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Published: Saturday, 7/28/2007

Karp has his witty way with the blues

Although released on one of the nation's leading blues labels, Peter Karp's latest doesn't fit comfortably into any one genre.

He sings blues, yes. And he sings it well. But not in the traditional 12-bar format. He's also a fine lyricist, cleverly constructing erudite stories.

It's not every bluesman, for example, who will reference Homer and Kipling along with Ochs and Mayfield as he does on "Dirty Weather." Or describe a bad relationship thus: "Friction done wore me down/ Like the bald side of a tire" on "Rubber Bands and Wire."

His voice has gruff authenticity as he ranges through country rock, Texas shuffle ("Air, Fuel And Fire"), blues ("I Understand" with such great lyrics as "I understand the New York Times and Camus But, Ophelia, I'll never understand you"), acoustic blues ("The Grave"), and the funky, New Orleans-style "Strange Groove" about a woman who said "she'd rather flirt with death than with me."

This is wonderfully original, literate and funky, witty and rootsy.

- RICHARD PATON

It's not a good sign when '90s alt-rock heroes are doing reunion discs just seven years after breaking up.

As is usually the case in these "reunions," only half of the band shows up. This time it's just lead singer, guitarist, and songwriter Billy Corgan and drummer Jimmy Chamberlin with the other two members - James Iha and Melissa Auf Der Mar - sitting out.

The result is a generic hard rock album, with Corgan's trademark buzzing guitars and thick arrangements giving many of the songs a depressing sameness. Worse, his nasal whine of a voice is at the forefront of the arrangements and he's tackling social issues on songs like "Doomsday Clock," "For God and Country," and "United States" that are beyond his reach.

In its time, the mid-'90s, the band had something to say and was adept at melding album-oriented rock with post-grunge sensibilities. Now it sounds like just another voice, albeit an annoying bray of one, cranking it up for old time's sake and giving Corgan something to do.

No one paid much attention to his solo disc a few years ago, or his band Zwan, so "Zeitgeist" comes across like a cry for attention. The questions is, who's listening?

- ROD LOCKWOOD

With 'Solid Ice' Thackery skates for more than an hour in a blues territory where he's made only brief visits before. This is the cool, hip side of the blues, and Thackery's hot licks make steam rise even there.

There's an honest, soulful expression in these songs, given depth by Thackery's articulate guitar magic.

The tracks are more wrapped in expressive notes and solid melodies, instead of the usual blues riffs.

Throughout, the throbbing backbeat of lowdown blues emphasizes each song and adds meaty sonic layers.

A little rock shows through on several tunes, but it's not a hard rock at all. The instrumentals boast dexterity and warmth simultaneously, while the vocals lean heavily on emotions. The 11 numbers give Thackery credibility in this new, cool dimension.

- KEN ROSENBAUM

This is world-class prodigy Eldar's third album and, one could argue, make-it-or-break-it time in the career of a highly talented, fiery young pianist from Kyrgyzstan who is most often thought of as a hybrid of Oscar Peterson and Toledo native Art Tatum.

His latest album makes up for past shortcomings and shows he has tons of innovation, creativity, and guts. He hasn't lost his love of vitality and speed but, at the age of 20, he's coming of age in terms of musicianship, and meshes well with his combos.

Not everything works. But with nine of 11 songs being originals, he shows brilliance in composing as well as improvisation. Easily his best album, this is one that captures some missing elements and sets him on even higher ground.

- TOM HENRY



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