Love Among the Sailors (6/21/2002)
Laurie Anderson, Live in New York (Nonesuch 2002) - Avant garde performer Laurie Anderson returns to the source with Live in New York. Recorded just a week after the attack on the Twin Towers, the 100-minute concert finds Laurie in fine form, performing on stage with the band for the first time in years.
Laurie Anderson has defined post-modern multi-media during her career, and her live performances have challenged audience expectations, including concerts lasting upward of four hours.
For Live in New York, Laurie provides vocals, violins and keyboards, and is joined by Skuli Sverrisson on bass and concertina, Jim Black on drums and electronic percussion, and Peter Scherer on keyboards and samples.
Says Laurie, "This was really the first tour I have ever done with the band, and I found it exhilarating . . . The musicians learned the songs really quickly and invented new parts so fast that I kept adding pieces and it was great fun to bring these old songs back to life."
Amazingly, the slightly-off kilter world that Laurie has inhabited for the past 20 years has caught up with her, as computers and increased level of communications have brought new meaning to her droll and sometimes comic lyrics.
Laurie's principal instruments are her voice and her wit, which are showcased on Live in New York. Laurie dips into a grab bag of old favorites, including "Strange Angels," "O Superman," and the highlight of the album, "Let X = X," with its gorgeous melodic interlude.
Without the video, sets, or costumes of her performance/productions, Laurie focuses on the song and the times. Says Laurie of her performance in New York City, "The atmosphere in the City was eerie, like during a strange holiday. The driven people in New York had all suddenly experienced enormous fear and uncertainty. Unable to predict, we were simply looking and listening."
With her post-modern tendencies, Laurie qualifies as one of the Bards of New York. The first disk clocks in at 37 minutes, while disk two stretches out to almost an hour, concluding with "Love Among the Sailors" and "Coolsville." Laurie also adds a couple of comic spoken word comic pieces, including "Beginning French." (On which it is clear that Laurie, for all of her smart lyrics, has never been a parent).
According to Laurie, the show was meant to be a live version of Life on a String. That it is not is no big disappointment. Her preceding album, the first of new material in seven years, was somber and dark, too unappealing for repeated listenings.
Yet the sharp three-piece combo on Live in New York helps flesh out the meaning in Laurie's words and strange timbres. Not for the faint hearted, Live in New York has tender beauty at its core.
Eliza Gilkyson, Lost And Found (Red House Records 2002) - Now in her 50s, Eliza Gilkyson continues to make Southwest folk-pop. With Lost And Found, Eliza has a new-found stability.
Eliza comes from a musical family: her father, Terry Gilkyson, was a folk singer in the 50s, writing such songs as "Green Fields" and "Memories Are Made of This," while brother Tony Gilkyson was the guitar player for the L.A. band X. Recalls Eliza, "There were always musicians around our house, much to our mother's chagrin, and I knew early on I was fascinated with music."
Continues Eliza, "The first record I bought was Phil Ochs' I Ain't Marchin' Anymore. My aunt had a record store in Santa Fe and we went up to visit, and we each got to choose a record. I think it's kind of perfect in a way - he was dark, complex, politically oriented, and socially concerned - it fits."
Between stints in New Mexico and Austin, Texas (where she has lived for the past several years), Eliza spent time in Europe on the New Age circuit. Recalls Eliza, "I'd been a folk singer my whole life, so being seen as a New Age artist was kind of a drag . . . But those fans are great people. The whole thing helped me get some visibility, but it wasn't correct. I don't think. It wasn't a real representation of me."
Back in the United States, Eliza has released such folksinger efforts as Through the Looking Glass (1996), Redemption Road (1997) and her last release, Hard Times In Babylon (2000).
Looking back on Hard Times In Babylon, Eliza admits, "It really was an accumulation of things that had happened to me but it made me realize: I've hit bottom. What's bottom like? . . . It is a diary of a season of loss, and I've called it my dark record."
Adds Eliza, "I definitely had a lot of blows happen to me at once, you know, but pretty much the stuff that happens to everybody - you lose a relationship, you lose your home, you lose a loved one. You know, that's life, especially as we get older."
Yet Eliza seems to have turned a corner, as the opening "Welcome Back" has an up-tempo feel. And her recording of "Love Minus Zero/No Limit," which appeared on last year's Bob Dylan tribute, A Nod to Bob, was a treat. Lost and Found also includes a sweet love song, "Fall Into The Night," and the complex guitar work on "Richmond Boy."
Eliza works with a band that includes her son, Cisco Ryder, on cajon, Glenn Fukunaga on bass, Eliza on acoustic guitar and vocals, Mike Hardwick on dobro, Terry Gilkyson on electric guitar, Lloyd Maines on lap steel, Rich Brotherton on mandolin, Jeff Plankenhorn on dobro, and David Webb and Michael Ramos on Hammond organ.
Not to outdo herself, Eliza also delivers her dirge of the day with "Mama's Got a Boyfriend," and slips on a Warren Zevon cloak for "Angel & Delilah," in which she sings about "Me, you, and your death wish."
Adds Eliza, "There are two things going on in my earlier work. One is denial, where I'm trying to sweep my experience under the rug of spirituality and try to prop myself up without really going around and confronting my true feelings . . . I think you'll see some of that if you look back. Sorrow for the sake of sorrow."
Happily, Eliza has largely moved beyond her sorrowful period with Lost And Found.
Unisex, Salon (2002) - Unisex is a post-punk glam jam from New York City. Fronted by sexpot singers Gina Calavera and Kenyon Corazon, the New York City-based band lays down a funky groove on this three-song demo.
The band harkens back to the days of Roxy Music and the Tubes with their gender-bending sound. According to the band, the sound is "sexy glam rock." The rest of the band is Lamar Guitar on guitars, Vegetable Jo Mein on bass, Bobbie Meow on keyboards, and Jessie Torrisi on drums.
Salon is a tight calling card, with "Fat Ass" being the highlight ("I'll share my razor blades with you/I'll share my Ritalin with you/I'll share my STDS with you/I'll share my kiddy porn with you").
There are no holds barred for this combo, although I think you have to see the live show to fully appreciate the band.
- Randy Krbechek © 2002
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