Thursday, August 11, 2005
The Legend | Columbia/Legacy>
Johnny Cash was the original gangster. Before Ice T and The Notorious BIG were even a gleam in a shorty’s eye, Cash was singing about drugs and guns in songs like “Folsom Prison Blues” and “Cocaine Blues.” But the Man in Black also sang mythic westerns (“Ghost Riders in the Sky”), fiery love ballads (“Ring of Fire”), and humorous story songs (the Shel Silverstein penned “A Boy Named Sue”).
The new box set The Legend covers all of this material on four discs—The Hits, Old Favorites and New, The Great American Songbook and Family and Friends. While each disc is nothing short of outstanding, Family and Friends is a particularly inspired collection. Featuring Cash’s collaborations with everyone from fellow country outlaw Waylon Jennings to his work with Bob Dylan and U2, the CD is a testament to the country legend’s widespread appeal.
There is one major problem with The Legend: the absence of Cash’s remarkable work with Rick Rubin in the last decade of his life—including his haunting take of Nine Inch Nail’s “Hurt.” For most artists, this expansive 104-song collection would be more than enough, but to have a complete picture of this monumental artist, I’d also have to recommend picking up some of Cash’s American Recordings material compiled in the Unearthed box set. (ST)<>
Live at the Fillmore | Concord>
The ultimate bar band for the new era, this enormo-ensemble carries on in that glorious tradition, substituting all musics of the world for the old nightclub rousing standard, blues and soul. This live collection shows that the idea of borrowing from everywhere creates the ultimate party atmosphere—verbal quotes from Grandmaster Flash and musical ones from ancient Salsa licks enliven the noise.
Horn-driven rather than percussive, Ozo’s feel is more Afro-Cuban than Central American and their melodies borrow heavily from the Middle East. That, plus the disparate nature of their best known tunes “Como Ves” and “Saturday Night” (former a Latin romp, the latter, hip-hop) indicates a lack of center save their sorta lefty politicking. They will and do try anything; they’re great players; they include a DVD here which tells you that you gotta be there in the flesh to experience their groove at full force—but you prolly knew that already. (JA)<>
Felt 2: A Tribute to Lisa Bonet | Rhymesayers Entertainment>
Slug (Atmosphere) and Murs (Living Legends) are back for volume two in the Felt series of homages to indie actresses (their debut EP A Tribute to Christina Ricci dropped in 2002.) The former Miss Huxtable gets her two skits, but this album is all about the funk, and the duo gets down to basics real quick, thanks to Slug’s Atmosphere partner Ant on production.
Kicking things off in style with the roller-jam “Reintroduction,” followed by the Shaft-guitar-picking loop on “Employees of the Year,” Ant stays in fine form for the whole album. On top of it all, the Felt duo trades their lines effortlessly, with Murs’ low-toned So-Cal cool playing an effective counterpoint to Slug’s hyperactive raunchy yearnings. The two might start out by poking fun and hounding women, but as the album rides on, the rhymes get more honest and heartfelt, culminating in their sob stories “Woman Tonight” and “The Biggest Lie.”
It’s fine, fun work by all parties involved, and for all their old-school references, recycled funk loops, and recalled rap lines, Felt 2 comes off sounding mighty fresh. (BS)