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MAY / JUNE 2004

 

     
 

 
PROTO-KAW


ERIC CLAPTON


JACK BLADES

 
DAVID BOWIE
 
SONDRE LERCHE
 
DOUG POWELL
 
     
 

PROTO-KAW
Before Came After
(Inside Out)

A music label at the vanguard of progressive rock and fusion music, Inside Out Music America have a full plate when it comes to their 2004 CD releases. Perhaps the latest reason for IOMA watchers to celebrate is a 2004 IOMA CD release by prog-rock trendsetters Proto-Kaw. The CD in question is called Before Came After and musically it’s got to be among the best music yet by Kansas founder Kerry Livgren. In fact, Proto-Kaw is nothing less than the second incarnation of his group Kansas. Although Livgren’s early vision of Kansas broke up and never got the recognition they deserved—paving the way for the third incredibly successful, Livgren led Kansas lineup—their 2004 reincarnation as Proto-Kaw is one of the intriguing comeback stories of year. Livgren is masterful at the helm and his guitar sound is front and center. Assisted by just about every original member from that 1971-73 Kansas period—Livgren and present company establish themselves among the champions on the current prog-rock stage with the dazzling Before Came After. www.protokaw.com


 
 

ERIC CLAPTON
Me And Mr. Johnson
(Duck / Reprise)

Assisted by top players like Andy Fairweather Low (guitar), Doyle Bramhall II (guitar), Billy Preston (keyboards) and Steve Gadd (drums), Eric Clapton covers 14 of the 29 songs written and recorded during the short life of Mississippi blues legend Robert Johnson way back in the 1930’s. Many of these songs had a major impact on Chicago blues giants like Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf and even rock and pop fans will note that two songs here—”Love In Vain” and “Stop Breakin’ Down Blues”—gained notoriety back in the ‘60s as part of the recorded repertoire of The Rolling Stones. Before he went on to instant acclaim as the progressive super hero of Cream and Blind Faith, Clapton started playing the blues with John Mayall and the 2004 CD release of Me And Mr. Johnson takes the guitarist back to his roots. Anyone who enjoyed Clapton’s 2000 CD collaboration with B.B. King—entitled Riding With The King—will equally dig Me And Mr. Johnson. Regarding his long time affinity for Johnson’s earthy approach to the blues, Clapton adds, “It’s a remarkable thing to have been driven and influenced all my life by the work of one man. I am talking, of course, about the work of Robert Johnson. It’s the finest music I have ever heard. I have always trusted its purity, and I always will.” www.ericclapton.com


 
  JACK BLADES
Jack Blades
(Sanctuary)

It’s interesting that Jack Blades picked his cover of the 1971 Spirit classic, “Nature’s Way” to be the single off his self-titled debut on Sanctuary Records Group. Blades’ first ever album under his own name features a number of his buddies and bandmates in both Damn Yankees and Night Ranger. In addition to Styx vocalist /guitarist Tommy Shaw, there’s also some excellent synth guitar work from Santana / Journey ax-man Neal Schon. With Blades tackling the bass, a chunk of the vocals and songwriting chores, the eleven track self-produced album blends a mix of top playing with an array of fine anthemic stadium rockers that were built to sound as dynamic on a boom box as they do live. Regarding his Randy California-penned Spirit cover, Jack nails the song enough with enough spirit to nearly make it his own, while also paying tribute to one of the true architects of rock music. www.jackblades.net


 
  DAVID BOWIE
Reality
(ISO / Columbia)

