The Freelance Mentalists.
Friday, January 26, 2007
  Kisses Sweeter Than Pine
The field survey is upon us once more.
Don Allred
Top Ten Country Albums Of 2006:
1. Jessi Colter: Out Of The Ashes (Shout! Factory)
2. Chatham County Line: Speed Of The Whippoorwill (Yep Roc)
3. Chris Smither: Leave The Light On (Signature Sounds)
4. Lone Official: Tuckassee Take (Honest Jons)
5. Various Artists: Kid Pan Alley: Nashville (Compass)
6. Cyndi Boste: Foothill Dandy (SoundVault)
7. CFH: Rebel Meets Rebel (Big Vin)
8. Willie Nelson: You Don't Know Me: The Songs Of Cindy Walker (Lost Highway)
9. Willie Nelson: Songbird (Lost Highway)
10. Oakley Hall: Gypsum Strings (Brah)

Top Ten Country Singles Of 2006:
1. Big & Rich: "8th Of November"
2. Anne McCue: "Coming To You"
3. Brain Surgeons NYC: "1864"
4. Rosanne Cash: "House On The Lake"
5. Ashley Monroe: "Satisfied"
6. Lari White: "Stinky Socks"
7. Dixie Chicks: "Not Ready To Make Nice"
8. Toby Keith: "A Little Too Late"
9. New Heathens: "Kansas Romeo"
10. Brain Surgeons NYC: "Lonestar"

Top Five Country Reissues Of 2006:
1. John Lee Hooker: Hooker (Shout! Factory)
2. Steve Goodman: Live At The Earl Of Old Town (Oh Boy)
3. Various Artists: Heartworn Highways (Shout! Factory)
4. Black Sage: Jack's Corner (Carpet Cat)
5. Various Artists: Classic Country: Sweet Country Ballads (Time Life)

Country Music's Three Best Male Vocalists Of 2006:
1. Willie Nelson

Country Music's Three Best Female Vocalists Of 2006:
1. Jessi Colter
2. Emmylou Harris
3. Dolly Parton

Country Music's Three Best Live Acts Of 2006:
1. Willie Nelson
2. Dolly Parton
3. Solas

Country Country Music's Three Best Songwriters Of 2006:
1. Chris Smither
2. Jessi Colter
3. Willie Nelson

Country Music's Three Best Duos, Trios, Or Groups Of 2006:
1. Solas
2. Shooter Jennings & The 357s
3. Cowboys From Hell

Country Music's Three Best Instrumentalists Of 2006:
1. Winifred Horan, fiddle (Solas)
2. Jon Graboff, steel guitar (Ryan Adams & The Cardinals)
3. Willie Nelson, guitar

Country Music's Three Best New Acts Of 2006:
1. Ashley Monroe
2. Sunny Sweeney
3. Carrie Underwood

Country Music's Three Best Overall Acts Of 2006:
1. Jessi Colter
2. Willie Nelson
3. Lone Official

