May 8, 1996
Marti Jones, Live at Spirit Square (Sugar Hill 1996) - For the last five years, Marti Jones stepped back from the limelight while raising her family. Though not new, Live at Spirit Square is a long-overdue serving from this warm, witty, and balanced performer.
The music business can't find a comfortable niche for Marti. By one turn, they tried to sell her as a folk/gypsy (see A&M's 1988 release, Used Guitars), then RCA Records (her last home) tried to market her as a sex kitten on 1990's delicious, Any Kind of Lie.
The truth, of course, lies somewhere in between. Like such contemporaries as Sam Phillips, Aimee Mann, and Natalie Merchant, Jones is intelligent, charming, and subtle. Which leaves her in a no-man's land (pun intended, but suggesting nothing).
This 71-minute album (which was recorded on August 29, 1990 in Charlotte, North Carolina) gets closer to the essence. Marti's talented band included husband, Don Dixon, on bass and vocals, Jamie Hoover on guitar and vocals, Jim Brock on percussion, and Tom Wilhelm on drums.
The 17 songs on Live at Spirit Square include such favorites as "Any Kind of Lie," "Old Friend," and "Clique." Unlike her more carefully-produced studio albums, Live at Spirit Square finds Marti with a looser pop and folk sound. Marti enjoys performing in this looser setting; I tend to prefer the more polished studio work that Don Dixon crafted.
I have especially fond memories of Marti, after seeing her in 1991 with Chris Isaak in San Francisco. Marti was the warmup act, and wowed the crowd. I've been waiting since then for a new studio release; one is promised this fall from Sugar Hill.
In any event, Live at Spirit Square is a welcome serving from this long-lost soul. If you haven't yet discovered Marti Jones, Live At Spirit Square is a fine place to start.
John Sebastian and the J-Band, I Want My Roots (Music Masters 1996) - John Sebastian, the former frontman for the Lovin' Spoonful and writer of the theme song for the venerable "Welcome Back, Kotter," has never stopped making music. With his good-time folky sound, Sebastian has found a second (or third or fourth) wind. And I Want My Roots shows that he's still having a good time.
With a core band of Sebastian on vocals, guitars and banjo, Jimmy Vivano on guitars, mandolin, and autoharp, Fritz Richmond on jug and tub, and James Wormworth on drums, washboard, and stompboard, the J-Band clearly enjoys playing live. The 14 tracks on I Want My Roots show the remarkably youthful Sebastian reaching into his roots for such cuts as "Big Road Blues," "Tappin' That Thing," and "Rain, Hey, Rain."
Sebastian's looking to create a happy feeling, not deep philosophy. And I Want My Roots accomplishes his goals. Get this album, and enjoy yourself.
Arbitron Radio Ratings -- According to the Winter 1996 Arbitron survey, the top ten radio stations in Fresno for January 4 through March 27, 1996 are as follows:
1. KMJ (AM 580) 11.1%
These ratings (which were released on April 26, 1996) follow a familiar Fresno trend -- in the winter, talk ratings go up.
Thus, KMJ (talk & news) stands tall at number one, while increasing its sharing from 10.6 to 11. On the other hand, KBOS (CHR -- "contemporary hit radio") holds at number 2, but its share slides from 9.7 to 8.6. Don't forget, KBOS was number one in the Fresno market last spring with an 11.2 share (just before the station was sold to Patterson Broadcasting).
In the biggest surprise, KLBN (Spanish) comes from nowhere to land at number 3. Station authorities are not surprised, however, as they point to the demographic similarities between Los Angeles (were the biggest station is now Spanish) and Fresno. KLBN adds that its music is contemporary and danceable, and appeals to both English and Spanish-speaking audiences.
On the other hand, KLBN would be wise to study the fate of KOQO (Spanish), which shot as high as number four in the Summer 1994 book, but which has now dropped completely out of the top ten.
At number four is KJWL (easy listening stars of the 40s and 50s), which was number three last quarter, but which increased its share from 5.3 to 5.9. KJWL has enjoyed enormous success, and appeals to a broad base.
KRZR (AOR -- "album oriented rock"), which is also owned by Patterson Broadcasting, jumps to number 5 (up from number eight last fall), as its share increased from 4.0 to 5.0. KFRR (modern rock 104.1) just can't seem to challenge KRZR; despite its focus on more alternative acts, the playlist at KFRR is as tight as a drum. And it shows in the ratings.
Oldies KFSO stands in a number 6, down one notch from last quarter. Tied at 7th are KSKS ("Kiss Country," which is owned by the same organization as KMJ) and KTHT (adult contemporary), while KNAX ("Kickin' Country") slides from number 7 to number 9.
Rounding out the top ten is KJFX ("classic rock 'n roll"), which returns to the top ten for the first time since the Spring 1995 book.
Required Legend -- These ratings are copyrighted by Arbitron, and are based on the percentage of listening audience ages 12 and over tuned in during any 15-minute period from 6 A.M. to midnight on Monday through Sunday.
-- Randy Krbechek
Copyright (c) Randy Krbechek
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