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Mr Lucky
Music Reviews

There's a Younger Generation Knocking at the Door

It's inevitable. Time marches on and with each era comes a new generation of young people having fun. For the last twenty-five years or so, the "Now Sound" of the young has sounded suspiciously familiar and frankly pretty boring. How many more ill kempt guitar-driven garage bands do we need? How much longer do we need to substitute exciting raw energy for musical talent? Don't the extremely casual "accidental" looks of today really seem as fussy and put-together as Fred Astaire in white tie and tails? Guess which aesthetic we think works better.
Lately, we've noticed not a few superior platters cross our hi-fi. Can it be true that the real innovators of today's music are returning to not just a spiffy attitude but actual music as well?  The roundup of recent releases seems to prove this. They have almost nothing in common except that we like them for various reasons. Strict fans of Lounge, Jazz or classic Pop won't be happy but we think of these talented kids as flowers in the delicate garden of good taste and we must tend this new crop with the fertilizer of our hard-earned greenbacks.
Joey Altruda
Cocktails with Joey
Will Records (Wil 039) Lounge/Pop

We passed on this 1995 release for years because the graphics were so terrible. We thought it was a follow-up to the audience participation "theatre" piece Tony and Tina's Wedding. The reality is this is about the finest, most sincere Mancini tribute one could imagine.

This is cocktail music at its finest. The combo sound is jazzy, sophisticated, and just slightly cheesy without being precious. The lack of vocals is refreshing.

What's really nice about this disc is that even though keyboardist Altruda's roots are clearly in the 1950s and '60s, this disc could have been made at any time from the 1950s to today by any tasteful, fun-loving musician. We think you should purchase this one.


Lavay Smith & Her Red Hot Skillet Likkers
One Hour Mama
Fat Note Records FN0001


Lavay Smith has been a San Francisco institution for a number of years. She has a thick honey-drenched voice that makes us melt. Until quite recently, the last time we saw her was a good four years ago and her set was a brash 1920s-influenced mix of Dixieland and the Blues. There really was no one quite like her.

Smith still has the pipes but her music is now more inspired by the 1930s and '40s. It's not quite as unique but it's still great and her new CD, One Hour Mama, is a winner all the way.

A lot of the credit must go to the intelligently selected songs and to sublime piano-playing and arrangements of Chris Siebert. The horns are loud and present but they're never over-the-top. Also impressive is the subtle drumming, always the weak link with neo-vintage music, of Dan Foltz. The rhythm smartly comes from the whole rhythm section, not just the drums.

There are many highlights but we go weak in the knees for Fats Waller's Squeeze Me and Smith's smart rendition of Harold Arlen's Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea. Our only complaint is that it took so long to get Smith recorded. We hope this is the first of many.


Squirrel Nut Zippers
Mammoth Records MR0137-2 Jazz/Vocals/?

Before hearing this recording, it was the one we were the least excited about. We knew they played some kind of pre-1950s Swing and were always confused when the younger kids would lump them into the "lounge" or "cocktail" genre. Marketing problems aside, this has become one of our favorite platters and we play it constantly. It's not cocktail music from a 1950s lounge; it's bathtub gin from a flophouse during Prohibition.

After whatever music you listen to, the Squirrel Nut Zippers might take some getting used to at first. If we have to categorize the music (and we do!), it's an enthusiastic mix of Cotton Club Jazz and Dixieland. It's not a re-creation; it's almost like an evolution. It's also clear from every track that the band loves what they're doing and the whole affaire is infectious.

The voice of female vocalist Katherine Whalen is jarring at first: it's so affected, derivative and at the same time unique that you don't know quite how to react. She's also very musical and it doesn't take long to get caught up in Billie Holiday meets Minnie Mouse sound.

The most amazing thing about the album is that all of the songs (and of course, the arrangements) are originals. The lyrics are a kick and it's rare when you don't feel like doing the shimmy while Hot is playing.
This is an "enhanced CD" so those with computers can enjoy the promotional production.



The Seductive
Sounds of Tipsy
Asphodel 0967 Pop


We freely admit when we first heard this CD we didn't "get" it. These aren't songs, per se, but snippets of different lounge and exotica pieces mixed into long trippy montages with modern drums and bass. We've come to realize the point is there is no point and now we can't get enough of this.

Apparently the original plan was to mix actual vintage recordings together with a drum machine. The licensing of the original recordings proved to be prohibitive and real musicians were brought in to re-create the sounds. The result is compelling and wacky.
This isn't for everyone and unless a follow-up strikes new ground, one disc seems enough. Still, we get to feel modern and maintain the MrLucky standards. It makes for great driving music.

One glaring oversight, pointed out by our acquaintances on the Internet, is that none of the original recordings are acknowledged. This isn't very nice.


Reviews originally appeared in the Summer 1997 issue of MrLucky.



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