center, then one to the left side of the stage and one on the right. Rollins likes to travel when he plays and moves about the stage walking each note to its destination. “St. Thomas” is the second jam, one of my favorites and one of Rollins’ most recognized. To me it has a carefree happy beat to it which lends my mind to daydreams of warm Caribbean seas and white sandy beaches.

I found it interesting to watch as Rollins move about the stage, his face relaxed and eyes closed, as if he was dreaming up each note before he played it. “Olea/Sonny Moon for Two” follows and then flows into “Darn That Dream.” I sat and read the liner notes while listening and if it weren’t for the crowd clapping, I wouldn’t have noticed the change in songs because I was so into the groove. This show finished out with Rollins’ tribute to his idol Lester Young. Rollins says “this song has a simple melody but it’s profound. There is so much room to do whatever you want but still come back to the melody. So it’s the abstract and the normal altogether.” Abstract it is and Rollins plays it beautifully along with Dawson and Pendersen. Did I mention that Sonny likes to move around the stage? During this jam, he actually is behind the drums and bass out of the range of the microphones, still playing; I wish I could hear what was being played.

The second show is recorded in a studio with no audience but there’s a mood lighting to help inspire the now quartet. This session was done at Radio-Television Studio 1, Copenhagen, Denmark in September of 1968. Pendersen is still on bass, and this young man plays with some of the most fluid movements I’ve seen on a stand-up bass. On the piano is the classically trained Kenny Drew and this time on drums is Albert “Tootie” Heath. The lighting makes Rollins’ sax shine and glisten like it was neon sign flashing in the night.

They open with “On Green Dolphin Street” a sweet song by Mr. Davis and Rollins and his quartet play it well as his sax calls out the note giving way to the sound of the piano and bass. “St. Thomas” is played again and this version I felt had a fullness to it because the piano gave it more of a tropical feel. There were only three tracks recorded for this session and the final one was “Four.” Here’s a song with the bebop beat and Rollins blowing out the notes like a freight train; the whole band jumps in making you feel as if you were some jazz joint in Chicago or Kansas City. This jam had me bouncing around the room as I got into the groove again.

For some folks, watching a DVD like this maybe boring, but for me and for Jazz enthusiasts alike DVDs like Sonny Rollins - Live in ‘65 & ‘68 are a real treasure. If I ever get the chance to see Rollins live I would do so, but for now this DVD will be good enough. Anyone who loves jazz and knows the talent of Sonny Rollins will totally dig these sessions.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Hank Williams III: Damn Right Rebel Proud

Written by Fantasma el Rey

Hank Williams III hits hard and delivers his sixth CD with force and a loud ‘n proud rebel yell. The thirteen tracks on Damn Right Rebel Proud explore a bit more of Hank III’s dark side in a mix of his brand of traditional outlaw country and his flair for metal and punk. At times he’s viciously proud and at others H III expresses remorse for the life he embraced and the torch he willingly bares. With his head held high H III kicks out his jams and looks to please his core audience, which is divided between country stompers, mosh-pit rompers, and us psychos that dig both and get what H III is putting down.

Like other modern outlaws, H III opens the disc with a back fist flung at Nashville and particularly the Grand Ole Opry. “The Grand Ole Opry (Ain’t So Grand)” is a right cross of a song that deals with the fact that The Opry was not only hesitant to take in Waylon, Hank Jr., Johnny Cash, and Johnny Paycheck but that they still haven’t reinstated Hank Sr. after he was booted out back in the 1952. H III swings his country as he always has with a steady drum shuffle, solid stand-up bass, twangy guitars, weeping steel guitar, and racing fiddles with banjo and mandolin thrown in here and there for good measure.

Sticking to this formula are tunes with titles such as “Wild & Free,” “Me And My Friends,” and “Six Pack Of Beer.” Each paints a picture reflective of its title and “Six Pack” has the band setting the woods on fire as they burn through the song at such a speed you’d think they were being chased by the “revenooer man.” “Wild & Free” and “Me And My Friends” are anthems for being messed-up, good friends with bad company, and living “damn right and rebel proud” lifestyles, which they embrace to the fullest.

