May-June, 2001
CD Reviews



The Myracle Brah
(Not Lame)

Listen to RealAudio sample: Smile

With it’s ever growing roster of trend-setting artists and CD releases, Colorado-based Not Lame Records continues to set a new standard in the pop-rock and power pop world. The latest and perhaps greatest album in the Not Lame catalog is the third disc from the Maryland-based group known as Myracle Brah. Spotlighting the music, guitar and vocals of songwriter Andy Bopp, The Myracle Brah is a contender for best pop albums of the year. Strong words perhaps, yet Bopp and his group of like-minded bandmates pull off the feat with crafty hands. A rising pop pundit, Bopp cites influences like The Lovin’ Spoonful, Joe Jackson and Todd Rundgren, yet on The Myracle Brah he also manages to transcend those pop icons with an effective approach to a genre that is based upon musical innovation and fresh melody. Interestingly, Bopp also cites guitarist Scotty Moore among his favorite guitar players. The Myracle Brah is alive with a solid Beatles influence and Bopp’s unique ability to wed a solid hook to strong lyrics would no doubt make Lennon & McCartney smile. Anyone in doubt is advised to pick up a CD of The Myracle Brah as soon as possible. 


Raisins In The Sun

Listen to RealAudio sample: Post Apocalyptic Observations 

The coming together of these great players, appearing here under the name Raisins In The Sun, gives the term ‘supergroup’ a new meaning in these first months of the 21st Century. Raisins features stellar players like the gifted singer-songwriter Jules Shear, Jim Dickinson (producer of Ry Cooder, Big Star), the legendary Harvey Brooks (bass man for Dylan, Miles Davis and The Doors) and a host of others. With a line-up of great musical minds on board comparisons to groups like The Traveling Wilburys may spring to mind, although the Raisins In The Sun album is glazed over with a much more laid-back, roots-rock Woodstock vibe. Recorded in a studio at the intersection of "Glenn And Stone" (one of the songs here) in Tuscon, Arizona, Raisins In The Sun is the kind of album that creeps up slowly and just kind of grows on you. It’s not the best thing Jules Shear has done, for example, yet stellar playing from legends like Brooks and drummer Winston Watson helps hoist Raisins In The Sun onto the list of best new pop-rock albums of 2001. 

I’m Hearing Things

NYC native Henry Gross is remembered by music fans for a string of high quality pop albums released during the ‘70s and ‘80s. Gross first gained exposure at age 18 as a member of the Rock & Roll revival band Sha Na Na and their performance at Woodstock is still the stuff legends are made of. A variety of album releases on ABC Dunhill, Lifesong, A&M and CBS Records followed with Gross achieving cult status among a contingent of in-the-know pop mavens. Moving to Nashville several years back, Gross returns in 2001 with a solid new album featuring support from top studio musicians such as Gary Tallent (bass), Clive Gregson (keyboards) and Wayne Killius (drums) to name just a few. Henry’s music still sounds inspired by the breezy, catchy pop-rock he became famous for back in the ‘70s. Commenting on the recent release of I’m Hearing Things, Gross adds, "It's the first record I've done where I was both producer and engineer and while it was challenging at times the results are most satisfying. I believe it's my best effort to date by far!" An outstanding guitarist and singer-songwriter, Gross still has the power to knock you out with a solid pop tune making I’m Hearing Things an album that’s surely worth checking out by all devoted pop fan. 

Candelabra Cadabra

NYC-based singer-songwriter Patti Rothberg returns in a big way with a new album released on the New Jersey-based Cropduster Records. Her major label debut Between The 1 And The 9 was released to critical acclaim on EMI America back in ‘96, but her new disc Candelabra Cadabra is clearly her best to date. Like the title infers, Candelabra Cadabra features a magical blend of catchy, introspective rock gems. Assisting Ms. Rothberg on her new CD are top players including Freddie Katz (guitar and production), Lori Adams (bass) and Yves Gerard (drums). In addition to singing and writing all the songs, Rothberg plays rhythm guitar for all the live tracking. While the album is filled with Rothberg’s unique and special pop/rock touch, a number of influences, including The Kinks, Todd Rundgren, Kate Bush and Stevie Nicks, spring to mind. Currently in the vanguard of cutting edge of modern music, Patti Rothberg is one of the most gifted newcomers on the 2001 pop/rock scene.  

