Re: PMX2 Thorsday Soundoff

Author:Matt Johnsen
Date:2017-12-28 18:41:29
In Reply To:PMX2 Thorsday Soundoff by von
A happy Saturnalia to you, my friend!

Shadowland - Falling. Anyone remember Heads or Tales? They were an awesome prog metal band on Black Mark (of all labels) who released one and only one album in the mid 90s. I love that album to death, and always wondered what happened to the singer, Robert Forse. Well, turns out he popped up briefly about 10 years ago to record this album with. Musically, it's standard-issue prog metal of the sort that doesn't actually involve any particularly fancy playing or unusual song structures. You know, non-prog prog metal. But, Forse still sounds good and the tunes are catchy enough to keep me interested for 50 minutes or whatever. Hardly essential, but still good, and worth tracking down if you happen to be the world's other Heads or Tales fan.

Hittman - Metal Sport demo. Bonus tracks to the nice reissue of the debut album on No Remorse Records. This demo is always given "better than the album" marks, but I wouldn't say that's necessarily true. It's good, though, and there are a few solid tunes that don't appear on the album. And of course, if you don't actually own the s/t Hittman album, this reissue is essential.

Blue Mitchell - Blue's Blues. Buddy Terry - Awareness. Curtis Fuller - Crankin'. Three reissued albums from the catalog of Mainstream Records. All are good electric jazz from the early 70s, and I especially dig the Fuller album, but there are better Mainstream releases for sure, like Shelley Manne's Mannekind, Pete Yellin's Dance of Allegra (still not available on CD, rassa frassa), and Hal Galper's Wild Bird.

Charlie Mariano - Mirror. I own four Mariano discs, and a few albums he's on as a sideman, and every one is brilliant. This album isn't on par with Helen Twelve Trees, but it's still fuck-all great. I should just hoover up everything the guy ever did, because so far, he's batting 1.000 for me.

Sato - Leather Warriors. Demo comp from this Seattle band who were rough contemporaries with Queensryche. I think I have a compilation record with one of these tunes. They were also medium-famous for being the first band of Mike Starr, later of Alice in Chains and Ozzy. Fine US power metal that unsurprisingly sounds more or less like QR, but this is an archival release mainly meant for idiots like me who buy whatever dumb old shit some semi-legitimate Greek label wants to foist on me.

Jaco Pastorius - Truth Liverty & Soul. A great sounding live recording from 1982. This one was a present from my wife, and a surprise at that. As you can imagine, it takes a bit of work to find an album I'd want that I haven't already bought myself. At least, that is, without asking me for ideas. Anyway, I'm not the world's biggest Jaco fan (he was a great player who did a lot of snoozy music) and this does lean a little too smooth for me at points, but it's overall a nice document of the guy's ability, and that of of the very capable band he assembled for this show.

Screamer - What Excites You. This is the same band who released Target: Earth back in the 80s on New Renaissance. They self-released this comeback in 2008, but no one noticed or cared, and now Cult Metal Classics has reissued it. It's... okay. I mean, it's way better than it could have been (ever hear the Sacred Rite comeback album? Eek!) but it doesn't sound especially like the Screamer of old, so what's the point? This is very 2008 melodic metal, and it's totally fine, but it's nothing to get worked up about.

Imogen Heap - Sparks. Another christmas present. I have her other solo albums, but I never got this latest one, probably because her third album wasn't even in the same neighborhood of quality as Speak for Yourself. And yeah, this one isn't really, either, but there's no denying the crazy amount of talent Heap's working with, and her voice is really great. This is basically like Bjork for beginners: glitchy and breathy but without any sharp edges.

Men at Work - Business as Usual, Cargo. Dismiss them as one hit wonders (despite their having had no less than 4 big hits) but this band, at least on these first couple of albums, was astoundingly great. Everything came together just right for them. Of course, you can more or less hear the seeds of destruction even here. Why on god's earth would that horn guy try to usurp Colin Hay as the lead singer? While not as egregious an offense as any single Scorpions song sung by Uli Jon Roth, tunes like "Helpless Automaton" and "I Like To" really just shouldn't exist. The reissues of these two albums are chockablock with b-sides that are well worth hearing if you like M@W, especially the epic "The Longest Night," which the band didn't record in the studio until the 00s, when a scab-heavy lineup recorded an inferior version to pad out a best-of. The original live recording is the only way to go.

Billy Bragg - William Bloke. For some reason, I was always under the impression that this was one of Billy's weaker efforts, and I had never owned it before just recently. I was a fool! This album is great! It's better than either of the albums that bookend it, even if it doesn't quite rise to the level of Workers Playtime or Talking with the Taxman about Poetry (the guy is great at titles, as you'd expect from one of the greatest lyricists of the 20th century)

Arakain - Metalmorfoza, Labyrint. I'm only just getting around to catching up with all the post-AleŇ° Brichta Arakain albums. They're not as good as the old stuff, and they sound modern in pretty much exactly the way you might expect a former thrash band to sound, but they're still pretty good, and it must be said that the guy who replaced Brichta still has a great (if very similar) voice. I have two or three even newer Arakain albums coming to me, but I'm not super hopeful that they're going to rule.

Genius Hired Guns - Dutch Mafia. Cool Thought Industry adjacent project from the mid 90s. It's not as good as TI, but it definitely scratches the same itch. If it WERE a TI album, it would make the most sense sandwiched between Outer Space... and Black Umbrellas. It's not as weird as the former, nor (at all) as bleak as the latter.

Herbie Hancock - Dedication. Finally got a copy of this weird entry in Herbie's discography. It came out right around when Headhunters came out, but only in Japan, and it's just four tracks of Herbie playing solo. The first couple pieces are just straight-up piano improv, but the second two show off Herbie's increasing interest in electronics and synthesizers, including some arpeggiators that provide a semblance of a beat. Hardly essential, I guess, but still quite cool, and this is prime-era Herbie for sure.

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