March-April, 2001

POP & ROCK REVIEWS 

 

SWAG
Catchall
(Yep Roc)

Ever since the late Ď80s days of The Traveling Wilburys, pop fans have been hankering for a new supergroup to stir their musical imagination. Well, the names might not be as big, but the members of Swag establish a solid niche for themselves with their CD debut for the North Carolina-based Yep Roc Records. Swag combines the musical talents of Ken Coomer (Wilco), Jerry Dale McFadden (Sixpence None The Richer), Robert Reynolds (The Mavericks), pop pundit Doug Powell and Tom Petersson (Cheap Trick). In the past, all these guys have gained acclaim with a number of top bands, although nothing could prepare pop fans for the glorious musical bounty of Catchall. Another clear plus here is the impeccable production of pop producer wiz Brad Jones. In keeping with the CDís title, Catchall scores high points for itís stunning composite of pop-rock, garage-rock and Nashville twang topped off by a fitting dose of rocking British invasion savvy. Several guest artists, including Scotty Huff (vocals) and Kenny Vaughn (lead guitar), fill in the remaining musical nooks. Each member takes turns on lead vocals and thereís plenty of sure-footed pop ideas to keep listeners thoroughly engaged. Recorded in Nashville, the full length debut CD from Swag takes itís place as one of the great albums in pop history. www.yeproc.com 


 
 

JOHNNY CASH
Solitary Man
(American)

Listen to RealAudio sample: Solitary Man  

In his liner notes for the recently released Solitary Man, music icon Johnny Cash states, "The song is the thing that matters. Before I can record, I have to hear it, sing it, and know that I can make it feel like my own, or it wonít work." Cash takes that ethic to the hilt on his latest album for L.A.-based American Records. Cash still has a voice that can melt rock and on Solitary Man heís chosen a wide range of songs that fully captures his one-of-a-kind vocals. The first two tracks here bring forth the essence of Solitary Man. The Tom Petty classic "I Wonít Back Down" takes on a new dimension with a Cash delivery, while track two, a cover of Neil Diamondís "Solitary Man", sounds like it was expressly written for Cash. The album features 14 no frills, gutsy, mostly acoustic gems. Another clear highlite is a stark and haunting Cash cover of the Nick Cave-penned tune "The Mercy Seat." Recorded in L.A. and Tennessee, Solitary Man finds Cash in good company with Tom Petty, Sheryl Crow, Merle Haggard, June Carter Cash, guitarist Mike Campbell and a host of others. Following earlier Cash classics on American, American Recordings (1994) and Unchained (1997), Solitary Man is a strong reminder that Johnny Cash is still in a class by himself. www.americanrecordings.com 


 
  PAVED COUNTRY
Deconstructing Paradise
(PC)

Listen to RealAudio sample: Surprise Surprise 

It seems as though high quality country-rock and folk-rock are genres that never go out of style. Catchy hooks, heart-breaking lyrics, appealing female voices and top notch musicianship are just a few of the reasons reasons to check out the latest CD from Boston-based Paved Country. Featuring the music of singer-songwriters Sarah Mendelsohn and Marjie Alonso, Deconstructing Paradise is compelling music created by two ladies whoíve known each other since high school. Their shared affinity for infectious country-pop is obvious on their latest album. Backing up their effective vocal and songwriting skills are an array of fine musicians including no less than nine different guitarists including guitar ace Jim Scoppa. Described as a modern day mix of Emmylou Harris and Linda Ronstadt, Paved Country are on the verge on something really great with the release of Deconstructing Paradise. www.pavedcountry.com 


 
  JEFFREY FOSKETT IV
Twelve And Twelve
(New Surf)

