CD reviews: New twists on old sounds
October 14, 2010
produced by Daniel Lanois (Reprise)”Le Noise” is noise-oriented alright, but not in the way we usually think of Neil Young’s noise – Young’s long-running garage band Crazy Horse, pounding away behind Neil’s long, raw guitar leads. Producer Daniel Lanois, who has put his trademark atmospheric stamp on U2, Bob Dylan and the Neville Brothers, strips away the production here completely – no drums, no bass – to the point that Young sounds as though he’s sitting behind you, about to tap on your shoulder. The effect is a zeroing-in on the sounds, most prominently of Young’s thickly layered, ringing electric guitar. What gets revealed is emotion – disaffection and disorientation, Young still pissed-off about the state of the world. “I feel the rumbling in the ground/ When will I learn how to listen?” he sings on the appropriately titled “Rumblin’.”Even “Peaceful Valley Boulevard,” set to acoustic guitar, is not the picturesque landscape you might expect, but a description of the decimation of Native Americans. But Young isn’t ready to abandon hope: “Who’ll be the beacon in the night/ Who’ll be the one to lead this world?” he sings in a fragile voice.As he does every so often, Young leaves the tracks he has wandered before – acoustic country-rocker, ripping rock ‘n’ roller – to create another dimension. He has found worse worlds than the one he discovers on “Le Noise.”
produced by Mike Elizondo (Capitol)On the strength of his third album, and major-label debut, Eli “Paperboy” Reed draws comparisons to Otis Redding and Sam Cooke. But since such comparisons can weigh heavy – especially on a white, Jewish, 26-year-old from an upscale Boston suburb – maybe the better parallel is retro soul singer Sharon Jones. Reed sounds like he listened to Jones and her band, the Dap-Kings, and came to the same essential conclusion, that mid-’60s soul didn’t need much tinkering, just some fresh faces to resurrect the style.On “Come and Get It!” Reed comes off as brighter in tone, and more playful in emotion, than Jones, whose songs plumb the darker corners. “Name Calling” is typical in its happy ending: “You went from name calling to calling my name,” Reed sings over infectious horn bursts, a catchy guitar figure and the tightest beat imaginable. And Reed shows some other tricks on “You Can Run On,” which suggests John Fogerty’s approach to boogie-soul.
produced by Charlie Pine (Lost Highway)The Jayhawks, the more or less defunct Minneapolis band, made clear their affection for the Byrds. That influence was punctuated by “Rainy Day Music,” the Jayhawks’ 2003 farewell that used early-Byrds harmonies and textures as a beautiful template.The band’s self-titled debut, from 1986, available on CD for the first time, shows a radically different Jayhawks. Here, the influence is late-era Byrds, when Gram Parsons took the Byrds in a country-rock direction, with ubiquitous pedal steel guitar. On “The Jayhawks,” originally released on Bunkhouse Records, loads up on the steel, twang and driving beats.
produced by John Leventhal (Saguaro Road)Marc Cohn’s bouts of writer’s block can be severe. He once went nine years between albums; another time, it was five years. On “Listening Booth: 1970,” he takes an obvious approach to keeping his recording chops in shape: a covers album. To give the album a concept, he chooses only songs released in 1970 – a gimmick that may mean little to listeners, but that holds importance to Cohn. Nineteen-seventy saw the release of four albums that Cohn, 11 at the time, says pushed him into music: James Taylor’s “Sweet Baby James,” Neil Young’s “After the Gold Rush,” Van Morrison’s “Moondance” and Simon & Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water.”You might quibble with Cohn’s song selections here – starting with the absence of anything from the Neil Young or James Taylor albums. Do we really need another take on J.J. Cale’s “After Midnight?” Did we ever need Badfinger’s “No Matter What?” But there’s no arguing that Cohn dug in deep and made the songs his own. “Make It With You” retains the lite-rock breeziness of Bread’s original, but also gets a bump in soulfulness, thanks in part to a vocal contribution from India.Arie. A pleasant surprise is “New Speedway Boogie” – not the most obvious choice from the Grateful Dead’s catalog, and given a big rhythmic twist here. Other inspired choices are Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Long As I Can See the Light,” which gets a slow, spare setting; and “Look at Me,” from “John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band.”firstname.lastname@example.org