Thursday, July 31, 2003
A Drug Problem That Never Existed
Side or solo projects and other assorted vanity gestures, usually conceived and consumated when an artist is at a high, are generally a waste of time. Ideas or songs that were rejected before the spectre of popularity appeared are recycled and the hideous curse of self-indulgence is all over the creation like bacteria on a wound. A must to avoid, for the most part.
Not this one. MondoG is Nick Oliveri of Queens of the Stone Age's side thing and is not the Queens at their best in name only. Zingy, carefully-sculpted riffs slammed down with lethal precision, this is more of the same from the master of the Mojave. While it doesn't swim in the newly-Beatle-ized harmonies of QOTSA and its concept is that being a drug addict really isn't the end of the world (not likely to fly in this day and age), it is vintage hard rock.
Quoting and fracturing classic tunes like "All The Day And All of the Night" (in "Here We Come") or Arthur Lee's "Signed DC" (''All I Can Do"), Mondo's druggy song cycle is the story of a man possessed. Maybe made by the unpalatable spirit of dope-fiendery, but I'll take inspiration anywhere it appears now.
Everybody Loves You
In the short computer video on this "enhanced CD," Kaki King talks about being a waitress at the Mercury Lounge in New York City when she's not playing guitar. This 23-year-old artist will likely never wait another table in her life--she's just too good at playing acoustic guitar. She hammers on the strings with all ten fingers up on the neck in ways that are more like a piano player than a guitarist (alá Stanley Jordan). Then there's how she plays the guitar more like a drum than a guitar, using both the strings and the body of the instrument all at the same time. Yes, she can also pick in extremely unique ways, employing alternate tunings to keep everything that much more interesting and off-kilter. This is instrumental music but multiple levels of emotional depth, intelligence, even humor, pour through these sounds. Fans of Michael Hedges and Alex DeGrassi prick up your ears: This young woman is an amazing new talent.
Love, Devotion and Surrender
Revisionism or reality? When this disc was originally released in 1973, the two guitar heroes-- Carlos Santana and Mahavishnu John McLaughlin--were equally billed; now, the disc is entirely under the Santana rubric--look at what selling a ton of records later in your career can do for you!
The true inventor of jazz-rock fusion, McLaughlin meets the inventor of Latin hard rock and the result? A bunch of tepid Coltrane covers (don't even bother comparing them to the originals) as well as chanted title choruses over the noodling of the maestros is the bulk of the disc. A tip of the hat to McLaughlin who could have made mincemeat of the less nimble and versatile Santana, but in 2003, the open-ended jam sounds outright annoying.
Best is "Naima," done as acoustic duet and reminiscent of McLaughlin's finest solo disc, My Goal's Beyond. Worst is the arrangement of the standard "Let Us Go Into the House of The Lord," which bears little to no resemblance to a spiritual awakening. Stick to McL solo and Santana around the time of Welcome, and you'll be fine.