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
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
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
(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 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.