Thursday, July 8, 2004
The Best—Make the Music Go Bang
Another best-of collection, and this one in the wake of a boxed set released a few years back that was semi-definitive. Why then would one want it?
For one thing, by eliminating the unneeded outtakes and adding singles mixes, this collection adds to the noirish Indie legends cache. Also, it has tracks from their side project, The Knitters, a live take of “Around My Heart” that eclipses the disastrous studio rendition, and the latter day “Country at War,” the best track on their last studio offering, Hey, Zeus.
All the same, it behooves anyone who’s heard the legend and not the music itself to get their first four discs, period, and go to ITunes for the single “4th of July” to complete. This sampler is for people who might have slammed in the pits of an adolescence past and want an overview, but the real deal is the total deal from 1980-85.
With the secret of their incendiary live shows slowly leaking out, Ozomatli returns on a new label with their first full-length album in three years. And despite their schedule of non-stop touring, it’s clear that the Ozo crew has been hard at work perfecting their studio chops as well. Street Signs has Ozo’s familiar style of hip-hop/Latin infused funk, while providing room for experimenting with new sounds and expanding their diverse talents even more.
Their previous album, Embrace the Chaos, was released at the cusp of an unexpectedly changed world on the unfortunate date of 9/11. In the three years since, it is clear that Ozomatli has absorbed those changes, making Street Signs into a conscious post-9/11 release. From the first track, “Believe,” featuring Moroccan sintir player Hassan Hakmoun and Jewish-Gypsy violinist Les Yeux Noir, Ozomatli puts forth a message of unity, incorporating a middle-eastern influence into their music. The result is a true album of the world. From the Prague Symphony setting the mood for several tracks to founding Ozo member Chali 2na’s (Jurassic 5) rapping verses over Indian tablas and handclaps on “Who’s to Blame?,” Ozomatli has created an amazing tapestry filled with bold sounds and powerful messages. And you can still dance to it.
Diamond Dogs – 30th Anniversary Edition
Diamond Dogs—David Bowie’s perennial reinvention for the year 1974—was a major conceptual failure and the first sign of what many fans consider to have been a long and slow artistic deterioration. Based on George Orwell’s 1984, Diamond Dogs aimed to be a dystopian nightmare vision set to rock ‘n’ roll. Its main feature, though, is the depressing absence of Bowie’s backing band of previous albums, The Spiders From Mars—who were let go due to Bowie’s need for perpetual newness.
Sorely missed is guitarist and arranger Mick Ronson, whose combined technical ability and expressive passion seems to be rivaled only by Queen’s Brian May. Bowie picked up the slack on Diamond Dogs by playing all the guitars, but he proved to be a pitiful replacement. And by ’74, Bowie’s voice had been tanked by smoking, a habit that on his previous records had lent his voice a lovely sandy quality, but by this time confined him to a lower register.
Although the new lineup included drummer Aynsley Dunbar (Frank Zappa) and bassist Herbie Flowers, who is credited with work on over 500 hit recordings, they didn’t make the grade. And the rest—albums like Young Americans, modeling contracts, his role in Labyrinth—is history.