Comments: Jessi Colter, whose early songs are credited to Margaret
Eddy, from when she was married to Chuck's Uncle Duane, emerged for
me, a little bit in the lemon-scented penumbra of her first and
biggest Jessi hit, "I'm Not Lisa," and much moreso on the expanded
reissue of Wanted: The Outlaws, but was and is still a reserved
journeyman. An artist of poise and potential, a masterful student. Out
Of The Ashes is a startling breakthrough, yet she seems shadowy, not
furtive or coy, just driving her low, rumbling keyboard over high,
rocky desert roads. Just like a woman, or some of 'em, no matter how
much she tells you, there's a fair, if implied, warning, that there's
a lot more where that came from, and a lot of it may stay Over There.
For instance,there's a brief, vividly allusive, yet elusive critique
of a certain outlaw, but in passing, as he's passing. She seems wise
to have waited this long after Waylon's death to record again, to have
gained perspective, but she doesn't dwell on it, except insofar as her
home seems in motion: "His Eye Is On The Sparrow" and "Rainy Day
Women" aren't the best performances, but they both move along at their
and her own chosen speed, and they're both equally emblematic of her
sensibility (And His eye surely must have noticed how they stone ya,
counted by every one of Shooter's drumbeats on the collaboration
originally commissioned by M-M-Mel Gibson for the companion album to
The Passion Of The Christ, and must also have noticed that this
sweatlodge session abjures the exploitational aspects of the stone-Ya
in The Passion, or the similar sequence in On The Waterfront, while
being scarier than either, just because of such unblinking austerity).
Sorry to do this, but running out of time: for more on Jessi and
Shooter , see "Honey Don't Put The OO Back in Umlaut! Shooter Jennings
Makes Retro His Own Thing," archived at (Blogger's not big on exact
links, but an Advanced Google will do it quickly)
Chatham County Line's Speed Of The Whippoorwill is non-nasal metagrass
(if I move as quickly as they do, mebbe can survive retaliation for
such a phrase). Migratory, sometimes fugitive Southerners, chasing the
right job, running from the wrong one, or sometimes both, like the
miner who gets into show biz by steering the coat tails of his
prodigious (or at least well-disciplined) kids, but finally his fear
of their failure, and his own return to the mines, is too great, and
he takes their money and runs, pursued by CCL, with just the right,
well-aimed mixture of coldness and compassion, of justice. (Also
please see my feature on them, "Both Sides Of The Line," archived at what I wrote about Kid
Pan Alley: Nashville, and Lari White's "Stinky Socks," which you can
also hear, at )
Chris Smither, Leave The Light On: Smither, whose "Love Me Like A Man"
and "I Feel The Same" were right at home on two of Bonnie Raitt's (and
the '70s') best albums, Give It Up and Takin' My Time, reminds me that
Allen Ginsberg said "Beat" came from "Man, I'm beat," and from
"beatitude" also, and Smither's got his own sense of hard won grace.
Not that he talks about it that way, but he lives it in his music,
often enough. Def the folkier blues, though obsessive in a country
way; can well imagine him on the corner of Bleecker and MacDougal with
Fred Neil nigh on forty year ago(though his own route was basically
from New Orleans to Cambridge), but no time for mellow crinkles, he's
even more like Nick Nolte in North Dallas Forty, the old pro athlete
who's gotta get up every morning and pretty literally put himself back
together again. He does know how to do this, and the music is fluid,
pickin' like those critters and other objects swimming in the
floodwaters of O Brother, Where Art Thou? But the voice and the words
are unsettled, always sorting themselves out (as are the pickers, but
the other elements are always catching up)(although he's got good
company, swimming around down, there, like the backup voices of
Olabelle, at times: a serendipitous simulation of field recording
magic, overall.)(Although the waltz version of "Visions Of Johanna" is
hideous filigree.) "Father's Day" is one of the most lucidly scary
songs ever: he's enough of a father and of a son and an artist for
that. Also, "Johanna" aside, got covers that suit him well, from Peter
Case and Mississippi Fred McDowell. (Voice now is like Tom Waits' was
on Closing Time; well, kind of between that and Nolte's!)(If he can
remind me of Waits, without turning me off, he's really got some stage
Someone else who overcomes objections, in this case even when I don't
want him to, is Willie Nelson. Sounds like he may be reading the
words to half the songs on Songbird for the first time, even the ones
he wrote himself. But it works well enough,
considering the way his voice and his guitar cue the steel guitarist,
and the rest of The Cardinals, and even when he leadeth them to squash
"$1000 Wedding," he puts the nightmarish lyrics across like he's
umpiring a public atrocity, which he is, of course. "Stella Blue"
could be unbearably poignant when sung by its composer, Jerry Garcia;
Willie uses just enough time release of tiny pain pills to lure me in.
And he nails "Hallelujah," even better than L.Cohen, who sounds even
flatter than Willie, who really knows how to rhyme the title with
"What's it to ya?" Several other A tracks, but yes, basically it's a
rehash of material he's done before, and even his approach to"Amazing
Grace," tilting it into the tune of "House Of The Rising Son," has
already been done by The Blind Boys Of Alabama, though the arrangement
must be different, 'cos it's credited to Ryan Adams. But Songbird's
got the overall momentum that You Don't Know Me doesn't, quite. No way
is his version of the latter's title track not left in the dust by Ray
Charles, while the Songbird tracks that beg comparison also pass their
tests. Also: who cares? This stuff works! As a guilty pleasure,
And yeah, much more of a guilty pleasure than is Rebel Meets Rebel,
which is presided over by David Allan Coe, as to the country metal
manor born, and the Panterans have also found their true home, in
whatever bar or barn or skidmarks may adorn Cat Scratch Highway (the
country metal Brigadoon I want to swallow Montgomery Gentry's "Slow
Ride In The Fast Lane," helping to slim MG's new set to its better
half, and prove its title, Some People Change).
