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Music Reviews

Randy's Buttons

June 5, 1996

Look What I Did!

Joe WalshLook What I Did! (The Joe Walsh Anthology) (MCA 1995) - Look What I Did! chronicles one of our best and most prolific rock guitarists, Joe Walsh. With 19 albums to his name (including his solo work, as well as projects with the James Gang and the Eagles), Walsh was long a mainstay of FM radio. And Look What I Did! shows why.

This double-disc set, with 2-1/2 hours of music, features such FM gems as "Take a Look Around," "Turn to Stone," and "Rocky Mountain Way." Also included is some of Walsh's fine post-Eagles work, including "Life's Been Good" and "A Life of Illusion."

Joe WalshIn the liner notes, Walsh displays a remarkable memory for the sessions that led to these tracks. For example, Walsh remembers that "Coming Down" was "another acoustic song that I wrote. I was coming down off acid. Producer Bill Szymczk liked it a lot. I was flashing back on Neil Young playing harmonica, and I decided to put a harp part on it. I thought it was a great way to end the side."

Frankly, this material doesn't need much of an introduction. In discussing his friendship with Walsh, Pete Townshend recalls a time in New York when he and Walsh "made our own pleasure. Played our guitars one after another. And got very, very drunk. I worried about Joe being drunk. He worried about me being drunk. When we both grow up, we will worry more about ourselves. Less about each other. Love you, Joe."

Joe WalshThe 24-page insert booklet (which is very thorough) also reveals that Walsh has long been a goofy-looking guy. Actually, he started out as a goofy-looking guy, then got fairly hip in the 70s (when he connected with the Eagles and met his greatest success), before reverting to his goofy, Keith Moon-addled look. So the question remains unanswered -- Was Joe damaged by the drugs? Or was he always like this?

In any event, Walsh has had a great career, and Look What I Did! is a great anthology. MCA deserves hearty applause for this crackerjack collection.

The Subdudes, Primitive Streak (High Street/Windham Hill 1996) - On their fourth album (and second for High Street Records), the Subdudes offer another sampling of their glorious, gospel-drenched rhythm and blues.

SubdudesWith a sound that features more instrumentation than their last album (the a capella-based Annunciation), The Subdudes are ready to try something different. The Subdudes have been together for nine years, and were originally based in New Orleans. The group now lives in different parts of the country, with two members (vocalist Steve Amadee and accordion player John Magnie) living in Denver, and the other two members (lead vocalist Tommy Malone and bass player Johnny Ray Allen) living in other locales.

The four members reunited in New Orleans to record Primitive Streak at the Egyptian Room. With production help from Clark Vreelan, the new album covers more musical territory than its predecessor. For example, "Love Somebody" has more of a rock sound, while "She" features a string influence.

Unfortunately, Primitive Streak lacks the earnestness of Annunciation. The best numbers on Primitive Streak are those in which the Subdudes vocals come through loud and clear. Thus, my favorite track is "Do Me a Favor," a gospel-drenched number that recalls the excellent Annunciation. In addition, long-time fan Bonnie Raitt contributes guitar and vocals to "Too Soon to Tell." Think of The Subdudes as Statler Brothers, except about a bazillion times hipper. Although Annunciation is a better release, Primitive Streak should win fans for this hard-working combo.

Frank BlackFrank Black, The Cult of Ray (American 1996) - Having left his long-time home at 4AD/Elektra, Frank Black has settled comfortably into Rick Rubin's American Records family. Which says something in itself.

On The Cult of Ray (which is dedicated to 75-year-old science fiction author and L.A. native, Ray Bradbury), Frank Black continues down his singular path: making throbbing pop rock, while also keeping his tongue firmly in cheek.

Black describes The Cult of Ray as follows: "You've got your geographic obsession, conspiratorial paranoia, genetic alterations, pop culture and my frustration with it, lonely youth, a song I hope everyone can relate to, an instrumental you can kick my teeth to, universal violence, monsters, another instrumental, the pit, Mr. Angelino himself, and last and perhaps most important of all, Shazeb Andleeb."

Doesn't make much sense to you? Well, it's not supposed to. While Black knows how to rock with the best of them (his work with the Pixies, particularly Trompe Le Monde, was groundbreaking), he also likes to poke fun at himself and pop culture.

From "Men in Black" to "Jesus was Right" to "Kicked in the Taco," Black comes in low, hard and fast on The Cult of Ray. While I miss his more melodic (read pop-accessible) songs, Black just wants to have fun. And he succeeds on the new album.

I once heard a live promo disk (it wasn't for sale) by Black and was hugely impressed. When Black really gets cranked up, he's as good as anyone in the business (though his show in Fresno a couple of years back didn't reach that height). Try The Cult of Ray.

-- Randy Krbechek

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