some more perspectiveHere are the some discs I've been listening to and thoughts:
Thievery Corporation "Radio Retaliation" - more of the same from these guys, which means great beats and samples strung into some good vibe-y tunes. Acid jazz (which is what TC evolved from) when it first became known here, was a producers' game...bands weren't really important, as it was all the about the vibe. Don't get me wrong, there were some excellent bands from that time, including Galliano, Brand New Heavies, Incognito, and more, but it was more reliant on a producer that could put together a good danceable or jazzy-mellow track and throw some female voices over it. Unfortunately it became very formulaic. There were some really great compilations put out mostly in the UK (This is Acid Jazz series, some Ubiquity records compilations, The Rebirth of Cool series on 4th and Bwy, Totally Wired and Re-Wired series from Acid Jazz records....some from Dorado records, The Acid Jazz Test series, many more) but no artist really stood out over time. Mainly because acid jazz mutated into other genres....Electronica became a huge genre, trance, downtempo, etc. the classic 'acid jazz" genre all but disappeared. A few bands are still making records (brand New Heavies and Incognito being examples) but since Madison Ave found out that this music makes great background ambience, it's been in every Banana Republic and car commercial since and lost some of it's luster. (I remember when Kruder & Dorfmeister were doing this same type of music in the early 90's). Thievery Corporation came to the game late but has shown great staying power by releasing consistently good discs, and this is no exception. According to what I've read, TC says this disc is a more "political" statement from them, but it's hard to hear it when the beats are good and the lyrics are an afterthought anyway with this type of music. I mean, you can throw in a quote from some political figure in the middle of a dance tune, but that doesn't make it a political song. This disc is more of the same from TC, which I enjoy. Anyway, I give this a 6 on a scale of 1-10.
The Blow Monkeys "Devils Tavern" - a new disc from these guys, last heard from in the late 80's. This record was made by soliciting money from their fan base (I did not donate to the cause), as they had no record deal. Dr. Robert has been very active since the demise of the Monkeys, releasing some excellent discs that veered all over the map....some earnest folk, some blue-eyed soul, mostly mid-tempo stuff that only a few people actually heard. His discs were generally not released in the US and I think both Dr. Robert and The Blow Monkeys have almost no audience here. This disc ain't gonna change that. This is pleasant disc that is really more of a continuation of Dr. Robert's solo career than a resurrection of The Blow Monkeys. There's no "Diggin Your Scene" or "It Doesn't Have To Be That Way" single here. The single is "The Bullet Train", which is just ok, a better tune would be the laid back "I Don't Mind". Nothing jumps out at me as a classic Blow Monkeys tune (is that an oxymoron?), too middle of the road for me. I give this a 5 on a scale of 1-10.
Calexico "Carried To Dust" - an excellent disc from a band I recently got into. Loved their collaboration with Sam Beam/Iron & Wine (who plays on this disc as well). This is atmospheric music a la Sergio Leone meets indie rock. Lots of muted trumpets and you can almost see the tumbleweeds roll across your floor when you listen. A good disc from start to finish, pretty mellow, and my favorite tune is the first on the disc - "Victor Jara's Hands". I give it a 7 on a scale of 1-10.
Donavon Frankenreiter "Pass It Around" - the 3rd disc of original material from DF, this is his weakest yet. Not too much of a disappointment, as his music is all about laid back good time vibes regardless, and he pulls that off. But the songs are not as strong as his last disc "Move By Yourself", with only "Life Love & Laughter" and "Too Much Water" as immediate standouts for me. The rest is fairly middling. Don't get me wrong, even an ok disc from Donavon is worth listening to, it's just that I had higher expectations after his last 2. I also saw him at Bonnaroo this year where he put on a really great show. Hopefully the next one will be better. A 6 on the 1-10 scale.
O.A.R. "All Sides" - talk about a band that's lost it's way. A completely crappy disc...sounds like they went for the commercial brass ring (could sort of hear them going down that path in their last disc "Stories of a Stranger"). I actually liked "In Between Now and Then" and thought these guys might have a shot a longevity, but after this dreck, forget it. Total formulaic rock, I give it a 2.