Lone Official is a one trick pony, but one that keeps finding new ways
to go from a suspended lope to rippling explosions: as country as
their race hoss muses.
Oakley Hall, bearing the same name as the Western novelist admired by
Thomas Pynchon, and the same name as the novelist's visionary
playwright son, who seems to be steadily, amazingly recovering from fearsome
brain injury, over the course of thirty years, is now also a solid band of
pioneers, forcing themselves to plunge ever deeper into the poison
glow of the wilderness, flagellant poetry in motion, at least when
their guitars are in full cry. But they aren't always. They know how
to ease up sometimes. Which gives them more energy to get themselves
in even deeper, to "House Carpenter," where "those hills are murder."
My New Year's resolution is to find something interestingly bad to
write about (no, not interestingly bad to write, I got that covered).
Let's start early with Wayne Hancock's '06 release, Tulsa. His persona
here, even more than usual, is that of somebody who's made himself
come out of the wilderness (might be a descendant of Oakley Hall's
cousin, not quite a direct line). He's come to town, looking for some
fun. Not all fun, not big fun, and nothing too weird or wildernessy,
just the normal stuff that normal farmers and cowhands and townies
take for granted. His voice is marked by thirst and maybe strain, but
also it's naturally kinda high and thin; he's comfortable with that,
and used to turning over every rock bottom of depression to get where
he has to, or, in this case, wants to go, to see those bright lights
tonight. And he's arrived somewhere, but these lights are dimmer than
Hancock's willpower. This may well not be his band's fault. Judging by
No Depression's description of a session, for a track on an earlier,
equally frustrating (and perhaps frustrated) album. WH lambasted the
players, because the song is "starting to sound like Elvis, and I hate
Elvis!" So maybe the desert's in him too deep to shake, but still he
proves he has star power, by letting it trickle through the dust.
Oh yeah, the singles:
Brain Surgeons NYC sometimes do the urban country boogie, like they
worked extended temp in the Dallas Schoolbook Suppository, lookin' at
the world through a computer screen, like the rest of us, and, if Ross
The Boss's leads didn't seem quite so trite quite so often, and if Al
Bouchard gave up the mic more often to Deborah Frost, then Denial Of
Death might well have made my Rock Top Ten. But even so, on
"Lonestar," you get that Metal Brenda Lee is comin' on strong, and
Lemmy Lee too, pert' near (still meaning her, def not Al). But Al's the
Yankee boy proudly reporting for duty in "1864," and no less country
for that.
Big & Rich's "8th Of November" marches to a certain point in the
wilderness, then goes round and round and round, a lost patrol hanging
onto that fiddle like a helicopter. Will the last person out of Saigon
turn out the light at the end of the tunnel? (Sorry, that's just
something I saw written in the Men's Room at Maxwell AFB, a long time
But far from such a mossy cliché, is The New Heathens' "Kansas Romeo."
The New Heathens are very influenced by The Drive-By Truckers,
especially the way Patterson Hood's dry little cigarette voice
sometimes squeezes as many words as possible into a bar line, then
keeps on giving. But if I were assembling my own personal Deluxe
Edition of Southern Rock Opera, I'd slip "Kansas Romeo" in with the
best tracks from actual Truckers albums. Drawing on journalistic
sources, it carefully details the story of a kid from a low-income
family, pegged as borderline, in ethnic "mix" and I.Q., who ended up
in a prairie group home, fell in love, but "stopped as soon as he was
asked." Nevertheless, he's last seen in a prison cell, praying for
forgiveness. As the situation is described here, it seems likely that
he would have been charged with statutory rape, at most, if he hadn't
loved "another Romeo, instead of a Juliet." How many times has this
happened? Only once, in any song I've ever heard or heard of. It's not
much shelter, but I hope the guy in the song hears it someday,
sounding like one thing more than his own lonely voice.
Oops, the Reissues:
Certainly in terms of obsessiveness with the finer things in life ,and
with some other things as well, and of the resourcefulness, which is
part of the obsessiveness, John Lee Hooker is country, don't you
think? Maybe not twisted enough, judging by Hooker, the box set, but
close enough. Hooker prowls through all the one-man band sides he
recorded under various names; that's just one of its missions. And the
one-man-band consists of various effects of voice, guitar, and foot,
no cymbals or other fancy hookups required. Of all heavy friends on
the final disc (each of whom finds his own foothold, and his own
release), Robert Cray is the one who emulates and builds on the
inflections of Hooker's voice (and those other elements).Cray's
probably noticed that, by this point in the saga, The Hook's stutter,
for instance, has been demonstrated as a way to pick up women. (What
the heck, it sounds sounds as plausible as any other approach.)
Steve Goodman's Live At The Earl Of Old Town features Jethro Burns on
mandolin, appropriately enough, considering Goodman's twists on Homer
and Jethro's own smoothly skewed sensibility. Oh, everything's real
tuneful and chirpy, with covers of "Red, Red Robin," "Rockin' Robin,"
and "I'll Fly Away." But we also get the exultation of towing
"service" pirates of insatiable greed (based on a true Chicago
enterprise, a company named Lincoln, of course, set those pirates
free!). And ugly, funny, scary ditties by Shel Silverstein, and
Steve's own account of an H&Jesque innocent , checking out that there
NYC meat market, and even his also self-writ "City Of New Orleans"
sounds stained here, and overall, Goodman, who worked his way through
college penning jingles and singing at the folkie-legendary Earl,
while beginning to deal with the condition that tracked his 15-year
career, earns (and tips our way) the self-awarded halo of Cool Hand
Leuk, one more time. (Although I haven't heard SG's other live sets,
and Xgau told he gives this one an Honorable Mention, but he loves the
live disc of Goodman's No Big Surprise anthology, and if that really
is so much better than this, well so much the better indeed.)

