Ben Folds teams up with composer Rupert Gregson-Williams on a slightly risky but largely successful soundtrack, one of the better ones associated with children s movies in 2006.
Although Folds strips away some of The Clash s grittiness with a suburbanized and calmly enunciated cover of the punk group s classic Lost in the Supermarket, he hits his mark with a sound that s still worthwhile just not as raw.
Gregson-Williams delivers a score that is clever and daunting, and Academy Award-winning composer Hans Zimmer serves as the disc s executive producer.
Overall, it s a well-conceived project with a bit of tongue-in-cheek flair. Folds is featured on six of 13 songs, and Gregson-Williams work makes up the other seven, with the numbers intermingled to avoid the appearance of two separate albums.
William Shatner makes a cameo with Folds on one song, Rockin The Suburbs, just in case that means anything.
This is a disc that merits its title. With help from Brian Eno, who s credited here with sonic landscape, Simon pushes musical boundaries. At times he seems to have created tone poems more than songs, devoid of a catchy chorus or memorable melody line, wrapped in arrangements flecked with electronic and pop textures. The lyrics are literate, pointed, and humorous, while the 11 tracks musically reach across the mellow tones of Everything About It Is A Love Song with its rhythm pattern reminiscent of a drum and bass beat; funky and self-deprecating Outrageous ; atmospheric and melancholic Wartime Prayers, and a poign-ant Another Galaxy. All in all, a welcome Surprise.
Ready for one heck of a fun Dixieland foot-stomper? This is it, a real cut-the-rug special that intoxicates with the interplay of clarinet, sax, ragtime piano, bass, drums, and violin. Bandleader Healey, on trumpet, guitar, and vocals, has an easygoing swing and relaxed tempo that s hard to resist, while trombonist Chris Barber, who also contributes some vocals, is an utterly brilliant addition whether he s jamming on Basin Street Blues or simply providing another dimension to an already great sound. Healey, known for his prior blues/rock albums, sets the bar high for the kind of traditional jazz he has been studying since his teens.
This is clearly blues throughout, but it s mostly unlike blues music heard anywhere. Chubby, born Ted Horowitz in the Bronx and anointed by some as the King of the New York City Blues, mixes his rock-driven, hard-charging guitar work with solid vocals that cut to the core of his insightful, urban-based lyrics. His creations cover a broad spectrum that occasionally stretches the blues envelope to its tearing point, yet Chubby should have big success with this refreshing musical journey to the Big Apple.
The debut album by Gnarls Barkley is one part rap, one part pop, one part weird (one track is called Necromancer, and it s hypnotic). It s a collaboration between Danger Mouse (the man behind the bootleg mash-up Grey Album and the Gorillaz second CD) and singer Cee-Lo Green. Most of the album is irrepressibly fun, especially the bouncy The Last Time. And on songs like Crazy, the oddball lyrics are layered over beats that work their way into you. St. Elsewhere s vocals run the gamut, from the screechy rumblings of OutKast to the soulful crooning of Motown. Almost all of it seems to work, and with most of the songs under three minutes, you can forgive the few that don t.
RYAN E. SMITH
In theory, it s an intriguing idea: Find 10 of the world s top fusion guitarists and let them attack some Steely Dan classics. The Dan s music is complex, with time signatures that lean toward the jazz side of things, and it would seem a natural for fretboard meanderings. Unfortunately, The Royal Dan is too esoteric for its own good. Robben Ford, Steve Morse, Steve Luthaker, Al Dimeola, and others end up sounding almost identical on tracks like Peg, Bodhisattva, and Aja, which renders the songs soulless. You ought to be able to immediately tell Morse from Ford, but in their back-to-back songs they sound like the same person, which is the most telling indictment of The Royal Dan.
LET IT RAIN, STOHL-N (Self-released) Local Toledo metal pioneer Chuck Stohl, one of the founders of Damien, returns with a four-piece band that plays old-school hard rock reminiscent of the melodic glory days of the late 80s. A fluent, fast axeman, Stohl revs up a blues workout like That s Life or a straightforward power chord assault like Welcome to Hell. Kudos to lead singer Ed Bruhn, drummer Bob Goss, and bassist Brian LaForge. R.L.
BOOGIE ANGST, Kraak and Smaak (Quango) The Dutch band incorporates the sounds of retro-sounding, percussive, and soulful funk, Latin, jazz, and breaks on a mix of vocal and instrumental cuts. While many of the tracks on this disc, to be released Tuesday, are strongly rhythmic, the band also has an ear for melody, and the array of influences keeps things interesting. R.P.
ALL-AMERICAN BLUEGRASS GIRL, Rhonda Vincent (Rounder) Vincent s sweet voice is complemented perfectly by her backing group, the Rage. With these 13 tunes, filled with contemporary lyrics and stories, she continues to keep the old-timey bluegrass sound fresh and current. Dolly Parton lends a hand in a fine duet on the lively Heartbreaker s Alibi. K.R.