Sunday, September 22, 2019

Carolyn Lee Jones: “Close Your Eyes” (2019) CD Review

Carolyn Lee Jones is a jazz vocalist based in Dallas, Texas. Her full-time music career started only a little more than a decade ago, and in that time she has released several albums and singles. Her latest, Close Your Eyes, finds her singing material covering the many facets of love. Joining her on most tracks of this release is Brad Williams on piano, synthesizer and organ. He also arranged several of the tracks. Sergio Pamies, the other pianist joining her on this album, arranged a couple of the other tracks. Carolyn Lyn Jones has an array of other talented musicians joining her on various tracks.

Close Your Eyes opens with its title track, which features some delicious work on bass, including a truly expressive solo. The bass is really a second voice on this track. That is Jonathan Fisher on upright bass. There is also some really nice work on keys, particularly in the second half. Carolyn Lee Jones’ vocals have a romantic, somewhat soothing quality, but there is also a youthful excitement to her delivery at times. “Close your eyes/When you open them, dear/I’ll be near/By your side.” She whispers the last line, “I can feel you next to me,” a line I don’t recall hearing in other versions. Then Andrew Griffith starts the following track, “No Moon At All,” on drums with some gentle playing. And for a moment Carolyn Lee Jones’ voice is supported just by drums, before the bass and piano come in. There is something sexy and also playful about this rendition, a song to bring you closer to that special someone. This track features some wonderful work by Brad Williams on piano. Interestingly, Carolyn Lee Jones whispers the last line to this one too, “Kiss me,” which I also don’t remember being in other versions.

“The Nearness Of You” begins with some beautiful work by Sergio Pamies on piano. Soon Daniel Pardo joins on flute, giving this version a light quality, a quality which Carolyn’s vocal approach emphasizes. Pepe Valdez joins Carolyn Lee Jones on acoustic guitar. Young Heo plays bass on this track, and Lupe Barerra is on drums. Things then get snappy and fun with a good rendition of “That Old Black Magic,” which has a touch of funk. Also, this track has a horn section, adding to the joy of the sound. Dave Pierce is on trombone (he also arranged this one), and Dave Monsch is on saxophone. Joe Lee plays electric guitar on this track. Jeff Plant is on electric bass, Dennis Durick is on drums, and Arno Lucas adds to the groove on percussion.

Carolyn Lee Jones delivers a sweet, smooth, sexy vocal performance on “Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You,” which also features Daniel Pardo again on flute. Pepe Valdez is on acoustic guitar. Sergio Pamies gives us some wonderful work on piano. It is a cheerful rendition, if perhaps a bit mellower than some versions I’ve heard. Then “When I Found You” has more of a big band sound, with that horn section of Dave Pierce on trombone, Pete Clagett on trumpet and Dave Monsch on saxophone. Matt Young is on drums, and Joe Lee is on electric guitar. Brad Williams plays organ on this one. Carolyn Lee Jones’ vocals have a delightful energy and cheer. “All Night Long” is a late-night romantic number written by Curtis Lewis, featuring some gorgeous work on horns. Pete Clagett is on trumpet and Dave Monsch is on saxophone. Jeffrey Eckels plays upright bass. Carolyn Lee Jones delivers another beautiful and alluring vocal performance here, pulling us in. “When I sleep, he tells me he’s in love with me/And how much he needs me to be near/But at best a dream is just a fantasy/When I touch his hand, he just disappears.” The disc then concludes with a kind of dreamy rendition of “I Only Have Eyes For You.” Brad Williams plays both piano and synthesizer on this track. As she did on the first two tracks, Carolyn Lee Jones ends this one with a whispered line, a breathy “I love you.”

CD Track List
  1. Close Your Eyes
  2. No Moon At All
  3. I Was A Fool
  4. The Nearness Of You
  5. That Old Black Magic
  6. Love After Midnight
  7. Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You
  8. When I Found You
  9. Confession
  10. My Foolish Heart
  11. All Night Long
  12. I Only Have Eyes For You
Close Your Eyes was released on September 15, 2019.

