Where's the Olive? (11/03/2000)
Olive, Trickle (Maverick Records 2000) - Olive consists of singer Ruth Ann and keyboardist/trumpeter/producer Tim Kellett. Together, the pair make techno pop, headlined by the strong voice of singer Ruth-Ann.
Kellett was formerly the trumpet player for Simply Red, and met singer Ruth-Ann Boyle while playing keyboards for a touring version of the Durutti Column. Olive's first album, Extra Virgin (1997), launched the UK hit single, "You're Not Alone." Says Tim, "The first album was more about grooves, this one is more subtle."
Trickle leans toward a more dreamy, trip-hop sound. Explains Kellett, "I can't imagine Ruth-Ann singing a chirpy, happy song." Counters Ruth-Ann, "I think that's because I started off by singing folk music. I think that comes through quite a lot." Continues Kellett, "I like writing from the feminine prospective. That's probably because I grew up with three sisters and have three little girls of my own."
Trickle was produced by Kellett and Roger Lyons at The Treehouse in England. All songs but one were written or co-written by Kellett. Additional musicians include Roger Lyons on programming and keyboards, Tony Foster, Vinni Reilly and Robin Guthrie on guitars, Vinnie Lammi on drums, and string arrangements by Will Malone and Steve Sidwell.
Trickle draws from the Everything But the Girl songbook on tracks like "Speak to Me," while "Push" delves into the classical with a string backing. Says Kellett, "We wanted to do something with a real Baroque-like feel. We came up with a sound unlike anything we have done before."
Also included is a cover of the 10cc classic, "I'm Not in Love," which also appears on the Maverick soundtrack to "The Next Big Thing." Says Ruth Ann, "My older brother is a big 10cc fan. I knew our version was okay when I played it for him and he said he liked it. It's quite a sad song, but I think there's a sense of humor going on in there as well."
Give this well-oiled combo a pair; it takes more than one listening to absorb Trickle.
Crash! Bang! Boom! The Best of WB Sound FX (Rhino 2000) - Here's a collection that sounds better in principal than in real life. More than 100 sound effects taken from the most popular stable of cartoon characters in the world, Crash! Bang! Boom! should be the ideal compliment for any fan of the Looney Tunes characters.
The collection moves along quickly (the 98 tracks clock in at 41 minutes), and include several humorous selections for your answering machine, as well as musical interludes and all the classic sound effects from Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, and others. The collection is built around the work of two men: Tregoweth "Treg" Brown and Carl Stalling.
Treg Brown, born November 4, 1899, was a musician originally from Minnesota. After playing in dance bands in the mid-west as a young adult, he moved to Hollywood in 1932, and within four years began working on Warner Bros. cartoons. Brown won an Oscar for his sound effects for The Great Race (1965).
At first, Brown was employed as a film editor: His job was to take the music and sound effects for the cartoons and combine them with film to get the finished product. After a few years, Treg began creating the humorous (and sometimes painful) sound effects for each short film, which was a lot of work, considering that Warner Bros. released, on average, three cartoons per month - nearly 40 cartoons per year.
Treg Brown had two big collections that he used for his work. The first was his box of tricks. Whenever Treg found something he thought would make a good noise - like a squeaky old wagon, or an out-of-tune trumpet - he would add it to his stockpile.
About this collection of objects, Treg once said, "I had a crazy box over there - and I had everything there from a little toy rachet to castanets to a wood box - all the junk you can imagine. No one who looked in that box could ever realize what could be done from that stuff."
Treg Brown's other source materials consisted of the recordings that he made. When Brown needed the sound of Marvin the Martian's Illudium PU-36 Explosive Space Modulator for a new cartoon, he could just pull it from his collection.
Brown also brought a portable tape recorder with him to capture the things he heard, such as a bull fight he once attended in Barcelona, Spain, which he used it in the cartoon "Bully for Bugs," where Bugs outsmarts an angry bull in front of a crowd of thousands.
The other person whose work is celebrated on Crash! Bang! Boom! is Carl Stalling, the man who wrote practically all of the music for Warner Bros. cartoons from 1936 to 1958.
Treg Brown recalled that "Carl and I worked together very closely, because there were a lot of times when the music would take the place of a sound effect . . . The music was usually arranged prior to the time it made the sound effects - the sound effects are the last thing that was done."
Now, you start with a great premise, and two fascinating individuals. And the original records, like "Tweety's Message" (No. 52) or the song "Two Dogs, a Bird, and a Bone" (No. 70) are a lot of fun. Where the collection sags is in the character voices that link together the segments - the voices are provided by new actors, not the great Mel Blanc.
Thus, for true-blue fans, the sound is a bit jarring - classic cartoon sounds and music are matched against non-original voices of Sylvester the Cat and Bugs Bunny. In the end, Crash! Bang! Boom! is mostly for the completist.
Donna the Buffalo, Positive Friction (Sugar Hill 2000) - Positive Friction is the third release from touring folksters Donna the Buffalo. For the new album, the band has developed more of a studio sound, with production work from Jeffrey Lesser.
Donna the Buffalo was formed in 1987, and now includes six regular members: Jeb Puryear on electric guitar and vocals, Tara Nevins on fiddle, accordion, guitar and vocals, Jim Miller on guitar, Kathy Ziegler on keyboards (Kathy replaced Joe Thrift, who played on the new album), Jed Greenberg on bass, and Tom Gilbert on drums.
The band's prior release, Rockin' in the Weary Land (1998) won the "Best Rock Album" award from the Association for Independent Music.
Donna the Buffalo plays at numerous festivals throughout the United States, ranging from Merlefest to the Newport Folk Festival to the Telluride Bluegrass Festival. The band travels across the country in a 1961 vintage tour buss, with a loyal following known as "The Herd."
Having played together for more than ten years, the band has developed a well-oiled feel, mixing traditional elements of folk and bluegrass on songs like "No Place Like the Right Time," with more up-tempo and Cajun elements on tracks like "Riddle of the Universe."
Positive Friction answers my request from Rockin' in the Weary Land, in that Tara Nevins' charming voice appears on fully half the songs, with the other lead vocals covered by Jeb Puryear.
While this isn't make-out music, Dead Heads and other fans of the long groove will dig Donna the Buffalo.
Best of Diana Ross (Motown 2000) - Best of Diana Ross gathers 11 hit songs by the first lady of Motown. Covering the period from 1970 through 1981, we can even forgive her duet with Lionel Richie, "Endless Love," which went gold for the pair.
The songs on Best of Diana Ross begin in 1970, when Diana left The Supremes. Her pairing with writer-producers Nickolas Ashford and Valerie Simpson proved an auspicious beginning, as they found chart success with "Reach Out and Touch Somebody's Hand," "Ain't No Mountain High Enough," and "Remember Me."
Showing her steady hand, Diana then teamed with Michael Masser for the hit single, "Touch Me in the Morning," followed by "Theme From Mahogany (Do You Know Where You're Going To?)." Diana also enjoyed movie success during this period, including an Oscar nomination for Best Actress for "Lady Sings the Blues."
Still finding the hits, Diana scored in 1976 with the disco flavored "Love Hangover," before teaming at the end of the decade with Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards from Chic, which yielded the No. 1 single, "Upside Down," and "I'm Coming Out."
Best of Diana Ross shows the sophisticated vocals and stylistic changes made by this sure-footed diva from Detroit. Enjoy Best of Diana Ross.
- Randy Krbechek © 2000
Check CD Shakedown for Weekly
Reviews of Music CDs and New Albums