Cook's Corner 27

By: Dennis Cook

There's a soundtrack for every occasion. My own summer listening has taught me a few things. One, the Dixie Chicks make seriously great albums that go down like sweet tea in August. Two, the Lovin' Spoonful's "Summer In The City" is exactly what you need to hear when the night is far away and your apartment is steamier than Satan's taint. Three, good music is as valuable as air conditioning when weathering the sure, incremental temperature surge of global warming. Find the right combo of song and scenery and you'll feel coolness simmer up from within. Our bodies love a happy soul and hum with appreciation when we take the time to unearth our perfect soundtrack. Mayhap there's a score or three for your own corner of the world waiting below.

Album of the Month:
Mushroom with Eddie Gale: Joint Happening (Hyena)

Joint is a skittering daydream, a psychedelic Viewmaster, creativity so organic and heady you can taste the earth and vegetation. Never rushed, never worried, this announces a new way of being In A Silent Way. Matt Cunitz's swooning vintage keyboards are the coral reef Gale's succulent trumpet swims around, finding new hollows and fresh colors with each pass. After the marvelously modal opener, the instruments mount, Ned Doherty's luxurious, twisty bass rising out of vibraphone cumulus or snaky guitar needling Pat Thomas' loping, irresistible percussion. Mushroom have always been more talented than most but also a bit more willfully esoteric - the easy path ain't for true wisdom seekers – but a pervasive sense of purpose blankets Joint Happening, easily their fullest, most cohesive record to date. Pieces like "I Was Torn Down At The Dance Place" have the feel of a quintessential acid test without being some postmodern mental exercise. Mushroom and Gale are deliriously switched-on, and these sessions possess a rare immediacy and sticky imagination. This is electric jazz (though that limited tag only partially covers the stylistic spread) fulfilling its early '70s promise. Pitched somewhere between Herbie Hancock's Mwandishi, Tortoise's Millions Now Living Will Never Die and Herbie Mann's Push Push, this Happening is a considerable slab of slippery, mesmerizing motion you'll dig puzzling over for ages.
Prime Cuts: "I Don't Need To Fight To Prove I'm Right – I Don't Need To Be Forgiven"

Runner-up:
Michael Penn: Palms & Runes, Tarot & Tea (RCA/Epic/Legacy)

You'd be hard pressed to find a more stellar track record than Penn's in the past 15 years. Each album sturdily built on the residing pleasures that preceded it, revealing with measured determination one of the classiest, savviest pop architects of our time. Folks throw phrases like "Beatle-esque" or "Kinks-ian" around as if every All-American Reject deserved such lofty praise BUT apply those adjectives to Penn and you're getting somewhere. Palms & Runes, Tarot & Tea cherry picks 20 treats from Penn's catalog, many offered in alternate or new versions. The title subtly nods to a career of volatile fortunes. After quick chart success with his brashly creative '89 debut, March, the commercial end dropped off sharply. In the past decade, Penn has become a fixture on indie film scores, which is fitting. Listen intently and Penn's world flashes bright, fully populated with broken philosophers and misfit lovers that burn with understandable passions. This anthology offers a chance to catch up for those who've missed out on the years since he introduced us to Romeo in black jeans. Don't let this goodness pass you by a second time.
Prime Cuts: "Long Way Down (Look What The Cat Dragged In)," "Walter Reed"

(New) Classic Rock Joint of the Month:
Syrup: Syrup (Feedback Symphony Music)

Whip it out and prepare to par-tay like a golden god! Syrup chug like a "Mississippi Queen" living "Life In The Fast Lane" – mad hooky shit with enough amp buzz to keep things impolite. Meth thin and looking like Bret Michaels' closet blew up all over them, the foursome slap it around like Appetite For Destruction was the Rosetta Stone and the James Gang never lost one of their own to the Hotel California. By themselves, the song titles tell you lot – "Sexy Swimmin' Hole," "Pimp2Nite" and "Vampires On The Diamond Parade" may not be Mensa material but they'll get your rocks off and how! Let Syrup grab your ears and make you do magnificently awful things. You won't regret it a bit…till the next morning!
Prime Cuts: "Fatback High On The Hog," "Miracle Mountain"

Vintage Stash Pick of the Month:
John Phillips: Jack Of Diamonds (Varese Sarabande)