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Jennifer Saran: “Smoky Nights” (2019) CD Review

Jennifer Saran is a vocalist and songwriter who works in a variety of musical realms, dipping into soul and pop on earlier releases, and now delving into jazz with her delicious new EP, Smoky Nights. This CD features all original material, written by Jennifer Saran and Narada Michael Walden. Narada Michael Walden also produced and arranged these tracks, as he did for Jennifer Saran’s previous releases Walk With Me and Wake Up. Narada Michael Walden also plays drums, bass and keys on this release. The other musicians joining Jennifer Saran on Smoky Nights include Tommy Hall on piano, Jim Reitzel on guitar, Rich Armstrong on trumpet, Daniel Casares on saxophone, and Charles McNeal on saxophone. Jennifer delivers some gorgeous and exciting material here, and is not shy about addressing some of the topics troubling our nation today.

The EP opens with its title track, “Smoky Nights,” a sexy, late-night jazzy gem, Jennifer Saran’s voice having a sultry quality. “I turn down the lights/You’re still fooling me/Smoky nights.” And the way those horns rise up from the darkness is fantastic. This track features some good work on keys as well. The whole thing works like a spell gliding around us, gathering us in, enchanting us. “Wrap your arms around me/Until your charm surrounds me/Hold me forever more/Smoky nights.” That’s followed by “Love Is Now Gone.” This one too seems to be emerging from a dark, mysterious place, the keys pushing open the door and tempting us inside, the saxophone offering little observations and glimpses into this world. Of course, it is Jennifer’s voice that is queen of this land, gorgeous and strong and commanding. Her voice gathers all around her, and she tells us her woeful tale. “Love is now gone/Oh, happiness, I see/Will no longer be/Plans we made/The music we played/Where did it go?” Her voice grabs hold of us, seemingly without effort, pulling us into the darkness, or perhaps making us aware of the darkness already surrounding us. “Loneliness always comes/Everyone’s life’s undone/Love cannot survive/Its stories were lies/You know what you’ve done.”

“Let The Waves Wash Over” is a somewhat more energetic number, mostly because of its rhythm. Yet it touches on a serious subject: rape. It was written after the Brett Kavanaugh hearings, when people like Susan Collins and Jeff Flake voted to confirm a rapist to the Supreme Court. It opens with these lines: “I fought him off/I cried out and no one came/I live with the shame.” Yet this song has an empowering and positive message: “It is time for a change/Vote them out in my name/Let the waves wash over me/No more time should go by/Daughters, sisters and wives/Let the waves wash over me.” Let’s hope that every last person that voted to confirm Brett Kavanaugh is removed from office through the voting process. “Let The Waves Wash Over” is followed by “Don’t Forget My Name,” which has a pretty sound. “Have you loved me for the last time?/I cannot see, I cannot see/Have you touched me for the last time?/It cannot be, it cannot be.” Those short instrumental sections are powerful, and the track builds wonderfully.

The EP concludes with “Get Over Yourself,” which, though recorded in the studio, has the feel of a live track, with some background sounds as it opens. It begins with a groovy bass line, and once that is established, Jennifer’s vocals come in, followed soon by the rest of the band. This is a seriously cool tune, in part because of the bass. Plus, I’m glad to hear a jazz singer taking on that mendacious criminal in the White House and the entire corrupt Republican Party. “Give me a break/I know you can tell/What you’re saying is fake/Get over yourself.” The track then bursts open in the second half, and sounds fantastic. This is such a good tune. “From the president on down/You’re screwing up/You’re screwing up everything.” Indeed.

