March 23, 1994
Tim Gibbons, Dead Guy Won a Muffin (Gritty City Records 1993) -- Canadian rocker Tim Gibbons has cut a raw rock 'n roll record in Dead Guy Won a Muffin. Having previously performed and recorded with acts such as Daniel Lanois, Junkhouse, and Crash Vegas, Gibbons is no stranger to the studio or stage. On Dead Guy Won a Muffin, Gibbons proves he's ready to let it rip.
The album was recorded in Hamilton, Ontario, which is also the home of Gritty City Records. Gibbons contributes guitar and vocals; his band includes Claude Desroches on drums, Mike Williams on bass, and Jason Frederick on organ.
Dead Guy Won a Muffin is like Slim Dunlap's The Old New Me, another guitar-oriented rock jammer that was released "warts and all." The cuts end without a gentle mix-down; it's almost like being in the studio with Gibbons. It's refreshing to hear an album on which the quality of the takes was placed ahead of perfection in production.
With tracks like "After Dark My Sweet," "Tightrope Walker," and "Whiskey Bar," it's clear where Gibbons' roots lie -- he's been baptized in the booze and blues-soaked rock of the Stones, with a dash of the older Dylan thrown in for spice. It may not be intellectually challenging, but it's a great kick in the pants, and will pick you up when you start worrying that everything in the record store is either grunge or some newfangled version of alternative. Support an artist who cares about his art. Buy Dead Guy Won a Muffin.
The Young Dubliners, Rocky Road (Scotti Bros. 1994) -- The Young Dubliners, a seven-person band based in Los Angeles, have released an engaging debut EP with Rocky Road (not to be confused with the terrific video collection of the same title from Daniel Lanois). The album's six cuts (which clock in at 24 minutes) are a diverse lot, ranging from traditional Irish/Celtic rock to a more contemporary pop/rock sound, and is a good introduction to this promising act.
The story of the Young Dubliners begins in the mid-80s, when founding members Keith Roberts and Paul O'Toole departed Ireland (separately) for a new home in the States. They met by chance at an Irish nightclub in L.A., and soon formed an acoustic duo. As their popularity grew, so too did the size of the Young Dubliners. The group, which consists of both American and Irish members, now includes a saxophone, a violin, and a mandolin. In fact, Lovely Previn (daughter of conductor Andre Previn) is the fiddle player for the band.
The album opens with "Rocky Road to Dublin," a chantey with heavy influences of the Old Country that is set against a rock beat. The album shifts to a contemporary rock/pop sound on "Last House on the Street," and then to country rock on "Holy Ground." The disc concludes with "Ashley Falls," an instrumental in a traditional Irish vein (including pipes).
In some ways, Rocky Road is a glorified demo, a calling card for the Young Dubliners. There should be room in this country for up-and-coming bands to cut an album without all of the pressure and publicity that surrounds a typical major label signing. Thanks to Scotti Bros. for giving the Young Dubliners a chance to be heard.
Khaled, N'ssi N'ssi (Mango Records 1993) -- Algerian-born Khaled is known as the King of "Rai," a kind of North African rock 'n roll set against a funky kaleidoscope of Arab beats. If this is Rai, then Khaled is its Bob Marley -- this stuff is that good. With a strong horn section, synthesized dance beats, and the engaging voice of Khaled, N'ssi N'ssi is one of the most distinctive albums you'll hear this year.
Born Khaled Hadg Brahim 34 years ago near the western Algerian court of Oran, Khaled began singing and playing accordion as a child. Over the objections of his parents, he dropped out of school to pursue a musical career, and cut his first single at the age of 16. His musical influences include Egyptian, Moroccan, Lebanese, Spanish and French music, as well as The Beatles and James Brown.
Rai stands in opposition to the conservatism of the religious right in Algeria. Khaled admits that "rai is about alcohol, woman, and things like that, so it's not something that the extreme Muslims really appreciate. However, 80% of the young people in Algeria are really for it and listen to it a lot." The authorities have banished Khaled from performing in his homeland, and he now resides in France. Adds Khaled, "the fundamentalists gave me another name -- they call me 'the devil.'"
With his sensuous lyrics (sung in a North African dialect), set against a pulsating mix of Arab, funk and reggae beats, Khaled has the true rock 'n roll spirit. His lyrics, which seem tame by American standards, have outraged fundamentalists with their sexual candor and outspoken passion for red wine. For example, on "Serbi Serbi," Khaled sings "One drink follows another/And another still/I drink to my lost loves/And the life we will never have," and on "Zine a Zine," he sings "I love her to distraction/Her beauty drives me mad/And yet I love the madness."
With Oriental strings, driving guitars, and able assistance from studio whiz Don Was, N'ssi N'ssi is a real musical trip. Khaled has something to say, even if he says it in a foreign tongue. Catch a ride on this North African funk express, and you'll be groovin' til the caboose runs by.
Need a Nose Job? -- Following a television news report from Massachusetts that "a plastic surgeon hopes to replace seventh district congressmen Brian Donnelly," a careful viewer pointed that "this kind of surgery is likely to raise new ethical issues."
-- Randy Krbechek
Copyright (c) Randy Krbechek
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