(Big Thumb)

A native of Australia, guitarist Ben Marvin recently relocated to England for the making of the self-titled debut CD with his new group Niche. Son of U.K. guitar great Hank Marvin, Ben proves talent runs deep in the Marvin family. One listen to Niche is ample proof that Ben has obviously inherited his father’s formidable guitar and songwriting skills. A unique album uniting Marvin with singer-songwriter Phil Watts, Niche is filled with eleven well produced hard rocking tracks. Unlike Hank Marvin’s sublime European flavored guitar instrumentals, the Niche album is impressive stuff often sounding inspired by Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck. The playing is first rate all around and the music, composed by both Marvin and Watts, proves the band has a solid foundation on which to build. Also featuring Julian Reeve (drums) and Hank Marvin band members Warren Bennett (keyboards) and Mark Griffiths (bass), Niche is a band to keep an eye on. 

Welcome To The Western Lodge

Renowned for their 1992 album Sunrise On The Sufferbus, which found the band joined by drumming great Ginger Baker, Masters Of Reality reach another musical pinnacle with their most recent release for Long Island-based Spitfire Records. An album of dark, moody rock sounds infused with a high-tech, tribal sounding gothic twist, Welcome To The Western Lodge is heavy stuff indeed. The man behind the Masters’ sound, Chris Goss rises to the occasion performing here on vocals, guitars, keyboards and bass. Goss receives kindred support from John Leamy (drums, keys). Other players, including Googe (bass) and Victor Indrizzo (drums), appear as guest musicians. Welcome To The Western Lodge is a fitting testament to the way Goss handles himself in the studio. Having worked studio sessions with Stone Temple Pilots and others, Goss adds, "The majority of my time is spent in recording studios. In ideal conditions, they can be wonderfully protective wombs for an artist". Definitely not for the faint of heart, Welcome To The Western Lodge is a splendid studio outing that will amaze your ears and bake your brain. 

Scream Of The Crop
(Desert Rock)

When he’s not amazing music lovers with his calling as a premier New Age recording artist, guitar wiz C Lanzbom is out playing with the New York-based group Soulfarm. Last year, Soulfarm released an acclaimed live album called Live @ The Wetlands and now the group follows up with a new studio set, humorously titled Scream Of The Crop. A number of fine players assist Lanzbom including Noah Chase (vocals, guitar) and Mark Ambrosino (drums, vocals). The fourteen track Scream Of The Crop serves up a amiable blend of pop, rock, progressive folk and country topped off with a World Music edge. Earlier Soulfarm albums were imbued with ample jamming to which Chase adds, "More than anything else, this is a songwriter’s album. The focus is not on jamming. It’s all catchy, short stuff you would bring to a songwriters circle." Compared at times to both CSNY and the Grateful Dead, Soulfarm bridge the multi-generational musical gap while adding in a hefty dose of cross-cultural musical ideas. Lanzbom adds, "As a songwriter, I’m always trying to bridge everything I love and fit it into accessible songs for people". Lanzbom’s flawless guitar work scales new heights and the convincing group songwriting makes Scream Of The Crop an auspicious new effort from a talented innovative band. 