CD Track List
  1. Smoky Nights
  2. Love Is Now Gone
  3. Let The Waves Wash Over
  4. Don’t Forget My Name
  5. Get Over Yourself 
Smoky Nights was released on September 20, 2019 on Tarpan Records.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Conrad Merced: “Tender Beats” (2019) Vinyl Review

Conrad Merced is a singer and songwriter based in Chicago. He was a member of The Red Jacket and Shoplifter, and last year, after a long absence from music, released a two-song EP in tribute to Shel Silverstein titled, appropriately enough, A Tribute To Shel Silverstein. He has now followed that with his first full-length solo album, Tender Beats, which is available on vinyl as well as digitally. This album is truly a solo effort; Conrad Merced plays all the instruments and provides all the vocals. He also wrote all the material, songs that are emotionally engaging, with good, honest lyrics. The music is largely folk, but with some atmospheric work on synths giving it a different sound and mood.

Side A

The record opens with its title track, “Tender Beats,” which has a gentle, pretty, and sweet sound. There is a loving, yet sad vibe to Conrad Merced’s vocal approach. He returned to music after the unexpected death of his mother, and this touching song in particular feels informed by that loss. Some lines like “Is it cold where you are/And do I seem that far?” are surprisingly heartbreaking. It’s a gorgeous and moving song. That’s followed by “Thirty Five” (yes, without the hyphen). This is one that really grew on me. There is beauty to this track, particularly in that instrumental section in the middle, which is then revisited at the end. “We’ve got no demons to fear/And we can ride together throughout the years.” Another line that stands out for me is “And when the song is over, we can hit rewind.” That line takes me back to my childhood, when a lot of my music was on cassette. Do kids today know what “rewind” means? There is a bit of a pop flavor to “Before The Storm,” in part because of the use of drum machine. “You can leave me lying right beside her/When Southern California was always on fire.”

There is something intimate and moving about this music, particularly a song like “Don’t Stop Here,” which is one of my personal favorites. This track includes theremin and xylophone, though neither becomes too prominent in the mix, but rather adds to the atmosphere of the song. “Forget your name/And I’ll do the same” Interestingly, Conrad Merced returns to that idea in the next song, “Against The Grain”: “And I’d still tend to you/Even if you forget my name.” And the lines “But it’s all right now/And we’ll be all right somehow” make it feel like a love song for our times. That is as much optimism as we can expect, and it feels like enough. This track also features a really nice lead guitar part. Then some pretty guitar work begins “Dragonfly,” the final song of the first side of the record. This is another song of love, another song that feels intimate. “And if the world around us starts changing/We wouldn’t care anyway.” And check out these lines: “Feels like no one’s around when I’m with you/And we can take it day by day/And if the skyscrapers start falling/We wouldn’t have to get out of the way.” I really love the guitar on this track, helping to make this song another of my favorites. This music itself seems to create a place where the outside world can’t harm us, where it has no effect on us.

Side B

The second side opens with “Dog In The Fight,” a song with a happier sound which is surprising, particularly as it begins with a mention of war: “In 1990 and 1991 my father fought in a war called Operation Desert Storm.” This is a song about growing up, being different from those around him. He sings, “And I thought, Is this the American dream/Is this what we look forward to.” Yet, the song is not cynical. Rather, it is surprisingly positive, with lines like “And I don’t have a single regret” and “Fond memories and good times I had back then.” It’s an interesting track. That’s followed by “I Just Wasn’t Wired That Way.” There is a strange beauty to this one, a song in which he reaches out to someone. “When you left that day/I could have asked for you to stay/But I just wasn’t wired that way.” I love how this music creates its own atmosphere, its own world, just different enough from the regular world that we feel safe within it. You know? Once you’re inside, you feel a desire to drift along within, and with eyes closed or open, you’ll see the same things, experience the same sensations.

