Summer 2000 
CD Reviews



(Purple Pyramid)

CHRIS SQUIRE / BILLY SHERWOOD - ConspiracyIt’s taken nearly 25 years for bass great and Yes founder Chris Squire to record a follow-up to his first solo album Fish Out Of Water and the release of the album more than fits the bill. In the spirit of the ‘97 Yes album Open Your Eyes, the self-titled debut of the Squire/Sherwood Conspiracy is filled with more classic Squire, aided here by Yes guitarist Billy Sherwood. A praiseworthy representation of the kindred musical visions of these two versatile rock greats, Conspiracy is an all around winner with help from a number of ace timekeepers including Yes drumming great Alan White. Highlights include a new version of “The More We Live”, which first appeared on the ‘89 Yes album Union and a Conspiracy version of Squire’s Yes track “Open Your Eyes”. With admirable production work and musical prowess from Sherwood, Conspiracy demonstrates that Squire continues to improve as a vocalist, song stylist, and overall prog-rock trendsetter.  or 


Silver & Gold

NEIL YOUNG - Silver & GoldLike a familiar signpost on a well-traveled musical road, Silver & Gold is reminiscent in both style and substance of Neil Young’s early ‘70s Harvest classic. An easy going and harmonically pleasing pallet of catchy country pop and folk-rock tunes, Silver & Gold began in mid ‘97 as an acoustic-based Young solo project. The album veered off course when a chance encounter with Stephen Stills (while the pair were preparing the long-awaited Buffalo Springfield box set) lead to Young reuniting with Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young for their ‘99 Looking Forward album. Young ended up transferring a number of early Silver & Gold tracks to CSNY’s Looking Forward disc. Young recalls, “Some people questioned the wisdom of letting those songs go”, but regarding completing the Silver & Gold sessions, Young points out, “I listened again and, with the new running order, it seemed like an entirely different album to me.” Following the critically acclaimed Looking Forward, Young returned to Silver & Gold, which by then had expanded from an acoustic-based Young solo CD to a group effort spotlighting key contributions from drumming ace Jim Keltner and long time Young collaborator / pedal steel guitarist Ben Keith. Young reflects, “Playing with these guys was fun. We ended up doing a pretty straight-ahead record, but the songs were mostly more personal and inward-looking, so having a sensitive group of musicians to work with was really the right way to go.” Compared to Young’s late ‘90s hard rock albums with Crazy Horse, Silver & Gold conjures up a bountiful blend of introspective and laid back cosmic country rockers. Young even pays tribute to his halcyon late ‘60s days with a poignant new song called “Buffalo Springfield Again”. Filled with wistful sincerity, Silver & Gold rates up there with the finest albums Young has recorded to date. Fans should also note that pair of Young solo concerts recorded live in Austin last year during the early Silver & Gold sessions has resulted in the simultaneous release of a Silver & Gold live in concert DVD. Regarding the DVD Young adds, “I did almost every song I know at those shows. It was one of those rare occasions when it seemed like I couldn’t do anything wrong. We definitely filmed the best show of the tour”.  /


The Secret Language Of Birds
(Fuel 2000)

IAN ANDERSON - The Secret Language Of BirdsThe music of Ian Anderson, within and without Jethro Tull, has always been a study in contrasts. Tracks from Tull masterpieces such as Benefit and Aqualung and pastoral acoustic moments from Stand Up, Aqualung and Passion Play provided a solid groundwork for most of Anderson’s and Tull’s work up until today. A mature effort by one of rock’s most seasoned statesmen, The Secret Language Of Birds embraces all the key elements that makes Anderson such an enigmatic, ingenious and intense musician. Primarily acoustic-based, The Secret Language Of Birds finds Anderson joined by Tull keyboardist Andrew Giddings and three different drummers including long time Tull thumper Gerry Conway as well as Tull guitarist Martin Barre, who adds in some electric touches on a pair of tunes. There’s even a new Anderson edit of Tull’s “Thick As A Brick” (as a hidden track) and a pair of sparkling instrumental tracks, “Boris Dancing” and “The Stormont Shuffle”. Anderson’s vocals and flute are quite prominent, but equally amazing is his fretboard work on acoustic guitar, bouzouki, acoustic bass and mandolin. Any fan of Anderson’s early amenable romps like “Wondering Again” (from Living In The Past) and “Wondering “Aloud” (from Aqualung) will marvel at the brilliance of The Secret Language Of Birds.