Cosmic Peekaboo
(Marina / Caroline)

Back in the late ‘60s, the New York-based group The Free Design began recording lushly recorded pop vocal albums inspired by songwriting greats like Jimmy Webb, Brian Wilson, Harry Nilsson and pop groups like The 5th Dimension and The Mamas & The Papas. Mixing ethereal easy-listening with pop-light, The Free Design created seven albums between 1967-73. The group reformed in 2000, contributing a track for the Brian Wilson tribute album, Caroline Now! released by the German-based Marina Records. That track lead to the making of the first full length Free Design album in nearly 30 years. L.A.-based Varese Vintage reissued a full length Free Design retrospective a couple years back entitled Kites Are Fun, further fueling interest in the fabled ‘60s group. Spotlighting eleven newly penned tunes from group songwriter Chris Dedrick, Cosmic Peekaboo finds the singer-songwriter reunited with his sibling bandmates Sandy and Bruce. A number of fine players, including singer-keyboardist Rebecca Pellett, also add to the album’s masterful retro-flavored pop sound. In the spirit of the greatest harmony group ever, The Beach Boys, The Free Design revisit intimate musical territory with ease and scope out a new sound vision with Cosmic Peekaboo. 

Hell’s Laughter And Heaven’s Ache
(John Ludi)

Chicago-based singer-songwriter John Ludi takes no prisoners on his latest solo effort. A mainstay of the Chicago music scene for quite a while, Ludi rants and raves about all pertinent social matters on songs like "All Dead Dictators" and "A Late Night Argument With God". Ludi performs all the instruments with impeccable skill. Essentially a pop album, Hell’s Laughter And Heaven’s Ache is filled with one riveting song after the next and Ludi’s vocals and songwriting skills are quite impressive throughout. Filled with heavy musical messages, Hell’s Laughter And Heaven’s Ache is a pop album for the thinking man. The album will never make the Billboard charts and there’s no chance that Ludi will ever become an MTV favorite, but that’s really the point. By exposing the fallacies and shallowness of the 21st Century pop culture, Ludi drives his vision home with alarming awareness. 

Ten Great Car Tunes

Whether going for the gusto with a solid pop-rock groove, getting mysterious with an instrumental guitar setting or getting wistful with a Buddy Holly-inspired roots rock sound, guitarist and singer-songwriter Jamie Rounds covers all the bases on Ten Great Car Tunes. Rounds performs all the guitars, instruments and vocal parts himself with the notable addition of Duane Jarvis (guitar) and Avery Auger (banjo) on a pair of tracks. Among the two instrumental cuts is a passionate cover of the Jorma Kaukonen classic "Embryonic Journey". Rounds, who recently relocated to L.A. from Nashville has worked with greats like John Lee Hooker, Steve Earle and Walter Egan. With the release of Ten Great Car Tunes Rounds is primed to move on to greater public recognition. 

(Reprise / Duck)

Eric Clapton follows the success of Riding With The King with his 2001 studio album Reptile. According to the guitar legend, "Riding With The King was such a magical experience that I thought, ‘Well, why not just take this complete philosophy and make an album… while this is all still kind of hot, for myself?" The thing about Riding With The King was the unique presence of the great B.B. King. In an effort to follow up the album Clapton admits "It was interesting, because without BB…this was much harder than I thought it would be. I underestimated BB’s presence in the whole equation." Even without King, Clapton’s latest is a solid return to the successful pop and rock sound that helped turn his name into gold over the past 25 years. Produced by Clapton and Simon Climie, Reptile finds Clapton in the company of fine players like Billy Preston, Joe Sample, Paul Carrack and Tim Carmon (keyboards), Andy Fairweather Low and Doyle Bramhall II (guitars), Nathan East (bass), Paulinho Da Costa (percussion), Steve Gadd (drums) and The Impressions on backing vocals. Covers of JJ Cale ("Travelin’ Light"), Ray Charles ("Come Back Baby") and Joe Thomas & Howard Biggs ("Got You On My Mind") fit right in with future Clapton classics like "Superman Inside" (co-written with Doyle Bramhall II and Susannah Melvoin) and the title track described by Clapton as "a samba instrumental, because I love that kind of music. I love bossa nova…I love those guys from Brazil." Inspired by memories of his late uncle, Clapton looks inward and gets a bit nostalgic on Reptile. The result is an album of timeless, well done songs and a whole lot of inspired guitar playing. 

