randoms_phixrBobby Bare Jr., American Bread (Perfecto Records)
7-song EP of 70s radio-pop rehashes from the fortunate son of country legend Bobby Bare, assisted here and there by fortunate grandson Chris Scruggs.   It’s a departure for the often more punk-oriented (at least as a live experience) Junior, now in his early 40s, but that doesn’t mean we’re talking about some career prelude to a next stop at Dancing with the Stars — although he insists that “people who don’t like Bread or America probably won’t like this record,” it’s more like this: people who don’t like the idea of modern-day Iggy Pop resting his laconic druggy croon over some sleepily cobbled cab-driver-radio retreads probably won’t like this EP.   It’s that kind of thing, sort of, say Jimmy Figurine gone unplugged alt-country.   2 versions of America’s “Sister Golden Hair” here, one drugged enough to fit in with the rest of the record, the second included seemingly just to allow Bare to tinker with his garage chops.   Bread’s “Guitar Man” has its epic coda reduced to some lazy slide in one of the more unhelpful “tributes” to come out of the oh-so-disaffected set in a while. Grade: B- [street date: 8/11/09]

Oakenfold, Perfecto Vegas (Perfecto Records)
I suppose we can dispense with any examination of what criteria big-deal DJ Paul Oakenfold stuck to during the selection of this 2-CD’s worth of, oh, what’s the word, awesome, progressive trance, although just to clarify where you are on the map when checking this out, we should say that all the songs were culled from albums released by artists signed to Perfecto Records.   Yes, belay that nonsense — it ain’t rocket science when regular non-big-city Joes are hunting good workout music; the question is, is it, you know, crazy-good workout music?   Toward that, the answer is yes, Oakenfold is back, although this stuff doesn’t come at you from the same angles as the shrill, lust-lorn supernovae Armin van Buuren prefers (not that that’s bad).   More in tune with your Above & Beyonds, this collection caresses and cajoles the divine, a state that transcends the fitful yearning the big Europeans do.   Hibernate’s “Left Alone” begins things, more than organically enough, with a restrained pulmonary rhythm perfect for your warm-ups (or your closed-mouth-kissing opening move, whatever you use this stuff for), leaving it up to The Fraction to start the hard-pumping in the middle of their “Awaken.”   From there it’s melody by the metric ton and otherworldly segues by your DJ.   No James Bond stuff or (thank God) Brittany Murphy either. Grade: A [street date: 9/1/09]

Dirge Within, Force Fed Lies (Koch Records)
Many’s the time a death-metal band’s gotten lost in the shuffle created by there being too many death-metal bands; it doesn’t help that the “press,” for want of a better term, that propagates the crap is largely comprised of writers who, albeit enthusiastic, gave up on finding uniqueness within the genre about the same time everyone else did.   But a new generation beckons, so they say, promises promises, and a careful look at this 5-piece does reveal some steeping in the classics, so to speak. “Self Medicate,” for instance, visits a little “Armed and Dangerous”-era Anthrax on its cookie-cutter roaring-pirate palette.   And thus their job is done, as is mine in getting you updated on things Dirge Within — the “new era of metal” is a Chinese menu of extreme/death on one column and 80s tape-trader thrash on the other; all that keeps this from complete throwback-dom is the presence of impossibly difficult double-bass paradiddling similar to Nile’s and the absence of a high-pitched Joey Belladonna.   Oh, and the pirate-roaring, which just, you know, never gets old. Grade: C+ [street date: 9/1/09]

Felix Da Housecat, He Was King (Nettwerk Records)
Judging by this slapdash dumpster-load of electroclash, strip-mined Human League and whatever else he’s on about, Felix is still highly enamored of his “outsider” status, even after 20 years.   Or not, right, since it could simply be that he’s succumbed to his own disfigured hype, which has gotten him, let’s see, a working friendship with Diddy (is there any B-lister who hasn’t been used by Diddy?) and a gig soundtracking the Playboy Mansion video game (okay, and some Ibiza slots, big hairy whatever).   But stop a second and go back a few words:   Soundtracked. The. Playboy. Mansion. Video. Game. Unlike the case with 2007’s Virgo Blaktro and the Movie Disco, which I didn’t completely barf on in these pages, HWK is so carelessly spring-break-moronic that it’s more the sequel to the Playboy thing than it is anything else, like a bad hard-dance album redone in slow-mo.   The only thing that actually lends the album any sort of conceptual credence is its title — it’s a riddle, see, because the lead single is the boneheaded electro-house non sequitur “Elvi$,” right (I’m guessing referring to Presley), but the leadoff track is a joke-song called “We All Want to Be Prince.”   Get it? All is not completely disgusting — the fascinating minimal-deep-house entry “Do We Move Your World” is the sort of positive step one would expect to hear from a genuine outsider — but as regards the statement about Prince, I wish he’d speak for himself — or better yet, not, already.   Longevity is a badge of honor only when it’s actually led to something. Grade: D [street date: 8/25/09]

