Once I Was the King of Spain (10/16/98)
Moxy Fruvous, Live Noise (Bottom Line Records 1998) - For Live Noise, the foursome known as Moxy Fruvous (Murray, Jian, Mike and Dave) capture the energy of their live shows. While there's a bit too much bantering with the audience on the disk, when the band gets into a groove, they are downright engaging.
Thus, the semi-comic interludes of "Kasparov vs. Deep Blue" and "The Lowest Highest Point" could have been omitted in favor of musical cuts. Because the band shines on such tracks as "Psycho Killer" (the classic Talking Heads song) and a great original song, "King of Spain." The latter song appears in two versions, with the five-minute "Cranky Monarch Version" being the standout cut on the disk.
"King of Spain" has a mature, Bryan Ferry-influenced sound, and is a radio-friendly gem which deserves to be enjoyed.
Moxy Fruvous comes across as a hard-working Irish party band, as exemplified by the album's concluding track, "The Drinking Song." Give Live Noise a listen, and wait to be spellbound by "King of Spain."
Cravin' Melon, Squeeze Me (Mercury 1998) - The South Carolina quartet of Cravin' Melon deliver a summertime treat with Squeeze Me, a live seven-song EP. Recorded at the House of Blues in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, the new album is a treat for "Melonheads" everywhere.
Formed at Clemson University, Cravin' Melon consists of drummer Rick Reames, guitarist Jimbo Chapman, singer Doug Jones, and bassist J. J. Bowers. Their first major label release, Red Clay Harvest, was an understated gem from 1997.
With an infectious mix of southern boogie and Hootie-influenced pop, Cravin' Melon is the real thing. Building their name through relentless touring, the EP includes the playful, "My Ex-Stepmother is Gay," and a hidden bonus track of the band's southern rock anthem, "Sweet Tea."
Squeeze Me captures Cravin' Melon at their one-night best. With a blend of southern rock and infectious Carolina grooves, we look forward to their next studio album.
Rod Stewart, When We Were the New Boys (Warner 1998) - Nearly three decades into his recording career, When We Were the New Boys finds Stewart moving away from his big studio productions into a tighter rock format in the spirit of his classic album, Every Picture Tells a Story. With a set of fine tunes, Stewart makes a strong showing on the new album.
And that's one of the hallmarks of Stewart's career - his ability to find solid material. Thus, the new album features "Cigarettes and Alcohol" by Oasis, "Rocks," which was written and recorded by England's Primal Scream, and a Graham Parker song, "Hotel Chambermaid."
Explains Rod the Mod, "No matter what you do in life, you should constantly be improving. If you're a bricklayer, you should be doing it better after 20 years than when you started. It's the same with what I do, and on this album, I think I'm doing better than I've ever done."
Stewart continues. "If this record sounds like my earlier work, I think it's because it's basically guitar-driven, like those first albums were. I was lucky to find two great guitarists, Oliver Leiber and John Shanks, as well as a real rock 'n roll rhythm section, bassist Lance Morrison and drummer David Hallmer."
Also included are fine versions of songs by two of my favorite contemporary songwriters, "Secret Heart" by Canadian Ron Sexsmith and "Shelly My Love" by Nick Lowe (the talented tunesmith and founding member of Rockpile).
Yet, the highlight of the album is a track penned by Stewart himself, "When We Were the New Boys." A mature and reflective song (yet never maudlin), the title track will enjoy substantial airplay on contemporary adult stations.
Rod Stewart has enjoyed his share of good times. Considering the strength of When We Were the New Boys, expect more good years from this Scottish rocker.
Jim Mills, Bound to Ride (Sugar Hill 1998) - Fans of traditional style banjo in a bluegrass setting will be delighted by Bound to Ride, the first solo release from noted session hand Jim Mills.
In describing Bound to Ride, Mills says, "There is not one song on this record that the most `dyed in the wool' bluegrass fan would not consider traditional bluegrass - and that's something I'm very happy about."
Mills says he "was born and raised in the heart of Scruggs-style banjo country in the middle of Raleigh, North Carolina." Mills has played with Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver, and is now a member of Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder.
With songs like "John Henry Blues" and "Big Tilda," Mills makes traditional, old-timey bluegrass banjo music. Fans of this genre will be delighted.
- Randy Krbechek © 1998
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