The Canadian Wave (09/03/99)
Len, You Can't Stop the Bum Rush (Work 1999) - Why does hip-hop have to have a dark, disaffected side? Why can't it be funny and fresh? Len says contemporary beats can be fun and fresh, as demonstrated on You Can't Stop the Bum Rush.
Len consists of the Burger Pimp, Shar (his sister), D-Rock, Planet Pea (aka Kudu5), DJ Moves and Canada's own Drunkness Monster.
(What up with these @#$%! names? Bugaboo nonsense, nothin' more.)
You Can't Stop the Bum Rush is a fun trip of old-school hip-hop electric machinations, and bastard beats. The band defies convention, from candy-coated pop (the lead-off single, "Steal My Sunshine" also appears on the soundtrack to the motion picture, Go!), romantic tracks, and electro-plink. Says the band, "It's a headphone album and party album, all in one."
Len was formed in 1991 in Ontario, and has three prior albums, all released on its own "Four Ways to Rock" label. The Burger Pimp adds, "We sold 10,000 to 15,000 every time we released a record."
The album was mixed by John King of the Dust Brothers in Los Angeles, and employs vocal help from Biz Markie, Kurtis Blow, and Poison clan member C. C. Deville.
Also incorporated on the album are Toronto's Faith Chorale gospel choir, Vancouver rapper Moka Only on "Crazy Cuz I Believe," horn and keyboard players from Toronto University on "June Bug," and samples from a Spanish children's album on "Hot Rod Monster Jam."
The delight of the album is Shar, who blends a playful yet grounded feel when granted a turn at the mike (which should be more often). For example, the band shows that it fully absorbed the brilliance of Big Audio Dynamite II's The Globe on tracks like "Man of the Year," highlighted by Shar's vocals.
For some groovy old-school/new age/hip-hop/pure pop, try You Can't Stop the Bum Rush.
Cowboy Junkies, Rarities, B-Sides and Slow, Sad Waltzes (Latent Recordings 1999) - Canada's Cowboy Junkies, who have recorded since 1985, find themselves back at square one after eight albums for RCA and Geffen Records.
The new album, Rarities, is a collection of orphaned songs, some that long-time fans will recognize, and a few that have never made it outside the band's inner circle.
The band consists of Margo Timmins on vocals, brother Michael Timmins on guitar, Alan Anton on bass, and fellow sibling, Peter Timmins on drums.
In a return to the past, Rarities has been released on the band's own Latent recordings, which label first brought forth the acclaimed Trinity Sessions. The album cannot be purchased in stores and is only available from amazon.com and the Cowboy Junkies website.
Explains Michael Timmins, "Some of these songs ('Five Room Love Story,' 'Leaving Normal,' and 'If You Gotta Go, Go Now, Love's Still There') have appeared as bonus cuts on promo CDS, and a few were even part of our live set at one time or another.
"But there are others ('River Waltz' 'I Saw Your Shoes,' and 'A Few Simple Words') that we just completed and stored because we felt at the time they were not appropriate for a particular album."
Rarities does not have a disjointed feel that can come when albums are cobbled together after years, which reflects the band's creative integrity. Tracks like "Leaving Normal" to "Lay Me Down" and "If You Gotta Go, Go Now" match up with anything off Black Eyed Man or Pale Sun, Crescent Moon.
Also included is "To Lay Me Down," originally recorded for Deadicated, the Grateful Dead tribute album released on Arista in 1991.
The centerpiece of Cowboy Junkies is vocalist Margo Timmins, sometimes breathy, sometimes sultry, sometimes confrontational. Drawing from their Canadian roots, the band tells tales in a homespun manner, yet with dark undertones.
Margo has a subdued delivery that draws you into the song - and if you've ever been hooked by her amazing cover of "Sweet Jane" (the Lou Reed song), then you're a fan for life. "Lean in with me," whispers Margo, "and stay awhile."
Give Margo a moment. She has words just for you.
George Carlin, You Are All Diseased (Atlantic 1999) - Though now in his early 60's, George Carlin remains a sharp-tongued critic of modern society. His new album, You Are All Diseased, finds Carlin delivering a profane routine that is bound to offend just about everyone (which is precisely the point).
Born in 1937, George Carlin has been a fixture in American comedy for more than 30 years. Following his discharge from the Air Force, Carlin started a comedy routine in Los Angeles, before returning to New York City where he made a mainstream breakthrough.
Carlin made hundreds of appearances on network TV in the 60s, including the "Ed Sullivan Show," the "Carol Burnett Show," the "Jackie Gleason Show," and more than 130 appearances on "The Tonight Show With Johnny Carson."
Yet Carlin found that his material was growing increasingly "safe" due to his regular appearances on television. Carlin began to drift back toward the counterculture in the 70s, and restored social and political irreverence to his act. In 1973, a New York radio station aired his "Seven Words You Can't Say on Radio," which resulted in a firestorm of controversy before the Federal Communications Commission, and ultimately resulted in a 1978 Supreme Court decision in favor of the FCC.
Yet Carlin's career continued unabated, including a spate of Grammy-nominated albums, appearances on HBO and "Saturday Night Live," and film appearances in such movies as "Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure."
You Are All Diseased was recorded live last February at New York City's Beacon Theater and comes from his eleventh HBO comedy concert. Carlin continues to spew righteous outrage and mad comic genius at the idiocy and ridiculousness of the world we live in. Among the topics to enflame his ire: airport security, angels, children, fear of disease, religion, tough guys, the house of blues, television, and single bars. Yes, America, You Are All Diseased. And George Carlin is the cure.
During the course of this 60-minute album, Carlin takes aim at all manner of targets, sparing none. Carlin lives by the words, "take a f***n' chance," and that shows throughout the album. His Willie Nelson love songs are killer ("Kiss Me I'm Coming," "I Should Have Fu*cked Ol' What's Her Name," and "Your Love Ran Down My Leg (and Now You're Gone)"), as are his sendups of "Religion" and "There Is No God."
Expect to be surprised. George Carlin is just as funny as ever. Not for the thin-skinned, George Carlin is still a very funny man.
- Randy Krbechek © 1999
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