For fans of West Coast surf-rock and power pop it just doesnít get any better than the new album from guitarist-singer Jeff Foskett. Foskett supplied his mighty fine falsetto vocals and lead guitar work during the latest Brian Wilson tour, and fittingly Mr. Wilson returns the favor by appearing here on one of his lesser known but equally brilliant tracks, "Everything I Need", a recent song penned by Wilson and Pet Sounds lyricist Tony Asher. Wilson is just one of the notable superstar musicians appearing on Twelve And Twelve. Like the title hints, the CD offers a series of twelve musical collaborations spotlighting Foskettís vocals and guitar work backing up twelve bonafide superstars of the pop world. In addition to Brian Wilson, other notable singer-songwriters sharing the vocal limelight with Foskett include Doug Fieger (The Knack), the great Marshall Crenshaw, Robert Lamm (Chicago) Parthenon Huxley, guitar greats Elliot Easton and Hank Linderman, and Gerry Beckley (of America). Also on hand is Foskettís New Surf label mate Jeff Larson who appears on the Foskett/Larson collaboration "The Word Go". Another cut sure to stir the soul of Ď60s pop fans is the Foskett & Co. cover of The Hollies classic "I Canít Let Go", featuring vocals by Larry Ramos (of The Association). With all of these great musical superstars lending outstanding contributions to their own special track, Foskett & company conjure up a sonic pop parade so colorful that it staggers the musical imagination. A pair of bonus cuts, including a soul-searching cover of The Youngbloodsí classic "Get Together" adds in the final touches to one of the preeminent pop events of 2000. www.new-surf.com 


 
  THE ROSENBERGS
Mission:You
(DGM)

Listen to RealAudio sample: Paper and Plastic  

A rare find for pop music purveyors is the album debut of the Rosenbergs just issued on Discipline Global Mobile. Signed to the label by Robert Fripp, the quartet takes a highly melodic and original tact on their debut. The Long Island-based group apparently caught the attention of Fripp when they turned down offers from major labels. Frippís devotion to artistsí rights struck a chord with Rosenbergs founders David Fagin (lead vocals, guitar) and Ewan Silverman (vocals, bass) and that empathy delivered the goods for pop fans on Mission:You. A mixture of Ď60s baroque-pop with a high dose of Ď90s influences like They Might Be Giants and Matthew Sweet, the songs click and the hooks just breeze on in. Could the release of pop albums like Mission:You be the start of a new trend on Robert Frippís DGM imprint? Time will tell, but after hearing The Rosenbergs, letís hope so. www.disciplineglobalmobile.com


 
  ENUFF ZNUFF
Ten
(Spitfire)

Loaded with all the right musical moves and a dozen great songs, Ten is the latest studio outing from pop greats Enuff Znuff. Throughout their career the band have been described as a mixture of Tom Petty, The Byrds and Blue Oyster Cult, although long time Enuff Znuff fans also draw comparisons to The Beatles and Cheap Trick. For their tenth album together singer Donnie Vie and guitarist/singer Chip Znuff & company have come up with a truly rocking new album. Commenting on the bandís long standing reputation as a modern day power pop version of the Fab Four, Znuff adds, "We donít steal anything. Weíre influenced by musicians and music. And you show me a band without influences, and Iíll show you a band without a record deal." In addition to an array of new original power pop gems, the band also serves up cool covers of "The Jean Genie" (written by Bowie) and Cheap Trickís "Everything Works If You Let It" complete with guitar work by Billy Corgan (of Smashing Pumpkins). Summing up the musical philosophy behind Ten, Znuff further adds, "Itís a pop record, is what it is. Weíve always written pop songs. And I think this record just follows suit with what Enuff Znuff has always done which is to try and write great songs and put out strong records every single year. And we nailed it again." www.enuffznuff.com 


 
  CHEWY MARBLE
Bowl Of Surreal
(Furry Sidekick)