Nathan Moore, Folk Singer (Royal Potato Family Records)
Does require a pair to risk such an album title, doesn’t it, and this isn’t even a full-length but an 8-song EP.   But it’d seem that The Lawd is on this Virginian’s side, guiding him to go solo after spending the last several years busking the good-kid folkie festivals of the Corn Belt and elsewhere with Austin trio ThaMuseMent.   And he’s as down-to-earth about Jesus as he is about being a folk singer — he professes to know that Jesus wouldn’t be too thrilled with the crap going on down here in his name, and when Moore sings in his low baritone he isn’t out to affect a voice-of-a-generation sound but one that’s already widely familiar, say Bob Dylan without all the Bob Dylan.   Nothing wrong with all this, and nothing frighteningly new either, which is the way they like it away from the hustle and bustle coasts — with its open-chord bluegrass pluckings, opening song “Tombstone” goes for the same level of wryly introspective Americana as Stephen Foster, if you really want accurate similitude. Grade: B+ [street date: 8/18/09]

Edmar Castaneda, Entre Cuerdas (Arpa y Voz Productions)
The idea of a jazz troupe led by a classical harpist — as in angels, not John Popper — is a novel one, leaving wonks fumbling for the correct wine-snob way of saying that it’s pretty wild, cool and different.   Castaneda’s ability is certainly tongue-tying enough that an audio sample paints a million hunts through Rogets — he mimics Al Di Meola’s guitar in hideously complicated fusion parts, puts his instrument through expert clavichord paces, etc. — but he does have his gregarious, or Business 101, side, offering easy toeholds for freshly hatched jazz journalists.   Pairing his unpredictable, stunning uniqueness with Marshall Gilkes’s staid, 70s-sounding trombone wouldn’t have been my first idea, but of course I’m the boring white dude who wouldn’t survive ten minutes in the barrio: in “Sabro Son,” the record’s first foot forward, Castaneda gleefully has it all: his ethnicity, his fusion and his Handel.   That’s not the NPR-bait, of course, “Jesus de Nazareth” and its jaw-dropping one-man-show is.   But such is life at the top of the session-guy short list — back and forth like this it goes, the solo pieces almost nullifying the group efforts, a mellow-down battle with vibes guest Joe Locke sounding almost chintzy in the album’s general context. Grade: B [street date: 7/28/09]

Oscar G, DJ (Nervous Records)
Right-full-rudder move for Oscar Gaetan, resident at Space in Miami, who for years has turned lakes of loathsome Ritchie Ritches into oozes of sexual mush through the power of his Danny Tenaglia-patterned tribal house, a primal vibe that translates just as well to car stereo.   3 discs here, one comprising all-original newbies, one club mix and a DVD, a lot of product to offer in this destroyed economy, yes, but even more bold is the huge change in musical direction.   At this late writing it appears that fans are smarting about the potential disappearance of Tribal Oscar and his fabulous noise machine, not that the club mix is a major departure from that sound (no one with legs will be able to resist most of it, although I’m on board with gutting any trace of repetitive nu-disco vomitus like “What is House?” — there’s already a Tommie Sunshine and that’s one too many).   The original tunes are the make-or-break moment here, a risking of the franchise if you want drama, and fortunately the songs are best-of-breed, demonstrating that Gaetan is much more than a glorified MP3 collector.   In other hands — Laurent Wolf, for example, “Stuck On You” would have been a bloody bore emphasizing the pensive piano line, but Oscar’s experiments with noise infuse the song with technopop usability.   As far as putting guys like David Guetta in their place, there’s “Back to You,” buttressed with enough too-cool noise that the unremarkable glitterball-diva efforts of Tamara Wallace become comfortable parts of the scenery.   Same dilly on “I Try,” which features the mononymed Stryke doing a level-headed karaoke of Seal while Gaetan plumbs the depths of subsonic bass nirvana. And there’s your rub: though greatness indubitably abounds, Gaetan needs to make double-damn sure he’s not the artist-DJ equivalent of LeBron James, surrounding himself with second-rate talent who’d rather be sunbathing. Grade: A [street date: 5/19/09]

