Mellencamp, Rough Harvest (Mercury 1999) - Mercury
must miss John Mellencamp (who has since moved on to record for Columbia).
Because Rough Harvest covers material previously released by Mellencamp on such fine albums as
Mr. Happy Go Lucky (1996) and Human Wheels (1993), but with a more folk/countrified
Rough Harvest was recorded by Mellencamp and his band
in 1997 during a layover between tours and recording projects. The band included Andy York and
Mike Wanchic on guitars, Dane Clark on drums, Moe Z. on keyboards,
Janas Hoyt on backing vocals, Toby Jeffrey Myers on bass, and Miriam
Sturm on violin.
Harvest reads like bootleg Mellencamp,
as it contains the reworked versions of such tracks as "Key West Intermezzo (I Saw You First)," "Jackie
Brown," and "Rain on the Scarecrow." All show Mellencamp with his country roots exposed, backed
by the plaintive fiddle of Miriam Sturm.
The highlights include two solid live songs: a 1986 recording of "Under the Boardwalk" (an early 60s
for the Drifters), and a terrific version of Van
Morrison's "Wild Night" (recorded in 1994), with Me'Shell
NdegeOcello on harmony vocals.
included are versions of two Bob Dylan
songs ("Farewell Angelina" and "In My Time of Dying," a blues traditional recorded by Dylan
on his 1962 debut).
The trade stamps on the inside of the album tell it all: "Completed," "Order No. 15," and "Paid
in Full." John Mellencamp enjoyed a long run with
Mercury Records, and Rough Harvest is a fine finale.
Best Of (Reprise/Mute 1999) - The synth-pop duo Yazoo (known
as Yaz in the U.S.) survived for only two tumultuous years. Yet their recorded output continues to strike true
more than ten years later.
Yaz consisted of musician Vince Clarke,
formerly of Depeche Mode (who scored with such hit
singles as "Just Can't Get Enough") and singer Allison
Moyet, a husky-voiced singer cut from the mold of Annie
duo's first album, Upstairs at Eric's (1982), rode up the charts with such club singles as "Only
You" and "Don't Go." With Moyet's deep, lustrous voice layered over a synth and techno-blues background,
the output was mesmerizing.
By the time Yaz released their second LP, You
and Me Both, the duo's relationship had become increasingly tense, and the pair split in July 1983. Vince
went on to work with Andy Bell on the successful partnership of Erasure,
while Alison forged ahead with a solo career, including the albums Alf and Rain Dancing.
Of Yaz also includes such deliciously techno-and-sex songs as "Goodbye 70s" and "Don't
Go." Also included is the original U.S. 12-inch mix of "Situation" by Francois Kevorkian,
together with three 1999 remixes by Todd Terry, Club 69, and Richard Stannard.
A terrific look back at a powerhouse pairing, Best Of Yaz will dust off your club-hopping memories.
Salmon, The Nashville Sessions (Hollywood
Records 1999) - Hailing from Colorado are Leftover Salmon, a skilled
group of bluegrass musicians. Melding bluegrass with country hands and
extended jams developed on the road, Nashville Sessions
mixes Americana with country, Cajun, and southern rock and boogie.
Leftover Salmon have been playing together since 1990, and include
Drew Emmitt on vocals and mandolin, Vince Herman on vocals and acoustic guitar,
Tye North on bass, Mark Vann on banjo and 5-string dobro, and Jeff Sipe
on percussion. The group's albums include their 1992 debut, Bridges to Bert, and a 1995 live release,
Ask the Fish.
Sessions was recorded in producer Randy Scruggs'
studio, and features a host of experienced session hands, including Jerry Douglas, Sam Bush, John
Cowan and Sally Van Meter.
Well-met friends from the band's extensive road exploits are represented by Todd Park Mohr from
Big Head Todd, Blues Traveler's John Popper,
and Widespread Panic's John Bell.
guests include Lucinda Williams on the gorgeous
"Lines Around Your Eyes," folk/blues maven Taj
Mahal's on "Lovin' In My Baby's Eyes," and the up-tempo Cajun flavor of "Dance on Your
Head," with banjo player Bela Fleck.
Expect the unexpected, and that's exactly what you'll find on Nashville Sessions. Not easy to
describe, but easy on the ears. Leftover
Salmon marches to their own beat.
Alison Krauss, Forget About It (Rounder 1999) - Performer Alison Krauss remains one of the crown jewels at
Rounder Records. With eight records to her credit, Alison has been courted by every major label, yet
remains with her first home. The new Forget About It marks a departure, as Alison focuses more on her vocals.
Station Band (Barry Bales on bass, Ron Block
on acoustic guitar, Jerry Douglas
on dobro, and Dan Tyminski
on acoustic guitar and mandolin) remains the core lineup, Alison added such players as pianist Matt Rollings, guitarist Pat Bergeson, mandolinist Sam Bush, and drummer Jim Keltner.
Simply stated, I can't get into this album. Alison is an enormously-talented vocalist and fiddle player (though her violin is all but invisible
on the new album).
Forget About It is built
around a weak and dreamy delivery on songs like "It Wouldn't Have Made Any Difference" (written by Todd Rundgren)
and "It Doesn't Matter Now" (written by Michael McDonald).
Alison has a gorgeous voice, as featured on her 1995 double platinum album, Now That I've Found You. But Forget About It wallows in its excesses. Alison should pick up her fiddle and put a
little more fire back in her playing.
- Randy Krbechek © 1999
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