Monday, January 15, 2007
  In Memoriam
Is anyone else out there mourning the passing of Michael Brecker?

His presence is going to haunt us for a long time to come, and in
unexpected, forgotten places. I apologize to you other trainspotters
for not listing some of them, but at the moment I just don't have the
time to go through the *NINE* screens' worth of albums with
Brecker-as-sideman appearances that are listed on

There was a time when, hearing a guest sax solo on a pop record, I
would say to myself, "hmm, Mike Brecker again -- I guess David Sanborn
was already booked that day," -- AND VICE VERSA.

Brecker was truly the best Great White Hope on tenor that our race
has ever come up with. And he belongs to the long line of musicians
who were hired by George Clinton AFTER they had already played with
James Brown (who, you'll note, beat Brecker to the finish by less than
three weeks).

In fact, my own all-time favorite Brecker guest spot is on
Parliament's "P.Funk (Wants to Get Funked Up)", which opens
"Mothership Connection": after George Clinton has presented his
manifesto, the horns step in and put things in perspective with
cooler-than-school solos. And while of course that's Fred Wesley on
trombone, it's Brecker and not Maceo testifying on tenor.

But that's just the paying-the-rent half of his life. Besides being
the era's most ubiquitous studio-session tenor saxophone player, he
was also the most influential JAZZ saxophone player of the past couple
of decades.

The cynic in me revelled in all the ironies when I saw him live in
Warsaw in June 1995, playing to a packed house of several thousand at
the Sala Kongresowa. For one thing, the opening act was Bob Berg's
quartet; and hearing Berg vis-a-vis Brecker, I was reminded of Lester
Young's comment on Paul Quinichette: "I don't know if I should play
like myself or like Lady Q, because Lady Q is playing so much like
me." But if they had booked any one of a dozen other young
saxophonists to open, I would have reacted the same way.