“I Wish I Knew,” “Candidate For Suicide,” and “Stoned & Alone” are fine examples of H III trying to work out his demons in song. It’s not that he doesn’t love his life; he’s just a man who knows he could do better but chooses not to. It’s a theme that many of us know well and can relate to, like it or not. “I Wish I Knew” is H III’s longing love song to a long-gone sweetheart he was wrongly mean to and has recently realized she was the best of him.

“Candidate” delves into the true inner demons of a family known for epic battles with such forces. Busted up, beaten down, anti social, and cursed, H III ponders the thought of having no more emotions and no longer hurting when he’s “riding in that hearse.” And an important note about “Candidate” is that not once does H III say that he “is” going to take his life or that the listener should; he’s simply asking himself the same questions that many of us have asked ourselves in quite, low moments. “Stoned & Alone” pretty much explains itself as H III tells of drinking alone and recalling his past of loss and misery as he drifts through the haze of being in the title’s stated condition.

“H8 Line,” “Long Hauls & Close Calls,” “3 Shades Of Black,” and “P.F.F.” are the hybrid songs that make “Damn Right Rebel Proud” stand apart from previous H III outings. The four tunes vary in theme and degree of hardcore metal/punk. He, more than anything, lets loose a darker atmosphere here than anyplace before on his straight country albums. “Long Hauls” is the jewel that showcases this blend best. H III’s vocals are sunken, distorted, and at times delivered with a shriek while the instrumentation picks up speed and cuts with a sharp metal edge. The bass slaps out of control and synchs with the drums in a train-from-hell beat and rhythm right out of the Johnny Cash songbook.

“P.F.F.” is a ten-minute romp through the hell that is H III’s daily life which apparently consist of fighting and f#*$ing. The song is dedicated to punk legend G.G. Allin who was actually in a band or two whose gothic psychobilly sound is the closest comparison to what H III has done with these four tunes. “P.F.F.” is played in three acts and switches gears to slow halfway into the fracas to give a different perspective on the familiar lyrics.

“3 Shades Of Black” finds H III alone on the instruments and vocals as he reworks “Ghost Riders In The Sky” to fit the darkness and shadows that surround and fill his music and life. A modern, dark masterpiece in the “things that go bump in the night” vein. A tune just in time for the Halloween holiday and us creepy sorts who dig this stuff the most.

Closing the CD and bringing Damn Right Rebel Proud full circle is “Working Man,” a duet with its writer Bob Wayne. It is a tough song about men working hard at rough jobs to support their families. Much like Merle Haggard’s tune of similar name, “Working Man” growls with the struggles of the working man to deal with taxes, bosses, inflation, a drink or two at day’s end as well as a child or two to support along with a wife. Those are truly the struggles and hard fight of the working man and a hell of a way for H III to close one hell of CD.

I’ve been a fan of Hank Williams III since his first recording hit the street and he never lets me down, always putting out music he knows his fans will like and now he’s gone a step beyond and combines the elements that make his live shows unique. He plays half straight country and half hard rocking, loud as thunder, fast as lightning punk. As always when you mix the two you get psychobilly, and on Damn Right Rebel Proud H III has turned out some good southern psycho. Well done, Hank!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Tea Leaf Green: Raise Up the Tent

Written by Fumo Verde

I kept hearing of this band, Tea Leaf Green, and those who know me said this was a band that I needed to hear. After six months, I was stoked to finally get a chance to listen some of this music, which people say reminds them of the Grateful Dead and the music from back in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. Raise Up the Tent holds true to what I’ve been told. Their weaving tales of honest adventures with amazing melodies re-opens my feelings of getting back on the open road and touring this great country of ours. This CD will definitely be in the mix when El Bicho and I hit the road again.

