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  Listen Up! 9/23/02 Listen Up!

Monday, Sept. 23

Johnny “Guitar” Watson, “The Very Best of,” Rhino Records. Back in the 50s, Johnny “Guitar” Watson cut through what was basically average if enjoyable jump blues cuts with a snarling guitar tone and a swaggering vocal. This CD collects 18 strong examples of just how well he strutted his stuff.

The Soundtrack of Our Lives, “Behind the Music,” Republic Records. I forget where these guys are from, Sweden or something like that, I think. I definitely know where they’re coming from, which is the classic 60s progressive pop/rock pantheon of late Beatles, Small Faces, Love, etc. Guitar riffs that serve as hooks and musical transitions, swirling keyboards, rhythm sections that glide in the pocket and fill lots of space between vocal lines, and melodies of imagination and vigor. These guys apparently have spent time opening for Oasis, and I can easily imagine the fit, even if the SoOL are so much more creative.

Horace Silver, “The Stylings of Silver,” Blue Note Records. I’ve never heard or even seen this particular album, recorded just a few months more than 45 years ago. Silver was fresh out of the Jazz Mesengers, and he had Hank Mobley and Art Farmer on board from that unit, playing tenor sax and trumpet respectively. The rhythm section was very different from the Art Blakey-led Jazz Messengers. Teddy Kotick plays bass, and I know nothing about him except he’s got a nice driving ability at the bottom end. The drummer here is Louis Hayes, far lighter and more willing to stay behind the scenes than Blakey. This is some terrific stuff, though, killer hard bop from the era when hard bop was being born.

Eliza Carthy and Nancy Kerr, “On Reflection,” Gadfly Records. I try to tell myself Eliza was a teenager when some of these recordings were made, and I try to tell myself she couldn’t possibly have been more than a talented novice full of enthusiasm, and I try to tell myself that there are probably better fiddlers in the world anyway. But, never mind! These tunes are so lively, so full of passion and wonder and longing and hope and joy and sadness and love! You just can’t help but be brought under their spell. I’ve seen Eliza play at least a dozen times with her family, and I’ve enjoyed her steps outside the straight-ahead trad folk world, but this stuff, with her young ally Nancy Kerr, may document her truest heart, a woman in love with the experience of music qua music. At any rate, I’m trained to work and concentrate through lots and lots of great records; that’s what I’ve done all my adult life. But this one is hard to ignore. I’m just hornpiping and reeling all over the office, in my mind.

Ikara Colt, “Chat and Business,” Fantastic Plastic. I know nothing about these guys, but they rock pretty well, kind of like an amiable Stooges. They’ve got that old-fashioned straight-ahead driving guitar/bass/drums thing going, and the vocalist is very much in the Iggy mold. The refreshing thing is the amiability of it all. They don’t sound mad, or drugged-out, or sexually intense, just like a bunch of guys having a lark playing this old-fashioned music. Yeah, you could say it’s like Dixieland, but they bring an oddball innocence to the table that makes this particular recreation sound new.

--Steve Pick



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