February 2, 1994
Love Jones, Here's to the Losers (Zoo 1993) -- Love Jones, a five-man band hailing from Louisville, Kentucky, has released a sly genre-bender in Here's to the Losers, an album that is a flashback to the smooth and tasty 50s lounge sound of Tito Puente. The band consists of talented musicians performing (slightly) frothy material; it's hard to tell whether they're really serious about this gig, or just on a Buster Poindexter-influenced jag.
The group, founded by singer-percussionist Ben Daughtrey and bassist Barry Thomas, consider themselves "casualties of punk and hard core music"; Daughtrey even reports that he suffered significant hearing loss while drumming for alternative bands such as Squirrel Bait, False Prophets, and The Lemonheads. The Love Jones now say they are spearheading the "anti-grunge movement," and dare the listener to "get off your grungy-little-flannel-shirt-Doc Marten trip already."
The band mixes its swinging sound, jazzy harmonies, and Brazilian samba influences to produce a cool be-bop sound. For example, the group's strong three-part harmonies are featured on "Warming Trend," while its laid-back approach and bossa nova flair is revealed on "I Like Young Girls."
The recording is fresh -- the basic tracks were recorded live, and the vocals were cut "the old-fashioned way" (i.e., with all three singers sharing one mic). The standout cut on the disc is "Custom Van," which features the smooth rhythm guitar playing of Chris Hawpe in front of campy, 70s-retro lyrics ("Custom Van/We made love in the back of my custom van").
As "alternative" bands become the norm, groups like the Love Jones find themselves at the forefront of a truly alternative sound. If you want something new, don your smoking jacket and let Louisville's finest lay down their mellow, syncopated beat.
Laura Nyro, Walk the Dog & Light the Light (Columbia 1993) -- Walk the Dog & Light the Light marks the 11th album from multi-talented Laura Nyro. Laura, whose cultural and political progressiveness resonates in her music, has released a sophisticated disc that matches her silky voice against songs that reflect her spiritual, social, and sensual visions.
Laura made her professional debut in 1965 at the legendary hungry i coffeehouse in San Francisco. Laura's first album followed a year later, and she continued to write songs and release albums throughout the late 60s and 70s. Her songwriting talents are renowned in the business, as her tunes have been made into hits by such diverse artists as Three Dog Night, Mama Cass Elliott, and Julie London. In the 80s she settled into motherhood and released only two albums; her last set was a double disc entitled Laura Live at the Bottom Line (1989).
Walk the Dog & Light the Light has an adult contemporary feel to it. The opening cut on the album, "Oh Yeah, Maybe Baby" has a swelling, 50s r&b harmony sound, while "Art of Love" has more of a jazzy feel, with a strong rhythm guitar and Laura's sweetly-paced vocals. The middle part of the album features slower, acoustic/keyboard numbers, and the disc closes with a fine cover of "Dedicated to the One I Love," another 50s-style soul-stirrer originally penned by Curtis Mayfield and the Impressions.
Like the music of Carole King, the songs on Walk the Dog & Light the Light are driven by Laura's vocals (she also provided all of the background vocals) set against a keyboard and percussion-oriented background. The tunes illustrate Laura's varied interests, and address such issues as feminism, animal rights, and children's welfare. In addition, Laura says her creative juices were rejuvenated when she quit smoking five years ago; she says this was a big deal for her, since she had smoked since she was age 15.
As Laura also notes, "I tend to be very intellectual. I read a lot and embrace that side of life . . . I'm not interested in conventional limitations when it comes to my songwriting. For instance, I may bring a certain feminist prospective to my songwriting, because that is how I see life. I'm interested in art, poetry, and music . . . It's about self-expression. It knows no package. There's no such thing. That's what being an artist is. That's the work."
While Walk the Dog & Light the Light may slow down at times, it's a fine introduction to the talents of Ms. Nyro. In fact, it's the album Linda Ronstadt wishes she could have recorded in place of the disappointing Winter Lights; instead of pushing thin material with her pipes (ala Linda), Laura Nyro is content to gently embellish the ten cuts on Walk the Dog & Light the Light with her wit and charm. Walk the Dog & Light the Light shows that the 60s protest/folk movement still has legs -- give it a spin.
Roger Perry -- The Roger Perry Quartet recently played at the Wild Blue with local sideman Perry Hodge joining on guitars and vocals. Also in attendance was your hardworking editor and his charming bride. The band played a spirited rock 'n roll set, including an invigorating cover of Tony Joe White's "I Got Off On It." Evidently Roger was introduced to some Southern pone during his sojourn in Atlanta. Memo to Perry -- lighten up a bit. A little smile now and again won't hurt anyone.
Don't take our local talent for granted!! Artists are a precious commodity, so get out there and see a band. Or go to an art gallery. Or see a play. It doesn't matter -- it's the message, not the medium, that counts.
-- Randy Krbechek
Copyright (c) Randy Krbechek
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