And then more irony: Brecker's appearing with headliner McCoy Tyner
meant that John Coltrane's former pianist had brought along the tenor
player whom jazz DJ Peter Michaelson once described as
"Coltrane-squared". I had long thought that Brecker's jazz style
could be summed up by saying that he had mastered "Giant Steps"-era
Coltrane but didn't bother with anything chronologically beyond that,
except that he learned how to do it twice as fast.

This was a slack oversimplification: he made his home within that
framework, but played with one order of magnitude greater complexity.
While I still love his playing on Pat Metheny's "80/81", it's
Dick-and-Jane material compared with later, when Brecker would
condense three to five times as many musical ideas in the same space.
It was mind-boggling, and invited the worst tendencies of jazz
listening/spectating (and jazz playing): can he do circular
breathing, check, good command of altissimo register, check,
flutter-tonguing, check, can he jump three and a half octaves and come
back down in the space of three notes, check. (No wonder he titled
one of his solo albums, "Don't Try This at Home.") But if, instead of
my thinking that it was all presented in an arbitrary and haphazard
way, the phrase "cut-up method" had occurred to me, things would have
clicked and I would have become a hopeless fanatic.

May his memory be blessed.

P.S. If you want to be an obsessive completist about it, start here
and page through:

John Wojtowicz

Thursday, January 11, 2007
  J-Pop Tree
Idolator Jackin' Pop 2006 Ballot (with links added to my reviews of
some entries, plus original ballot's brief comments retained at end)
1. Robert Cray Band: Live From Across The Pond (Nozzle)
(See comments on his work with John Lee Hooker in the 01.2007
archive, Country Ballot 2006, and comments on this album are
on this ballot, in last section)
2. Jessi Colter: Out Of The Ashes (Shout Factory)
For her & Shooter, see 04.2006 archive on top right margin here
(also, see comments on the Country 2006 ballot)
3. Leanne Kingwell: Show Ya What (Krill)
See "Jeepster"( just below the belatedly added, out of
"Barred Bards") ,on the front page of my Voice stash,
4. Fiery Furnaces: Bitter Tea (Fat Possum)
5. Tolcha: Gestalt (Meta Polyp)
6. Sepultura: Dante XXI (SPV)
7. Particle: Transformations Live For The People (Shout Factory)
8. Voivod: Katorze (The End/EMI)
9. Cyndi Boste: Foothill Dandy (SoundVault)
10. Bobby Previte: Coalition Of The Willing (ropeadope)
(scroll a little further down this page, or chack 12.2006 archive, for
blog mix of uweekly article)
1. Scream Club: "Pardon Me" (Wired)
2. Lavender Diamond: "You Broke My Heart" (ldr)
3. Terry Manning featuring the Hi Rhythm Section:
"I Can't Stand The Rain" (Sunbeam)
4. Anne McCue: "Coming To You" (Messenger)
5. Hildegarde Knef: "Holiday Time" (Marina)
6. Chris Smither: "Father's Day" (Signature Sounds)*
7. New Heathens: "Kansas Romeo" (New Heathens)*
8. ESG: "I'd Do It For You" (Soul Jazz)**
9. Brain Surgeons NYC: "Plague Of Lies" (Cellsum)*
10. Red Lotus: "Firecracker" (Red Lotus Music)
*see Country 2006 ballot & comments, in 01.2007 archive
**see Dancestand Internationale (2006!), just before or after this here thing
1. John Lee Hooker: Hooker (Shout Factory)*
2. Lizzy Mercier Descloux (Ze)
See 9.2006 archive, Liquor For The Soul, and also **
3. China Shop: 21 Puffs On The Cassette
4. Traffic Sound: Yellow Sea Years 68-71 (anthologyrecordings)
5. Eyeless in Gaza: Plague Of Years (Sub Rosa)
1. Cary Baker, /
publicist, exec.producer
2. Scott Woods,,
, writer, editor

editors, publishers & staff
Vs. Death (incl. avoiding & otherwise messing with consequences) the
theme as usual, but if that sounds too rockist, be assured that my
album of the year, Robert Cray Band's Live From Across The Pond, has
plenty pretties to lure us into RC's obsessions. "Whether the right or
the wrong, at least the mystery's gone." But his guitar always thinks
otherwise, sniffing at numbers in a phone booth, extending a tour of
duty in Iraq, even trying to follow somebody down the hall. Now that
Dylan's finished his old-timey-rewired trilogy, maybe he'll check
this, and be reminded of just how deep a modern blues album can go.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007



