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Eleni MandellEleni Mandell, Thrill (Space Baby Records 2000) - Indie darling Eleni Mandell returns with her second release, Thrill. Featuring Eleni's sultry and seductive voice, the album showcases the vocal intensity that made Wishbone (1998) a critic's favorite.

While she sites Tom Waits and X as influences, Eleni's her own woman. "He Thinks He's in Love" has a seductive beauty; "Never Know the Party's Here" shows that Eleni knows the samba; and "1970 Red Chevelle" (the album's best cut) is a rave-up rocker.

Eleni MandellThe new album was produced and engineered by Brian Keahew, and includes Eleni on vocals and guitar, Sheldon Gombarg on upright and electric bass, Danny Frankel on drums, and Brian Keahew and Dan Seta on electric guitar, with appearances from Michael Bolger on trumpet and trombone and J'anna Jacoby on viola.

Eleni MandellPart chartreuse ("Moment That You Had"), part Liz Phair college-educated bad girl ("Taking You Out"), part Tori Amos sex goddess ("Pauline"), Eleni Mandell has a voice that aches to be heard. Add in percussive textures and Middle Eastern influences and you come up with an entrancing whole from this Los Angeles resident. Don't overlook Thrill.

For more information, contact:

Space Baby Music
1939 North Kenmore Ave., Suite 104
Los Angeles, CA 90027
Phone 323/663-4082

Etta JamesEtta James, Matriarch of the Blues (Windham Hill 2000) - Here's the real deal from a singer with plenty of heart. Etta James, a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, cuts loose on Matriarch of the Blues, a 12-track collection of new and classic blues/pop songs.

Ms. James' recording career stretches back to 1955, and has etched her influence on such diverse artists as the Rolling Stones, Tina Turner, and Rod Stewart. On Matriarch of the Blues, Etta ranges from the boogie swing on "Born on the Bayou" to the barrelhouse swing of "Hound Dog" to the tears-in-my-coffee blues of "Comeback Baby" and the Otis Redding classic, "Try a Little Tenderness."

In the ghettoMatriarch of the Blues was produced by Etta's sons, Donto James and Sametto James. Etta is surrounded by rock-steady studio hands, including Donto on drums, Sametto on bass, Josh Sklair and Bobby Murray on guitars, Lee R. Thornburg and Tom Poole on trumpet, David K. Matthews on piano, Mike Finnigan on Hammond B3 organ, and Jimmy Z. Zavala on tenor and baritone sax.

Etta JamesThe band gets deep in the pocket with Etta, which gives the singer an opportunity to strut her stuff. The strongest track is the Bob Dylan song, "Gotta Serve Somebody," on which Etta digs deep into her bag of tricks. And the 62-year-old diva brings a soulful touch to the proceedings with her cover of the Rolling Stones' No. 1 hit, "Miss You."

Matriarch of the Blues highlights what's missing on Willie Nelson's recent Milk Cow Blues - you can't sing the blues unless you have them in your heart. Etta James goes for the heart on Matriarch of the Blues.

MobyMoby, Play: The B-Sides (V2 Records 2000) - On the heels of the brilliant Play, V2 Records has issued a limited-edition box set, containing the platinum-selling album, together with a full CD of B sides and alternate versions made during the recording of Play. Save your shekels - while The B-Sides contain the ambient flavor of the parent disc, fans will be disappointed.

MobyPlay was a glorious album, a fusion of rock, techno, and street beats. Moby walks the talk, and built his success by grassroots efforts, not hype. Yet the performer has not steered an even course; earlier efforts vary widely.

Moby has nothing to prove with the new collection. Explains the artist, "The B-Sides is a collection of songs that weren't quite appropriate for Play, but that I still love enough to release as B-sides. Some of these songs might not be instantly accessible, but I (immodestly) think they are all quite special."

MobyA few tracks have a cool groove, like "Memory Gospel" and "Sun Spot." What's disappointing is that The B-Sides are available only as part of the two-disk set (paired with Play). Loyal fans should not be forced to buy both albums just to get The B-Sides.

- Randy Krbechek © 2001

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