After leaving pop greats The Wondermints, multi-instrumentalist and songwriter Brian Kassan teamed with lead singer and guitarist Stu Forman and Derrick Anderson (bass) to form Chewy Marble. Like The Wondermints, Chewy Marble is a pop lovers dream come true. Although he was trained as a classical pianist, Kassan cites influences like The Zombies, Brian Wilson, Burt Bacharach and The Beatles as his prime songwriting influences. On Bowl Of Surreal Kassan handles much of the songwriting and guitar chores while Forman shines in the lead vocalist slot. Bolstered by the tasteful bass work of Anderson, an array of fine drummers and percussionists further fill out the Chewy Marble sound. In summing up the Chewy Marble approach to 21st Century pop Kassan adds, "It may sound lofty, but every time we release an album, I want it to be like Beatle Lps - collections that are so strong that all the songs were potential singles and every song is very different. All killer, no filler." With the release of the wonderful Bowl Of Surreal, Kassan & Co. are clearly one step closer to bringing that dream to reality. www.chewymarble.com 


 
  SOLOMON
Solomon
(Dovie)

The new album from singer-songwriter and drummer Solomon DeNiro reads like a whoís who of progressive rock and roll players. On hand are Yossi Fine (bass), Vernon Reid (guitar), Trey Gunn (String Warr Guitar), John Popper (harmonica), Marc Ribot (guitar) and the great Bernie Worrell (keyboards). Highlighting his own unique brand of "therapy rock", Solomon is filled with noteworthy music, positive, uplifting lyrics and musicianship second to none. Imagine a cross between Adrian Belew and Jim Morrison and The Doors and you begin to get the drift behind this fabulous album. Solomon is no newcomer to the music world. For years you could find him drumming away as a street player in NYC, on the corner where Broadway meets Fifth Avenue. So itís through no simple act of God that brings us Solomonís new album. With itís impressive array of premier players, topped off by some clever studio mixing by Joe Blaney, Solomon is a welcome treat for adventurous music lovers. Check out Solomonís web site for further info and a complete lyrics sheet. www.solomon.fm 


 
  FRISBIE
The Subversive Sounds Of Love
(Hear Diagonally)

Borrowing from the best of popís past, Frisbie breaks new ground on their debut long player. The Chicago-based group takes itís namesake not from some flying object but from the last name of lead singer Steve Frisbie. The bandís other lead singer, Liam Davis offers a fine compliment to the Frisbie vocal sound. In fact all five members of the band sing, write and harmonize. For pop fans, The Subversive Sounds Of Love is time well spent and will even bring a smile to those of us who lived through the heyday of Ď60s pop. For a comparison think of any number of vintage Ď60s pop groups like The Cyrkle and The Left Bank or Ď70s groups like The Raspberries and Big Star - bandís whose finest songs were remembered long after you took the album off of the player. Living up to the favorable acclaim that the 13 track, 50+ minute disc has been getting since it was released back in 2000, The Subversive Sounds Of Love is a must for pop purveyors, past and present. www.frisbie.com 

 
  ROBERT CRENSHAW
Victory Songs
(Gadfly)

Although heís not nearly as well known as his brother, pop-rock great Marshall Crenshaw, singer-songwriter Robert Crenshaw returns with an album that shines a light on his own songwriting talents and vocal skills. Back in the Ď70s, Robert earned his stripes with a number of rock groups in the Detroit area before joining brother Marshall on drums. After taking a break during the Ď90s, Robert Crenshaw decided to give it another whirl and the results can be heard on his Ď99 Gadfly Records debut entitled Full Length Stereo Recordings. On Victory Songs, Crenshaw sounds clearly inspired by brother Marshall, although Robertís clearly got his own singer-songwriting thing down to a science. The multi-talented Crenshaw performs most of the instrumentation himself with a little help from notable friends such as producer Don Dixon, Ď80s singing star Marti Jones and Jamie Hoover of The Spongetones. The follow up to Full Length Stereo Recordings, Victory Songs proves that talent clearly runs in the Crenshaw family. www.gadflyrecords.com 

 
  KASEY CHAMBERS
The Captain
(Asylum / Warner Bros.)

