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Todd Rundgren is living a lie on his new album Liars. In fact, Rundgren openly embraces the big lie on his first album of all new material in a decade. According to the pop wunderkind, “Liars is an album of all brand new material that I’ve been thinking about for ten years. When I started writing material for this record, I didn’t have a whole concept yet, but the first song I did was “The Wondering”. It was my reaction to the 2000 presidential election and the completely surreal nature of it.” Performed entirely by Rundgren and supported by an engrossing set of lyrics, Liars is rife with it’s audio expose on how low the big lie bought out pop culture. Much like Rundgren’s hilarious posing as the Easter Bunny on the CD cover (“It’s a myth and everyone knows it’s a myth”) Todd’s seriously ranting diatribes on the CD opens cuts and examines other topics such as divorce (“Happy Anniversary”), relationships (“Past”, “Flaw”), religion (“Mammon”, “God Said”), the “Afterlife” (“I don’t expect the afterlife to be much different than what it is now”) and even the current epidemic disillusionment with 21st Century society as a whole (“Future”). It’s not all rant and rib and the old Todd surfaces for a few pop treats like the Nazz-flavored “Stood Up” and the guitar-flecked “Living”. An accomplished multi-instrumentalist and pop conceptualist who takes off in full flight on Liars, Rundgren adds, “I was going for a certain kind of sound. Some Mose Allison, semi-Beatles things. And there’s always a bit of Marvin Gaye in there somewhere. But I’ll always make a point of reinterpreting their sound, not imitating it.” On the cutting edge of music since the late ‘60s, Rundgren remains faithful to his model pop vision on Liars.



A Boot And A Shoe

Sam Phillips could sing the phone book and it would be great, let alone a new album of brilliant originals that she wrote and plays some mean guitar on. A rural pop masterpiece produced by T-Bone Burnett, the 2004 CD A Boot And A Shoe ain’t exactly obsessed with the big beat but the songs are so special you would hardly miss a veritable George Martin style production here. Back in the late ‘80s breakthroughs, Phillips started out a darling among the pop cognoscenti—comparable to ‘80s pop ingenues like Marti Jones, Natalie Archangel and Anna Domino. Like those now all too rarely heard from breakthrough artists, Sam Phillips is best when activated by a catchy palette of earthy pop that entrances and mesmerizes. Released by the legendary Nonesuch imprint, the organically tweaked A Boot And A Shoe fits in well with the label’s glorified ascent into the realm of Americana pop. In the high spirit of that recent major label collaboration between Brian Wilson and Van Dyke Parks, (with a slight in production twist!), Phillips achieves that quirky balance between cutting edge modern pop and timeless musical achievement on A Boot And A Show. Burnett’s production and bass work—coupled with Jim Keltner and Carla Azar on drums and a range of players—combines to great avail on what could very well be Ms. Phillips’ finest album yet.

Power Of Soul
(Experience Hendrix / Image Entertaiment)

A long awaited new Jimi Hendrix tribute album, the Experience Hendrix release of Power Of Soul: A Tribute To Jimi Hendrix features some recent versions of Hendrix classics from some of the biggest names from the rock, soul and funk worlds. A co-release on L.A.-based Image Entertainment and A&R’d by Jimi’s younger sister, Janie Hendrix, the 19 track Power Of Soul kicks off with a touching spoken word track from Jimi’s dad Al Hendrix. As is pointed out with rare insight in the CD notes, Jimi’s friendship with Carlos Santana and Eric Clapton is legendary and both guitarists further fuel the Hendrix legacy with Carlos summoning some “Spanish Castle Magic” and a ‘60s-flavored Clapper cover of “Burning Of The Midnight Lamp”. A noble cover of “The Wind Cries Mary” from Sting features scorching leads from fusion god John McLaughlin. Also on board here with a Hendrix classic are Lenny Kravitz, Prince, John Lee Hooker, Earth Wind & Fire, Robert Randolph & The Family Band and more. Soulful heart throb Chaka Khan rips it up and the CD closing instro medley of “Little Wing” / “3rd Stone From The Sun” by the late, great Stevie Ray Vaughan caps off this first, of hopefully future Power Of Soul sessions to come.

Heroes To Zeros

Featuring the flair of guitarist / vocalist Stephen Mason, U.K. rockers The Beta Band hit the bullseye on their third full length CD on Astralwerks. Recorded in Wales and mixed in London, Heroes To Zeros is further enhanced by the superb studio work of engineer Nigel Goodrich. The twelve track CD features a wide range of memorable tunes and in Mason’s words, "We've been known in the past as some hippie/stoner/folk kind of band. That’s not how we are at all". True to form the CD features a variety of thought-provoking rockers and atmospheric, electronica-flavored ballads, while the group steps into some fruitful territory with an instrumental called “Rhododendron". Further commenting on the eclectic instrumentation and panoramic pop vibe of Heroes To Zeros, Mason adds, "Heroes to Zeros represents a true marriage of samples, programmed beats and a live band. This is something we've been working towards since the beginning. We've carried on trying to hone our sound down to a pop song and are learning to make it tighter and more exciting." Lyric sheet and brazen cover art adds to the musical zeal of Heroes To Zeros.


Sunday Fables
(Not Lame)

Among the select releases on Not Lame is the 2004 CD from NYC pop singer-songwriter Edward Rogers entitled Sunday Fables. Born in England and currently living in NYC, Rogers was obviously influenced by all forms of ‘60s pop including power pop, Brit-pop and baroque pop. Rogers wisely chose pop maven George Usher as his songwriting partner on the CD, and with Usher also handling the backup / co-lead vocals, guitar and organ, the album is further strengthened by a number of players including guitarist Doug Larcy. Adding lead guitar on a few tracks is Church founder Marty Wilson-Piper and certifying the melody-strewn Brit-pop vibe on the CD, Zombies founders Rod Argent and Colin Blunstone add back up vocals on a track. Pop watchers hip to Usher’s fine pop CDs are advised to pick up on the modern pop dynamic in play on the superb Sunday Fables.

Stage [2]

Sweetback gained acclaim as the backing band for cosmic soul singer Sade. Featuring guitarist Stuart Matthewman, Paul Spencer Denman (bass) and Andrew Hale on keys. Sweetback masterfully put forth a wide range of cutting edge, jazzy rhythmic music with the accent on a new house groove sound. On their second album Stage [2], Sweetback are joined by Singapore-born vocalist Aya—sounding as seductive as Sade. The NYC based singer shares the occasional vocal spot with Brooklyn-born Mark Anthony Thompson a/k/a Chocolate Genius. Sweetback’s 2004 release, Stage Two merges a range of soulful, jazzy sounds. As evidenced by their work with Sade since day one of her career, these guys can play quite masterfully and coupled with Aya’s cool vocals, the bass heavy, jazzy neo-progressive groove catches your interest right away. They may even have a top 40 hit with the bouncy ‘80s pop groove of “Things You’ll Never Know”.

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