Tuesday, May 24, 2005

MUSIC: Still More Mixed Bag

Continuing* my reviews of CDs received via Chris "Lefty" Brown's Mixed Bag CD exchange project:

Let's go with the man himself, Chris Brown of Lefty Brown's Corner, and wife Kelly Brown, of The Life of a Wife and Teacher, who sent their discs together in a His/Hers package.

I have to admit, I was surprised after scanning the track list, but I loved Lefty's CD. The Latin sounds of new-to-me Los Super Seven open and close the disc; I prefer the opening track, "Cupido," to the closer, "Ojitos Traidores," but they're both toe-tapping, finger-snapping goodness. Track two is Joe Jackson's "Is She Really Going Out With Him?" which is one of my all-time favorites. I recently found myself wondering who Toots and the Mayals were, and they were highly recommended to me (by Ian Brill, among others), specifically the song Lefty included, "Pressure Drop," and you know what? It's fantastic. I feel like I'm at a party when listening to it. Next is Green Day's "Letterbomb," which I've listened to a million times on the American Idiot album, but which is surprisingly strong on its own as well. "Bad 'n' Ruin" by the Faces I don't think I've ever heard before, but I liked it, also; Rod Stewart back when he was rasping out some rock, rather than Van Morrison covers or whatever the hell he's doing these days.

Tift Merritt's "Stray Paper" is next, and I could've sworn it was Sheryl Crow for a minute. I like Sheryl Crow, so that's a good thing. I'm not a big fan of Santana, but his "Samba Pa Ti" is an exception to the rule; I can just drift away in its melody. Track 8 is possibly my favorite of the disc (of the stuff I wasn't already familiar with): "Little Toy Brain" by Gov't Mule. Apparently, the group is an Allman Brothers spin-off, and it shows, with their strong, bluesy, southern rock sound. This is the first group I've heard on any of the discs that makes me immediately want to go buy the album (except for the Avenue Q cast recording, which Dorian kindly provided a copy of for me). Paul Pena is also unknown to me, but his "Gonna Move" is another finger-snapper; I fell right into its grooves. Susan Tedeschi's "I Fell In Love" didn't do much for me (reminded me of Bonnie Raitt, but I'd rather just stick with Bonnie Raitt), but it's followed up by a most unusual song (on this mix, anyway): Iron Maiden's "The Trooper." It's a heavy metal classic, and I love it. "You'll take my life, but I'll take yours too! You'll fire your musket but I'll run you through!" Awesome. Takes me right back to 7th grade.

I don't have much use for any ABBA song other than "Dancing Queen," but I really like "Dancing Queen" (anyone without a non-ironic appreciation of this song is dead inside. DEAD I tell you!), and here it is at track 12. We've got the Flaming Lips next, with "The Spark That Bled," and, much like Radiohead, I've never understood the appeal of Flaming Lips. They bug me. Skip ahead to Bruce Springsteen's new single, "Jesus Was an Only Son," which I didn't care much for on first hearing it, but which has grown on me (as nearly all Springsteen eventually does). A stripped-down recording of "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" is next, with just George Harrison performing, it sounds like, and it's nice, a version I've never heard, more heartfelt and mournful than the White Album version (I still prefer the album version, though). Never been a fan of the Grateful Dead or Jerry Garcia, and Jerry's "Sugaree" does nothing to change my mind. A live version of the Allman Brothers Band's "Blue Sky" is the last track before the Los Super Seven finale, and I don't care for it; at seven and a half minutes, it's way too long, and it's not a very good recording. So a couple of bad ones at toward the end, but overall, a tremendously enjoyable disc. Way to go, Lefty!

Kelly's disc opens with a Gov't Mule track, "Wandering Child," recorded live. Like the Allman Brothers live song on Lefty's disc, I thought it dragged on too long (7:45), and it lost my patience. Black Crowes I can take or leave, mostly leave, but "Soul Singing" I haven't heard in a long time, and it struck me just right. Phish is next, and like the Grateful Dead, or any noodle-heavy band, I'm not especially fond of them, but "Heavy Things" is decent enough. "Peaceful, Easy Feeling" by the Eagles is next, and there aren't many Eagles songs I can't get behind. Very nice. Gregg Allman's "Rendezvous with the Blues" follows, and it's more straight-up blues than I care for. Not big on the blues, no sir. Country blues, blues rock, bluegrass, blues + anything, I'm good with. Plain ol' blues puts me to sleep.

"I've Seen All Good People" by Yes is a classic, and brings back fond memories of college. Allison Krauss I know pretty much only from the O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack, but she's very good, and I liked "Every Time We Say Goodbye" a lot. Claire Lynch I'm not familiar with; she's got a very traditional country sound (what with the pickin' and a-grinnin' and all) that I can enjoy in small doses, so I liked "If Wishes Were Horses" just fine. Johnny Cash is next, with "(Ghost) Riders in the Sky," and if any of you have anything negative to say about Mr. Cash -- well, Johnny himself can finish that thought:

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John Mellencamp's "Walk Tall" is one of those new songs they put on Greatest Hits albums, to get people who already own all the old songs to pay for them again, just to get the new one. Thanks to Kelly, I don't have to do that now. It's a good song, but not worth the album price. Next is "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" by the Beatles, and what more can be said about that piece of brilliance? (Other than: I suspect it might have something to do with drugs.) "Power of Love/Love Power," by Luther Vandross, I didn't like; not my cup of tea. Jack Johnson I have to approve of on a song-by-song basis -- he can delight me with one song and bore me to tears with the next. "Times Like These" is on the positive end of the scale.

I've heard of, but never heard, String Cheese Incident, and I don't think "Got What He Wanted" converted me to fandom, although I think it has potential to grow on me. Len's "Steal My Sunshine" is great, silly fun, and I would've eventually downloaded it if I hadn't received it on this disc. I love Billy Joel, and I always have, and those of you who have a problem with that may refer to Johnny's picture above; "Tell Her About It" it still a tremendously strong, enjoyable song. And we close with another Allman track -- not Gov't Mule, nor Gregg, but official Allman Brothers Band, with "Soulshine." Another 7+ minute live track that closes the disc on the same soporific note it opened with, which is unfortunate. There are some high points scattered throughout, and it's definitely more enjoyable than not, but overall Mrs. Lefty Brown's disc falls short of the Mister's.

Several more Mixed Bag reviews remain. Hopefully I can get them all out of the way by the weekend -- but I wouldn't bet on it. And I don't think I'll be going through every single track again; just overall impressions, highs and lows. This took a damn long time, and I've got a 90-minute episode of The Shield to watch!

*Part one, part two.

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