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May / June 2003

 

     
 

 
PROCOL HARUM


MARIA McKEE


BRIAN WILSON

 
ROSANNE CASH
 
LOU REED
 
BOSTON
 
     
  PROCOL HARUM
The Well's On Fire
(Eagle Rock)

Back in 1967, Procol Harum turned the music world on it’s ear with their all time classic “A Whiter Shade Of Pale.” Some of the most musically significant albums of the ‘60s and ‘70s followed including A Salty Dog, Home, Grand Hotel and Exotic Birds And Fruit. Always more artistic and neoclassical rock than mere rock and roll, Procol Harum were recently described by founding member Gary Brooker when he says, “We don’t do pop songs as such. Procol Harum is a soul and blues band which has these other influences because of the people who are there. “A Whiter Shade Of Pale” wouldn’t have been such a big hit, nor Salty Dog or many others unless they had soul.” It’s been 12 long years since Procol Harum reformed for their underrated and severely underexposed 1991 comeback effort, The Prodigal Stranger, but they more than fulfill the longstanding wishes of their many fans with their 2003 album The Well’s On Fire. Released on Eagle Records, the thirteen track CD features the original Procol songwriting team of Gary Brooker and Keith Reid in prime form and also in the 2003 lineup are Procol’s original keyboardist, the great Matthew Fisher along with Geoff Whitehorn (guitars), Mark Brzezicki (drums) and Matt Pegg (bass). At their best, Procol Harum were always about combining melodic symphonic rock with scorching blues-rock licks and from start to finish, The Well’s On Fire is an excellent return to form. Brooker’s indelible melodies and Reid’s intricate word play reemerge intact as if they hardly missed a beat. Keyboard great Matthew Fisher even contributes a killer instrumental track entitled “The Signature” that closes out The Well’s On Fire in style. Filling the shoes of one time Procol guitar legends Robin Trower and Mick Grabham, Geoff Whitehorn brings a fresh and powerful rock dynamic to the table, and while no one will ever fill the drum seat once owned by the late, great Procol timekeeper BJ Wilson, the group’s long standing drummer since 1990, Mark Brzezicki gives it a great shot. Rounding out the 21st Century Procol line-up is young Matt Pegg on bass, son of Jethro Tull bassist Dave Pegg. Although Brooker is quick to point out that, “We really enjoy playing challenging things”, there’s also enough groove oriented, smiley-faced blues rock on The Well’s On Fire—just check out “The VIP Room” and “Every Dog Will Have His Day”—to pick up the ears of those who still remember Procol’s early ‘60s years as The Paramounts. Although Brooker scored with some impressive solo albums during the ‘80s, his calling card was always those catchy melodies, soaring symphonic productions and his unique vocal interpretations of Keith Reid’s lyrics. Read along with the lyrics in the CD booklet and you’ll see that there’s still ‘something magic’ in play on The Well’s On Fire. www.procolharum.com


 
 

MARIA McKEE
High Dive
(Viewfinder / Mailboat)

Accurately described as a Broadway diva, a neopunk, a poet, and an art-rocker, L.A.-based singer-songwriter Maria McKee returned in 2003 with her first album of new material since her underrated 1996 album Life Is Sweet...and the wait was worth it. Maria’s best album yet, High Dive is filled with infectious songs, ingenious singing and top-notch musicianship. Released on her self-owned Viewfinder label, High Dive finds Maria in outstanding form alongside producer and co-conspirator Jim Akin and the masterful drumming of Tom Dunne. With Maria singing and performing the guitar parts, the album shines a light on the versatile relationship she has with Jim Akin whoin addition to playing bass, keyboards, guitar and backing vocalsproduced, mixed, and mastered the album. Maria explains, "Jim really listens to my ideas, and he's able to complement them with his production sensibilities. The way I write is very cathartic because I operate very spontaneously as a human being. I'm rambunctious and tangential. Jim helps to distill that, and streamline it into something more potent." Listening to High Dive, you can hear a wealth of potent rock influences—from the dramatic sounding power rock chords of early ‘70s Bowie and the Who to the baroque-rock styles of the classic ‘60s L.A.-based pop sensation Love, which featured Maria’s brother, the late great Bryan MacLean, as a pivotal member. On reflection, Maria states, "Bryan is very important to this album, in how his life and death impacted me. We were best friends, soul mates. It was Bryan who first told me I should be a singer and he was very much with me in the recording and the writing.” Featuring 14 dazzling tracks including “To The Open Spaces”, the moving title track and the symphonic rock strains of “My Friend Foe” and “In Your Constellation”, High Dive proudly takes it’s place among the truly great albums of 2003. www.mariamckee.com

 


 
  BRIAN WILSON
Brian Wilson On Tour
(Sanctuary)

