CD reviews: Paul Simon, Company, The dBs
Wednesday, June 13, 2012
Graceland: 25th Anniversary Collector’s Edition Box Set/Legacy
When Paul Simon released the album “Graceland” in 1986, he was coming off one of the biggest commercial flops of his career.
To say that “Graceland” erased that previous career low point is an understatement. The album sold millions, won Simon two Grammy Awards and helped to ease world music into the mainstream.
If you’re a Paul Simon fan, you likely already own this album. So why purchase it again?
To put it simply, the new 25th anniversary box set treatment that “Graceland” has received is easily one of the most beautifully put together special editions of an album I’ve run across.
It isn’t just that the album has been remastered so that songs such as “The Boy in the Bubble,” “You Can Call Me Al” and “Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes” sound exquisite, although that is indeed worth noting. The real treats are the extra media, which help tell the story of how the album was created, and why its creation was so politically charged at the time.
In addition to the album on CD, there is another CD of demos and outtakes from the sessions, a DVD of a concert filmed in Africa soon after the album’s release and a spectacular documentary, “Under African Skies,” that tells the story of the album and how it has affected popular culture in the last quarter-century. There is also a poster of the album cover, a lavish book with lyrics and photographs and a replica yellow legal pad that shows, in Simon’s own handwriting, the evolution of the songs on the album. The whole thing fits into a beautiful linen-bound slipcover.
If you love the album Graceland but don’t know much about the story behind it, then this set is well worth the money. It’s a reverent deluxe treatment given to what is still one of the best albums of the last 25 years.
Key Tracks: “The Boy in the Bubble,” “Gumboots,” “Crazy Love, Vol. II”
Falling Off The Sky/Bar None
Music history is full of stories of bands that were ahead of their time. The sad thing about bands being forward-thinking is that they usually fade away before they get to the time and place where they would sound mainstream. The dBs are a band that seemed to suffer from being conceived a couple of decades too early.
I saw them open for Squeeze in 1988 at the Galliard Auditorium, and even though I’d never heard of them, I was blown away.
As it turned out, the band was playing the same sort of alternative rock that would capture the ears of youth five or six years later, when the alternative music scene became not-so-alternative.
Peter Holsapple, Chris Stamey, Gene Holder and Will Rigby, all of whom hail from the Winston-Salem, N.C., area, formed the band in 1978 and the first go-round lasted about a decade.
Since the band broke up, it has become the stuff of legend, thanks to the quality of the band’s music, which continues to be discovered by new generations of listeners.
Now, for the fist time in nearly three decades, the original lineup of the band has recorded “Falling Off the Sky,” an album of new material. Does it sound like classic dBs? Yes, but not to the point of sounding like a retread.
Benefiting from Holsapple’s knack for writing a pop hook and Stamey’s more experimental leanings when it comes to song writing, the songs on the new album flow beautifully, from the retro-sounding “That Time is Gone” to the incredibly catchy “Write Back.”
Rather than being some feeble attempt at grabbing a few dollars from its fans, “Falling Off the Sky” instead represents The dBs letting loose with its creativity and releasing an album that can proudly stand with the band’s best work.
Key Tracks: “That Time is Gone,” “Write Back,” “Send Me Something Real”
Dear America/Exit Stencil
For anyone out there not yet convinced that Charleston has a vibrant and varied music scene, I offer the band Company for your consideration.
Company’s new CD, “Dear America,” is a lot of different things at once. For starters, it’s ambitious, filled with wailing guitars, rock-solid drumbeats and vocals that soar.
“Dear America” also stands out because its songs don’t all sound alike. In fact, most of the songs mix things up so much that one could be forgiven for possibly thinking that the material on the CD was a compilation of different bands. The one factor that ties everything together is the voice of Brian Hannon, which sounds like a combination of My Morning Jacket’s Jim James, Radiohead’s Thom Yorke and Canned Heat’s Bob Hite.
The music on “Dear America” is composed and recorded in a manner that raises the album above being simply a local release.
Much like local bands Crowfield, The Royal Tinfoil and Heyrocco, the music produced by Company has substance without being overbearing.
From the jangly guitars on “Something About You” to the stark yet clear message in the album’s title track to the Southern rock goodness of “Stuck in My Head,” this is a band that has already enjoyed a certain measure of success by touring with Band of Horses.
If Company continues to release quality music such as the sort on “Dear America,” then the band’s future seems bright indeed.
Check them out for yourself Saturday as Company performs at the Tin Roof in West Ashley.
Key Tracks: “Dear America,” “Stuck in My Head,” “Dreams”
By Devin Grant