CD reviews: Reel Big Fish, Phish, various artists
Wednesday, August 8, 2012
Reel Big Fish
Candy Coated Fury/Rock Ridge
I’m a sucker for a good cover song, especially when it’s done in a creative way.
Bonus points are added if the song being covered is not one that eight other bands also have paid tribute to.
The ska band Reel Big Fish gets the cover song formula absolutely correct on its latest release, “Candy Coated Fury,” with a cover of “The Promise,” an ’80s song by one-hit-wonder band When In Rome.
Putting a reggae tempo to the formerly electro-dance tune gives it a mellow, laid-back groove.
And the rest of the album is, for the most part, just as agreeable as the cover song that concludes it.
Starting with the funny and irreverent leadoff song, the title of which can’t be printed here, and going through tracks such as “She’s Not the End of the World” and “I Know You Too Well To Like You Anymore,” it’s immediately clear why Reel Big Fish is at the top of the heap among the ska bands out there.
“Candy Coated Fury” is unlikely to lead its listeners to any particularly deep thoughts, but if you’re looking for something to skank to with fans, you can’t go wrong here.
Key Tracks: “She’s Not the End of the World,” “The Promise”
The year 1994 was big for the Vermont-based jam band Phish.
The band released its commercial breakthrough album, “Hoist,” and continued its almost constant touring to bring its music to the masses.
The band always had been compared to the Grateful Dead because of its rabid fans, who followed the band from show to show, as well as the band member’s love of extending their songs out to lengths that sometimes approached the 30-minute mark.
A little over a year later, Jerry Garcia would be dead and Phish eventually would take the Dead’s place as the king of the jam band kingdom.
“Chicago ’94” doesn’t just attempt to give a small sample of the band during that moment in time, it immerses the listener in what it meant to be a Phish “phan” in 1994. The box set features two complete concerts recorded in Chicago in June and November of that year. This is a portrait of a band reaching its zenith as a live outfit.
The set gives fans a generous 43 songs, with many favorites such as “Wilson,” “Tweezer,” “AC/DC Bag,” “Chalkdust Torture” and “David Bowie,” as well as covers of Prince’s “Purple Rain” and Led Zeppelin’s “Good Times Bad Times.”
Some of the more epic jams include a 21-minute version of “You Enjoy Myself” and a 16-minute go at “Harpua.”
The recordings come straight from the soundboard and have been remastered to pristine condition.
You’ll likely have trouble believing that these recordings are almost two decades old, but if you enjoy the music of Phish, this ought to keep you busy for a while.
Key Tracks: The sequence that includes “Tweezer,” “Lifeboy,” “You Enjoy Myself,” “Chalkdust Torture,” “Bouncing Around the Room” and “Tweezer Reprise”
Sparkle: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack/RCA
When Whitney Houston died suddenly earlier this year, R&B fans the world over mourned her passing.
One of the last projects Houston worked on was a remake of the 1976 film “Sparkle.” Houston stars in the film and recorded a pair of songs for the soundtrack prior to her death.
While Houston fans undoubtedly will want to hear what are some of her last recorded works, the truth is that the Houston songs here are fairly disappointing.
“Celebrate,” which Houston sings with Jordin Sparks, is a horribly generic, easily forgettable piece of R&B fluff.
The gospel number sung by Houston, “His Eye is on the Sparrow,” has much more substance, but Houston’s voice is a shadow of its former glory.
If you’re expecting the power you heard behind “I Will Always Love You” or “The Greatest Gift of All,” you’ll find that instead you get Houston struggling with some notes.
Fortunately, there are brighter spots elsewhere on the soundtrack.
Cee Lo Green’s “I’m a Man” is a high-energy, fun tune reminiscent of Curtis Mayfield. And former “American Idol” winner Sparks shines on just about every song in which she is involved.
The same can be said for Carmen Ejogo, who shares vocals on several songs with Sparks, but also gets her time alone in the spotlight on the agreeable “Yes I Do.”
All in all, this soundtrack is full of good music. It’s just unfortunate that what will prove to be the main attraction to the album, Houston’s last songs, are so disappointing.
Key Tracks: “I’m a Man,” “Yes I Do,” “Something He Can Feel”
By Devin Grant