Thursday, October 11, 2007
AKRON/FAMILY | Love Is Simple | Young God Records
The next time someone tells you that rock music will never be as adventurous as it was in the glory days of the ‘60s, pop in Love Is Simple, the new record from New York’s Akron/Family, and watch their head explode.
A/F’s gamut-running influences range from Crazy Horse and the Chicago Art Ensemble to Led Zeppelin and the Grateful Dead, but their shamanistic mix adds tribal beats and field hollers and minimalist drone and prog-rock strings. A brief, twangy intro recalling the subdued nature of their self-titled debut opens the record and states its hippie-friendly theme – “go out and love, love, love, everyone” – then drifts into “Ed Is a Portal,” an Akron/Family primer in their anything-goes aesthetic.
The seven-and-a-half-minute epic opens with a banjo-powered campfire sing-along that morphs seamlessly into a droning, loose-limbed tribal-beat field holler that builds in tension until it turns on a dime into a Topanga Canyon chill-out. That section picks up momentum before reverting to the main tribal theme and a body shaking crescendo, which suddenly becomes a spacey outro of processed beats and disembodied voices.
Scattered elsewhere throughout the record are traces of Gilbert & Sullivan, Neil Young guitar workouts, Eastern-tinged trances, No Wave skronk, Meddle-era Pink Floyd space rock, back-porch Appalachia, and the occasional indie rock anchor. The head-spinning twists and turns will undoubtedly leave you disoriented occasionally, but it’s never dull, and there is enough music-making ecstasy here to make up for any overly ambitious missteps. – John Schacht
CHRIS BOTTI | Italia | Sony
Better known to most as the co-host on the old Caroline Rhea Show, Grammy award-winner Chris Botti has created a string of well deserved certified gold selling albums.
One of the few artists to transfer over from jazz to the pop charts, his latest recording combines the best aspects of his most recent recordings: duets and orchestral scoring. His playing is supremely sweet behind Andrea Bocelli’s singing of the title song, “Italia,” and Botti tosses off difficult licks effortlessly in his duet with Paula Cole on “The Very Thought Of You.”
Honoring Gil Evans’ work with Miles Davis, the orchestral scoring on “The Way You Look Tonight” breathes new life into this jazz standard. Botti’s improvised lines dart and weave through the texture proving a skill belying his seemingly effortless exertion.
Other highlights include a perfectly matched choral accompaniment to Botti’s sotto voce playing style on “Ave Maria” and an impassioned and soul-bearing reading of “Nessun Dorma” from Puccini’s opera Turandot is magnificent. – Thomas Erdmann
GALACTIC | From the Corner to the Block | Anti
Galactic makes up for lost time – four years, in fact, since its last CD – by collaborating with some of the hippest hip-hop artists around. The result is a work that deftly transcends its novelty with room to spare.
Much more than a jam band’s reach for street cred, From the Corner to the Block features a New Orleans band that is finally ready to shed any of its Meters comparisons (if they still remained) but is also perfectly comfortable playing with others. It doesn’t get much better than the hard-charging opener, “What You Need,” in which Lyrics Born delivers his half-spoken, half-rapped lyrics over the funky rhythm section of drummer Stanton Moore and bassist Robert Mercurio with a decidedly ‘70s groove. Other guests deliver, including Blackalicious’ Gift of Gab on “From the Corner to the Block,” tugged along by Mercurio’s fat bass lines, and the Coup’s Boots Riley on “Hustle Up.” The real hero is saxophonist Ben Ellman’s production, seamlessly fusing the funk and hip-hop elements to avoid any discordant moments. – David Lee Simmons