(Metal Blade)

TRANSATLANTIC - SMPT:eHearkening back in spirit to the heyday of early ‘70s progressive rock, Transatlantic have just released one of the first progressive music classics of the 21st Century. The band combines the talents of Swedish prog-rock guitar icon Roine Stolt, Neal Morse (keyboardist / founder of the group Spock’s Beard), Mike Portnoy (drummer with Dream Theater) and Pete Trewavas (from Marillion on bass). Stolt’s reputation as one of Sweden’s best electric rock guitarists for the past 20+ years is quite apparent and the selection of material, composed by all four members, is most impressive. Recorded in Upstate New York during the Summer of ‘99, highlights include the 30 minute Morse-penned opus “All Of The Above” and Stolt’s 16+ minute “My New World”. Another high point of the 70+ minute CD is a superbly executed cover of “In Held (Twas) In I” composed by Procol Harum for their Shine On Brightly album back in ‘68. The way the group tastefully revive the Harum classic is indicative of the overall flair with which they’ve recorded the album. As far as progressive rock goes in the year 2000, it doesn’t get any better than Transatlantic. 


Equally Cursed And Blessed

CATATONIA - Equally Cursed And BlessedBest known for their fabulous ‘98 album International Velvet (released on Neil Young’s Vapor Records), U.K. pop extremists Catatonia strike gold again with their latest album. Imagine a group such as The Bangles produced by and/or featuring music of David Bowie and you begin to get the picture. The five-piece have a tight rock sound down and boast the top songwriting team of group front woman / lead vocalist Cerys Matthews and guitarist Mark Roberts. As good as their ‘98 album was, Equally Cursed And Blessed once again hits you fast with a dramatic mix of in-your-face rock and catchy pop. Purring and growling her way into your heart, Matthews adds, “We’re a bit of a mixture. We can rock heavy with the Metallica people one moment and be as soft as Petula Clark the next.” Roberts plays an interesting guitar figure, not unlike Mick Ronson, to Ms. Matthews unquestionably Bowie-inspired shock waves. Post-punk pundits should have a field day with Equally Cursed And Blessed as Catatonia shuffle up just about every pop style of the past 20 years.


My Pathetic Life
(Off Hours Rockers)

THE SCOLDEES - My Pathetic LifeThe best way to describe the new album from the Long Island based quartet known as The Scoldees might be to call it progressive acoustic music even though the band skillfully mix in elements of rock, pop and jazzy folk. Propelled by the songwriting vocalist team of Nancy Sirianni and Jack Hoffman (guitars), the group is tastefully balanced out by splendid support from John Collis (percussion, guitars) and Ted Rydzewski (bass). Each Scoldee adds in their own distinctive touches although special mention must go to Ms. Sirianni, whose stylish vocals at times echoes greats like Joni Mitchell and Marti Jones. Ringing acoustic and electric guitars, ethereal harmonies and clever lyrics are just a few of the reasons to check out The Scoldees CD.


In Reverse

MATTHEW SWEET - In ReverseHaving spent the last ten years in hot pursuit of creating the perfect pop album, singer-songwriter Matthew Sweet hits his stride with In Reverse. Dressed up in some novel packaging (i.e. -the booklet opens from the opposite side), the music offers an infectious blend of catchy Beatles and Byrds inspired pop anthems delivered by a crack crew including several session greats. Performing on a number of In Reverse tracks is bass icon Carol Kaye, the L.A. legend who played on now historic pop sessions with Brian Wilson and Phil Spector, two of Sweet’s obvious musical heroes. Regarding the Carol Kaye connection Sweet adds, “I learned to play bass from a Carol Kaye bass-method book. Her approach to bass playing is really integrated with jazz, rock, with Motown - pretty stunning and daring”. Not all the cuts go for that reverb drenched Phil Spector pop orchestra vibe. Case in point is the lead off track, “Millennium Blues”, an insightful driving rock track that captures Sweet at his best. Stressing his continued fascination with all things ‘60s, Sweet adds, “I wanted the record to have that Alice In Wonderland trippy quality. I wanted it to be really big and real, sort of psychedelic in an organic way.” Recorded in LA at Cello Studios (known as United Western in the ‘60s) during the Summer of ‘99, Sweet caps off an impressive decade with the noteworthy In Reverse.


