| || Randy Krbechek's Metronews |
April 2, 1997
Vic Chesnutt Lets It All Hang Out
Cocker, Organic (550
Music 1996) - Though 32 years into his recording career, Joe Cocker
still has the spark in him. For Organic, he recruited
Don Was (the producer who revived the careers of Willie
Nelson and Bonnie Raitt) for a look into the
past and the present. The resulting project will reward fans and newcomers.
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Organic was recorded just like Joe used to make them - in
five days, start to finish. "The beauty of this record," says
Joe, "is that I really had some breathing room. It's great to
have brass and big bands with you, but sometimes you can get lost
among all that. On these sessions, I really felt very relaxed."
The 14 songs on Organic feature charmingly understated
productions, much like producer Don Was elicited on last year's
album with Brian Wilson entitled I Just Wasn't Made For These
Times. (And like the Brian Wilson project, Organic was also
filmed for a proposed TV documentary.)
Mixing old and new, Organic includes new versions of such
gems from the Cocker canon as "You Are So Beautiful," "Darling
Be Home Soon," and "Many Rivers to Cross," as well as classic
songs never before recorded by the artist, including "Into the
Mystic" (Van Morrison), "Dignity" (Bob Dylan), and "You and I"
Joe is backed by an all-supporting cast, including drummers
Jim Keltner and Kenny Aronoff, bass players Darryl Jones and
James "Hutch" Hutchinson, and long-time keyboardist Chris
Stainton. Furthermore, Randy Newman plays piano on "Sail Away"
(which was penned by Newman).
Also featured is a gentle version of Steve Winwood's "Can't
Find My Way Home," as well as a cover of the Kinks' "Don't Let
Me Be Understood."
Both familiar and new at the same time, Organic is a
pleasing serving from the old mad dog. Listeners with roots in
the 70's will particularly enjoy this collection.
Chesnutt, About to Choke (Capitol
1996) - About to Choke is the major-label debut from
Vic Chesnutt, who has been recording for a decade in and around his hometown
of Athens, Georgia. With his mix of profoundly introspective reveries,
beggarweed anthems, goofball rave-ups, and confessional fantasies, About
to Choke is an ernest/edgy slice of country-folk.
Never able to escape his physical condition (Chesnutt has
been confined to a wheelchair since a nearly fatal automobile
accident when he was 18), Chesnutt displays a kind of raw
emotional energy found on such albums as Alejandro Escovedo's,
Which is not to say that About to Choke is strictly slash-your-wrists rock. Instead, the album reflects Chesnutt's
crazyquilt consciousness, stitching together previously recorded
favorites from a songbook with new tunes composed on the spot;
spare, poignant solo performances and collaborations with former
members of the noisy New York outfit Agitpop; rueful
reminiscences and boisterous, full-bodied belters.
Like Lowell George before him, Vic Chesnutt lets it all hang
out. The honesty of About to Choke is reminiscent of the classic
Thanks, I'll Eat It Here (1979) in its exploration of adult
themes and emotions.
The album's most bouncy number, "Little Vacation," featuring
mouth-trombone and Leon Redbone-influenced vocals. As Chesnutt
sings about "a flattering sin whispered in your ear" or a "long
awaited chemical buzz," his drawl leads to one conclusion -- a
"Little Vacation" sounds like a lot of fun.
About the album title, Chesnutt says, "I kept thinking I was
going to choke. And then I pulled it out. You know, like
baseball choke, not like hanging choke." Adds Chesnutt, "Some
of this album may be a bit obsessed with the premise that through
death, life is nourished."
From such tracks as "Degenerate" to "See You Around" to "New
Town," Chesnutt bares his most intimate feelings. When he sings
about being "tied to a table" or "waking up from a coma," there's
nothing fake about Chesnutt.
Dense and challenging, About to Choke holds up, as each new
listening reveals new meanings. For a journey to the other side,
try Vic Chesnutt.
Tim Booth and Angelo Badalementi,
Booth and the Bad Angel
(Mercury 1996) -
Booth and the Bad Angel is a unique
collaboration between Tim Booth (the lead singer for James) and
Angelo Badalementi, the 50-something producer who scored the
soundtrack for David Lynch's "Twin Peaks," "Blue Velvet" and
"Wild at Heart." (Badalementi is also a contributor to the new
soundtrack to Lost Highway, produced by Trent Reznor of Nine Inch
The collaboration is a fitting one: Booth provides the
vocals and lyrics (which tend toward ballads), and Badalementi
contributes the mood and keyboards. The main tracks were
recorded during a six-day improvisational period, with American
session men playing bass and drums. Booth later returned to
England with the tapes, looking for that something "extra."
He found it in guitar player Bernard Butler, who had
recently left Suede. Butler's guitar work adds to the spooky
mood and tensions on Booth and the Bad Angel. The new album
boasts a sound like Edwyn Collins or Jeff Buckley; Brian Eno is
also present, lending a techno-sense to the album (though not as
profound as on Bowie's late 70's pieces).
With cuts like "Fall in Love with Me" and "Dance with the
Bad Angels," Booth and the Bad Angel mines an unusual field that
is a mix of gothic, techno-pop, and dance. Individualistic and
idiosyncratic, Booth and the Bad Angel with appeal to a special
-- Randy Krbechek
Copyright (c) Randy
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