Help Me Make It Through the Night (6/28/2002)
Soundtrack to A Shot At Glory (Warner Bros. 2002) - A Shot At Glory is a new film starring Robert Duvall as the coach of a Scottish soccer team. I'm not sure if the movie ever made it to Fresno, but it might play off the recent excitement in the World Cup Tournament.
For me, the pleasure comes from the Mark Knopfler soundtrack, with its 11 songs. Continuing from the success of his recent Sailing to Philadelphia, Knopfler has the privilege of recording whatever he wants. And so A Shot At Glory has a Scottish feel on tracks like "Training" and the lilt of "The New Laird."
Joining Knopfler is his trusted studio hand, Guy Fletcher, on keyboards. Also appearing are Billy Jackson on harp, bodhran, and whistle, Iain Lowthian on piano accordion, Steve Sidwell on flugelhorn, Danny Cummings on percussion, Iain MacInnes on bagpipes, Chris White on tenor and soprano saxophone, and Catriona Macdonald on fiddle.
Songs like "Say Too Much" and "He's the Man" feature Knopfler's in amenable vocal stylings. In addition, "Say Too Much" has that laid back Knopfler horn arrangement that sounds so good late at night.
The film follows a small town Scottish soccer team that advances to the final of the Scottish Cup, and features cameos from European Scottish personalities. Tracking at just 37 minutes, the album has a soundtrack fell, as the songs are expansive background melodies. Yet there is plenty here to satisfy Knopfler's fans, including the wonderful "Say Too Much."
Mark Eitzel, Music for Courage & Confidence (New West Records 2002) - Mark Eitzel has been making music for some 20 years, starting with a punk band in Columbus, Ohio. With Music for Courage & Confidence, Eitzel dips in the cover well, recording songs from "I'll Be Seeing You" (best known from a 1944 recording by Billie Holiday) to "Do You Really Want to Hurt Me?" (recorded by Cultural Club in 1983).
The fact is, Eitzel is an acquired taste. He tends towards the downbeat, with night time images that evoke the feelings of Tom Waits and Leonard Cohen. Eitzel has lived in San Francisco for many years, where he fronted the American Music Club for more than a decade (1982-1994).
The "new album" was actually recorded in 1998, with mixing and new vocals provided in 2001. The band includes Mark Capelle on organ, wurlitzer, and piano, Ethan Johns on mandolin and guitar, Justin Meldal-Johnson on bass, Bjorn Olsson on guitar, and Joey Waronker on drums.
I credit Eitzel for his daring song selection, including "Snow Bird" (the old Anne Murray song), and "I Only Have Eyes for You" recorded by the Flamingos, and "Gentle On My Mind" by Glen Campbell, all delivered in Eitzel's signature somber style.
Yet the glowing highlight of the album is "Help Me Make It Through the Night," penned by Kris Kristofferson. Eitzel develops a great sound on this track, highlighted by a keyboard/organ sound that brings to mind the great efforts of Billy Preston and the classic sound of Procul Harem on "Whiter Shade of Pale."
Yet proving, once again, that a firm producer is an indispensable element, Eitzel wrecks the track with a concluding 30-second spoken bit that is supposed to be a comedian performing at a mortician's convention.
"Help Me Make It Through the Night" is one of the best tracks I heard all year. If Eitzel (or his record company) edited out the needless "comedy bit," he would have a classic track.
Maktub, Khronos (Ossia Records 2002) - Maktub is a Seattle based band with a funk-and-soul grove. Based in Seattle, the combo has a solid sound, highlighted by a psychedelic cover of Led Zeppelins' "No Quarter."
Maktub (pronounced Mock-tube, Arabic for "It is written") consists of Reggie Watts on lead vocals and synthesizer, Kevin Goldman on bass, Davis Martin on drums, Daniel Spils on Hammond B3 organ and synthesizers, and Thaddeus Turner on acoustic and electric guitar.
Watts has an impressive voice, such that Khronos has to be taken seriously. While the second half of the album gets into a deeper grove, the early part is more playful, such as the Prince-inspired "You Can't Hide" and the impressive, silky soul of "We Got Desire."
Maktub has sometimes been described as "new soul," a label that is not unfair. There's a steady grove on Khronos.
Stew, The Naked Dutch Painter (Smile Records 2002) - The Naked Dutch Painter goes down as one of the more unusual albums I've heard recently. Part cabaret show, part Arthur Lee, part street poet, Stew has his own sound. Working apart from his band, The Negro Problem, Stew explores a broad musical territory.
Stew provides the vocals and is assisted by Heidi Rodewald on bass, melodica, backing vocals, and arrangements. Providing drums on two tracks is Clem Burke (from Blondie). Stew shines on the lovely, "The Drug Suite," with its concluding "Everything's Alright" section, and gets positively poppy on "Love Is Coming Through the Door."
Other musicians include Morley Bartnoff, Carolyn Edwards, Adam Marsland, and Rob Tucker, on piano, organ, and keyboards, Jim Sitterly with violin on a portion of "The Drug Suite," and Nelson Bragg and Josh Baldwin on drums.
The LA resident describes it best in his own words. "This whole record is an example of an adult artist speaking to an adult audience. What I'm trying to do is simply create a kind of entertainment that I would enjoy if I walked into a club."
"Something mature and funny. Smart and goofy. Edgy without being ugly. With plenty of sex and drug references for good measure, nice melodies, foul language, Che Guevara jokes, and you know, just everyday life as I see it . . . So, while it ain't exactly 'If I Had a Hammer,' my stuff is still folk music, to me anyway - it's just that the folks in question are a little weird."
Perhaps a bit weird, but certainly a real talent. For example, Stew kicks off the title track with a rant about his ex-wife garnishing his wages for spousal support.
The basic tracks were recorded during a residency at The Knitting Factory in LA during 2001. These live tracks are buttressed by seamless studio overdubs. Says Stew, "We figured, 'Let's do a hybrid.' Instead of doctoring up a live record to make it sound live, we decided to doctor up a live record to make it sound like a studio album and walk that line between the two."
Adds Stew, "I could have easily gone in and doctored them up. But I was more into keeping some of the dirt in . . . There are more mistakes and screw ups on this record than any I've made before, and I'm proud of every single one of them."
Stew has a smart adult pop feel on tracks like "The Smile," which are fully fleshed out pop beauties. For a slice of real life, try The Naked Dutch Painter.
- Randy Krbechek © 2002
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