review Archive

Album Review: Eloy – Visionary

The word derivative is too often used as a term of disdain, as a pejorative adjective to tar a musical act with supposed lack of originality. But even if one doesn’t buy the adage that it’s all been done before — that, as the early rock critic Qohelet put it some twenty-one centuries ago, there’s

Album Review: Let Freedom Sing — The Music of the Civil Rights Movement

In honor of the Martin Luther King National Holiday — (as a close friend wrote to me last night, “Remember to honor Dr. King. What he did, he did for all.”) — here’s a review from a year ago. Don’t be put off by the Time Life logo on the new box set Let Freedom Sing:

Album Review: Research Turtles (self titled)

If Shoes fit, wear ’em. Despite the fact that Research Turtles are depicted on the cover of their self-titled, self-released CD as a sort of dirty-faced Knack for the 21st century, this Lake Charles Louisiana-based quartet has more in common with legendary powerpop band Shoes. “Let’s Get Carried Away” has the sound, feel and attitude

Album Review: Jeff Norwood – Awendaw

South Carolina acoustic bluesman Jeff Norwood conjures the spirits of Mississippi Fred McDowell and Robert Johnson on Awendaw. Using little more than (mostly) acoustic guitar, dobro, bass and footstomps, Norwood convincingly puts forth his tales in a style that’s authentic, not a mere pastiche. Familiar setting and characters populate Norwood’s song stories: the Devil, swamps,

Album Review: Fran King – My Sweet Elixir

Fran King has been called an Irish McCartney. A more apt comparison might be Hawthorne California’s Emitt Rhodes. Like both Sir Paul and the mercurial Rhodes, King is possessed of an unerring sense of melody, but like Rhodes, he doesn’t rock out. His songs and arrangements have plenty in common with tracks on McCartney and

Album Review: Richard Smyth – Sleight of Hand

Good title. Smyth is an electric guitarist with a wide sonic palette, and his mastery is highlighted throughout the disc. Shades of Wired-era Jeff Beck and 70s Lee Ritenour are scattered across the disc’s ten tracks. “Vicky’s Birthday” builds a jazz-inflected (but definitely rock) arrangement atop the riff from Don Nix‘s “Goin’ Down” but uses

Album Review: Bench Grinder – Clean is the New Dirty (EP)

If Jordan Oakes were still compiling editions of the legendary Yellow Pills series, “Ride With Me” from Bench Grinder would merit serious consideration. High-energy powerpop in a 90s vein, the track has hooks and enough variation to make the cut. What the track lacks is professional-grade production. All the elements are there, but the way

Album Review: Long John Hunter – Looking for a Party

Modern blues records often suffer from a fatal flaw: those in charge of the production or arrangement aren’t always possessed of the requisite “feel.” The resulting product thus often contains elements that don’t mesh well with the blues format: maybe it’s synthesizers, or sampled horn charts, or production flourishes that simply don’t work. Sometimes producers

Album Review: Go Time! – Speak

There’s a quality to the audio and arrangements on Speak, the self-released disc from Chicago-area Go Time!, that evokes 1983. More than anything else, this outfit sounds like an indie band (though the terms wasn’t in wide use in those days) from the early 80s. The unadorned recording isn’t quite lo-fi (think: Guided By Voices)

Album Review: Them Bird Things – Fly, Them Bird Things, Fly

Surf rock from Finland? Well, you’d be hard-pressed to find more authentic writing, playing, arrangement or production of that style in the 21st century than you would from Them Bird Things, the pride of Helsinki Finland. But their album Fly, Them Bird Things, Fly is really more of an ultra-tuneful, moody folk-punk-psych set. The band