Anyone expecting "Monday Monday" or even a redo of Phillips' cult-adored 1969 solo debut, John, The Wolf King of L.A will be caught off-guard by this posthumously released hypothetical sophomore album. Here, the Mamas and the Papas mastermind delves into glossy but very appealing jazz-pop the likes of which Joni Mitchell (Court and Spark) and Gerry Rafferty (City to City) would stumble onto a couple years later. These sessions from 1972-73 aren't an entirely comfortable marriage between Phillips increasingly complex reveries and the layered backings but there's more than enough gold to justify excavation. The title tune (aka "Me And My Uncle," the beloved Grateful Dead staple penned by Phillips) gets two fab takes and there's two songs from Robert Altman's Brewster McCloud and a pair of Mamas and Papas outtakes. Beyond any quibbles, this is a new chapter in a story most thought ended long ago, which is reason enough to rejoice.
Prime Cuts: "Jack of Diamonds," "Devil's On The Loose"

Jana Hunter: There's No Home (Gnomonsong)
Once touched Hunter's music is hard to put down. Each instrument is carefully placed, the impact of a piano's entrance or a violin's swerve accentuated by the overall spareness, which lays bare the chafed heart of Hunter's muse. She exhibits Brill Building craftsmanship here, singing like Carole King with a spiny tide pool in her throat – a clapboard cousin to Laura Nyro and Melanie channeling the feel, if not the flavor, of '60s wayfarers. Accented by gamelan murmurs, cowboy ghosts and miniature, Fahey-esque guitar figures, There's No Home is a little weird, a little sweet and a lot interesting.
Prime Cuts: "Vultures," "Regardless," "Birds"

The Old Ceremony: Our One Mistake (Sona Blast)
The Old Ceremony ring with the artfully spoken truthiness of Randy Newman and Neil Finn, slicing down to reality's ground water, tapping into things most people keep tucked away from the light. The spoonful of sugar is the lush, smart construction of every piece, where they go from lonely upright piano to mini-orchestras of bells, sighing violin and plush vibraphone. A decent comparison is Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds' last few releases – aurally fascinating, confidently played, ambitious interpretations of the possibilities within a rock combo. This gets better with every spin, and it's pretty appealing out of the gate. There's so many fine crevices inside this Mistake it'll take you a very long time to spelunk them all.
Prime Cuts: "Talk Straight," "Get To Love"

Jonathan Wilson: Frankie Ray (Koch)
Wilson offers us a gracious, unabashedly romantic invitation to trip the light fantastic. Carrying some of the holy songwriter spirit that once resided in Pete Ham and Chris Bell, Wilson's restless mind and open heart embody everything most independent rock isn't today by being inviting, full of intelligent, thoroughly musical shifts and unafraid to speak plainly when it serves the song better than complication. Frankie Ray feels whole and strangely wholesome in the same way as Paul McCartney's Ram or Fred Neil's treasured self-titled album from 1967. He delivers his full-blooded missives in a breathy, passionate tongue that tells us about the woman in his heart that thinks he's crazy. Frankie Ray is one to put aside for when your emotions run deep and most other music feels prickly and unapproachable. Wilson and his near perfect song cycle will be waiting with open arms.
Prime Cuts: "Dreaming," "El Matador," "Sing To You"

Adrienne Young: Room To Grow (AddieBelle)
A sweet voice broadcasts on border radio from the outskirts of dreamland. One turn finds you kickin' large at a barn dance and the next accepting a hankie for the weepies the singer just loosened up. Young is a real woman, unlike the little girls tossed at us after the Shania-fication of country. Full of husky life and wicked range, Young could sit down for shots with Tanya Tucker and Jessi Coulter. Produced by session master Will Kimbrough, Room To Grow is packed with tough, tasty musicianship built on great tunes. In the space of three songs she recalls the Dixie Chicks ("Room To Grow"), Patty Griffin ("Natural Bridge") and early Nanci Griffith ("In Between the Heartbeats"). That she also makes room for a great cover of Joni's "Free Man In Paris" and writes what should be Top 10 hits ("High Flyin' Dream") is just more reason to give her a spin on a red brick floor.
Prime Cuts: "Free Man In Paris," "All For Good," "High Flyin' Dream"