Then “Ghostwalking” surprises me by opening with an electronic beat, a steady pulse in an otherwise dreamy atmosphere. The tone then changes, as the acoustic guitar takes over and the pulse takes on a more natural sound. Then it is like these two sounds are combined, and all that is before the vocals come in. Conrad Merced creates the mood and an unusual landscape before offering the lyrics, an interesting approach that works so well for this track. “You always asked me if I was warm/When you called me on the phone/Chicago winters are relentlessly merciless/Freeze you to the bone/And I can’t feel my hands tonight/I’ve been ghost walking in your footsteps lately/Down a cold and darkened path.” Then as the other instruments recede, the beat – the pulse – remains a moment longer. There is a flow to the music on this album, sometimes lyrically, like the repeating of the idea of forgetting one’s name that I mentioned earlier. Also, “Ghostwalking” mentions winter, and the next song, “The Bittersweetness,” opens with these lines: “The bitter sweetness comes and goes/I always think of you when it snows.” There is certainly something beautiful about this song. The record then concludes with another sweet tune, “Still Can’t Walk Away,” a song that seems to me to address Conrad’s absence and return to music, to approach artistic inspiration as a relationship. “And when you came to me, you made my fingers bleed/When we argue, we put it on display/But after all this time, I still can’t walk away.”

Record Track List

Side A
  1. Tender Beats
  2. Thirty Five
  3. Before The Storm
  4. Don’t Stop Here
  5. Against The Grain
  6. Dragonfly
Side B
  1. A Dog In The Fight
  2. I Just Wasn’t Wired That Way
  3. Ghostwalking
  4. The Bittersweetness
  5. Still Can’t Walk Away 
Tender Beats was released digitally on July 23, 2019 and on vinyl on August 15, 2019. It’s a beautiful album that I’ll likely be returning to often.

Mark Winkler: “I’m With You” (2019) CD Review

Mark Winkler is a talented vocalist and lyricist, many of his songs having been recorded by other artists as well as appearing on his own albums. However, his latest release, I’m With You, is a tribute to songwriter Bobby Troup. Mark certainly had quite a lot of excellent material to choose from when putting together the track list for this album, for Bobby Troup wrote many beloved songs, including “Route 66” and “The Girl Can’t Help It” (the latter of which was featured in John Waters’ Pink Flamingos). I’m With You is actually Mark Winkler’s second album of Bobby Troup songs. The first, Sings Bobby Troup, came out more than fifteen years ago. Interestingly, Mark Winkler here chooses to include a few of the tracks from that earlier album, such as “Three Bears” and “Hungry Man.” Joining him on the new tracks are Rich Eames on piano, Gabe Davis on bass, Dave Tull on drums, and Grant Geissman on guitar. Those musicians also backed him on his previous release, Eastern Standard Time, which was a joint effort by Mark Winkler and Cheryl Bentyne.

I’m With You opens with a cool rendition of “Route 66,” one of Bobby Troup’s most famous compositions. It has been covered by a tremendous amount of artists with a wide range of styles. This rendition has a wonderful vocal performance by Mark Winkler, with some interesting phrasing (I really like the way he delivers the lines “Oklahoma City looks mighty pretty,” for example). There is also a seriously good instrumental section featuring some excellent work on guitar. That’s followed by a smooth, somewhat cheerful version of “Please Belong To Me.” The way Mark sings it, with an optimistic sound, you feel he will certainly find that right someone. The piano helps to drive the track, and there are also some excellent touches on bass. Then halfway through, we are treated to a delicious lead on saxophone by Ricky Woodard.

“Triskaidekaphobia” is a delight. This rendition is appropriately playful, particularly in Mark’s vocal approach. He is clearly having a great time with this one, and as a result it is a fun track. This track also features a wonderful bass line, and even includes some finger snaps. So there.  People have a lot of fears and phobias, some of them quite strange, including triskaidekaphobia, the fear of the number 13. I think it absurd when hotels and other buildings skip floor 13. All that means is that the fourteenth floor is actually floor 13. Interestingly, this disc has but twelve tracks. Hmm…

“I’m With You,” the disc’s title track, is another fun one. Mark Winkler delivers a lively rendition. I particularly dig the drums on this one. And Jamieson Trotter adds some great stuff on organ. Trotter also arranged this one. “Who needs the Cadillacs/The mink coats, the income tax/But, baby, I’m with you.” “I’m With You” was written by Bobby Troup and Johnny Mercer. Mark Winkler then changes gears with “It Happened Once Before,” a slower, romantic number, Mark Winkler’s passionate vocals supported just by piano. That’s Jon Mayer on piano on this track. “If I were only sure/You’d love me more and more/Not less and less/The way it happened once before.” “Their Hearts Were Full Of Spring” is a pretty number, here Mark’s voice being supported just by guitar. Anthony Wilson plays guitar on this one.

