The Boudoir Stomp
Big Blue Hearts, Big Blue Hearts (Geffen 1997) - Here's irony for you. Many critics dismiss Chris Isaak as a Roy Orbison clone. I never bought it: I thought Isaak had his own uniquely-retro sound.
Now comes San Francisco's Big Blue Hearts, which have a spot-on Isaak sound. And that's good, if you're into a smokey, late night-rockabilly sound.
Produced by veteran T-Bone Burnette, Big Blue Hearts was recorded in January 1997 at Coast Recorders in San Francisco. The band consists of David Fisher on vocals and guitar, Jaime Scott on guitar and backing vocals, Michael Anderson on bass and backing vocals and Paul Zarich on drums and backing vocals.
With a rich, warm sound, what guitarist Scott calls "romantic rock-n-roll," Big Blue Hearts opens strongly with "Live Without Your Love" and continues its retro groove right through the concluding "It Was You." Fans of the Chris Isaak/big acoustic guitar sound will dig Big Blue Hearts.
Corey Stevens, Road to Zen (Eureka/Discovery Records 1997) - Corey Stevens is not your usual bluesman. After graduating from Southern Illinois University, he spent ten years teaching 3rd-grade for the L.A. Unified School District before signing in 1995 with Eureka Records. And a good move it was, as Stevens' debut album, Blue Drops of Rain, spent 33 weeks in the Top 10 of Billboard's Blues Album Chart.
Road to Zen finds Stevens producing high-intensity, guitar-oriented blues. The album was recorded during a 15-day period last year between tours, and draws from the state of mind he found while logging 100,000 miles on the road. Says Stevens, "The road is not for everyone because it's so extreme. It's boring, it's exciting, it's exhilarating, and at the same time relaxing. It balances itself out."
Road to Zen instantly brings to mind Eric Clapton both in guitar and vocal stylings. This may be blues, but there's a lot of rock in it. Cory Stevens is a hit song away from entering the mainstream. Be one of the first.
Joni Bishop, Threads (BWE 1997) - Nashville-based Joni Bishop has releasedThreads through Bonneville Worldwide Entertainment (BWE), a Salt Lake City-based organization with substantial investments in T.V. and radio stations. (There are very few record companies in Salt Lake City.) With her country/folk style, Bishop has drawn favorable comparisons to Joan Baez.
Now, that kind of music isn't much in favor these days. Which is too bad, because songs like "Threads" and "Stone By Stone" (about her father, who "took pride in the things he made") deserve to be heard. Admittedly, Bishop's songwriting talent runs a bit thin at times, as on "Blue Bouquet" ("So make it a blue bouquet/Toss it on your wedding day/And I might be the next they say"). But Bishop has an unaffected delivery, and a warmth that's lacking in much popular music.
Scofflaws, Live Volume One (Moon Ska Records 1997) - Moon Ska Records is the home to some of the tastiest ska around. And Live Volume One finds the Scofflaws at their struttin', swingin' best.
Live Volume One was recorded on December 28, 1996, in Long Island, New York. Scofflaws are a renowned ska act, and their version of "Boots" takes the song to places that Nancy Sinatra never imagined.
Another solid new release on Moon Ska Records is Traditions by California's Los Hooligans. With influences from the barrio, Traditions is another swinging ska release.
Ska bands employ numerous musicians (there are eight members of the Scofflaws and nine persons in Los Hooligans), so touring becomes an expensive proposition: you won't see a lot of high-quality ska outside of large urban areas. But don't despair. For a sweaty, up-tempo slice of ska, try Live Volume I.
Rolling Stones and Guests, Jamming With Edward (Point Blank Classics 1972/1997) - Twenty-five years after its murky debut, Jamming With Edwardresurfaces. The album is a Rolling Stones oddity, recorded one night in 1969 while the band was waiting for Keith Richards to wake up.
Thus, Mick Jagger, Bill Wyman, and Charlie Watts let the tapes roll while they fooled around with guitarist Ry Cooder and the late piano player Nicky Hopkins (the "Edward" of these sessions).
The six songs on Jamming With Edward are largely of historical interest. Said Mick Jagger at the time of the album's original release, "I hope you spend longer listening to this record than we did making it." Jagger rightly acknowledged the album's weaknesses; songs like "Edward's Thrump Up" and "The Boudoir Stomp" don't have a lot of staying power. Completists only need apply.
-- Randy Krbechek
Copyright (c) Randy Krbechek
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