CD Reviews
by Tommy Burton

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Alex Chilton  Live In Anvers  (Rykodisc) 

Alex (famed leader of the Box Tops and Big Star) is something of an enigma.  It’s impossible to pin him down.  And since he still frequently performs with both Big Star and The Box Tops these days, where does that put his solo career?  This is a live offering recorded in 2004 with a pick up bar band.  Alex plays some old R&B (“634-5789”), a little jazz (“Shiny Stockings”), and yes, even some Big Star (“In The Street”).  The performance is fine enough for Chilton watchers, but it’s certainly not groundbreaking or revelatory.  With what sounds like a pick up band, Alex goes through a standard offering of eclectic material we’ve come to expect from him.  It’s well recorded and the performance has its ragged charms, but it’s never absolute and one has to wonder why it was ever even released.  Maybe it’s a thank you note to all the die-hards out there? 

Nikka Costa  Can’tneverdidnothin’  (Virgin/EMI) 

Nikka Costa is sexy, sultry, and funky.  The ties to Lenny Kravitz are obvious, but make no mistakes: Nikka is her own woman.  This record is fun at the core.  Turn it up at a party; it’s never overpowering but will guarantee some rump-shaking good times.  But the biggest asset to this record is not all in the grooves or the funky beats, but Nikka’s voice.  It has all the peaks and valleys to keep you interested.  In a perfect world, Nikka would be much bigger than she is.  Keep an eye on her. 

Diamond Nights  Once We Were Diamonds  (Kemado) 

EP release from mysterious guys wearing black football helmets.  If the record jacket reminds you a bit of Andrew W.K., don’t let it totally fool you: these guys rock steady.  It’s always nice to hear modern rock music where the guitars have actual tone quality to go with the heavy riffs.  This EP is a total surprise and I can’t wait to hear the full length when it arrives.   This is the perfect throwback without sounding like a joke a la The Darkness (also a lot of fun, but goes a really long way).  Maybe the fact that there are only five tracks here keep it all in check. 

Foo Fighters  In Your Honor  (RCA)

 What’s up with Dave Grohl?  He’s decided to record the best rock album of the year with his band The Foo Fighters.  This is a double record (one hard, the other light) chock full of some the most hopeful and inspiring music I’ve heard in a long time.  It’s never campy or silly, though.  It just rocks.  This album is ridiculously good on every level and there’s no reason why you shouldn’t own it right now.

Kaiser Chiefs  Employment  (B-Unique)

One of those pesky Gallagher brothers (I think Liam) stated that these guys were like Pulp.  Good assessment.  I like some Pulp.  If you like Pulp, you’ll probably like this record, too.  It fine enough, but not outstanding enough to warrant crazy buzz.

Mark Knopfler  One Take Radio Sessions  (Warner Brothers)

Mark Knopfler is a classy guy.  He’s one of the most tasteful guitarists out there.  His songs are smart and economical.  This eight-song set was recorded “live” in studio.  It’s a great sampler of material mostly from Mark’s last studio LP Shangri-La.  It’s certainly not essential, but long-time fans should rejoice.

Van Morrison  Magic Time  (Geffen)

Van Morrison has become something of a conundrum the past twenty years or so.  Everyone knows that he can be equally frustrating and brilliant.  Each album has become something of a guessing game of which Van will show up.  The past few albums have simply been called in.  Therefore, I approached this one with a bit of trepidation.  There’s a track here called “Keep Mediocrity At Bay.”  I suppose Van followed his own advice as Magic Time ranks up there with his finest work since Veedon Fleece.  A tall accomplishment indeed, considering where Van is in his career.  I defy any listener to go to His Band And Street Choir and slip the current “Celtic New Year” right in the middle and see if it sticks out.  Van delivers the goods two-fold and gives us one of his strongest performances in many years in both writing and singing.

Sid Selvidge  Live At Otherlands  (Archer)

Sid gives us a solo acoustic set recorded at Otherlands in Memphis.  Throughout the forty minute performance we are treated to some very rich blues singing and some fine guitar finger-picking.  It’s a class joint all the way through.  The disc also includes a DVD of the same performance so you get more bang for your buck.  If you’ve not heard Sid’s work, treat yourself to one of the finest folk/blues performers out there.

Ringo Starr Choose Love  (Koch)

Consistency has been Ringo’s middle name since 1992.  He has delivered some decent albums every other year or so.  Choose Love doesn’t really leave people wanting more, but each song is well crafted and well recorded and performed.  It’s good stuff, but it’s never absolutely brilliant.  I’m proud of Ringo.  He makes the crowds happy.

Weezer  Make Believe  (Geffen)

Rick Rubin.  Rivers’ madness.  Rockin’ pop songs.  All these things equal Make Believe.   I got an interesting perspective on the whole Weezer thing recently.  I discovered Weezer in 1994 with the “Blue Album.”  It was my freshman year in college (what a time to latch onto a group like Weezer).  It was declared that Weezer was incapable of making a truly bad song and when they did, the world could finally end.  Then came the emotional bare-all of Pinkerton.  It’s still one of the strongest albums of the 90s.  All the die-hards waited patiently for the next five years until they reunited with Ric Ocasek and gave us the “Green Album.”  Fans rejoiced, but new fans went back and visited the older albums.  Maladroit came and went.  Now we get the famed Rick Rubin record.  People who have just discovered Pinkerton and its many strengths have been let down by this.  However, history lets me enjoy every note here.  I’m glad that Rivers still writes songs.  He is our generation’s Brian Wilson and we need to cherish him.  But the bottom line is this:  The world is still here.

The White Stripes  Get Me Behind Me Satan  (V2)

Jack White is the most important writer in music right now.  He will go down in importance as much as Dylan and Lennon/McCartney, among others.  Each album Jack does is important and vital.  The cool thing is that he really hasn’t done anything brand new, he’s just soaked up all that’s come before and spit it back out with his own twist.  So far, he hasn’t fell for the hype (a la Radiohead) and I hope he never does.  Get Behind Me Satan is a natural progression from the previous four records.  I don’t know if Jack will save rock music, but his presence has certainly given it a fair amount to think about.  Easily one of the strongest albums that we will see this year.

Copyright © Jul 2005 We Like Media.
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