Bad Boy Bill, The Album (Nettwerk Records)
Canadian DJ Deadmau5, for no glaringly obvious reason other than his deft handling of the potential subtleties of cheesy techno, has had a huge effect on the house music scene over the past year or so.   Thanks to him and Daft Punk, to blame just two, the gates have opened wide, admitting seemingly millions of hacks bearing vocoders, brash crunchy noise, and very little in the way of ideas.   But it’s hard to hate on Bad Boy Bill, first off because there isn’t a no-longer-titillating string of remixes for Britney and Ciara after his Wiki entry, but, more importantly, he’s got to be making Tiesto a little nervous.   Nothing quantum-leap here on his artist debut, a record that will assuredly bum out dance-heads hoping that the vocoder will just go the way of the trilobite, but the songs are big, often stunning, and constructed with a head toward goals far past the under-distributed radio shows.   The resident moll of this release, Alyssa Palmer, has a Havnevik/Bjork hybrid of a voice that lends welcome relief to those who’ve had enough of plain vanilla cute-white-chick-ness; and she soars on the galloping “Falling Anthem,” already a Billboard Dance climber.   Coulda done without the misfit snap-dance on “Headlock,” but even that has a shot. Grade: B [street date: 7/28/09]

Dessau, The Truth Hurts (Wtii Records)
Early aggro-scene-specific artifact from the days when Ministry and Skinny Puppy were teaching drum machines their first murderous moves.   One threat implied in the press blurbs of this 1985-2000 retrospective-rarity comp is that mastermind John Elliott is going to have another go at this band, but it’s hard to think what sort of bleeding-edge relevance might come from something that covered oldschool industrial so convulsively. Perhaps Elliott begins with this end in mind, with the sampled NASCAR Chevys whizzing by at the start of 1999 track “On the Banks of the Wabash Far Away” — and whatever did happen to the promise of truly creative sampling in electronic music anyway? — before leaving your basic Laibach clone crushed underneath what amounts to Satan’s answer to Greater Than One (this is how the new breed should behave, we’re told implicitly: unwieldy, uncut blocks of electronic hatred blasted with vocals effecting Gravity Kills’ little brother running amok).   We later discover that in 1990 Elliott was, like everyone else, chasing the Pups (“Trevethan” up-armors the Too Dark Park tanks with backward-masked Ozzy guitar) and Bauhaus (“Rest My Eyes”), and that earlier on (1986’s “Unshakeable”) he was an admirer of Joy Division.   Maybe looks familiar, but the level of rage summoned to wail away at these core sounds is at least Ministry-level if not beyond, thus whatever Elliott decides to do next, if anything, will not be televised. Grade: A [street date: 7/28/09]

Count Basie Orchestra, Swinging Singing Playing (Mack Avenue Records)
The Count Basie Orchestra is the Harlem Globetrotters of big-band swing, still moving onward and upward 25 years after the passing of its revered namesake, the pianist/leader who competed with the Dorseys and Duke Ellington, among others, for top-dog club rights back when men were men.   With guests like these — highwire scat diva Nneena Freelon helping to represent established royalty, 29-year-old crossover kid Jamie Cullum inflicting a tattered Bobby Darin on a most apropos “Blame It On My Youth” — who needs regulars, but they’re here, conducted by Dennis Wilson, a trombonist hand-picked by Basie in 1977.   Paired with Mack Avenue A&R VP Al Pryor as co-producer, Wilson brings a newness to the sound that doesn’t just come from new jack mixing boards but from the knowledge that there will always be needs within the general culture that only this stuff, done just so, can meet.   And blah-de-blah, this guy and that girl, but it’s only the needless-to-say that needs to be said: if it’s impeccably rendered, timeless classicism you need for your second-chance-at-prom party, this is all half-court behind-the-back nothing-but-net. Grade: A+ [street date: 8/25/09]

Outraged ranting, indie label release news and spaghetti sauce recipes are always welcome.

Email: esaeger@cyberontix.com

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