Thursday, October 4, 2007
VARIOUS ARTISTS | Love Is the Song We Sing: San Francisco Nuggets 1965-1970 | Rhino
The Summer of Love still casts its patchouli-scented shadow on the Bay Area 40 years later, a legend blessed and cursed by old hippies and academics who weren’t even alive at the time. One thing you can’t refute is the Bay Area’s revolutionary impact on the music business. Yet despite the talk of a “San Francisco sound,” the music of the ‘60s was too diverse for that. Garage noise, blues, folk, jazz, country, pop, rock, and more went into the pot, and with the pot, to create a smorgasbord of anti-commercial sounds.
On this four-CD set, you get all the expected hits, from Jefferson Airplane’s “It’s No Secret” to the Count Five’s “Psychotic Reaction” to Santana’s “Evil Ways.” You also get the minor hits and obscure gems from dozens of bands long forgotten. “Stranger in a Strange Land” by Blackburn & Snow was a big club hit but never made it as a single, despite Sherry Snow’s stunning looks and the duo’s amazing harmonies. Concord’s Immediate Family set verses by Omar Khayyam to a vaguely Eastern scale played on a mysteriously trebly keyboard. “Hearts to Cry” is an expansive, innovative, psychedelic pop gem by Frumious Bandersnatch, a great East Bay band that never quite made it. The Ace of Cups, one of the first all-girl bands in rock, delivers “Glue,” an indictment of the commercial mentality that unfortunately still sounds timely.
You can buy this for the hits, but you’ll enjoy the thrill of discovery as you explore the obscure and unsung bands that produced much of the era’s legendary aura. — J. Poet
MANU KATCHE | Playground | ECM Records
Playground, French drummer Manu Katche’s third jazz release as a leader, finds him surrounded by perceptive and sensitive European musicians. The piano-bass team of Marcin Wasilewski and Slawomir Kurkiewicz, long of Polish trumpeter Tomasz Stanko’s group, bring over 15 years of proven teamwork to bear in their sublime ensemble work. On “Motion” they demonstrate how clearly they can anticipate where the other is going to take underlining harmonic sequences. Their deft feel for time allows Katché to focus on inflecting the melodies with additional colors and not have to carry the group’s pulse.
Katché’s brushwork on “Morning Joy” and brilliant cymbal work on “So Groovy” is eloquent and expressive. Throughout the 12 tunes he’s not only musical, but also tied directly to the ensemble’s drive without sacrificing the former.
The best part of the disc may be Katché’s compositions. Full of revolving cycles of clear structures, they are beauty incarnate. Overall a heartfelt disc and as earnest as any straight-ahead jazz disc you’ll hear. — Thomas Erdmann
ME’SHELL NDEGEOCELLO | The World Has Made Me the Man of My Dreams | Emarcy
Unlike, say, Erykah Badu, Me’shell NdegéOcello is not weighed down by unrealistic expectations to resurrect some long-lost soul movement. NdegéOcello’s fans expect her to go far out, and she does.
The World Has Made Me the Man of My Dreams sounds like what the Black Rock Coalition should have been: rat-a-tat drum cracks that hit harder than drum and bass, and NdegéOcello’s own tough, rhapsodic bass licks. Sci-fi motifs such as “The Sloganeer: Paradise” compare modern life to suicide. And yet, in “Headline,” she stakes her claim to pleasure, singing, “I do some right, I do some wrong/ I pray to let life guide me,” while criticizing the gossips who cannibalize media figures who live by those rules. And, of course, there are the love songs that seem more deep and sensuous than anything heard before. – Mosi Reeves