Dog Pondering, Natural Thing (Plate-Tec-Tonic 1999) - With a recording career covering twelve years and
six albums, Poi Dog Pondering has cut an eclectic path, mixing deep grooves, soaring strings, and jazzy horns.
Natural Thing continues the idiosyncratic stylings of singer/song writer/band leader Frank Orrall.
Orrall started the band in his native Hawaii in 1986, then relocated to Austin, Texas in 1987. His third move,
to Chicago in 1992, was the most propitious, as the 11-member musical ensemble developed into one of the city's
top concert draws.
Natural Thing is more moody than the band's last studio album, Pomegranate (1995). In a peculiar move, Frank Orrall
pared away half the band just before the release of Natural Thing. Holding tight are violinist
saxophonist Paul Martens, percussionist Leddie Garcia, and vocalist Kornell
Hargrove, while six artists have left the group.
The change has not been without controversy. Explains long-time drummer and band member Steve Goulding,
"The band's musical direction hasn't changed, Frank has. People obviously are upset . . . [but] it was something
you could see coming since last year."
Replies Orrall, "There are people who are going
to find those new tracks meandering and uninteresting. But that's my zone right now. I like that looser, less-rehearsed
structure - almost like jazz - where you get incredible moments that I could never compose."
Adds Orrall, "I don't know exactly what I'm going to do next, but I knew I needed to change my musical environment.
I want to bring out the orchestral side and de-emphasize the vocals and bring out the emotion behind the music
rather than the personality."
dissension, Natural Thing remains a rewarding listen. Tracks like "Come Together" and
"Hard Sometime" have a sweeping feel, with a diversity of vocal styles and instrumentation that blends
elements of jazz, trance, and pop to create a distinctive whole.
Orrall reminds me of Van Morrison (though
more in spirit rather than style). True to his own musical ideals, Orrall walks a fresh path, with a loose yet
confident style. While Poi Dog Pondering may miss the crowds (the band has drawn thousands of fans
in Chicago), Natural Thing remains a refreshing listen.
to That's the Way I Like It (RCA Victor 1999)
- Chalk this one up as a guilty pleasure. After a handful of disco-inspired soundtracks last fall that failed to
click (including "Last Days of Disco"), That's
the Way I Like It delivers the goods.
The soundtrack has an East-meets-West
flavor, as writer/director Glen
Goei grew up in Singapore in the 70s. Says Goei, "If we were to trace the history of dance music,
a defining moment would be the arrival of 'Saturday
Night Fever,' which sparked the worldwide disco explosion.
continues. "Singapore was not immune. Discos spouted everywhere as the exciting new music started drawing
the young and the hip to the dance floor to hustle and boogie the night away."
The new versions are performed by what film maker Goei calls "some of the best names in Singapore pop,"
including Zul ("Kung Fu Fighting"), Chris Vadham ("How Deep Is
Your Love?"), and John Klass ("Rock the Boat").
the Way I Like It also features two versions of "Staying Alive," one by October Cherries
and the other by John Klass, and a cover of K.C. and
the Sunshine Band's Number One hit, "That's the Way I Like It," by Najip Ali.
The strength of the album lies in the music. That's the Way I Like It delivers fresh
versions of these 70s hits. For an updated version of classic disco, look for That's the Way I Like It.
Artists, Punk-O-Rama 4 (Epitaph 1999) - Talk about giving it away.
Punk-O-Rama features 25 slamming punk rock tunes, at a bargain price of just $4.98! Straight outta
the pit. You can't beat it.
The album opens with "Fight It," a blistering new cut by Pennywise.
Punk-O-Rama doesn't let up until the last beat has been pounded out. The album features the regulars
that you have come to know and love, such as Rancid
("1998"), Bad Religion ("Generator"),
Ten Foot Pole ("The Getaway") and H20 ("Faster Than the World").
included are songs by Voodoo Glowskulls ("They
Always Come Back"), Gas Huffer ("Don't Panic") and Nofx ("Kids
on the K-Hall").
In addition, the album features tracks by new punk bastards like Bombshell Rocks, 59 Times a Pain
and Refuse, all making their recording debuts.
Also included is a groovy track by Tom Waits ("Big
in Japan"), off his recent Mule Generations. That'll teach old Tom to mess around with a
punk label. Maybe next time he should get Iggy Pop
to represent him.
Punk-O-Rama is an enhanced CD, which contains latest tour dates from all the bands that appear
on the album, cool graphic, bios, and links to the bands' home pages.
Too good to be true? Certainly too cheap to be so good. Mosh me, mama, with Punk-O-Rama 4.
- Randy Krbechek © 1999
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