Since I drive a dirty black pick-up truck, the first track I hit up was “I’ve Got a Truck” and it soon became the song that I played first each time I started the disc. “I’ve got a truck with a trailer to haul/ and heart that can only be true/ I’ve scorned the love of a rich man’s daughter/ all for the love of you.” The guitar work on this track gives it a rock ‘n’ roll style of drive. The drums anchor the song while the slide guitar work touches on the blues, giving it a southern drawl, like a beautiful girl from Tennessee. This simple yet clear-cut song made me a TLG fan within the first few seconds, and the rest of Raise Up the Tent followed suit.

“Stick to the Shallows” opens with that similar slide guitar work in, but this song slows it down a bit as if we’re drifting along the mighty Mississippi. Genuine feelings come through in the lyrics. The tale reminded me of “Wharf Rat” by the Dead, not because it is a long jam, but the story of foreboding and warning reminds that life isn’t always filled with happy endings. It also reminds us to hold on to hope. As do the lyrics in “Keeping the Faith,” in which TLG lets us know no matter what keep the faith in whatever you believe in. “Slept Through Sunday” is another “keep the faith” song that has almost a gospel rock twang to it. Mixed in are bits of the blues and dramatic classical guitar solo that launches you into the heavens. “Slept Through Sunday/ found Jesus last Saturday night…” Great words blended with incredible musicianship gives this song a wonderful fun spirit with a lot of soul.

From the first song to last, Raise Up the Tent has held true to what all my friends have told me. Tea Leaf Green has that Dead sound in the vocals while the melodies redefine what bluegrass and Americana can sound like with solid melodies and riffs built around lyrics sincere and based on life. I hope this band will be around for a long time.

As I finish this review I’m listing to “Don’t Curse at the Night” because as they say “You can’t win that fight…” Okay, now this is my new favorite song off this CD. Pleasantly surprised and waiting to see Tea Leaf Green live; they can raise up a tent in my town anytime and I will pay to see them.

Monday, October 13, 2008

He Heard, She Heard: Liz Phair - Exile in Guyville (Deluxe Edition)

“He Heard, She Heard” features a Generation-X man and a Generation-Y woman providing their perspectives on important albums from their times. Selections will have had an impact either critically, commercially, or else personally.

El Bicho:

Liz Phair and I are fellow Gen-Xers, born a few weeks and a few hundred miles apart. We were both 26 when Exile in Guyville was released in 1993. It became all the rage with critics, hitting #1 on the polls by both the Village Voice and Spin magazine. It was slightly notorious for her frank use of language and claimed to be a song-by-song response to The Rolling Stones’ Exile on Main St., though I could never make the connections. The wide-ranging sound of indie pop/rock music had to be an oasis for females as grunge and hip hop, mainly fronted by males, dominated the airwaves. Phair wasn’t treading new ground as the Riot Grrrl movement and artists like Tori Amos before her had already begun opening doors, but she boldly busted right in with a double-album debut that screamed to be heard. The album fell out of print and is being re-released in honor of its 15th anniversary as part of her new recording deal with Dave Matthews’ ATO label, allowing me to opportunity to revisit it.

What I really enjoy about the album is how Phair puts her honest, raw emotions on display. Right away we hear in “6’1” that she loves her life “And hated you.” In Dance of the Seven Veils” she wants her fellow out of the business so bad she repeatedly threatens him with violence and death. Even with that opening, it’s still shocking to hear her explain “I ask because I'm a cunt in spring.” No matter how many times I hear it I always pause and wonder if I heard her right.

The opening lyrics on “Canary” wound be playful and sexy elsewhere. “I jump when you circle the cherry/ I sing like a good canary/ I come when called/ I come, that's all.” However the stark piano and Liz’ melancholy vocals reveal the real story taking place underneath, assuring no surprise when the chorus of “Send it up on fire/ Death before dawn” hits the listener.

“Fuck and Run” is an amazing story. It starts with the narrator waking up in a guy’s arms, repeating mistakes as she looks for a boyfriend, “The kind of guy who makes love cause he's in it.” It’s something many can identify with when looking for a relationship, but who find themselves repeating the bad patterns, like the title, as they grasp what they deny is out of reach. It’s been a long time running for the narrator who first declares this has been going on since she was 17, only to later correct the record and state this has been going on since she was 12, which is an extra punch in the gut.

