by Dan MacIntosh
Sponsored In Part By
A Tribe Called Quest • The Anthology
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
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
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
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
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
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
The Ululating Mummies • We Are Not Dead
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.