"Dan's Reviews"

by Dan MacIntosh
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A Tribe Called Quest • The Anthology

Jive Records
A Tribe Called Quest, which began recording at the tag end of the ’80s and called it a career just before the dawn of the new millennium, was a part of hip hop’s highest creative period. They arrived shortly after the genre had evolved beyond "two turntables and a microphone," but bowed out just before the gangstas took over for good. In a perfect world, A Tribe Called Quest is what hip hop might have become. 

Corey Cokes • Jusatase

Varunee Records
While hip hop fans are quick to call its best proponents modern day poets, Corey Cokes -- who doesn’t use rap as his backdrop -- is the real poetic thing. With an authoritative voice that can be likened to the original political musical commentator, Gil Scott Heron, Cokes rattles off his social perspectives, sometimes only with his voice alone. Other times, he applies minimal musical accompaniment. And every once in a while, he even drops in a well placed song clip. 

Brainstorm • The Best of Brainstorm

Rock Dog Records
Brainstorm creates a curious mixture of jazz-fusion flute, synth swing band music and non-techno sounding techno and electronica. Unlike the clinking and clanking of, say, The Chemical Brothers, this group focuses on the softer side of hi-tech. Interspersed among its cop show soundtrack sounding music are the special effects of cash registers ringing, car alarms going off and answering machine messages. Whoever is behind Brainstorm sure has a lot going on in that brain. 

Paxton • Ginger’s Dish

Nemperor Records
Paxton plays the perfect underdog with this low self-esteemed EP. "What’s It Like To Be You" is simply saturated with feelings of jealousy over those ones who make it to the other side of the velvet rope. The music is heartsick rock-pop, which sounds not unlike the sad vibe The Replacements once created. It might even help a few underdogs feel like they have half a chance. Or it may give you a new empathetic friend. 

Al Rose • Pigeon’s Throat

Waterdog Music
Al Rose is brainy roots rocker who is just as adept at putting historical figures into context ("Lincoln") as he is at getting personal about his family ("Day Of Rest"). In either case, Rose’s voice almost breaks with passion here. When he digs into a song, he sings it like his very breath depends upon it. This might get to be a little much after awhile, but it sure beats the cold exteriors found with so many of today’s chart-toppers. 

Mindy McCready • I’m Not So Tough

BNA Records
Mindy McCready has always come off as a tough young character, drawing comparisons back to Tanya Tucker, who also started recording at an equally tender age. This is why one might need to suspend disbelief for just a little while in order to accept McCready’s declaration that she’s not so tough. But McCready’s voice reaches for previously unheard sweetness and tenderness here, which might just make a believer out of you. 

Tracy Byrd • It’s About Time

BNA Records
Tracy Byrd sings with an understated authority, and when this believable voice is matched with just the right song, it can produce magic. The album’s title track is the real showstopper here. Written by Jim Collins and Curtis Wright, and set to a lightly galloping beat, this wake-up call for the overscheduled ones is sure to make a few folks stop in their tracks and smell the roses. It also perfectly captures Byrd’s soaring vocal skills in full flight. 

Clyde Wrenn • Long Day’s Journey Into Night

Surprise Truck Entertainment
 Wrenn sings with a tortured voice, and if these vocalizations here are any indication, his journey into night must sadly be a long one. Backed by gypsy violin in places, and folksy mandolin in other spots, Wrenn is sometimes comparable to an acoustic Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam fame. The disc even includes the saddest fishing song these ears have ever heard, appropriately titled "Fishin’." It’s a sure bet to bait manic depressive outdoorsmen. 

The Ululating Mummies • We Are Not Dead

Planetary Records
Featuring a colorful CD booklet of papier-mache figures, and a disc filled with eclectic world music sounds; The Ululating Mummies make strangely beautiful music. Led by George M. Lowe’s lyrical bass clarinet (and when was the last time you read a bass clarinet reference in a pop music review?), these Mummies are alive, indeed. Is this music intended for a funky jazz bar mitzvah? Perhaps. Whatever its truthful intention might be, though, it comes highly recommended. 

