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Mr Lucky
Music Reviews

For us, the biggest news all summer has been the reissues of several classic Stax albums by Fantasy Records. Conventional wisdom tells us that Stax was a singles company and the LPs were mostly just filler and fluff. It's true to a degree, but what a hoot to hear Carla Thomas in a more relaxed setting. Her strengths and weaknesses are showcased on Gee Whiz (Stax SCD-8605-2). Carla tackles Sinatra's A Lovely Way to Spend an Evening and the standard The Masquerade Is Over, along with her hit, Gee Whiz, and other material designed to showcase America's favorite teenager. Also fun is the Markeys' Last Night! Do the Pop-Eye (Stax SCD 88041-2) 2-fer. This disc is really hit or miss but when it's on the mark, you should be dancing….

We received more inquires about Jessica Molaskey's album Pentimento (PS Classics PS205) than almost any album in recent memory. Molasky sings songs of the Depression with a tight, clever quartet and is nothing short of awful. She has a fair voice that is far too cute for our tastes. She has a forced husky-voiced sincerity that is intended to suggest intimacy but instead reveals that she doesn't much understand the meaning of the lyrics. Our guess is she's one of those people who sing jingles for car commercials. Avoid and be happy.


New on the Afro-Latin front is Soul Food, fronted by conga-woman Estaire Godinez. We believe she is picking up where hip-hop/dance innovators Dark Latin Groove left off. Very tight and wild Salsa numbers are followed by very bland but contemporary dance remixes. There's probably a market for this but Godinez doesn't need the remix treatment. The album, Latino Groove (Soul Food SF019), would have been better without the club tracks, or at least adding them at the end. And Godinez has a great voice. Let's have a bolero, please! Even with the imperfections, this is an album worth checking out.


Is it possible Merle Haggard is just getting better and better? We think his voice is just about the dandiest thing going. The years have only improved the quality that always seems to threaten a yodel, no matter what he's singing. How swell that his latest recordings are inspired by the era before Nashville dictated what Country and Western music should sound like.

The Peer Sessions (Audium 8152) are a series of recordings made between 1996 and 1999. The liner notes explain that the common thread is music from the esteemed Peer International music publishing catalogue but there's no explanation why the recordings weren't released or why the gap between sessions. It doesn't matter too much because The Peer Sessions are recordings that find Merle Haggard completely relaxed and doing what he does best. The recordings were also a precursor to his recordings on the Anti label (If I Could Only Fly, Roots Volume 1) that we think are some of the best of his career.

 


You may know Bonnie Bramlett from her days of being half of Delaney and Bonnie, a popular Rock and Soul duo that kept promising to explode but never quite made that impact it should have. Or you may know her from the Rosanne show as Bonnie, a fellow waitress at the dire diner where the Rosanne character worked. Either way, you're probably wondering why the hell such a talented woman isn't making records. The thought certainly crossed our mind. Her new disc is called I'm Still the Same (Audium AD 8154) but she doesn't sound the same, she sounds better than ever. The material she's chosen is uneven at best, but we love hearing her unique sound that sometimes reminds one of Jimmy Scott and on the other end Maggie "Queen of the Night" Bell. We think Tom Waits should kidnap her and make her sing his songs.


Back to the country, we have no idea why Porter Hall Tennessee's Welcome to…(Slewfoot Records SF807) has not left our CD player. There are lots of neo-Roots, alt-Country groups out there but few write songs so compelling or have a band that plays so tight without sounding mechanical. The songs are beautiful and clever and we would be remiss in not mentioning Kenny Griffin's drums. From a shuffle to a boom-boom sound, they are the highway that keeps the whole thing moving forward. We can't imagine anyone not liking this disc.


This summer has been spent listening to a lot of Bossa Nova. The sound is ideal for the heat and there are so many different approaches to the beat that it never gets tiresome. But there's still plenty of time for modern sounds and Zuco 103's follow up album to Outro Lado, Tales of High Fever (Six Degrees 657036 1072-2MJ), is great. It's more Brazilian electronica with heart, this time with some English thrown in for good measure. Can't wait to hear what they do next.


Lauro Nyro is a tough one. She had a gorgeous voice and her soul-searching and raw honesty were both compelling and embarrassing at the same time. Rounder's new two-disc set, The Loom's Desire (Rounder 1161-3186-2) captures two live performances towards the end of her short life.


 



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