Hall Of Fame:
Live At The Royal Albert Hall
(Image Entertainment - DVD)

Recorded live at the prestigious Royal Albert Hall in London on May 1st, 2000, Hall Of Fame is essentially the DVD companion to the CD of the same name released last year on Ark 21 Records. Any fan of The Moody Blues will surely want to view this Image Entertainment DVD as it captures the current Moodies lineup in prime form at the zenith of their acclaimed 2000 world tour. The elegantly packaged 14 track DVD highlights an array of Moodies classics like "Isn’t Life Strange", "Tuesday Afternoon" and "Legend Of A Mind" mixed in with tracks from their ‘99 Strange Times CD. Assisting the surviving original line-up of Justin Hayward, John Lodge, Graeme Edge and Ray Thomas are Paul Bliss and Bias Boshell (keyboards), Gordon Marshall (drums) and Susan Shattock & Tracy Graham (backing vocals). If there was ever a venue to capture the majesty of The Moody Blues, it would have to be The Albert Hall, the London concert hall where so much U.K. rock music history took place. Tastefully filmed before a legion of long time fans, the Hall Of Fame DVD makes it clear that The Moody Blues still have a few compelling musical tricks up their sleeves. Recent songs from Strange Times pack a solid musical punch and the vintage Moodies classics still rock, making the 81 minute Hall Of Fame DVD an all around winner for long time fans. 

Here’s Luck
(Palm Pictures)

Chief Honeydog songwriter Adam Levy obviously draws inspiration from songwriting icons like Jules Shear, Ray Davies and Marshall Crenshaw and for Here’s Luck he has penned an impressive cross section of Beatles-inspired pop/rock tracks. Levy’s effective vocals and fine guitar skills are further fueled by support from a range of players including his brother Noah Levy (drums), John Fields (keyboards) and Trent Norton (bass). The added presence of a mellotron on several cuts adds to the vintage musical redecoration and expands upon the overall high attention to musical imagination found throughout the set. Following the release of several late ‘90s Honeydogs’ CD releases, Here’s Luck represents another fine effort from a prominent, rising pop group. Aberrant cover art and lyrics are found in the booklet. Fans of late ‘60s and early ‘70s pop are hereby advised to check out Here’s Luck. 

Moulin Rouge

From the upcoming Baz Lurhmann movie Moulin Rouge comes the matching soundtrack album on Interscope Records. Set back in France in the 1890’s, the film explores the bohemian world of the Toulouse Lautrec-era Paris art scene with a central focus being the nightclub scene, the sex, drink and drugs and the Can-Can dance craze so popular in France at the turn of the 20th Century. Moulin Rouge stars Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor along with a huge cast and is certain to be a summer hit. Both Kidman and McGregor are featured on a wide variety of vocal cover material like big productions of "Your Song" (sung by McGregor ) and a gorgeous Kidman cover of "One Day I’ll Fly Away". Demonstrating their ability to keep up with the other artists on hand, Kidman and McGregor are featured alongside strong new music from David Bowie, Beck, Christina Aguilera, Rufus Wainwright, Fatboy Slim and Bono. Beck sort of raps over his cover of David Bowie’s "Diamond Dogs" while Bowie on the other hand turns in a two remarkable, varying performances of the classic "Nature Boy". The version that opens the album is done full orchestral style, reminiscent of his 1966 pop-cabaret album The World Of David Bowie, while the album-closer finds Bowie backed by the techno-orb sound of Massive Attack. Ranging from cabaret-style Broadway pop to a more far-out approach to techno and even rap, the soundtrack to Moulin Rouge covers alot of ground yet works from start to finish. It’s going to be interesting to see how the soundtrack fits in with the movie. For a preview of this colorful new extravaganza go to the movie web site.  / 

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