Sunday, May 27, 2018
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CD reviews: Buffett flavors latest concoction with a liberal dash of country

We could call Jimmy Buffett's newest release solid evidence of some serious "changes in attitude" by the artist who made his fortune in Margaritaville, singing about boat drinks and volcanoes.

But that would be unfair, because there has always been a hint of country in Buffett's music. In "License to Chill" he indulges it big time.

Buffett is joined by some of country music's biggest stars - Toby Keith, Martina McBride, Clint Black, Kenny Chesney, Alan Jackson, and George Strait among them - in an assortment of 16 songs that true Parrotheads will find different, but a lot of fun.

The first track may be the best: Buffett and his buddies offer up a rousing tribute to Hank Williams' "Hey Good Lookin'." But there are other gems along the way, including a lovely ballad that is pure country, "Anything, Anytime, Anywhere," plus "Conky Tonkin' " with Black and the title track with Chesney.

Is Buffett crossing over? Not really. He's been a big influence on country music for a long time - Chesney and Jackson, in fact, are certified Parrotheads. Maybe now Buffett can finally get his stuff played on country radio.


With Prince revitalized and touring, the time is right for the Time - and Morris Day - to dig out that Minneapolis Sound with those deep-in-the-groove bass lines, slinky guitar fills, and driving drums. Day goes back to the day of "Jungle Love" and "The Bird" and finds the funk. There also are four new tracks that move the sound forward, including the slinky "Ain't A Damn Thing Changed," and funk and rap mix of "In My Ride."


This grabs you right off the bat with The Who's classic, "Won't Get Fooled Again," the TV show's theme song. But after that, the trip down memory lane doesn't go back any further than a 1995 song by Oasis. Most of the album is a diverse mix of international flavors, from the British trip-hop of Massive Attack to the Latin metal of Ill Nino. There's a good blend of smooth electronica and upbeat dance tempos, as well as a fair balance of mellowness and hypnotic rhythms from the likes of FC Kahuna, Lamb, Nitin Sawhney, and the Doves.


The original Crickets, J.I. Allison and Joe B. Maudlin, rose up at the dawn of rock and roll with Buddy Holly. Later, after Holly's death, the Crickets kept going with the addition of old pal Sonny Curtis. Here, the guys are joined by 13 "buddies" and top musicians in a tribute to the recorded legacy of the Crickets with and without Holly, including Eric Clapton, Nanci Griffith, and the late Waylon Jennings. Alas, the high-energy and reckless abandon of the Holly-led Crickets is missing.


Jesse Malin's second disc has many of the same flaws as his first. Somewhere between the quality writing and production, Malin is held back by his limited vocal ability and the way his compositions reach for something they don't quite grab. The first single, "Mona Lisa," is the kind of bright, laconic song that he specializes in. However, too many tracks are wordy rockers that feature enough dynamics to be mildly appealing without ever qualifying as anything more than serviceable singer/songwriter rock.


There are only six tracks on this new recording, and that means long solos with some maximum track lengths in the 12-plus-minute range. Refreshingly, though, these jazzmen carry on their musical banter in such a way that the phrasing and tonality maintain the excitement level. On the lead song, Lovano's "Alexander the Great," the interplay of musicians allows for the maximum expression of emotion. These men are the standout players of their generation, encompassing all aspects of jazz saxophone playing, with their personal development immediately evident in the listening.


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