“Mesmerizing” hits like a slap in the face when she declares “You said things I wouldn't say” but she reveals a universal to all in a relationship. “I wanna be mesmerizing too/…mesmerizing to you” because you want to be everything to the other person, including their sexual desire. “Flower” has Liz providing two different lines of vocals, one repeating the same verse, over odd guitar noises as she explicitly details what she wants to do in terms rarely heard in a song from either gender.

But women aren’t completely innocent as the next track “Girls! Girls! Girls” finds the narrator making it clear “I take full advantage/ Of every man I meet/ I get away almost every day/ with what the girls call…murder.” Here, Liz shows the human tendency to take for granted what we have while trying to get what we want. Then when we get it, we sometimes learn too late it wasn’t what we needed. “Johnny Sunshine” left the narrator with nothing, and in “Divorce Song” the couple continually hurt each other.

The music by Liz Phair and Brad Wood, both who produced the album, is fantastic. The sounds and moods change throughout, always keeping the music fresh and alive.

Included in this Deluxe Edition are three unreleased tracks from the recording sessions and a DVD featuring the documentary that Liz made about the album. She interviews people involved the album’s creation and release as well as peers from the Chicago music scene, but the most intriguing are the women who embraced the album when it came out who talk about what it meant to them.

Phair does a great job chronicling the disappointments of love. The themes are universal, which keeps Exile in Guyville from being just a chick’s album. It makes a great soundtrack for your twenties, which is a confusing era in many people’s lives, or maybe it just seemed particularly as such for us in the Gen-X crowd, who instead of raging against the system like the Baby Boomers in the 1960s just withdrew from it in the late ‘80s/early ‘90s. At the time of its release, I could certainly empathize with Phair’s songs because I had been through three failed relationships and numerous affections, ranging from unrequited crushes to secret liaisons, that went nowhere. Older and with life more stable, it makes for a great sonic memory book.

Pollo Misterioso:

When Liz Phair’s album Exile in Guyville was released, I was young. Too young to date, I don’t even think the word “sex” was a part of my vocabulary. Originally released in 1993, I have heard that this album changed the way that solo female vocalists were portrayed, giving them a voice that was not always so pretty. Recently re-released with all original songs, B-sides, and an extra DVD, Exile in Guyville is now an album that I can listen to and understand. At first, it seems dated but it grows into a necessary addition to anyone’s collection of music that appreciates the sounds, the importance and influence of early nineties music.

Exile in Guyville plays like diary entries, each song is a small tribute to different men and situations that she had found herself in. It is a simple pop-punk rock album driven by her straightforward, yet relatable lyrics and simple vocal patterns.

The first song on the album, 6’1”, sets the tone for the entire record. With a simple three-piece band, Phair strums the electric guitar and sings in a way that is not really angry, or too passionate about it, but more regretfully retrospective about the whole thing. As though she is pissed off to even be singing these things.

“Dance of the Seven Veils” has Phair singing about being a “real cunt in spring.” She is harsh, to the point and makes no apologies for it. The song then begs the question of why the relationship is not working.

“Fuck and Run” is angry from the title. But the song is a sad tale of the miserable events that happen when you break up with someone, but continue to see him after the relationship.

“Divorce Song” is a great song dedicated to those women that have tried to be friends with their lovers. Very simply, she is taking all of her mistakes and putting them to simple guitar strumming. Making a very affective call to women.

“Mesmerizing” would have to be my favorite song on the record. Here there is an amazing guitar line that beats home the words “I want to be mesmerizing to you.” The song is desperate and the music is a perfect accompaniment as the guitar lick repeats over and over.

Phair is known for her choice of language, it being brutally honest about all things feminine. But really, I took to her vulnerability and insecurity that comes across when all the instruments drop away and it is just her and her guitar. Today many women pick up their acoustic and begin strumming away about their problems, but Phair is different. There is nothing acoustic or folk about this. There is no pretty filter over her voice. She doesn’t strum her guitar gently. This is raw, selfish, and intense. It is hard at first to get into. But for anyone that enjoys simple punk rock songs and female singers, they will like this.

