Thursday, December 22, 2005
MARIANNE FAITHFULL | Live in Hollywood | MVD/DVD
The companion piece of a sort to A Bigger Bang, this 2005 concert speaks volumes. Shattered sounding, croaky and more or less the ultimate example of rock and roll wreckage not yet returned to the Maker’s bosom, Faithfull is everything her perpetually callow and mean-spirited former boyfriend Mr. Jagger isn’t—able to embrace her aging without fighting it or making a joke out of it.
All the classics are here, including the one-two punch of her 1979 highpoint Broken English, the title track of that disc, plus the meanest fuck-you song ever written “Why’d Ya Do It?” Counterbalanced by the sorrowful “As Tears Go By” and “Ballad of Lucy Jordan,” Ms. Faithfull proves she’s become a greater artist than the wigged, dentured 62-year-old parody she once bedded with. More power to her—pick this up as a way of saying “yeah!” (JA)
VASHTI BUNYAN | Lookaftering | DiCristina
Although it’s been 35 years since Vashti Bunyan last recorded an album, it doesn’t sound as if a day has passed between that first disc (Just Another Diamond Day) and the new Lookaftering. While that consistency could be attributed to the spare, folksy approach she takes to her songs, in truth it’s because Vashti Bunyan is not the type of artist to be swayed by progress. We’re talking about a woman who’s spent most of her adult life living a rather Middle-Earth existence in the Outer Hebrides.
That rustic, fairy-magic personality is in full force on Lookaftering, a disc that continues to mine the angelic folksiness of Diamond Day. Though Bunyan’s recent collaborations with Animal Collective, Piano Magic and Devendra Banhart have done much to improve those contemporary artists’ albums, the input here from Banhart, Adam Pierce (Mice Parade) and others does little to alter (or modernize) Bunyan’s truly unique sound. Sometimes, no progress is a good thing. (JF)
BONNIE RAITT | Souls Alike | Capitol
Balancing on a tightrope between crusty, slide-guitar-slinging blues mama and elder AOR stateswoman, Bonnie Raitt tries to please everyone on her 18th release, Souls Alike.
The multi-Grammy winning Nick of Time from 1989 signaled a commercial, if not artistic, high point in Raitt’s career. It also made it difficult to return to the plucky rocking, sturdy soul, earthy folk blues and gutsy New Orleans funk of her distinctive, if uneven, ‘70s and early ‘80s releases. Raitt still cranks that music out live, but her albums typically play it safe by featuring the smooth mid-tempo pop that brought her mainstream acclaim.
The funk edge on Souls Alike is more prominent—helped immensely by New Orleans’ Jon Cleary, her touring keyboardist who also writes two tracks—yet the album exudes a “professional” sheen that dilutes its best intentions.
Athens’ Randall Bramblett contributes the moody “God Was in the Water,” and you can feel the tough Little Feat groove pulsing through “Two Lights in the Nighttime,” especially when Raitt lays into her Lowell George-charged bottleneck solo. “Deep Water’s” brittle loops and the minor-key weirdness of “Crooked Crown” show her trying to push her envelope.
But, like the obviously retouched photos that adorn the album, Souls Alike applies superfluous sonic makeup that often covers Raitt’s raw journeyman complexion. (HH)