In the words of singer-songwriter Kasey Chambers, "I just set out to make the best album I could make - not necessarily pop or country, but just the best I could do." Only in her mid 20ís, Chambers is already a legend in her native Australia thanks to the success of her two albums with The Dead Ringer Band. Featuring her parents and brother, the group picked up an Australian Grammy and consistently won best country music awards in the late Ď90s. Influenced by Emmylou Harris, Creedence Clearwater and The Eagles, Chambers steps out on her own with her U.S. debut The Captain. The album highlights performances by her father Bill Chambers (electric guitar, vocals), brother Nash Chambers (acoustic guitar, vocals) and a number of top players. A noteworthy set highlighted by Chambersí vivid songs and refreshing vocals, The Captain proves that the spirit of country rock is alive and well and kicking in the land down under. www.kaseychambers.com 

 
  ELLIOT MURPHY
& IAIN MATTHEWS

La Terre Commune
(Eminent)

For fans of Long Island native Elliot Murphy and U.K. native Iain Matthews the release of their new collaboration, La Terre Commune is a real musical windfall. Murphy burst onto the music scene in the early Ď70s with his first album Aquashow, an album which critics were raving about and comparing to works by Bob Dylan and Lou Reed. After leaving Fairport Convention, Iain Matthews went onto record nearly 50 solo albums, not forgetting those classic albums with Matthewís Southern Comfort. After meeting for the first time at the 1997 South By Southwest music festival in Austin, both singer-songwriters linked to join forces for what eventually became La Terre Commune. According to Murphy, "It was a thrill to record La Terre Commune with Iain Matthews, whom I have admired from afar for nearly twenty-five years. In a totally unpredictable fashion our strengths and weaknesses fit together like two long lost pieces of a jig-saw puzzle." Also featuring Murphyís guitar player Olivier Durand and drummer Florent Barbier, the recently released La Terre Commune combines a number of soul-searching folk and rock originals along with covers of Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen and Jesse Colin Young. Recorded in France in April, 2000, La Terre Commune is fitting testimony to the enduring talents of two like-minded musical souls. www.eminentrecords.com 

 
  PRIMITIVE RADIO GODS
White Hot Peach
(What Are Records?)

After selling nearly a half-million copies of their mid-90ís smash Rocket, Primitive Radio Gods were dumped by their major label and forced to scramble for cover. Just signed by Colorado-based What Are Records?, Primitive Radio Gods hit their stride again with White Hot Peach. A stunning mixture of pop-rock, electronica and sultry pop-jazz, White Hot Peach is a solid comeback effort linking one great track after another. Featuring the talents of singer-songwriter Chris OíConnor and guitarist Luke McAuliffe, PRG are expert at conjuring up musical moods by supplying just the right musical scenery to back it all up. Memorable hooks and impeccable musicianship are a couple more reasons to check out White Hot Peach. In fact, the only thing missing here is a lyric sheet, but that shouldnít prevent anyone from enjoying the sonic spectacle of White Hot Peach. www.war.com 

 
  THE ALICE PROJECT
Traveling With Lady Berlin
(Clown Milk)

One new band creating quite a stir is the New Jersey-based group known as The Alice Project. Sheís already being compared to current favorites like Aimee Mann and Jill Sobule, and the uniquely gifted singer-songwriter Alice Leon clearly has a good thing going on. The band had a breakthrough with their Ď99 album The Big Number. A couple years later the group reenters the arena again with the newly released Traveling With Lady Berlin. Leonís music and vocals are in fine form and she receives some top notch support from her bandmates Alan Greene (bass), Scott Strunk (drums) and James Leahy (guitar). The music rocks, the lyrics are sharp and the hooks are in clear abundance on Traveling With Lady Berlin. Be sure to check out the bandís web site, where you can also read along with the albumís lyrics. www.thealiceproject.com 

 
 
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