Go Long With Jimmie Ray (5/22/98)
Jimmy Ray, Jimmy Ray (Epic 1998) - 22-year-old Londoner Jimmy Ray is a man who knows a catchy beat. With a laid-back Anglo hip-hop sound that is reminiscent of G. Love, Jimmy Ray should sell a lot of records.
The English have long enjoyed American 50's rockabilly, and Jimmy Ray draws on the spirit of such artists of Eddie Cochran and Gene Vincent.
Says Jimmy Ray, "There were a lot of these old singles lying around that I used to listen to when I was eight or nine years old. Even then, I could sense the excitement of the original rock 'n' roll, what a revolutionary thing it was in England."
In his late teens, Jimmy formed two bands - the Cutting Room and A/V, which built on a fusion of rockabilly and techno. When A/V didn't pan out, Jimmy set off on a new creative course. Says the singer, "I learned a lot about production from A/V, about incorporating samples and other modern elements into the music."
The result is Jimmy Ray, a 37-minute pop delight which was co-produced by Jimmy Con Fitzpatrick. (Expect Con Fitzpatrick should become a highly sought-after studio-man based on Jimmy Ray).
Thus, tracks like "Are You Jimmy Ray?" and "Look Inside for Love" are catchy pop singles with polished production. Changing gears, "Sex for Beginners" has a swinging 50's rockabilly sound, while "Daddy's Got a Gun" is a more reflective slice, with slide guitar.
The problem with G. Love is that his albums only have one or two catchy singles. Jimmy Ray avoids that pitfall; all ten songs are strong. Expect to hear a lot from this lanky musician.
Vaganza, Vaganza (Outpost Recordings 1998) - Vaganza is a twosome from New Jersey consisting of Quigley and David Wallingford. With a sound that resembles a cross between David Bowie and Brian Wilson, Vaganza is a likeable slice of a glam pop.
The Garden City duo seeks to be flamboyant, and delivers the goods on their stylishly bombastic debut. (Wallingford acknowledges that the pair "spent a lot of money on costumes. We even circulated or demos in costume.") The pair selected the name because "it sounds vaguely European and a bit obscene. It is also Latin-sounding, which is appropriate since we love Latin jazz."
Yet there's not much Latin jazz on Vaganza, on which Quigley and Wallingford share all writing, arranging and playing duties (including vocals, guitar, bass, and keyboards).
Recorded during a two-year period, Vaganza is a labor of love. The standout cuts are "Every Day" and "Mama's Playing Away," both radio-friendly anthems of love.
Fresh rock comes in the most unlikely places. Like Edwyn Collins, Vaganza takes Bowie's pop stylings and puts them in a lighter atmosphere. Fans of quirky pop will be delighted by Vaganza.
Ani DiFranco, Little Plastic Castle (Righteous Babe Records 1998) - Veteran performer Ani DiFranco (though she is only age 28) has taken control of her career in a way that few artists can claim. Starting with her first record in 1990, Ani has steadfastly refused overtures from major labels and has stuck with her own record company, called "Righteous Babe Records."
With her 11th album, Little Plastic Castle, DiFranco shows why she is a favorite of the alternative and college rock scene. Thus, songs like "Deep Dish" and "Swan Dive" reflect her alternative talents, while the title track pokes fun at all the people who try to pigeonhole her into a particular genre or political statement.
Ten years of studio experience count, and Little Plastic Castle is a polished and accessible recording. DiFranco calls herself the "Folk Singer," which reflects her folkie roots.
Ani DiFranco is an artist we can all admire. A worthy follow-up to last year's live Living in Clip, Little Plastic Castle will reward fans new and old.
- Randy Krbechek © 1998
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