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Music Reviews

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January 21, 1998

Save the Last Graham for Me

Chris Thomas KingChris Thomas King, Chris Thomas King (Scotti Bros. 1997) - Former child prodigy Chris Thomas King has released his fourth album, a self-titled project that was produced, written, arranged and performed entirely by the artist himself. A labor of love, Chris Thomas King features a skilled contemporary soul/blues singer.

Now back home in New Orleans, King spent five years abroad after his 1990 major label release Cry of the Prophets (Warner). Chris later added rap to his repertoire with 21st Century Blues . . . From Da 'Hood (1994).

With the release of his new album, this talented singer/songwriter makes a musical statement as a soul singer. In particular, "I Cried" and "L.A. Angel" are soul-stirring ballads, featuring King's strong singing and songwriting.

A talent in search of an outlet, Chris Thomas King will help keep soul alive into the 21st Century.

Edwin McCainEdwin McCain, Misguided Roses (Atlantic/Lava 1997) - Misguided Roses is the second release from Edwin McCain, a quintet built around South Carolina singer and songwriter Edwin McCain. With steepings in both Allman Brothers and Hootie and the Blowfish, Misguided Roses is a solid addition to the southern rock canon.

Now age 27, Edwin McCain drew his early inspiration from North Carolina folk singer, David Wilcox. But Edwin sought to broaden his sound. Acknowledges McCain, "The introspective singer/songwriter thing can get kind of tiresome after a while. I think that a balanced rock-and-roll meal is much better. There is nothing wrong with having a big tearjerker solo acoustic song that tears your guts out, but then let's all sing along to a rock song afterwards."

And who can argue with that. While the album leans toward ballads (not completely surprising, as former Doobie Brother, Michael McDonald appears on the release), the album's best tracks include "How Strange It Seems," a good slice of southern boogie, and "Holy City," a horn-driven number with gospel influences.

Country rock is making a comeback on both coasts. Misguided Roses adds to the new southern rock sound.

FiggsGraham Parker and the Figgs, The Last Rock-n-Roll Tour (Razor and Tie 1997) - Graham Parker, part of the British angry young men explosion of the late 70's (which also included Joe Jackson and Elvis Costello) remains true to his roots. The Last Rock-n-Roll Tour was recorded live last November in Albany, NY. For a live rock recording, it's better than most.

Parker plays songs from throughout his career, from "Back Door Love" (released on 1976's Heat Treatment) through "Glass Jaw" (from 1983's The Real Macaw) to "Daddy's a Postman" (off 1990's Human Soul). Because Parker was touring to support his new release, The Last Rock-n-Roll Tour also includes seven cuts from 1996's Acid Bubblegum, including such angry-but-incisive numbers as "Turn It Into Hate," "Sharpening Axes," and "Bubblegum Cancer."

For my taste, The Last Rock-n-Roll Tour clocks in a bit long at 76 minutes: I prefer the emotive recordings featured on 1989's Live - Alone in America. But, like Lou Reed, any Parker is better than no Parker. So give The Last Rock-n-Roll Tour a chance.

Butch ThompsonButch Thompson, Lincoln Avenue Express (Daring Records/Rounder Records 1997) - Here's an unusual collection - 14 blues and ragtime pieces, featuring the solo piano playing of Butch Thompson. Lincoln Avenue Express may be an old-timey throwback, but with songs by Jelly Roll Morton ("Tomcat Blues") Spencer Williams ("Arkansas Blues"), and W. C. Handy ("St. Louis Blues"), Thompson has strong material.

Thompson will be releasing a set of Scott Joplin rags this Spring. For a radical departure from contemporary pop, listen to Lincoln Avenue Express.

SubcircusSubcircus, Carousel (Dreamworks 1997) - Subcircus is a quartet hailing from England. Based on their dress, they seem to favor 70's glam rock.

I can't vouch for all of Carousel. But the leadoff cut, "Shelley's On The Telephone" is a terrific Rush-inspired track. Look for the single.

-- Randy Krbechek

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