Kevon Edmonds • 24/7

RCA Records
Although Kevon Edmonds may be able to point to Babyface, the modern R&B mastermind, as one of his producers, he actually has more in common with old school soul stars like The Chi Lites and Stylistics. His voice reaches a high register, oftentimes just short of falsetto, in these traditional songs of love and devotion. In this age of the diva, it’s refreshing to hear the sound of a romantic male voice again. 

The Derailers • Full Western Dress

Sire Records
It only makes sense that these torch-bearers for the Bakersfield country music sound should invite that California town’s own patron saint -- Buck Owens himself -- to join them on the song "Play Me The Waltz Of The Angels." At the risk of committing genre blasphemy, country music really started to rock when old Buck started recording, and The Derailers do a great job in keeping that groove alive. With Full Western Dress, The Derailers are right on track. 

Boukman Eksperyans • Live At Red Rocks

Tuff Gong International
Boukman Eksperyans has been called Haiti’s number one voodoo roots band, and with this latest album, the group brings its unique spiritual world music perspective to the naturally beautiful Colorado outdoor stage of Red Rocks. While this outfit’s mixed bag approach to religion -- which name drops everybody from Jesus Christ to Krishna -- might leave even the most liberal theologian scratching his/her head; its mixture of African, American and indigenous music will nonetheless be a treat for the ear. 

Jennifer Day • The Fun of Your Love

BNA Records
Jennifer Day is a diminutive singer with pretty eyes and short hair -- just like Martina McBride. She also stays about as far away from anything resembling country music as McBride does. This debut album features high-spirited and upbeat pop music, without much of anything substantial going on lyrically. It even has a song written by the songwriter-anti-Christ, Diane Warren. Granted, Warren’s songs are money in the bank, but ultimately soulless. Next time; let’s hope Day recaptures her soul. 

Leslie Claussen • Sketchbook

Canto Veritas
There’s a blunt honesty to Leslie Claussen’s folk-based songs on "Sketchbook" which make them worth hearing more than once. News broadcasts make the world look like an accident waiting to happen. Claussen captures this unrealistic paranoia perfectly on "Neighbors": "A child wanders next to me/then backs away mistrustfully/’cause I’m the stranger/I could be the danger/lurking in the dark/it breaks my heart." This album is worth it for these lines alone, but "Faces" is of equally high quality. 

NOTE: Due to space constraints, the following reviews were not included in the print edition of Geoff Wilbur's Renegade Newsletter.  These reviews are only available here in the online edition.

Trisha Yearwood • Real Live Woman

MCA Records
The sound of a mandolin on the opener, "Where Are You Now," is a welcome sound, indeed. Trisha Yearwood, who has strayed far to close to the diva pop side of the fence lately, appears to have come back into the country fold with Real Live Woman. Please Trisha, no more power ballads! It’s mighty fine to hear a superior country female singer like Yearwood doing what she does best, and she is truly in her element here. 

3 Doors Down • The Better Life

Republic Records
The group 3 Doors Down has all the musical and lyrical tricks of a heart-on-its-sleeve modern rock band, without the great songs to make it work. Drummer Brad Arnold has the kind of voice perfect for a Soundgarden or Alice In Chains, but those two groups also gave us many memorable songs. In this age of the "boy toy" and "boy band," there’s probably not enough room on the charts for groups who sincerely desire to communicate. Too bad. 

Luna • The Days Of Our Nights

Cello Recordings
Luna makes tightly knit guitar rock that sometimes sounds like what Steely Dan might ended up like, had they been the product of today’s modern rock scene. It’s an odd mixture of weedy vocals, billowing vocal harmony, and sophisticated musicianship. "I’ve got a head just like a beehive/I think about her all the time," they sing at one point, and chances are you won’t be able to get this memorable one out of your cranium either.

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