“Hungry Man” is another playful number, featuring an energetic vocal delivery, with Mark Winkler belting out some of the lines. Like “Route 66,” it mentions different cities of this country, but this time each place is mentioned in relation to the specific food you can get there. There is some wonderful work on keys. This is one of the tracks from Mark Winkler’s earlier Bobby Troup tribute album, and the band is made up of Jon Mayer on piano, Kevin Axt on bass, Roy McCurdy on drums, and Bob Sheppard on saxophone. Mark ends this track with the line “Feed me, baby, feed me,” reminding me of the musical version of The Little Shop Of Horrors. As you might guess from the title of “Snootie Little Cutie,” this one is also playful. It features Ann Patterson on flute, plus some great stuff on drums. We then return to food with “Lemon Twist.” Mark delivers another enjoyable vocal performance on this track, and Joe Bagg joins him organ. Mark Ferber plays drums on this one. The disc concludes with another version of “Hungry Man,” this one with different lyrics written by Mark Winkler, this set of lyrics related to Halloween, which is without question the best holiday. So you can add this fun track to your holiday play list. Here is a taste of the lyrics: “I got this call from my friend Frankie/Yes, Frankenstein, he sure is cranky/His cafe is gonna close/They say he’s serving toes/I’m not so hungry, man.” It ends with Mark singing, “Don’t feed me, baby, don’t feed me,” which doesn’t remind me of Little Shop Of Horrors at all.

CD Track List
  1. Route 66
  2. Please Belong To Me
  3. Triskaidekaphobia
  4. I’m With You
  5. It Happened Once Before
  6. Three Bears
  7. Their Hearts Were Full Of Spring
  8. Hungry Man
  9. In No Time
  10. Snootie Little Cutie
  11. Lemon Twist
  12. Hungry Man (Halloween Version)
I’m With You was released on August 9, 2019 on Cafe Pacific Records.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Ronnie Earl And The Broadcasters: “Beyond The Blue Door” (2019) CD Review

Ronnie Earl And The Broadcasters have been putting out fantastic records for a few decades now, dishing out delicious blues filled with soul and power and passion. Their new album, Beyond The Blue Door, features a good mix of original material and covers. The band has gone through some changes in personnel over the years, and now includes Ronnie Earl on guitar, Dave Limina on piano and organ, Diane Blue on vocals, Forrest Padgett on drums, and Paul Kochanski on bass. Plus, there are some special guests joining the band on this release, including Kim Wilson on harmonica and David Bromberg on acoustic guitar.

The album opens with a great cover of “Brand New Me,” featuring Diane Blue on vocals. She has a gorgeous, powerful voice, giving the track has a bluesy, yet cheerful sound. How good is life when she hits those high notes? Plus, this track features horns. Mario Perrett is on tenor saxophone and Scott Shetler is on baritone saxophone. Yes, I feel like I can take the world so long as there is music like this in it. And toward the end we get some really nice moments from Dave Limina on keys and Ronnie Earl on guitar. Things then get a whole lot deeper into the blues with a cover of Howlin’ Wolf’s “Baby How Long.” Kim Wilson (of The Fabulous Thunderbirds) joins the group on vocals and harmonica, adding some wonderful and passionate work. And, oh, that guitar really sings over the good groove during that great lead section. It is that guitar part that really stands out on this track, though there is also plenty of nice stuff on keys throughout. That’s followed by a cool instrumental rendition of Henry Glover’s “Drown In My Own Tears” that is packed full of emotion. There is some great playing from everybody, but I am particularly moved by the lead on tenor saxophone by Greg Piccolo. When you think that lead might be over, it’s not. And then the saxophone and guitar interact, which is wonderful.