I may have been too young when Exile in Guyville first came out, but that does not mean I do not appreciate what it did for female artists today and understand the importance it has in music. This is an album that you must be in the mood for, but if you are feeling it, it’s perfect.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Old Crow Medicine Show - Tennessee Pusher

Written by Fantasma el Rey

Old Crow Medicine Show pushes forward with their third release Tennessee Pusher and from what I can tell their sound remains unchanged, which is a good thing. OCMS as their known have a great sound that has roots in country, blues, and folk; blend it all together and that’s what made early rock ‘n’ roll, people. And that’s the attitude these boys who met in New York and are now based out of Nashville have. Stomping at times with a rockabilly drive and pace while at others they slow and channel an Eagles/Bob Dylan style, mix in some Hank Williams and quiet country baritone vocals, and a good, true roots sound you have.

OCMS kicks open the barn door with “Alabama High-Test” a stomping rockabilly run combining Chuck Berry music (“Too Much Monkey Business”) and Bob Dylan-framed lyrical delivery (“Subterranean Homesick Blues”). “65 south bound/ cruising with a half pound/blue lights spinning round/ better put the hammer down.” OCMS looks at the vices and addictions of the modern hillbilly through an old black-and-white lens as the tune comes across like an ol’ country tune about the downside of drinking and fast living of a bootleg runner. Guitars twang, the stand-up bass plunks heavy, drums shuffle, something called a guitjo strums happily (I’m guessing a guitar-banjo hybrid? Sounds like a banjo to me, so…) and the slide guitar wails just the way they should at this sped-up pace giving us a tune to play over and over again before moving on to the rest of the CD.

“Highway Halo” sees the boys in an Eagles/Wallflowers (yeah, Dylan’s kid’s band) mood, a solid slow rocker with a traveling “Lost Highway” nod. Traveling and wandering the highway jungles down hobo roads as the harmonica moans through out, conjuring the spirit of Dylan and Hank standing at the dusty fork in the road of life.

“The Greatest Hustler Of All” slows further as OCMS looks west to campfires, stolen hearts, and the “hustling queen” who “stands about four-foot-nine.” The guitjo and guitar pick slow and low while the harmonica slowly weeps its sorrow at the theft of one’s heart. “Methamphetamine” continues this pace as the band runs down the list of horrors brought about by the use of meth. OCMS makes these types of songs and references work where other bands have failed because the delivery of the words used drive home a point in the phrasing and use with other lyrics. Listen for yourself to see what I mean.

“Next Go ‘Round” and “Motel In Memphis” are songs that make you think in two different ways. “Next Go ‘Round” is a slow country tune that pulls at my memory the way Glen Campbell’s version of “These Days” does. Reflection and looking back at a botched past and the fact that “in this life you don’t get no second chances.” Simple yes, but set up with the right tone and feel speaks volumes. “Motel In Memphis” is a haunting track that bends your ear to the events of “a martyred man” at a Memphis motel with strong lyrics about it being more than a man that died that day.

The titled track, “Tennessee Pusher” is one that can be looked at a few different ways and from a couple of different angles. Is it about the drug, the pusher, or a forsaken love or all of thee above, and how they twist, turn, and intertwine as they head for disaster? The lyrics are printed on the CD booklet and I still wonder, a tip of the hat to a fine writing style.

The rest of the thirteen total tracks work well and are very enjoyable. OCMS has many prominent influences from those mentioned above to Johnny Cash and Gram Parsons. I’m not sure that I’ll spin the whole album over and over again but the tunes I dig most you can bet will make my frequent playlist and burn their lyrics into my mind and memory. If you don’t believe me, hit up Old Crow Medicine Show on their Myspace page to hear some of the songs on Tennessee Pusher in full, the first single off the album “Caroline” is available as is “Next Go ‘Round.”

