CD reviews: Joe Jackson, The Royal Tinfoil, Oli Brown
Wednesday, July 4, 2012
The Duke/Razor & Tie
When everything is said and done, and he’s finally finished writing and recording music, no one will ever be able to say that Joe Jackson didn’t do things his way.
The artist, who is known to bristle when anything other than his complete control of his music is even suggested, has made a career of hopscotching through one musical style after another.
After becoming one of the darlings of the post-punk new wave era with songs such as “I’m the Man” and “Is She Really Going Out With Him?” Jackson has made a career out of recording in a certain style then moving on to the next style that caught his fancy, even if the current album was successful.
Jackson’s latest effort, “The Duke,” will likely not be a commercial success, but then, that’s really never mattered to Jackson.
As the title might suggest, the music of Duke Ellington is Jackson’s latest obsession. And rather than simply cover some of Ellington’s greatest hits, Jackson has instead elected to deconstruct and play with the songs. It doesn’t necessarily work on every track, but when it does, the music is dazzling.
Standout tracks include a bossa nova-flavored “Caravan,” “Perdido/Satin Doll” and especially “It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing),” which features additional vocals by Iggy Pop.
Other artists teaming up with Jackson include Sharon Jones, Lilian Vieira, Steve Vai and Amir “?uestlove” Thompson from The Roots.
For fans of Jackson’s eclectic musical tastes, “The Duke” finds him continuing his musical journey with this offbeat and original tribute to another artist who did things his way.
Key Tracks: “Caravan,” “Perdido/Satin Doll,” “It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing)”
The Royal Tinfoil
Well Water Communion/Independent
The first thing you notice about The Royal Tinfoil, whether you see the local band live or listen to its new CD, “Well Water Communion,” is the voice of Lily Slay.
The drawn out “Excuuuse meee” that kicks of “Die Already,” the album’s first track, reminds you of those no-nonsense singers from the ’40s and ’50s who didn’t have the benefit of studio magic to doctor their voices.
Slay’s voice is bigger than life, sweet as honey and strong enough to let the world know she’s not a pushover.
Slay and her musical partner in crime, Lamont “Mackie” Boles, have recorded an album full of loose, wonderfully vintage-sounding original songs that attempt to capture the fun and spontaneity of The Royal Tinfoil’s live show. And while no studio album can ever properly capture the essence of a band that lives to perform live, “Well Water Communion” makes a good go at it.
Boles is just as much a bigger-than-life performer as Slay, and the pair started off playing together as a duo. For the album, Boles and Slay have added band members Artie Elmer, Scott Frank and Kyle Couch.
Boles turns in one of the CD’s more emotional performances on “Run Away,” where he sings “Fill up the car with gasoline/Let’s go someplace we’ve never seen,” while Slay’s vocals on “Little Lotta Whiskey” are reminiscent of Maria Muldaur.
Also particularly effective is the way the pair’s vocals intertwine on tracks such as “Stalker vs. Stalker” and “Bitter Pill.”
Either artist would probably do fine alone in this music market, but by joining creative forces, Slay and Boles have made The Royal Tinfoil a local musical treasure.
Key Tracks: “Die Already,” “Run Away,” “Stalker vs. Stalker”
Here I Am/Ruf
Ever since folks such as Ted McCarty, Les Paul and Leo Fender perfected the idea of adding electric amplification to guitars, there has been a certain section of the population that craves great electric guitar music.
There have been any number of guitar gods through the years, including Chet Atkins, Billy Gibbons, Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Buddy Guy and Eddie Van Halen, who have provided jaw-dropping performances and recordings for fans.
One lesser-known name that has been turning heads the past couple of years is Oli Brown.
The British-born blues guitarist’s latest release, “Here I Am,” helps demonstrate why he won Best Male Vocalist and Best Young Artist at the 2010 British Blues Awards. Brown doesn’t sound like any particular artist, but it is readily evident to whom he listened while growing up.
Hints of Jimmy Page, Stevie Ray Vaughan and The Black Crowes’ Rich Robinson can be heard in his songs. But Brown tempers those familiar sounds with a confident singing voice and a good sense of songwriting.
Standout tracks on the new album include the Stevie Ray Vaughan-like “Thinking About Her,” as well as ultra-catchy tunes such as “You Can Only Blame Yourself” and “Remedy.”
Not every track on “Here I Am” hits the mark, but there is enough good material to warrant watching this talented young artist as he sets his sights on joining those aforementioned guitar legends.
Key Tracks: “Thinking About Her,” “You Can Only Blame Yourself,” “Remedy.”
By Devin Grant