Paul Weller "22 Dreams" (2 cd's) - wow, is this all over the place. I love Paul Weller (the Jam and the Style Council are 2 of my favorite bands) but he's been very inconsistent since "Heavy Soul" (Heliocentric anyone?!). Had this been cut to 1 disc it would be an excellent solo disc, but as it is it's self indulgent with some unlistenable songs. Standouts are "All I Want To Do", "Have You Made Up Your Mind", "Cold Moments". I love his more soul-leaning tunes, not so much his ramblings (God) his piano sonatas (Lullabye Fur Kinder) and other indulgent experiments. Totally respect the guy for wanting to try new things, but not everything has to make it to disc. A 7 on a 1-10 scale.
Slighty Stoopid "Chroncitis" - white-boy reggae, but done well. Not the frat-boy reagge such as O.A.R, these guys seem to more respectful of trying to approximate the real thing. Some heavy dub, some more pop leaning tracks as well. Over all a good mix from a band I was all but ready to give up on. This disc boasts of the the summer's strongest singles in "Hold On To The One". A 7 on the scale.
I love reggae, particularly the late 70's/early 80's period with bands like Roots Radics backing great singers like Dennis Brown and Gregory Isaacs,...saw some amazing shows in the 80's - The Itals, Steel Pulse, Black Uhuru (original line-up), Peter Tosh, Jimmy Cliff, UB-40 (back when they really were a reggae band), Reggae Sunsplash at Radio City with Yellowman and Gregory Isaacs, The Wailers w/ The I-Three's. Lover's rock, roots reggae are my favorite styles. I don't like dancehall style, and when it became the dominant style in the late-80's I stopped listening. There are a few people still releasing some good music (Burning Spear and Toots come to mind) but for me the "golden age" was back then. Bob Marley and the Wailers is what drew me into reggae ("Exodus" being the 1st real reggae album I'd ever heard, it was in 1979). I picked up all their records as well as anything by Bunny Wailer and Peter Tosh. All amazing, now classic stuff. Soon I was going to reggae shows in the city, and hanging out with the rastas in Washington Square Park, buying every new reggae album that came out. Bands like The Equators ("Hot" is a classic ska album...hard to find but worth it), Jacob Miller and Inner Circle, The Melodians, Sly & Robbie, and many more. And at college, there was an amazing radio station, WHFS, (at that time it was a great rock station, "alternative" not yet having been coined, I think maybe it was "college radio"..?) that had a reggae show Sunday nights (I think) called "Night of the Living Dread"as host. Really terrific show and I heard a lot of great reggae I wouldn't have heard otherwise. I just saw Stephen Marley in June at Bonnaroo - he's got a few ok songs ("Mind Control" being the biggest and best) but most of his concert was him imitating his father. Literally just doing versions of his dad's songs. Now, he does sound very much like his father, but still....a 2 hour show and only about 20 minutes of it is your own material?? And he employed some Rasta to run around for the entire show doing nothing but waving a big red, gold and green flag (to rally 'round?). That's what reggae's become....playing old Bob Marley songs.
The Verve "Forth" - an ok disc. Saw these guys in NYC a few months ago and wasn't impressed. Probably the most intense light show I've ever seen...and by "intense" I mean that if you stared at the strobes for more than 10 seconds you'd probably either go blind or into an epilieptic fit....they had those freaking strobes going for about 10 minutes straight at one point.....I'm too old to go to a concert that tries to approximate a "rave" feature. What a strange crowd too....all types - in the vanilla sense, and there was no vibe for that reason. And I thought the sound sucked. Anyway, the disc is ok, "Love Is Noise" is an ok single, and the other tracks are ok as well. Not nearly as strong as their last disc "Urban Hymns"...but ok nonetheless. Was hoping for more than that. Whatever. (and I was also one of the few that happened to enjoy Ashcrofts' solo discs...I thought "Check The Meaning" was one of the better singles of 2002). Just ok...a 5/10.