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CD Reviews:
Listening Room: Marianne Faithfull, Black Joe Lewis and more...

Of the Oakland Press

Posted: Sunday, March 15, 2009

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Marianne Faithfull, “Easy Come, Easy Go” (Decca) ***

Marianne Faithfull’s 22nd album is subtitled “12 songs for music lovers,” and it certainly lives up to that designation. It resumes her long creative kinship with producer/conceptualist Hal Wilner — it’s their first full-length studio project since 1987 — and he scores by pairing Faithfull’s husky rasp with inventive arrangements of songs that are just ...well, good songs, spanning the decades from Bessie Smith and Billie Holiday to Morrissey and the Decemberists. Some of the tracks, such as Neko Case’s “Hold On, Hold On” and Judee Sill’s “The Phoenix,” rock, while others are more carefully sculpted and nuanced. Among those are a dramatic eight-minute rendering of the Philadelphia folk group Espers’ “Children of Stone” with Rufus Wainwright, while Faithfull teams with Antony Hegarty of Antony and the Johnsons for a revelatory eight minute-plus overhaul of the Miracles’ “Ooh Baby Baby,” which starts out spacious, lush and jazzy and builds to a joyful gospel/soulflavored climax. Her clipped, Brecht/Weill-styled delivery of Randy Newman’s “In Germany Before the War” makes the lyric that much scarier, a jazzy, bass-driven groove lends an earthy quality to Dolly Parton’s “Down From Dover” and the Rolling Stones’ Keith Richards brings effective counterpoint vocals to Merle Haggard’s “Sing Me Back Home.” Faithfull, who we met with her 1964 Stonespenned hit “As Tears Go By,” makes everything her own with her voice alone, but Wilner is a full-fledged creative partner, overseeing these reinventions with just the right instrumental touches — including subtle string and horn sections and some well-deployed guitar solos — and incorporating other guests (Sean Lennon, Nick Cave, Cat Power, Teddy Thompson) for inspired performances that you don’t even have to be a music lover to appreciate, though it surely helps.


Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears, “Tell ‘Em What Your Name Is!” (Lost Highway) ***

This rowdy Austin, Texas, octet’s national debut starts out with the Bar-Kays “Soul Finger” brass lick and ends with vintage, lung-busting screams ala James Brown’s “Please, Please, Please” — which should give you a good idea of the parameters Lewis and company are working in. “Tell ’Em...” is a rocking slice of gutbucket garage soul, mixing slinky grooves with punchy dynamics, stinging guitar, chants (“Humpin’ ”) and call-and-response vocals about a “Big Booty Woman.” It’s a throwback worthy of any hill country juke joint, but with an urgent energy that makes it a present-day delight.

New and Noteworthy:

Bonnie “Prince” Billy, “Beware” (Drag City): Will Oldham’s seventh outing in his Bonnie guise features a guest list that includes underground big shots from the Mekons, Exploding Star Orchestra and the Cairo Gang.

Ron Browz, “EtherBoy” (EtherBoy/Universal Motown): The urban writerproducers (Nas, DMX) turns artist, with help on his debut from Busta Rhymes, Fabolous, Keri Hilson, Jim Jones and Juelz Santana.

Carlon, “Johari Window” (Ropeadope): This is the first national outing from the New Jersey Americana/ rock quartet.

Ace Enders and a Million Different People, “When I Hit the Ground” (Drive-Thru/Vagrant): The former Early November member’s solo debut features a guest appearance by Chiodos’ Craig Owens.

The Mick Fleetwood Blues Band, “Blue Again” (429): The lack of a new Fleetwood Mac record hasn’t kept the group’s drummer out of the studio, this time in collaboration with onetime Mac (and Silver Bullet Band) guitarist Rick Vito.

Handsome Furs, “Face Control” (Sub Pop): This is the second album from the indie rock duo of Wolf Parade’s Dan Boeckner and his wife, Alexei Perry.

Jupiter Rising, “The Quite Hype” (Chime/ Fontana): The retail namechecking club hit “L.A. Girls” has already sparked interest in the urban-electro duo’s sophomore album.

Ida Maria, “Fortress Around My Heart” (Upper 11/Fontana Records): The Norwegian rock singer’s debut has already been a hit overseas thanks to the single “I Like You So Much Better When You’re Naked.”

Branford Marsalis Quartet, “Metamorphosen” (Marsalis Music): The saxophonist and his regular quartet crew step out on one original song written by each, along with a cover of Thelonious Monk’s “Rhythm-a-ning.”

Mike Marshall’s Big Trio, “Mike Marshall’s Big Trio” (Adventure Music): The genre-crossing guitarist teams up with pals Alex Hargreaves and Paul Kowert for an exploration of acoustic music.

Chuck Mead, “Journeyman’s Wager” (Grassy Knoll): This marks the solo debut from the former member of contemporary honky-tonk heroes BR549.

Misguided Aggression, “Year of the Sun” (Sun):

The headbanging quintet from Woodstock — Ontario, that is — delivers its debut full-length album.

Kelly Jo Phelps, “Western Bell” (Black Hen):

The Vancouver singer-songwriter ditches the singing this time for his first all-instrumental outing.

Return to Forever, “Returns” (Eagle Rock):

Here’s a two-disc souvenir of the iconic jazz fusion supergroup’s 2008 reunion tour.

Speck Mountain, “Some Sweet Relief ” (Carrot Top):

This is the first album from the self-described “ambient soul” trio whose Karl Briedrick hails from Detroit.

This Providence: “Who Are You Now” (Fueled by Ramen/Atlantic): The third album from the Seattle pop-punk quartet was preceded by the single “Who Are You Now?”

Various Artists, “Rachel Fuller Presents: In the Attic with Pete Townshend & Friends” (Best Buy): The Who guitarist’s girlfriend showcases her artist-to-artist series on this CD/DVD combo pack featuring performances by Lou Reed, Ben Harper, Tenacious D, Jimmy Fallon and more.

From the Vaults

Nick Lowe, “Quiet Please ...The New Best of Nick Lowe” (Yep Rock); Willie Nelson, “Naked Willie” (RCA/Legacy); Young MC, “Stone Cold Rhymin’: 20th Anniversary Deluxe Digital Edition” (Delicious Vinyl)

New Music DVDs

Rory Gallagher, “Live in Cork” (Eagle Rock)

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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