Wearin' of the Orange (10/26/2001)
Toni Price, Midnight Pumpkin (Antone's Records 2001) - Austin-based singer Toni Price delivers another serving of her whisky-tinged pop and blues. With a smokey barroom feel, Midnight Pumpkin highlights Toni's skills with a microphone.
Like she did on her prior album, Low Down and Out, Toni continues to draw from her weekly stint at the Continental Club, which seats about 200, and which has been her home every Tuesday night for the last seven years.
Of her Tuesday night sessions, Toni says, "I don't like religion because it comes with rules. But I'm a spiritual person and I definitely feel the spirit on Tuesdays. We're all trying to get healed, all trying to feel the spirit of community."
Toni's band includes Casper Rawls, Scrappy Judd Newcomb, and Derrick O'Brien on guitars, Larry Fulcher on bass, and Barry "Frosty" Smith on drums, with additional help from Champ Hood on acoustic guitar, Riley Osbourne on electric piano, and John Mills on tenor saxophone, and Gary Slechta on trumpet.
Standing center stage is Toni Price, completely self-assured and with nothing to prove. Says Toni, "'Exposure' is just an excuse to get musicians to play for free. I don't need exposure. I need money to feed my kids. You can't give 'exposure' to the landlord."
In 1989, Toni moved from Nashville to Austin, where she reinvented herself. Says Toni, "I came to Austin with nothing. I didn't have a penny in the world, I had an 8-year-old kid, and a cat named Topaz. No money, no car. I was working as a waitress."
Yet the change fit her to a tee. "It's another world. There's like two hundred bars in Austin that have music all the time. It's phenomenal. I've been here ten years, and I've seen it mold and shift and turn around, but it's always alive, and it keeps on being alive."
Toni doesn't write her own songs, but has assembled an enviable collection of bar rock beauties, including the horn-driven swing of "Work on It" (the highlight of the album), "I Want to Do Everything for You" by Joe Tex, and "Like You Used To," by J. J. Cale.
About writing songs, Toni says, "Folks are always coming up to me and saying, 'You know, if you really put your mind to it, you could write a song.' I feel like handing them a block of marble and saying, 'Here, put your mind to it, and chisel out a statue.' Songwriting is just not in me, but luckily I've been able to have access to so much great material."
Adds the 40-year-old singer, "When I was young, I was so focused on my career that I just took my first daughter along with me. She came out of diapers on the road.
"But I learned you can't be a mother and the star of the show and the booker and all that stuff, especially as a single parent. I've always thought freedom was the most important thing to have. But right now, being a mother is more important to me than having total freedom."
While Toni works the slowdown blues on songs like "Something in The Water," she soars on the upbeat numbers, especially "Work on It," which should be a hit. Get healed with Midnight Pumpkin.
Best of Roxy Music (Virgin Records 2001) - Roxy Music - the sultry genre-benders fronted by Bryan Ferry - have reunited for their first tour since the band split up in 1983. In conjunction, they have released the 18-track, Best Of.
And a highly-satisfactory set it is, as the band includes such favorites as "Avalon," "More Than This," and their only No. 1 U.K. hit, a cover of John Lennon's, "Jealous Guy."
Roxy Music was founded in 1971 by Bryan Ferry, Andy Mackay and Brian Eno. The next year brought Phil Manzanera and their first, self-titled album (considered by some to be the best debut ever released). Roxy was known as much for its silky music as the seductive covers on its albums, such as 1974's, Country Life.
Brian Eno left after the second album, For Your Pleasure (1973). He was replaced by Eddie Jobson (violin, synthesizer and keyboards), and returned for Manifesto (1979).
Roxy Music split up following their release of Avalon, their biggest-selling album. Explains Bryan, "We just kind of drifted apart, doing different things." Adds Andy Mackay, "I think it's unnatural to be in a band all the time as in sort of A Hard Day's Night, everyone living in, you know, the same place or whatever, but I think it's perfectly natural to get together as a particular musical unit from time to time. That seems to be perfectly reasonable."
Listen to the punchy beat of "Angel Eyes" or the disco feel of "Both Ends Burning" and you'll understand why Roxy Music was a favorite of midnight lovers. "Love Is A Drug" displays a sound that later influenced Peter Gabriel and Robert Palmer, while "Street Life" shows that the Talking Head's affected vocals did not spring out of whole cloth.
The 18 tracks are arranged in reverse chronological order, starting with "Avalon" and working back to their first, 1972 hit, "Virginia Plaine." The CD booklet is a disappointment, as it does not contain any recording details for the songs. In addition, the biographical information in the CD booklet is sketchy, at best.
But the music holds up, especially from the later albums. Roxy is now engaging on its first world-wide tour since 1983, with original band members Bryan Ferry, Andy Mackay, and Phil Manzanera.
Explains Bryan, "I was out on tour a lot last year, so I was doing a lot of these songs from the Roxy repertoire and I really enjoyed singing them and the audiences were great. And I thought it would be great to get together with Andy and Phil and do a proper Roxy tour this year . . . So we're doing that and it's 50 days starting in Dublin, finishing in Lisbon in Portugal."
As to the tour, Phil Manzanera says, "What will be interesting is that there'll be some songs being played that haven't been played for 25 years or something, you know, ancient rare fruit (interjects Bryan, 'more like ancient relics'), "so I think it will be very exciting for us to play some of them."
Avalon has a double meaning for me. I was told that Avalon was a great album, and when I walked through the record store I found Randy Newman's soundtrack to Avalon (the film by Barry Levinson).
I remember holding my son in my arms while he went to sleep listening to the Newman soundtrack. Only later did I discover that the reference had actually been to Roxy Music's Avalon, which I also enjoy, though it's a far cry from the soundtrack.
Fans of sophisticated, jazz-tinged pop will do it all night long with Best of Roxy Music.
Minibar, Road Movies (Universal Records 2001) - Road Movies is the debut CD from the Los Angeles-by-way-of-England quartet Minibar. With production by T-Bone Burnett (who recently topped the charts as the producer of the Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack), the 11 tracks are representative of sad-eyed electric country.
Minibar consists of Simon Petty on lead vocals and acoustic guitar, Sid Jordan on bass and piano, Tim Walker on electric and pedal steel guitar, and Malcolm Cross on percussion and keyboards. The band moved from London to Los Angeles two years ago when it found that the Southern California environs more suited its blend of distilled electric country.
Minibar moved to Los Angeles in July 1999, after a brief visit made it clear that Southern California was where they belonged. Says Sid Jordan, "We never really thought about it much in England, but it just suddenly hit us to go to the home of the music we love."
Continues lead singer Simon Petty, "The English are known for a short, punchy pop structure. We listen to a lot of American music, that's where the flavor comes from, but the songs are still quite English . . . Harmonies are the key thing we love in the band. The three-part harmony thing is very West Coast, which is really our musical homeland."
Producer T-Bone Burnett is a steadying influence, with songs like "Lost in The Details" and "Cool Water," living up to a long heritage beginning with Gram Parsons and continuing through Wilco. Also included is "Choked Up," a cover of a Whiskeytown song.
Explains Simon Petty, "It was the tail end of Britpop, and we were playing three-part-harmony pedal steel guitar songs. It was very unfashionable at the time, although it's probably quite fashionable now. Everybody seems to have a pedal steel guitar player now."
For a British interpretation of country rock, try Road Movies.
- Randy Krbechek © 2001
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