Damn it, Janet (7/06/2001)
The Rocky Horror Show - The New Broadway Cast Recording (RCA Victor 2001) - More than 25 years after the "Time Warp" The Rocky Horror Show returns to Broadway.
The new cast recording is a fresh serving of 70's hedonism and raunch, with such songs as "I Can Make You a Man," "Science Fiction Double Feature," and "Damn It, Janet."
The Rocky Horror Show started on stage in London, flopped on Broadway, then was reborn in the 1975 cult film. With memorable characters including the super-square Brad Majors, his virginal fiancee, Janet Weiss, and Dr. Frank N. Furter, Rocky Horror is as much a part of 70's rock history as Led Zeppelin.
The hit production reopened in November 2000, and includes Alice Rippley as Janet Weiss, Tom Hewitt as Frank N. Furter (the role made famous by Tim Curry) and Jarrod Emick as Brad Majors. Also appearing is Dick Cavett.
The soundtrack was recorded on March 12, 2001, at Clinton Recording Studio A in New York City, with a band that included Henry Aronson as conductor and keyboardist, Jon Korba on synthesizer, Clint de Ganon on drums, Irio O'Farrill, Jr. on bass, John Benthal on guitar, and Lou Marini on saxophone.
If you've never seen The Rocky Horror Show, then get acquainted with the new Broadway cast recording.
Amanda Thorpe, Mass (Cropduster 2001) - English emigre Amanda Thorpe checks in with her second album (and first full-length CD), Mass. Rooted in Thorpe's distinctive voice, the album is a pastiche of ambient textures and sounds.
Which is to say, Mass is not easy to describe. P.J. Harvey comes to mind, as does Sarah McLachlan. Yet the closest description is Kate St. John, the elegant reed player who has toured with Van Morrison. St. John's Indescribable Night is a fantastic treat, working with a rich orchestral background.
And so it is with Mass, which finds Thorpe working with 18 musicians to produce a contemporary sound that incorporates horns and strings ala the sweep of Pet Sounds.
No, Mass doesn't reach the level of that masterpiece. Yet there are any number of memorable, engaging songs: highlights include the dream pop of "High & Dry," the seductive late-night swing of "Better Left," and the driving acoustic rhythm of "Splinters."
Mass features a host of New York players, including Knox Chandler, Joe McGinty, Peter Stuart, Chris Flynn, Sean Seymour, and Tony Scherr.
Amanda comes from a background as a classically-trained musician, and started with the Wirebirds, a folk-rock quintet she co-founded shortly after moving to New York City in 1996. Thorpe has shared the stage with Barbara Brousal, which tells you something about her leanings - Brousal is a talented singer, whose Pose While It Pops deserved to be found.
Mass is an enchanting production, with continental stylings and contemporary NYC instrumentation.
Sarah Pierce, Birdman (Little Bear Records 2000) - Sarah Pierce is a singer's singer - a country chanteuse transported to Austin, Texas. Birdman showcases her vocal skills on a labor of love.
Birdman is Sarah's third CD following, West Texas Wind (1991) and No Place Like Home (1995). Sarah's big break came when she was seen by John McEuen (longtime member of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band) and asked to be his opening act. This springboard lead Sarah to thousands of miles on the road and a sure sense of her abilities.
Sarah's band includes Merel Bregante on drums and percussion, Chris Maresh on bass, Kenny Grimes on electric guitar, and Riley Osborn on keyboards. Sarah provides vocals an acoustic guitar.
While Birdman has a nod toward country on the sprightly title track, much of the album heads toward slower contemporary pop, on such tracks as "Ordinary Day" and the smokey, Eleni Mandell-influenced, "Anything Goes."
Confesses the Texas-based singer, "My music is far different from the music with which I was raised. I truly respect and love traditional country music. It is held in a most special place in my heart. However, what comes out of me as a writer is much more toward contemporary pop. That's where I am supposed to be."
Yet don't think this daughter of a cowboy (four members of her family are in the Cattlemen's Hall of Fame) has abandoned her country roots - "Coffee Shop" is a four-minute honky-tonk jammer.
Pierce also made sure she had a career to fall back on in case music didn't work out: She holds a Master's Degree in Medical Science from Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia.
The album concludes with a subdued cover of "What a Wonderful World" that brings to mind the late Eva Cassiday's reading of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow."
Birdman is a handmade gem, comparable to Joyce Harrison on Nashville: Off the Record.
Citrus Sun, Another Time, Another Space (Heads Up 2001) - Another Time, Another Space is an instrumental smooth jazz album organized by Incognito founder, Jean Paul "Bluey" Maunick. With a steady beat and textured sound, the album is a jazz winner.
Incognito has been one of the leading forces in the acid jazz movement during the past two decades, blending a jazz-folk fusion influence with what found Maunick calls "an eclectic gathering of information from Africa, Cuba, British funk, American soul, and jazz."
For Another Time, Another Space, Maunick recruited veteran British guitarist, Jim Mullen, who was a member of the Average White Band. Also included are four members of Incognito: drummer Richard Bailey, bass player Julian Crampton, sax player Ed Jones, trombonist Fayazz Virgi, trumpet player Dominic Glover, and Tim Vine (from Simply Red) on Wurlitzer piano.
Says producer Bluey Maunick, "I took on the Quincy Jones role, organizing and encouraging, but just letting these guys get into the studio and kick it . . . I knew Jim Mullen would be the perfect catalyst for this project. He is the perfect guy to help me fuse the subtle elements of Latin, funk and jazz within a context of cool atmospheres and sparse melodies."
With songs like "Make Me Smile" and "What It Is," Citrus Sun shows a rock-steady jazz sound. This group would make a killer live combo, and will bring a smile to jazz fans.
Brown Girl in The Ring: A World Music Collection (Music for Little People 2001) - When I started playing this album, I thought, Gee, this sounds familiar. Then I looked at the performers and realized why: Brown Girl in The Ring is a collection of songs that have previously been featured on releases from the acclaimed children's label, Music for Little People.
And so I was greeted with old family friends, including the gentle voice of Jean Rene on "Sur Le Pont d'Avignon" (from Uni Verse of Song - French), as well as the African harmonies of Lady Smith Black Mambazo on "Wimoweh (Mbube) The Lion Sleeps Tonight" (from Gift of the Tortoise).
The album also includes American stylings, such as Los Lobos with "La Bamba" (from Papa's Dream), Papillion with "Down on The Bayou" (from Cajun for Kids), and Grammy award- winning Taj Mahal with "Quavi Quavi" (from Shake Sugaree).
My favorite track is one I had previously overlooked: the gentle Irish lilt of Ted Jacobs (a woman) on "The Moon" (from A Child's Garden of Songs).
All told, Brown Girl in The Ring is a treat for children of all ages.
- Randy Krbechek © 2001
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