We then get the first original composition of the album, “Alexis’ Song.” This short instrumental track is a pretty and thoughtful number, and again features some excellent work by Greg Piccolo on saxophone. That’s followed by “The Sweetest Man,” another song written by Ronnie Earl, this one featuring Diane Blue on vocals. In this song, we hear of a man who is not treating his woman right, and she’s telling him that she can’t take it anymore. As you listen, you want him to do better, and you think maybe he will, but apparently fails, for at the end she sings “You are the only man I love/You were my lover and my friend/But you just can’t stay here no more.” This track contains another good groove and plenty of great guitar playing. Peter Ward joins the group on guitar on this one. I also really dig that stuff on keys. Ronnie Earl then delivers a very cool and unusual rendition of Bob Dylan’s “It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry,” featuring David Bromberg on guitar and vocals. I love what these guys do with this song, giving it a kind of slow, relaxed vibe that is bloody delicious.

I love “A Soul That’s Been Abused” from the moment it starts. It has a mean, sexy, dark vibe, and Diane Blue really digs into your heart here. And there is a whole lot of excellent work on saxophone. Mario Perrett, Scott Shetler and Greg Piccolo all play on this one. Plus, there is some great stuff on organ. Really, every instrument is moving here, and what I like is that there are moments that are almost delicate. This track, written by Ronnie Earl, is one of my favorites. “Still, after all we’ve been through/I stand accused/From a soul that’s been abused.” Ronnie Earl And The Broadcasters’ cover of Little Walter’s “Blues With A Feeling” has some classic blues sounds, and features Kim Wilson on vocals and harmonica. Both Peter Ward and Scott MacDougal join the group on guitar. That’s followed by a couple of cool instrumental tracks, “T-Bone Stomp” and “Wolf Song,” both composed by Ronnie Earl.

“Bringing Light (To A Dark Time)” has a catchy groove, and some wonderful work on guitar, as well as another excellent vocal performance from Diane Blue. “Time to bring some light to a dark time,” she sings. Amen. This one was written by Paul Kochanski and Diane Blue. “Silence ain’t golden/It’s complicit in the crime/It don’t bring any light into a dark time.” Yes, this track is a blues gem addressing our times. And speaking of our times, the album concludes with a track titled “Blues For Charlottesville.” This one is an instrumental composed by Ronnie Earl.

CD Track List
  1. Brand New Me
  2. Baby How Long
  3. Drown In My Own Tears
  4. Alexis’ Song
  5. The Sweetest Man
  6. It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry
  7. A Soul That’s Been Abused
  8. Why Can’t We Live Together
  9. Blues With A Feeling
  10. T-Bone Stomp
  11. Wolf Song
  12. Peace Of Mind
  13. Drowning In A Sea Of Love
  14. Bringing Light (To A Dark Time)
  15. Blues For Charlottesville 
Beyond The Blue Door was released on August 30, 2019 on Stony Plain Records.

Randy O: “Coming Home” (2019) CD Review

Randy O is the lead singer of hard rock band Odin, a group that gained fame from The Decline Of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years, which interestingly came out as the band was breaking up. That group has since reformed with all the original members and occasionally plays gigs at places like Whisky A Go Go, rocking just as hard as they did back in the 1980s. And somehow Randy O’s voice still has the same power and control as in the early days, which is remarkable. Now Randy O has released a solo album. Titled Coming Home, it is something of a departure from his work with Odin. The music has a bit more of a pop flavor to it, more of a straight rock sound that may have a broader appeal, and still led by that great vocal talent. Joining Randy O on this release are Rodger Carter (who has played with Glen Campbell, Berlin, Lita Ford and many others) on drums (Carter also co-produced the album), Toshi Yanagi  (from Jimmy Kimmel Live) on guitar, Matt Bissonette (who plays with Elton John) on bass and backing vocals, Lance Morrison (who plays with Don Henley) on bass, Rick Sailon on violin, Will Hollis (who plays with The Eagles) on keys, Patrick Regan on horns, Chariga Bissonette on backing vocals, and Kudisan Kai (who has sung with Elton John and Chaka Kahn) on backing vocals.  

