The reissue of a newly remastered edition of ‘Jack Johnson,’ by Miles Davis, or any Miles Davis work, for that matter, is never an untimely thing.
Originally released in 1970, the record served as a soundtrack to a documentary on the life of boxer Jack Johnson. It offered Davis an opportunity to combine his interest in boxing, his feelings concerning the black experience in America, and his desire to bring younger listeners into the jazz flock via strains of rock, R&B and funk.
What you hear are a series of jam sessions inspired by Johnson’s flights of fancy in and outside the ring, strategically edited together via producer Teo Marcelo and woven throughout one another. At the time, jazz purists decried his embrace of more popular forms of music, but Miles blows historical trumpet over propulsive drums, greasy bass, slinky blues guitar and halleluiah organ, without a shred of compromise, remaining, as always, vastly ahead of his time.
Live at the Greek’
By Josh Groban
By Jessica Morreale
Josh Groban’s newest release, ‘Josh Groban Live at the Greek’ is a CD/DVD set that highlights the young singer’s strong classical voice and marketable charm.
The Los Angeles native blends Italian and English lyrics in a pop/classical style that is reminiscent of Andrea Bocelli, which is not purely coincidental. Groban launched into fame in 1999 when Bocelli was unable to attend a dress rehearsal at the Grammy Awards. Groban was pulled in to perform ‘The Prayer’ with Celine Dion.
Since then, the 22-year-old has churned out two CDs, a self-titled debut album and ‘Closer,’ on which he wrote three of the tracks. Groban has appeared on ‘Ally McBeal’ twice, performing ‘You’re Still You’ and ‘To Where You Are’ (both from his debut CD), and was chosen to sing ‘The Prayer’ with Charlotte Church at the closing ceremonies of the 2002 Olympic Games.
‘Josh Groban Live at the Greek’ proves the artist to be a powerful tenor. However, it is impossible to ignore the sense of melodrama inspired by the entire performance.
The theatricality of the show is emphasized on the DVD, where the string ensemble and backup band are accentuated by screams of approval from the largely female audience. It is evident that Groban has been blessed with many things: a great voice, a charming personality, overexcited lighting technicians and zealous backup musicians.
After listening to this heartfelt CD the first question on one’s mind might be, ‘Why pop music?’ Grohan’s talent seems to be better suited for opera, as opposed to cheesy ballads that leave preteens and postmenopausal women weak at the knees.
‘Kiss & Tell’
By Sahara Hotnights
By Ernest Kim
Sahara Hotnights’, an all female new wave quartet, released their third album ‘Kiss & Tell’ late 2004. ‘Kiss & Tell’ departs slightly from the two previous albums, ‘C’Mon Lets Pretend’ and ‘Jennie Bomb’ by incorporating a more melodic and upbeat sound (read: ‘pop’).
The album sounds like a cross between the ‘Donnas’ and ‘The Sounds.’ Certain tracks, like ‘Stupid Tricks’ and ‘Empty Heart,’ have a heavy influence stylistically from Maja Ivarsson.
Which is easy to imagine as both bands hail from the Swedish scene.
However, while singer Maria Andersson has plenty of vocal talent, she doesn’t hit the same high marks as ‘Sounds’ singer Maja Ivarsson.
In addition, the angle for this latest album was to create a bubblegum sound reminiscent of 60s pop and modern pop.
Overall the album captures this flavor, the album is catchy and upbeat. It’s an easy listen, vocals are strong and instrumentals are equally upbeat. Songs carry a decent dance beat and are simply fun.
Consequently the entire sound ends out a little generic, the album does not stand out on its own.
Lyrics are also catchy and flow well, but again mostly fail to stand out. Mostly concerned with relationships, either a guy failing a girl, or a girl getting revenge, don’t expect ‘Kiss & Tell’ to capture the hearts of people worldwide.
The only notable exception may be the song ‘Nerves’: ‘Stand up you may not be excused/You never try so you never lose/Speak up all your clever ideas/Just stick to yourself and you never get used.’
The band may not come off as entirely original or genre breaking, however that shouldn’t dissuade fans of the pop genre. The album is strong and could easily find a wide popularity base here in the US.
‘Who Killed … The Zutons’
By The Zutons
By Ben Ritter
It’s a bit difficult to classify The Zutons’ sound. It has elements of garage rock, folk, country, funk and quite possibly some other styles that I can’t put my finger on. The result is a highly enjoyable rock goulash.
On The Zutons’ Web site, David McCabe, the vocalist and lead guitarist, said, ‘We always wanted to be like Sly and the Family Stone or Talking Heads or Devo. We wanted to cross jazz with funk and soul with country. We just wanted to mix everything together and get every angle on it and finally we’ve got there.’ This is an assessment with which I am tempted to agree, although I don’t actually hear strong musical influences of Talking Heads or Devo.
And while I would normally take offense at an upstart band not just aspiring to the level of such greats, but actually claiming to have attained such a level (on their debut album, no less), I think that The Zutons actually deliver a product that justifies such self-penned aggrandizement.
I’m not saying that The Zutons will make a mark on music history like Talking Heads or Devo, both of whom helped to usher in a new wave of musical creativity. However, if The Zutons ever abandon their derivative style and decide to set out on a path all their own, I don’t doubt that they have such potential.
But I digress. Who knows if The Zutons will go on to become the next big thing? Either way, we have ‘Who Killed … The Zutons,’ an admirable effort in its own right.
Although this album has gone gold in England, The Zutons are relatively unknown in the United States, unlike fellow British imports, The Darkness, from whom The Zutons seem to draw some musical inspiration (particularly on the album’s single, ‘Pressure Point’).
Unlike The Darkness, however, The Zutons don’t adopt a tongue-in-cheek approach to their music. They craft infectious rock melodies and emulate past masters not out of a post-modernist desire to poke fun, but simply for the sake of making good music.