by Tom Hallett
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “I’m always in love.” — Bob Dylan
SONG OF THE WEEK: “Don’t You See It?” — Chris Mars
I don’t know about the rest of the world, but I for one am damned glad this foul year is almost over—though I have a feeling that a lot of people are going to wake up around mid-2005 with a slightly nauseous, hung-over feeling, wondering just what in the hell happened in the past 12 months to fuck shit up so badly. Me, I feel like that about every other day anyway, so I’ll be used to it. Plus, I have a clear conscious as far as my recent voting record goes, so the normal guilt will have to do.
At any rate, we’ll all need a decent soundtrack to the impending implosion, so here’s a few more choice releases for your musical armament ...
If you know who Nancy Sinatra is, chances are you’re in one of three camps:
The “Oh My God, she is so awesome!” camp; the “Jesus Christ,
turn that crap off” camp; or the “She’s lost without Lee Hazelwood”
camp. And that’s just fine, because Nancy, the talented, singing, dancing,
swooning daughter of Ol’ Blue Eyes, is nothing if not the Queen Of Camp.
And frankly (sorry, Frank), folks in all three camps have some valid points.
she’s probably still best known to the average music listener as the hot-pants-sportin’
singer of the swingin’ Sixties femme-anthem, “These Boots Were Made
For Walkin’,” she’s actually contributed quite a few tasty
little pop nuggets over the years. Her albums with producer Lee Hazelwood were
spotty, but always turned out a gem or two, and her sporadic live performances
are legendary. On the other hand, when Nancy is over the top, she’s WAY
over the top, and if your idea of a good song doesn’t include silly, sappy
lyrics, over-emoting vocals and ridiculous strings, well, you ain’t gonna
dig a good portion of her catalog.
That being said, Sinatra’s latest, self-titled effort is, hands down,
the best thing she’s done since her heyday with Hazelwood. Teaming up
with producers AJ and Matt Azzarto and the inimitable Don Fleming, Sinatra shares
the spotlight here with a passel of highly talented, modern singer/songwriters
and musicians. It’s a great idea, and it works damn near every time—even
despite the fact that, like Dusty Springfield’s revered Dusty In Memphis,
most of these tunes are complete studio creations; the bands and musicians laying
down tracks in one studio, Sinatra in another, and the producers splicing the
results together. But like I said, when it works, it really works.
Opener “Burnin’ Down The Spark”—written by and performed
with Giant Sand/Calexico members Joey Burns, John Convertino, and friends—is
about as close to the original Hazelwood spirit as you’re gonna get—“Ring
Of Fire”—like horns and high lonesome baritone guitar compete with
fiery Latin rhythms and Sinatra’s note-perfect, melancholy voice to create
a truly haunting soundscape. “Don’t Let Him Waste Your Time,”
a duet with Pulp’s Jarvis Cocker, is a slinky, hypnotic little number
that recalls early ’60s girlie pop like Leslie Gore or Little Eva, yet
includes such modern-day lyrical jabs as “... and then some skinny bitch
walks by in some hot pants/and he’s a-running out the door...”
Other highlights include “Momma’s Boy,” a deliciously dark
romp through reverse-Oedipal insanity with Sonic Youth axeman Thurston Moore;
“Let Me Kiss You,” a breezy, uplifting love song performed with
(and written by) Smiths’ founder Morrissey; and the album’s final
cut, the gorgeous cocktails-and-suicide ballad, “Two Shots Of Happy, One
Shot Of Sad,” which comes oozing out of your speakers riding a smokey,
post-club-closing groove (courtesy of a jazzed-out U2) that’ll either
drive you to drink or to hit “replay.” Maybe both wouldn’t
be such a bad idea. Tasty stuff from Ms. Sinatra and friends.
Joe Henry continues down the jazz-inflected path he began following a couple
of years back with albums like Scar and Fuse—melding his
scathing lyrical wit to flitting, airy keyboard and horn notes scattered like
so much stardust over deep, throaty rhythms. I’d go so far as to say that,
some of the subject matter (America’s ever-widening cultural and spiritual
vacuum, mortality, morality, patriotism, revolution) aside, this album contains
some of the sexiest music Henry’s released to date.
Along with his usual stellar cast of fellow musicians (Jay Bellerose on drums,
Chris Bruce on guitar, Jennifer Condos on bass, Patrick Warren on keys, plus
talented brass-men Don Byron and Ron Miles and special guests, including the
late, great Greg Arreguin on guitar, Jim Keltner on drums, and Dave Palmer on
keyboards), Henry runs through a veritable cornucopia of free-jazz, funk, rock,
pop and torch-inflected aural mini-docu-dramas. Tiny Voices is a perfect
title for this record, which is stocked to the tippy-top with the sort of characters
Henry’s so adept at creating, capturing or conjuring, depending on his
Afternoon” is an easy-flowing, snappy little ditty gliding on War-like
horns, rolling drums and trippy word-play like, “An orange cup was thrown/From
an upstairs room/A cherry bomb of giddy lust, I guess/From a bride and groom...”
but then slips into its true meaning with, “I’ve spent every long
summer/Just this way/Since my mother started making up their beds/And learning
to look the other way/So what’s one more drunk businessman/Coming on to
me in the shallow end?” Like I said, each song is like an IFC short; a
stark snapshot of an individual or a moment trapped in time.
“Animal Skin” continues the steamy tone of the record, Henry crooning,
“I’ll rise with your breath and fall back again/Cause you bring
me close to my animal skin...” The title track is a bouncy, slightly discombobulated
love ballad perfect for the apocalypse: “All manner of abandon/Is just
the thing we need/Get ready for the country, boys/This town has gone to seed/The
telephone line sagging/With word coming through/Put your head between your knees/I’m
falling for you...” “Sold” and “Dirty Magazine”
both feature a bit more guitar, but stay firmly rooted in that jazzy groove,
the latter best described in one of its own lines: “...such a grim, romantic
“Flag” is a fitting epitaph to a doomed love as well as a terrifying
metaphor for the state of the world today: “These days, they lord above
me/Growing mean as they grow shorter/Like a flag on a closing border behind
me...And I mistook your heart for thunder/And like a flag, hid behind and under
you/Who could blame me...Laugh or bleed as you need to/Who of us doesn’t
know already?/Every flag now flies like confetti...” All in all, Tiny
Voices is a powerful, timely, and soul-edifying batch of modern jazz/rock/pop
from a guy who’s always defied categorization and continues to reach new
creative heights with every release. A must-have.
Other highly recommended new or recent releases: Tom Waits, Real Gone/William
Shatner, Has Been/The Drive-By Truckers, The Dirty South/Patterson
Hood, Killers And Stars/The Roach Brothers, Smashed Is Where It’s
At/The Spanish Recordings: Basque Country Navarre, The Alan Lomax Collection.
More to come!!
GIG OF THE WEEK
miss Anderson, Indiana’s own stump-preachin’, fire-and-brimstone-raisin’,
musical missionaries, Gee As In Jesus, as they return to the 7th Street Entry
for what’s become an annual holiday tradition around these parts. The
various anointed cousins and brethren will deliver their usual, one-part snappy
sermon, one-part home-brewed fervor, two-parts rock ’n’ roll gospel
program this Saturday night, 12/18. Special guests include The Mighty Mofos,
Diesel On The Rocks and the undeniably awesome Impaler. Don’t miss this
one to save your soul, folks. $5, 8 p.m., 21+.
That’s it for this week, gang. Tune in again for more of the same. Until
next time—make yer own damn news. ||
If you have local music news, gigs, CDs you’d like to see mentioned
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