The album kicks off with “I’m Feeling Good,” a song that is so aptly titled, for this is one of those delicious rock songs that feel like summer. It’s the kind of music I grew up with, the kind of song that puts me back in touch with those days, so that we never grow old. This track even has a bit of whistling (that’s Randy’s son Patrick providing the whistling). It is one of my favorite songs on the album. “No, I’m not looking back/I’m just going to keep on dancing.” Amen. That’s followed by “Black & White Don’t Matter.” A couple of years ago when I began hearing the tracks that would make up this album, “Black & White Don’t Matter” was a stand-out for me, both lyrically and musically. Lyrically, this one has something to say, but the song has also got a catchy hook. It opens with some “do-do do-do-do” vocals. “Can’t you see what they’re doing to you and me/Don’t you know that they’re stealing away our dreams.” I also dig the electric guitar work on this track.

“It’s The Same Old Day” is another delicious rock tune that feels like summer and youth, especially the chorus, with those excellent backing vocals, which make me smile every time I listen to this song. This is a really good solid rock song, with more great stuff on electric guitar. Then when “Holding On” kicks in, it has an early 1980s thing, with some surprising pop elements such as the echoing of “my eyes” and “I cried” halfway through. “Hold on for one more day/Hold onto these dreams of mine.” It is interesting to me that the idea of holding onto one’s dreams is a recurring element on this album, because the album itself was apparently a dream that Randy O had for quite some time. “Pop’s Song” is a reworking of an earlier song, “Lonely Man,” from the Lostboys’ 1990 album Lost And Found. A line from this song provides the album with its title, and interestingly this line was not in “Lonely Man.”  This is a slower song, with some pretty moments. It is followed by “I’m Changing.” By the way, on the CD case, “I’m Changing” is listed before “Pop’s Song,” which is the intended order. But apparently the first hundred copies of the disc have the incorrect order. It is likely that if you purchase the album now, the order will be correct on your copy. At the CD release party, Randy O opened his short set with this song, which felt appropriate. After all, this album is quite a change from the music of Odin, which is what most of us know of Randy’s sound. “Is there any time for changes/Is there any place left to hide/I can’t believe that we fell apart/Is there any time left for changes.” Interestingly, this song also includes the album’s title in its lyrics: “It doesn’t seem that long ago /Tell me please you’re coming home.”

“Joy Joy Joy” is mellower, pretty song featuring violin, another of this album’s surprises. “All she ever wanted was a little love/All she ever wanted was one little hug.” That’s followed by “LTWA.” A really good groove gets this one going, and will likely get you moving. I absolutely love that work on bass. And then there are horns. This song has such a wonderful and positive vibe. “It’s a new day/Yeah, the hell with the old ways/I’m tired of falling down.” And this song has a totally catchy chorus: “I’ve been dreaming for a long time/Such a long, long time/I’m just learning to walk again.” So “LTWA” stands for “Learning To Walk Again,” and not, say, The Library Of Tibetan Works And Archives. This one ends up being another of my favorites. The album then concludes with “Hanah’s Song,” which also has a good groove. Hanah is Randy’s daughter, and so “You loved that eighties metal/That your friends just thought it was noise” is an interesting line, because of course Randy was in a metal band in the 1980s. Hanah is still a big fan; at the Odin concerts I’ve attended, she has been front and center in the audience. By the way, she created the artwork for this album.

CD Track List
  1. I’m Feeling Good
  2. Black & White Don’t Matter
  3. It’s The Same Old Day
  4. Holding On
  5. Pop’s Song
  6. I’m Changing
  7. Joy Joy Joy
  8. LTWA
  9. Hanah’s Song 
Coming Home was released on September 1, 2019.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Pearring Sound: “Nothing But Time” (2019) CD Review