Anytime you put David Bowie, Tony Visconti and Earl Slick in the same room, with anyone else, there’s bound to be greatness unleashed and fortunately, the troika team up for more musical magic on Bowie’s 2003 album Reality. Just mention the subject of Bowie and Visconti’s five decades worth of musical collaborations and the subject might turn to Bowie’s 1970 foundation work, The Man Who Sold The World, which featured Visconti blazing away on a most unbelievable sounding electric bass all the while propelled brilliantly by Mick Ronson’s stellar guitar. True, it’s a different era. Mick’s sadly gone and the stakes aren’t quite that high for Bowie, yet after several careful spins, one could almost draw a parallel between Reality and the unprecedented rock vibe and intensity of The Man Who Sold The World. On the list of Reality highlights, a Bowie original called “Days” (not the Kinks song, although Bowie should consider that one for his planned Pinups 2) that wouldn’t seem out of place on say, Bowie’s first Decca album entitled The World Of David Bowie. Looking back for further reference, one of the great originals from The World Of David Bowie, the dazzling “Karma Man”, recorded on Sept. 1, 1967, featured Bowie joined with Tony on bass and backup vocals and surprise (!), future fusion guitarist John McLaughlin. Another intriguing Reality choice here is Bowie’s superb ‘pin-up’ of the 1970 George Harrison song, “Try Some, Buy Some”. One of the most orchestral George songs from those early post-Beatles years, the song proves a natural move for Bowie and Visconti’s fleeting orchestral vision. A winning CD from start to finish, Reality is loaded with impressive musicianship, production and songwriting from Bowie and Visconti, and in fact all the players taking part including the powerhouse guitar of Mr. Slick. www.davidbowie.com

 


 
  SONDRE LERCHE
Two Way Monologue
(Astralwerks)

Just a few years back, NYC-based Astralwerks were immersed in redefining the great retro music revolution of the ‘90s, reissuing Exotica / Lounge legends like Martin Denny and Les Baxter on their now defunct Scamp imprint. Over the past five years, their sister company, Astralwerks has taken over and has reigned supreme as one of the leading labels when it comes to electronica and cutting edge pop. Nowhere is this more obvious than with the release of two recent CDs on Astralwerks, including the March 2004 release of Two Way Monologue from Norwegian singer-songwriter / guitarist Sondre Lerche. It’s been said that Lerche makes music that’s way more sophisticated than his 22 years of age would indicate. That said, on his latest CD, Lerche expertly channels the musical spirits of Brian Wilson, High Llamas, Elvis Costello, Cole Porter and even Brazilian World-beat Bossa Nova composer Milton Nascimento. Regarding the comparisons of Two Way Monologue, Lerche confesses to his Beach Boys fixation adding the new album is “more Surf’s Up and Sunflower than Pet Sounds this time” as well as conceding an admiration for the ‘60s classic Song Cycle, by Wilson’s ‘60s collaborator Van Dyke Parks. Summing up, Lerche adds, “It’s all about the song. It’s not about anything else. If I don’t feel strongly about the song I couldn’t record it.” If you like modern pop played with sophistication and intelligence, then Sondre Lerche is for you. Also up and out on Astralwerks in early 2004 is the sixth release from French pop protagonists Air, entitled Talkie Walkie. Masters of clever Euro-pop electronica, Air are truly at their best on Talkie Walkie. Aided and abetted by veteran string arranger Michel Columbier and producer Nigel Goodrich, the Air duo of Nicolas Godin and JB Dunckel strikes a nerve on their third full length studio CD. Seasoned pop pros who hit the road on their critically acclaimed 2001 World tour, Air have been described as making music that’s in search of a soundtrack and in fact one of the two moody instrumental tracks here appeared in the critically acclaimed flick Lost In Translation. A masterful and awesome album from certified pop mavens, Talkie Walkie spans continents of sound to get it’s point across. www.astralwerks.com



 
  DOUG POWELL
Day For Night
(Parasol / Muse Sickle)

He’s been exalted in the same breath as his mentors Todd Rundgren and Andy Partridge and on his second album for IL.-based Parasol, Doug Powell further explores his power-pop leanings and doesn’t disappoint. A few years back Powell scored a hit CD as a member of the pop supergroup Swag—a Traveling Wilburys musical configuration with members of Wilco, Cheap Trick, Mavericks and more. Powell is a fine guitarist and puts his Phantom Guitars to good use, however the best thing here is that, like Rundgren, Powell has a unique one man rock orchestra thing down pat. Post-punkers and ‘70s kids might cite other influences like Nick Lowe and Dave Edmunds, but Powell once again brings forth a unique pop vision on Day For Night. www.dougpowell.com / www.phantom guitars.com




 
 
 
   
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