Thursday, September 16, 2004
The Revolution Starts…Now | E-Squared/Artemis Records
For even the most avid fan, it is hard to keep up with singer/songwriter Steve Earle’s impressive output. Including his latest album, The Revolution Starts…Now, Earle has released five CDs since 2000. With such a glut of material, some fans have to decide what’s essential.
The Revolution Starts…Now is essential Earle because it is—as he says in the liner notes—his most “immediate” release. Recorded in a whirlwind of sessions after the prisoner abuse scandal in Iraq broke, listeners can feel his palpable anger and desperation on numbers like “Home to Houston,” a Johnny Cash-like country rocker about a contractor in Iraq, and “F the CC,” an expletive-filled condemnation of the FCC’s current conservative bent. Other songs like “Warrior” and “The Gringo’s Tale” take a more subtle tact to decry the current state of the nation.
Unfortunately, the album’s immediacy is also its Achille’s Heel on numbers like “Comin’ Around,” the obligatory duet with Emmylou Harris that’s a tad underbaked, and “Condi, Condi,” an amusing but lightweight ode to National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice. (ST)
REVEREND HORTON HEAT
Revival | Yep Roc
For nearly 15 years, Reverend Horton Heat and his trio have been preaching the gospel of hot cars, hotter women and fiery liquor, all played to the psychobilly hilt. But at this point, the group has exhausted the rather limited genre’s potential, spitting out more of the same in various permutations. The sound provides a vigorous workout, but it isn’t building new muscles.
On their eighth album, Heat and the gang burn rubber throughout the usual twang-on-steroids fare of “Callin’ in Twisted,” “If It Ain’t Got Rhythm” and “Revival,” all tunes that could have been recorded for any of the band’s previous discs. Yet the chorus of the latter—“I’m looking for revival, that’s all that I can do”—speaks to a search for something deeper.
Also on the album, Heat indulges his passion for slow, reflective and sensitive ballads, such as “Someone in Heaven,” “We Belong Forever,” and the ‘50s slow dance “Lonesome Man.” These pit stops off his usual hot-rod track show Heat has the ability to travel down some challenging new roads. (HH)
London Calling-The Legacy Edition | Epic Records
The last of the great “double discs” (preceded by the White Album, Exile on Main Street and Layla), this 1979 masterpiece was a huge dose of cold water across the brows of the small cadre of punk rockers that had devoured this band’s earlier work in total. Buzzsaw guitars and amphetamine tempos gave way to shuffle, strut and soul; the formerly buried vocal stylings of Strummer, Jones and Simonon were upfront and loud; and the appearance of horns and keys was everywhere. Most incredibly, the album was notable for the arrival of a genuine hit song in the form of “Train in Vain,” which was included so late it didn’t even make the track listing.
Instead of derision, the discs were met open-armed. The title cut has become an FM staple over the last 25 years, and with good reason. Other standouts include “Clampdown” and the melancholic “Lost in the Supermarket,” an even more explicitly anti-capitalist statement than anything on their debut.
It is remastered and, frankly, anyone who even claims they like rock and roll music at all and doesn’t own this is a sad poseur. As close to perfect as any 19+ tracks ever made. Get it and now. (JA)