It’s been about five years since Brian Wilson released his last studio album, Imagination. It’s a miracle when any new music he makes can come out and his latest DVD—Brian Wilson On Tour—will hit the spot with long time fans. Filmed and recorded over the past few years, the 77 minute musical documentary DVD features mostly live performances of Brian and his band featuring fine players like guitarist Jeff Foskett, Darian Sahanaja, Mike D’Amico and Nick Walusko of The Wondermints and many others. A colorful portrait of the legendary surf-rock master in action, the DVD features new revivals of early Wilson-composed Beach Boys gems like “Do It Again”, “Add Some Music” and “Caroline No”. Also on hand further praising Brian’s unique contributions to pop music history are Ronnie Spector, long time Wilson studio cohort Carol Kaye, Pete Townshend, Paul McCartney, Sheryl Crow and Neil Young, who appears on several tracks here. The shortage of new studio music from Brian aside, a couple recent Wilson tracks—”Saturday Morning In The City” and “This Isn’t Love”—appear as well. A fitting documentary of Brian’s recent live appearances and legacy, Brian Wilson On Tour will suffice until the maestro’s long awaited new studio recordings appear. www.brianwilson.com


 


 
  ROSANNE CASH
Rules Of Travel
(
Capitol)

For her first new album of new material in ten years, country-rock singing legend, Rosanne Cash teams with her husband and guitarist John Levanthal and the results have produced quite possibly her best album yet. Also appearing on Rules Of Travel are Marc Cohn, Jakob Dylan, Sheryl Crow, Steve Earle and her father, country music legend Johnny Cash, who shares the vocal spotlight with his daughter on the touching “September When It Comes.” Having nearly lost her voice after a polyp shut down her vocal chords, Cash reclaimed her singing style a couple years ago after seeing a voice therapist and work resumed on Rules Of Travel in 2000. Looking back she adds, “It was such a revelation losing my voice, and getting it back. I feel a lot of passion about singing, and a lot less fear.” The album features a number of top players including drummer Shawn Pelton although standing out is the superb guitar work of John Levanthal who also co-composed a number of Rules Of Travel tracks, including the excellent title track. Concerning the title track, Cash claims, “this took me three years to write. The chorus came very quickly, and John said, ‘This could be the best chorus you ever wrote’. So that put the pressure on immediately. I rewrote the verses many, many times. John rewrote the melody to the verses many, many times. I finally went into the studio and sat in front of John and finished it. And we recorded it that day.” A legend of the country rock world who has had 11 number 1 singles over her career, Cash has hit a new peak with the superbly crafted Rules Of Travel. www.rosannecash.com




 
  LOU REED
The Raven
(Reprise)

The writings of Edgar Allan Poe was always a favorite source of maddening inspiration for gothic rockers of all ages, so it was probably only a matter of time before Lou Reed would align himself with Poe’s vision and Lou continues walking on the wild side on this major musical tribute to Poe’s haunting spirit. The Raven is the perfect soundtrack for the post-9/11 world and Reed’s esoteric and compelling songs and vocals, mixed in with a selection of Poe’s spoken words, makes it a truly bold work. Backed by a tight band including guitarist Mike Rathke, Reed is also joined by guest artists David Bowie, Laurie Anderson, sax legend Ornette Coleman and others. It’s release as both a double cd and a single condensed CD is described by Lou, “so there’s the grand mal version or exquisite, but smaller version.” There’s also an instrumental on the double disc version called “Fire Music” and Lou adds, “It’s a very intense piece, it was recorded three days after September 11th. When people say to me, ‘What do you think about what happened September 11th, I point to that. That’s what I think.” Overall, Lou is quite happy with the results adding, “The more you listen to it, the more you’ll find. It’s my fastball. It’s my 95 mile an hour pitch.” www.wbr.com



 
  BOSTON
Corporate America
(Artemis)

Back in 1976 Boston released their debut and that self-titled Lp went on to become the biggest selling debut album of all time. Following a second album in ‘78 and a third album in 1986, Boston main man, guitarist/songwriter/inventor Tom Scholz got involved with various charities and causes. A fourth album, Walk On followed in ‘94 and a greatest hits set followed in ‘97. After four years of fine-tuning the group, Scholz and Boston revamp their sound on their powerful, late 2002 Artemis Records CD Corporate America. The title track offers a scathing indictment of the way alot of big business is done these days, and likewise, the entire album is filled with hard-hitting rock hooks and thought provoking lyrics. Scholz obviously has alot on his mind and in his own words, “Using music as a medium to make a statement was difficult for me. It was a major challenge, but I decided I would not take ‘no’ for an answer. I had to express my feelings about what mega-corporations are doing to our world.” That classic, anthemic rock sound that made early Boston classics like “More Than A Feeling” so appealing reemerge intact on Corporate America. Featuring cool Boston-style album artwork, the CD features Scholz on all the guitars, keyboards, bass and drums as well as writing the lion’s share of the album along with Anthony Cosma. Corporate America is a fine return to form and Scholz puts it all together with style in the company of a number of fine players like original Boston vocalist Brad Delp as well as vocalists Fran Cosma and Kimberly Dahme. www.artemisrecords.com




 
 
 
   
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