Bring the Brass (01/08/99)
Vic Chesnutt, The Salesman and Bernadette (Capricorn 1998) - Performer Vic Chesnutt has seen more than his share of troubles. Returning with his sixth album in ten years, the Georgia-based singer delivers another song of the south.
Now age 34, Chesnutt has been confined to a wheelchair since an auto accident left him partially paralyzed at age 18. Several years of substance abuse and depression followed, which still colors his outlook. Vic's recording career started when he met R.E.M. vocalist Michael Stipe around 1985; Stipe helped record Vic's first album, Little. (Little has such a sad cover photo: there are young Vic and his mother, with a mountain dwarfing both: Vic feels truly "little.")
The sound on The Salesman and Bernadette is difficult to pin down, but centers around Chesnutt's gravely voice and exquisite songs about life, love, and redemption.
Chesnutt's last album, About to Choke, was released on Capitol records. Chesnutt was dropped from the Capitol roster after The Salesman and Bernadette was recorded, so Capricorn smartly picked it up.
The album was recorded with pal Kurt Wagner and his Nashville-based band, Lambchop, complete with reeds (saxophone and clarinets), horns (trumpets and euphoniums), accordions and vibes.
Explains Vic, "This is a band record. A lot of it was recorded live. With Lambchop, I know them really well. I picked songs that were appropriate for them. We basically recorded five weekends (to accommodate the band's day jobs), doing three songs a week, and we recorded everything in the order you hear on the album."
While Chesnutt sings with overtones with melancholia on songs like "Maiden" and "Blanket Over the Head," tracks like "Until the Led" are flat-out rockers, driven by a swinging horn session. Chesnutt has a finely-tuned ear, and his songs resound with poetic images, framed by his Southern roots.
For a sampling from this uniquely American voice, try The Salesman and Bernadette.
George Martin, In My Life (Echo/MCA 1998) - All goods things must end. And so, Sir George Martin, famed as the producer for the Beatles, knew that one day he would record his last album. Martin decided to do it in style, recording a dozen Beatles' songs with what he describes as "Heros and Friends." The result is idiosyncratic and enjoyable.
Now age 72, Martin's production career began in the 1950's when the classically-trained oboist was appointed head of the Parlophone label in London. Between 1955 and 1962, Sir George carved out a niche by recording jazz artists like Cleo Laine and Stan Getz, as well as comedy albums by such English stars as Peter Ustinov, Peter Sellers, and Spike Milligan.
With some 700 recordings to his name, George has produced music in all genres, including the studio recording of Elton John's tribute to Princess Diana, "Candle in the Wind 1997," the top-selling single of all time.
But everything changed in May 1962 when Sir George met Brian Epstein, the Beatles' manager. George signed the act and went on to produce all of their albums (except the live, Let It Be performance). The rest, as they say, is history.
In My Life has a cinematic feel, as Sir George selected performers who fit the "persona" of the song. Thus, Robin Williams and Bobby McFerrin perform "Come Together," while actress Goldie Hahn delivers a come-hither version of "A Hard Day's Night."
The strongest performances include classical guitarist, John Williams, performing "Here Comes the Sun" with an orchestral background, and Phil Collins singing the Abbey Road finale, "Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight/The End."
Jim Carrey's irreverent performance of "I Am the Walrus" will make all Beatles' fans smile. Also included is Celine Dion's take on "Here, There and Everywhere," guitarist Jeff Beck with "A Day in the Life," and George Martin's own, "Friends & Lovers," an instrumental composition written shortly after the murder of John Lennon.
Take In My Life for what it is. Sir George wanted to have fun, and the production on In My Life is intelligent and distinguished. Enjoy In My Life, and remember the rich heritage left by Sir George Martin.
Canadian Brass, All You Need Is Love (RCA Victor 1998) - Good recordings can come from the most unlikely sources. The Canadian Brass, who have been playing together for 28 years, gathered to record a set of Beatles' tunes. With such well known songs as "Eleanor Rigby" and "When I'm Sixty-Four," the 17-track set is a surprising find.
The Canadian Brass are Jens Lindemann (trumpet, piccolo trumpet), Chirs Cooper (french horn), Ronald Romm (trumpet), Eugene Watts (trombone), and Charles Daellenbach (tuba). All classically trained musicians, the quintet blends effortlessly on the well-known songs.
Also included are such Beatles' favorites as "Yesterday," "Penny Lane," and "Black Bird." A true crossover recording, All You Need Is Love will appeal to both Beatles fans and classical fans.
- Randy Krbechek © 1999
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