Blue, Dressed In Black
(Widow’s Peak)

ERIC STUART BAND - Blue, Dressed In BlackThe days as being ‘the best known, hardest working unsigned act around’ may be soon coming to a happy end for singer songwriter Eric Stuart. The Brooklyn-born rocker who made quite a few music fans happy with the release of his four song demo CD gets closer to the flame with the release of his latest full length disc entitled Blue, Dressed In Black. Co-produced by U.K. rock guitar great Peter Frampton, John Regan and Harvey Jay Goldberg, the CD features a dozen tracks that perfectly capture the nature of Stuart’s songwriting gifts. Stuart lists Buddy Holly, Presley, Springsteen and Cat Stevens as big influences and upon hearing Blue, Dressed In Black it’s obvious that Stuart has not only absorbed these influences, but has blended them together to create a distinctive songwriting and vocal style all his own. Stuart and Co. rock the house on album highlights like “Staring You In The Face” and “Hole In The Head”, while deeper, probing songs like “Corner Booth Chronicles” and “Lost Innocence” deliver the goods with searing intensity. Like Bruce Springsteen, Stuart knows how to wring every ounce of emotion out of a song and he skillfully proves it on Blue, Dressed In Black. Assisting Stuart are some fine musicians including guitarists Peter Frampton, Ben Mauro, Mason Swearingen (bass), Quester Welsh and drumming ace Eddie Bayers.



(Zoe / Rounder)

THE KENNEDYS - EvolverOne of the highlights on the latest album from The Kennedys has got to be their haunting cover of “Here Without You”, a song written and recorded by Gene Clark during his brief but influential time in The Byrds. The Kennedys are, in essence, the husband and wife team of Pete & Maura Kennedy and on their new album Evolver they’ve come up with a modern day retro-pop classic that recalls mid ‘60s pop classics like Rubber Soul and the treasure trove of early Byrds albums. Pete’s ringing 6 and 12 string guitars drive the songs along at a nice clip with Maura Kennedy’s vocals conjuring up images of classic song stylists such as Dusty Springfield and Marti Jones. The duo handles much of the musical instrumentation and the lead vocals with help from Vince Santoro (drums) and background vocals from Parthenon Huxley, Susan Cowsill (from The Cowsills) and Vicki Peterson (from The Bangles). The period piece cover art parallels the ‘60 retro musical vibe running throughout the album. Ranging in style from folk-tinged country rock to ‘60s paisley pop, The Kennedys cover all the bases with the playfully titled Evolver.



The Mission Faucet

CHANTIGS - The Mission FaucetImagine if Frank Zappa had been able to produce The Monkees or even T. Rex. That notion might approximate the sound of the second CD from San Francisco based Chantigs. Of course, there is cohesion in the madness that is The Mission Faucet. You’ll find it in the smartly tweaked melodies and in the quartet’s masterful musicianship. The lyrics are another ball game all together. Reminiscent of some of King Crimson’s wordy escapades, these lyrics will have you scratching your head in wonder. Don’t forget, if you order the record demand that the band send along a lyric sheet (I did!) so you don’t get completely lost in maze of The Mission Faucet. Anyone interested in the far-out Chantigs sound is also advised to check out their superb debut album Up With Chantigs. Let’s hope The Chantigs get to further refine their most unusual avant-pop sound and deliver their true masterpiece. Check out the other productions on their oddly designated label Rodent Records. 



Daisies Of The Galaxy

EELS - Daisies Of The GalaxyAccording to the multi-talented singer-songwriter known as A Man Called E, “I needed to make something in love with life for my own sanity. It became important that I make simple, pure, sweet music.” E was one of the bright new pop finds way back in 1992 and five albums later he returns for the third with his group, The eels. A noteworthy mix of tart pop and orchestral ballads laced with comical, often sardonic lyrics, Daisies sports some truly lucid musical moments. The funniness and blissful surprise of songs like “I Like Birds” and “Flyswatter” provide priceless pop moments while the lush pop symphony soundstage of the title track and “Jeannie's Diary” (written even before E ‘s ‘92 album) would make Randy Newman smile. E readily admits “There is no such thing as the eels. The eels is an ever-changing vehicle for my songs.” Even so, here the singer-songwriter is ably assisted on a number of tracks by eels drummer Butch, R.E.M.’s Peter Buck (piano) and Grant Lee Buffalo’s Grant Lee Phillips (bass). A great follow-up to E’s depressive tribulations on the ‘98 eels album Electro-shock Blues, the refreshingly irreverent Daisies Of The Galaxy may be E’s best album yet. “One thing is for certain”, states the singer, “I am at my happiest while making a record. Before it and after it suck, but making it is it for me.”

Attention Artists and Record Companies: Have your CD reviewed by Send to: CD Reviews Editor Robert Silverstein, P.O. Box 630249, Little Neck, N.Y. 11363-0249




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