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Blood on the Tracks Mary Lee's Corvette, Blood on the Tracks (Bar None Records 2002) - Blood on the Tracks is an audacious recording by Mary Lee's Corvette. Recorded live in one pass on a Sunday night in New York City, singer-songwriter Mary Lee Kortes hits all the right notes on this album.

Step back a bit. New York night club Arlene's Grocery holds "classic album nights," when local performers perform complete albums. One night, the club had lined up performances of After the Gold Rush (Neil Young) and an album by The Band. A request came for Bob Dylan's 1975 classic, Blood on the Tracks.

Mary Lee KortesSoon, Mary Lee was recruited. Said the singer to herself, "These questions immediately presented themselves. "How do you sing a Bob Dylan song in a way that anyone should ever bother listening to? How do you sing it right without imitating him? How do you make it your own? And of course, why should you? After thinking about it, there was only one reasonable response: Cancel."

Then Mary Lee said to herself, "How often do you get an invitation like this? I have an amazing band. What the hell." The liner notes continue. "Before we started the show, I handed Ian Bryant, the sound man, my cassette and asked him to make a board tape for us. And then we went to church."

Mary Lee KortesThus, the recording was never intended for commercial release. But as tapes of the show made their way through the NYC music scene, the positive responses allowed for wider release of this live show.

You have to play Blood on the Tracks from beginning to end. Start with "Tangled up in Blue," move into "Simple Twist of Fate," then rest easy on "Meet Me in the Morning." By the time you get to "Shelter From the Storm" and "Buckets of Rain" at the end, you will have been moved. I was in tears with the album cranked up on my car stereo. Everyone who has listened to this CD has raved about it.

Mary Lee KortesComments Mary Lee, "There's no way to adequately talk about the experience of that night. Suffice it to say, it was indeed a religious one. Like most religions, it had its own silliness. I asked the audience if anyone wanted to come up and sing a couple verus of 'Lily, Rosemary, and the Jack of Hearts.' And of course someone did, for better or worse. I ran into the 'guest vocalist' a couple months later and he told me that someone from the law firm where he worked was also there that night and he almost got fired for 'embarrassing the firm.' You be the judge."

May Lee's band includes Brad Albetta on bass, Rob Hohl on acoustic guitar, Andy York on electric and acoustic guitars, Andy Burton on piano or organ, and Diego Voglino on drums.

Mary Lee Kortes Recalls Mary Lee, "It was a rainy New York Sunday night. The night was running severely behind schedule. It was 11:30 and we were suppose to have gone on at 10:00. Would anyone really stay around this late on a rainy Sunday? Who did I think I was singing these songs? How the hell did I get here?"

Oh baby, did Mary Lee hit a home run. Blood on the Tracks is one of the best albums I've heard in the last couple of years. You can't listen to it in bits and pieces. This is Bob Dylan's break up album, and has to be absorbed in its entirety. Mary Lee's harmonica playing is kind of hokey, and I probably would have faded it down. Yet the whole is an organic statement.

Mary Lee KortesOf course, the temptation is to compare the album to Liz Phair's Exile in Guyville, written as a retort to the Rolling Stone's Exile on Main Street. Yet Exile in Guyville is a piece in time as the Chicago Catholic Liz Phair set out to speak her own mind. (And I say this as a huge fan of Exile in Guyville.) Blood on the Tracks is timeless, a classic set of songs that run the gambit of break-up emotions. These are very different albums, that evoke very different emotional responses.

Do not miss this religious experience with Mary Lee Kortes.

MorcheebaMorcheeba, Charango (Reprise 2002) - Morcheeba is a three-piece outfit that makes British soundscape music, with elements of techno and South American influences. With the languid vocals of Skye, Charango has a lounge feel on tracks such as "Undress Me Now."

The other core members are Ross Godfrey on guitars and other instruments, and beathead and lyricist Paul Godfrey. Rounding out the sound are R&B bass player Pino Palladino and Curt Wagner of Nashville's country soul Lambchop, who assisted with "What New York Couples Fight About."

MorcheebaIn addition, hip hop artist Slick Rick (recently released from jail for shooting his cousin) wrote and delivered the digestible "Women Lose Weight," and Pace Won contributes vocals to "Get Along."

Morcheeba works in the Hooverphonic vein, with more beats and uptempo layers. Explains Paul, "Everything is played live...We've worked, really hard, and done exactly what we have believed in. We haven't had the usual distractions of having to worry about money, or about whether the business is being taken care of."

MorcheebaMorcheeba has three prior releases under its belt (Who Can You Trust, Big Calm, and Fragments of Freedom), which have collectively sold more than three million copies worldwide. Adds Ross Godfrey, "We've used the place we come from - that English beats tradition - and reached out to as many things as possible to make this defining sound."

"Women Lose Weight" is Slick Rick's tale of murdering his wife for getting too fat. Says Paul, "He's taking the piss out of his own shallowness."

You get a big, cinematic feel on "Public Displays of Affection," which is complete with harp, violins, and a bassoon, while "Way Beyond" includes flugel horns to create a sound that Rick describes as "sweet but fucked up, and it sounds druggy, but we haven't actually been doing a lot of drugs. We just like that slightly detached sound."

MorcheebaThe track that keeps drawing me back is "Aqualung," which has nothing to do with Jethro Tull, but which includes a delicious guitar lick that sounds like it came straight from ZZ Top's Deguello.

Concludes Paul, "We wanted this to be our weird, psychedelic, out-there album, but we have such a strong pop sensibility, that we knew that you would be able to sing along to you."

Pay a visit to Charango for a swinging British lounge sound (complete with the instrumental, "The Great London Traffic Warden Massacre).

- Randy Krbechek © 2003

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