Life On Earth!: Look!! There Is Life On Earth! (Subliminal Sounds)
Imagine being not the blond curled child that fell down a strange rabbit hole but instead the actual size changing metaphysical liquid inside the vials in Wonderland – mutable, chemically charged viscosity waiting to race in the bloodstream. What would you sound like as you triggered synapses and raised body temperatures? Well, it might be a bit like Mattias Gustavsson's delirious modern-paisley audio cavalcade, Look!! There Is Life On Earth!. The Dungen multi-instrumentalist dons his best caftan and spaceman helmet and sets off for parts unknown in a pair of weathered Tevas. You'll skip and giggle as you trek behind, picking up the peppermints and incense that spill from his duffle bag. Like the best fairy stories, you can revisit Gustavsson's kaleidoscope land and always delight in what you discover waiting for you.
Prime Cuts: "Right In Between," "Life On Earth"

Various: What The Folk – Butterfly Acoustic Recordings Vol. 1 (Butterfly)
Inside this wondrous old school (I'm talkin' Alan Lomax old school) anthology is the inscription: "At a conference of jackdaws and myriad birds, to sit, still and ever silent, listening." Sure, why not? What The Folk Vol. 1 is the brainchild of celebrated producer and Killing Joke bassist Youth and former guitarist for The Verve Simon Tong. The pair scoured the English countryside in search of "artisans and ageing hippies" from "the bedsits of Brixton" to "the furthermost Celtic fringe." What they came back with is possibly the finest easy listening collection of the year. The "acoustic" tag in the subtitle is a touch misleading since there's judicious use of electricity on a set that encompasses Simon & Garfunkel strum (Indigo Moss and The Sand Band), John Renbourn-esque blues (Oli Don and Duke Garwood & Paul May), '70s AM swoon (Samantha Marais and Green Peppers), Bridget St. John-like misty folk fare (Lisa Knapp) and a few indescribable wows (Music For Dogs and Attic). Despite the diversity, it flies by so quickly, so seamlessly that you'll need a few passes before you get why Tong and Youth picked this lot to launch their new record label. The reasons are myriad and obvious if you give it enough time.
Prime Cuts: Lisa Knapp's "Blacksmith," Damian Katkhuda's "Dance Around The World"

Join us next month when we kick more sand in the eye of "The Man" as we check out independent new releases from Argentina's Federico Aubele, the country fabulous Hotdamns, divine weirdo Homeblitz, UK space rockers Litmus and more. Always more…

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[Published on: 8/30/07]

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Comments

gmoo Sat 9/1/2007 10:51AM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

gmoo

Thanks so much Dennis!

fydo1974 starstarstarstarstar Sat 9/1/2007 11:20AM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

fydo1974

"Steamier than Satan's taint" -- yep, Dennis is back! :)

aquariumdrunk starstarstarstarstar Tue 9/4/2007 07:44AM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

aquariumdrunk

Any mention of Jana Hunter will bring a smile to my face.

Thanks!

bsclowds starstarstarstarstar Tue 9/4/2007 10:22AM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Thanks for giving me my soundtrack for the week! I'm loving "Joint Happening" right now

tommont starstarstarstarstar Wed 9/5/2007 04:15AM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

tommont

as always, Dennis, a fine little piece of writing about several rekkids that a lot of people want to or need to hear. thanks for taking the time to write and open ppls ears. esp thanks for "album of the month" for our boys mushroom for their new joint (one of two actually, as they've also released a new record at about the same time that is titled "yesterday, i saw you kissing tiny flowers..." Alison Faith Levy & Mushroom w/ some pretty cool mat'l w/ songs like "kraut mask replica" (after the beefheart album, duh), "the sun machine is coming down and we're gonna have a party", "you laugh at me because i'm different, i laugh at you because you're all the same" and the excellent track "josh pollock" (guitarist and megaphone w/ mushroom). hey: the song titles ain't the only thing about mushroom that is cool! keep on keepin on dennis and we all truly appreciate you! tom (just back from a stunning 3 days at bumbershoot!)

berkeley ca

tommont starstarstarstarstar Wed 9/5/2007 04:24AM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

tommont

hey 'base and basers sorry for two comments on one cd not even reviewed but the other 'shroom record w/ alison faith levy, that last track i commented on "the sun machine is coming down and we're gonna have a party" is a relatively obscure bowie cover. check it out. i loves me some MUSHROOM! thx agin Dennis!