Thursday, May 22, 2003
Deluxe Edition MCA
How do you improve on perfection? You don't. But to exhaust the roots and genesis of what must surely be one of the greatest rock records ever made is reason enough for this edition of Who's Next, and even if the add-ons are for historian-only purposes, the vastly better sonics and packaging make it a worthy purchase. If you own a television set, you've heard almost half of these melodies in commercials, which is a disturbing aesthetic in and of itself. But full-length raved-out takes of "Bargain" and "Behind Blue Eyes," as well as the indestructible "Baba O'Riley" could convert any lover of the modern style to the classic by dint of sheer aural punch, provided by the world's finest and oddest rhythm section, John Entwhistle and Keith Moon. There are half a dozen tracks with second guitar by Mountain's Leslie West that round out disc one. Disc two is a live premiere of most of this stuff at a small theater called "The Young Vic," which includes a massacre of the oldie "I'm a Roadrunner" and a great rendition of the out-take "Naked Eye." No Who fan, hell, no rock fan should pass this enriched, enhanced two-fer by.
Oh Cracker, Where Art Thou?
David Lowery's commitment to twisted takes on Americana was established well before he founded Cracker. Camper Van Beethoven, Lowery's first band, did just that; Cracker has been a continuation of that mission, not something entirely different. Anyone who has ever heard Leftover Salmon knows they have had a similar mission over the last decade. So when David Lowery heard Leftover Salmon twist a Cracker song to their own devices, he hatched a plan. Lowery and bandmate Johnny Hickman would make a Cracker record that twisted the already twisted Cracker canon--which contains many FM-radio hits--as only the instrumentalists of Leftover Salmon could do. Hence we get a true collaboration on Oh Cracker, Where Art Thou? Lowery and Hickman provide the vocals and the compositions, while Leftover Salmon provides the music. "Eurotrash Girl," a tale of searching for an underground woman all over Europe--and of course not finding her--becomes a strange acoustic waltz. "Mr. Wrong," about how low-life men sometimes wind up with the hottest women, is similarly hysterical. On "Lonesome Johnny Blues," what can be said, except the double and triple entendre effect is in full force and it rocks out Johnny-Cash-on-drugs style. I could listen to "Sweet Potato" all day, but "Low," "Ms. Santa Cruz County," and "Get Off This" are equally sublime. Featuring mandolins, banjos, barroom boogie keys, acoustic (and sometimes scorching electric) guitars, and everything else Leftover Salmon has to offer serves these songs extremely well. "Teen Angst" as fast bluegrass? Yes, it works! It is a tribute both to Cracker's songs and vocals as well as Leftover Salmon's musicianship that this record, which was recorded in just a couple of days of furious jamming, is so damn excellent.