Pearring Sound is an innovative and expressive jazz group led by saxophone player Jeff Pearring, who is actually the only steady member, the band’s configuration changing with each project. For the new release, Nothing But Time, the group is the trio of Jeff Pearring on alto sax, Adam Lane on acoustic bass and electric bass, and Tim Ford on drums. The music here (with one exception) was improvised and recorded live in the studio, without overdubs, and takes the listeners on intriguing journeys through some strange landscapes. Right from the start of the first track, “Plugin Heavy,” the music has an exciting and unusual sound. This track has a heavy (as its title suggests), cool, kind of funky vibe with a spacey element as well. Fans of jam bands will dig this. Then “Gather And Go” starts rather tentatively, as if the musicians are gathering their thoughts, their instruments greeting each other, reaching out. Then after a couple of minutes Jeff Pearring’s sax says it’s time to get moving, and there is a kind of intense build in the second half of the track, as if the rocket is amassing energy and is about to explode into space. Then it relaxes as it winds down at the end.

The track that was not completely improvised is the album’s sole cover, a rendition of Duke Ellington’s “Blue Pepper (Far East Of The Blues).” Adam Lane begins this one on bass, and soon Tim Ford comes in on drums. Then when the sax comes in, it becomes a kind of sexy, sly, delicious number; the horn could charm snakes or people or any other object of some interesting desire as it dances over that wonderful groove. I love Tim Ford’s work on drums. Then “Through Step” has a somewhat eerie, ominous sound, like traveling down a dark alley in an alien world fraught with danger. This is partly because of the use of electric bass, but also the strange sound of the cymbals. Then at the end, the bass drops out for a brief, odd section of drums and sax. That’s followed by “The March Of The Aggressive Pedestrian.” First of all, I love this track’s title. It really informs the way I hear the tune, as the steady drums and bass seem in no way willing to back down, but will propel themselves forward through any obstacle. Then the saxophone speaks, and it is part dance, part warning to others to move, here I come, get out of the way. I totally dig this track. At the end, the track mellows, so perhaps this person has reached his destination.

We then get “Sweet Sci-Fi Suite.” On the back of the CD case, it is listed as one track, the sixth track, but actually the three parts to the “Sweet Sci-Fi Suite” are presented as three separate tracks. Each is fairly short. As you might guess from the title, it has a spacey kind of vibe from the start of its first part, “To The Stars.” As it builds, you get the sense that there is life out there. There is something bright and optimistic about the sound, right? The second part, “Parallel Engines Grind,” has a more industrial electronic sound, with things whirring. There is a hurried sense about it, like something has perhaps gone wrong. The suite concludes with “Interstellar Dust,” which comes at us like a voice reaching across the galaxy, the message itself becoming garbled as we try to make sense of it.

“Talking Outside Time” begins with percussion. Then the horn comes in, as if asking questions, making inquiries at first. The track is like an odd conversation among the three instruments, looking for some common ground, trying to make sense of their surroundings, their circumstances, to get their bearings. And they seem to do so, as the sound becomes more powerful toward the end. Then “Sunday” has a mellower sound, the saxophone feeling more relaxed, allowing for pauses, perhaps even introspection. The drums and bass develop a good, pleasant groove, and by the end, this track has me feeling good. There is something cheerful and fun about this one. That’s followed by “Effective Translation,” which immediately establishes a funky groove. The trio explores that groove, working on it and within it. This is another fun track. The disc began with “Plugin Heavy,” and it concludes with “Plugin Light.” This one too develops a strong, steady groove, and seems a bit looser, the saxophone taking short, delightful flights above that groove before really going for it.

CD Track List
  1. Plugin Heavy
  2. Gather And Go
  3. Blue Pepper (Far East Of The Blues)
  4. Through Step
  5. The March Of The Aggressive Pedestrian
  6. Sweet Sci-Fi Suite: To The Stars
  7. Sweet Sci-Fi Suite: Parallel Engines Grind
  8. Sweet Sci-Fi Suite: Interstellar Dust
  9. Talking Outside Time
  10. Sunday
  11. Effective Translation
  12. Plugin Light
Nothing But Time is scheduled to be released on CD on October 4, 2019. It was apparently released digitally on August 29, 2019.