Lionel Hampton: Live in '58

Written by Fantasma el Rey

From the third wave of the Jazz Icons series Lionel Hampton: Live In ’58 is a jumpin’, jivin’ romp through some of the best jazz/swing by one of the best ever. By 1958 you might expect Hamp to be outdated as rock ‘n’ roll had been ripping the scene apart for just about five years but he brings his “A” game and puts on a hell of a show. Hamp leads his band with the fire and fury of a young man. Even though he is fifty, he shows that you’re never too old to swing. And Hamp would do just that, well into his later years he was still “Flying Home” with the same pace that he drove in his prime.

Recorded in Belgium, Live In ‘58 opens with “The High And The Mighty” already in progress, a slow tune that has him tapping the vibes and giving a hint of his genius. According to trumpet player Art Hoyle, Hamp would never open a show with a number like that. So combined with the fact that Hamp and company usually put on a show that would last a couple of hours (here we get fifty-eight minutes), we’re left to believe that the filmed portion of the show was only half or part of the whole. Also missing is “Flying Home,” a crowd favorite and Hamp’s biggest hit. Oh well, any footage is worth having of this musical great in action.

Hamp moves over to the piano for “Hamp’s Piano Blues” and picks up the pace as his band does the same. Things star to really jump as Hamp sits next to his regular piano man, Oscar Denard, to trade runs on the black and whites. Both display fine skill tickling the ivories but with the spotlight on Hamp we see that he has fingers like Olympic sprinters, dashing to and fro as they skip along the 88 keys. We get good solos from the sax and trumpet before Hamp heads back to the vibes with a bit of scatting and moves us into “The History Of Jazz.”

“The History Of Jazz” puts the clarinet, trumpet, and trombone up front to wail throughout. The opening is a sleepy tune that sounds a bit like “Stormy Weather” and brings the feel of a New Orleans street scene circa late 1800s/early 1900s. The “History” continues with “Hot Club Blues,” a mid-tempo blues that goes out to the hot club of Belgium and mixes traditional with modern jazz, featuring Cornelius “Pinocchio” James on vocals. “Pinocchio” has a good jazz/blues voice in the same style as Billy Eckstein but not as powerful as “Big” Joe Turner.

As “History” advances, Hamp kicks up the pace and sends us to the Dixieland Swing era with “I Found A New Baby” (which breaks down to “It Don’t Mean A Thing If It Ain’t Got That Swing’) and begins to tear the joint down. The bass thumps hard as the drums and horns heat to a boil before Billy Mackel jumps up and swings his guitar like a zoot suiter swings a chain. Solos move from drums to sax and back to Hamp before they move on to a view of jazz to come in a “thing we call ‘The Big Chase.’”

The band continues to romp, stomp, jump, and fly as they rework Dexter Gordon’s “The Chase” complete with a sax solo that rivals the highs of Sputnik. This tune jams right up to the point where Hamp gets back on vibes and moves into “Brussels Sprouts” which is more of the same at a slightly slower pace. Hamp also makes mention of a song they played earlier that was not caught on film written by “a mad Monk.”

“Sticks Ahoy” is where Hamp shines on his tom-tom, brighter than the lighthouse at Alexandria. He performs like a circus attraction as he spins, flips, juggles, and bounces sticks off one another and the drum skin before catching the sticks behind his back. The band whips into frenzy as Hamp brings it all together sending the act to its climax and rounding out the show with a jamming run on the vibes in a piece named after his wife “Gladys.”

And that’s Lionel Hampton: Live In ’58 from Belgium. Moving with fury from just about the start and never letting up until the curtain drops is the way every show went if you believe the people who where there when it all happened.

The DVD was filmed by a fledgling TV crew and it shows in the bad cuts and odd close-ups but none of that matters as the music takes over and you get lost in the overall vibe of the show. The DVD also comes with an informative 24-page booklet containing reflections from various band members including Quincy Jones. The general history of Hamp and breakdown of the show with added facts and info, such as the titles for most of these songs were made up on the spot, make viewing more enjoyable. The booklet and DVD case are packed with photos of band members and magazine articles that featured Hamp and his boys.