By Don Allred The underground dance hype of 2006 was Girl Talk's Night Ripper. It's a collection of early 00s-type mash-ups. Yes, nasty rap boys, chirpy r&b girls, Dadpop piano, Dadrock guitar, Dadpoprock women: they can all fit each other, we get it already. There aren't enough beyond-functional junctures sharp enough to seem as witty as the nudge-nudge wants to, although being instructed to "Tell me lies, tell me sweet little lies," next to directions for the Tootsie Roll, is the whole thing in a nicety nutshell. But nothing is revealed, not like back in the day, when Freelance Hairdresser blowed-out Eminem's inner ragtime minstrel from the (''n-n-nobody listens to techno!") techno gallery, real good. And The Best Bootlegs...Ever was a comp; has there ever been an album of good mash-ups from one DJ, or one team? Well, speaking also of moments of insight, there's Steinski's No Fear, and just for fun, try a set from Soulwax AKA 2 Many DJs. But not many others, and not from Greg Gillis, not this time, anyway (haven't heard his first). Still, for those who wanna bootleg the bootlegger or get otherwise bizzy, note that the first five or six tracks Night Ripper tracks might well get you out on the floor; the rest may let us see if you can dance in your sleep. Speaking of hype, 2004's critically-acclaimed Rio Baile Funk: Favela Booty Beats gave birth to an '06 sequel, More Favela Booty Beats, which is better. More gives it up for Mama Brazil's mutable musical heritage, putting the (relatively) more relaxed, tuneful tracks in front this time, with (fewer) Portuguese-rapping, 2 Live Crew fans bringing up the rear. (Where they do provide itchy excitement.) In terms of projecting individual personality, though, most of the Brazilians are left in the dust raised by crate-digging visions of 80s rap, Miami bass, and dancehall, back there with the UK's cheeky (but jittery and uncertain)"freestyle" urchin, Lady Sovereign. Her US debut, Public Warning, doesn't provide many tracks that are both new and good, though it does conveniently collect most of her earlier, better (basically comedy) workouts. The Def Jam press sheet plays down the grime connection, since Dizzee didn't break here; rather, she is presented in historical perspective, an archetypical figure that arises from the classic UK rebel stance musics, like Poly Styrene! Well, they don't go that far, but squint your ears more toward Lulu in To Sir With Love, and Tracey Ullman, or that's more what she might should aim for. (In other words, start looking beyond the music.) But, since most of her best stuff has been out a while (new handlers gambling that something new from here is gonna break right past alll that internets stuff), on singles and/or the Vertically Challenged EP, this also seems like Gretchen Wilson's second album (syndrome). But, y'know, "Big up to Oliver Twist," and still love the way she mocks the (cool!) rockist guitars of "Blah Blah," by shrugging off, "rrrr-rrrr, rrrr-rrrr-rrrr-rrrr," at the end of lines. Elsewhere, she goofs in more ways than one, by imitating Missy's more forced-sounding sounds, especially since the latter almost steals the (superfluous) remix of "Love Me Or Hate Me," by appearing at her own most relaxed, ironically, but also briefly enough, so it works out ok. But what did happen back there on Chalkhill, Sov? Something not this cute, so she does jitter past it, but had to mention it. (Perhaps if only cos: you must do that in this form, but: Jay-Z's people are watching, so: can't get too real in a way that might be too UK and/or female). Let it be then, 'til when/if you're ready. But not reddy, not like the girl who overdoes the tanner (in malnourishment and London fog?) and leaves an organge ring on the toliet seat, in "Tango"! But overall in '06, such blinky-to-sparky graftings of popped "I" and booty-boogie-wookie are upstaged by the distinctive rap-bass-dancehall-salsa profiles of Lagos Stori Plenti: Urban Sounds From Nigeria. Here's the same range of mood and activity as on the compilation Futurism Ain't Shit To Me 2, but with no need for that American/European hip-hop party's sci-fi satire of backpackas, round-the-way gangstaz, etc. Not even when robots who "need, a, can, of beer, so, I, can, freee-stylle," vainly seek convincing "Fake Idees," so get into beefs with uncool humans, "jealous of my infinite lifestyle"? No, not with the everyday surrealism of Lagos at hand. For instance, Modenine's "419 State Of Mind" is an epic description of what can happen if you open one of those inbox-infamous "Nigerian letters." (It sounds pretty exciting! H'mmm) One European who could cope with the tricky temptations of North and South America, and even Africa, was the late great Frenchwoman, Lizzy Mercier Descloux. Ze Records' 2006 LDM anthology, Best Off, still spins an eye-widening world of jazzy, pop-art-punk-disco-globe music.(See also "Liquor For The Soul," in the 9.2006 archive link on your right margin.) In the late summer of '06, The Pet Shop Boys' Fundamental and Canadian DJ-turned-vocalist Tiga's Sexor sleeplessly cruised ancient, shadowy connections between glam, prog, and disco, in discreetly powerful new machines. "Each of you looked up, but no one said a word, I felt I should apologize for what I hadn't heard." So make your excuses and leave, plunge yourself into work, and then into "Luna Park," "where it can never get too dark," and real-seeming orchestras preside like trees, somewhere overhead. The Boys seem to have learned from Dusty, or anyway producer Trevor Horn has (as far as instrumentally emulating her own voice's timing and vibe, rather than the erratic arrangements of her non-Pet Shop settings.)(No, not Dusty In Memphis, more the Brit stuff.) Ballads are cosmic enough to not harm the momentum. Tiga has a little trouble with liftoff, but soon learns to use his vocal limitations ominously, though not too too-too, as Tom Verlaine would put it. This def. pertains to what reviewer Jason MacNeil hears as Tiga's Pink Floydian vibe on one track, and that's the or a key to several others, including the Jeremy Irons-bringing-out-the best-of Roger-Waters finale. (Most of his best are collaborations with the Soulwax brothers.) "Pleasure From The Bass" is as headlong and hooded as any of it. Blowoff (Husker Du/Sugar frontman Bob Mould, times DJ Richard Morel), on their amorously armored, self-titled debut, and Zombie Nation (John Starlight), on Black Toys, brought those shadows into stripe the strobe light. Blowoff summons Bob as Leatherman, dancing like Peter Boyle in Young Frankenstein surely would have, if only he'd reached the beach. Black Toys could be called electro, or per-se dubstep, dubstep fortified with near-subliminal guitar shreds, Falstaffian space bass, and beats in big dirty silver boots, stomping and climbing up stadium steps. Also in 2006, two valiant, disco/house-based mixologists, Germany's Sven Vath and Italy's DJ Naughty, produced albums that encompassed the most tensile bends in old and new trends. On Vath's swanky-but-stanky 2-CD set, The Sound Of The Sixth Season, tracks like Extrawelt's "Zu Fuss" ripple through cycles of anticipation and payoff. But this kind of interaction also has to deal with the sheer length of the album, and the way any mix can eventually get predictable. (Okay, Disc 2 does seem to unwind, to some extent, from such obligations; it's just hard not to be think about the harpsichord massage/asssembly line dichotomy, once you've thought of it, while riding the rising traffic of Disc 1, most likely. Or reading about it here, before you've had a chance to listen. So, sorry to've mentioned it, actually; condense this [mix, not feature, please] a little, or just don't listen to it all at once, or try not to, and it's awesome.) DJ Naughty's A Naughty Night In Berlin is even more varied than Vath's vast valleys and peaks of tweaks, and can leave you gasping and grasping for more, despite its (single-disc) intensity. A clue to this balancing act is in the name of the DJ and his album: they get naughty indeed, but never too nasty. (Euros are better at the former.). 2006 was his diva, and she can teach 2007 how to sing as well. ( is probably the best source of most of the best albums mentioned here.) (Ditto for instance ESG's Keep On Moving, with the hurt-so-good discipline of its pioneering, still trenchant bass & drum grooves, seldom-seen guitar, sweet incisions of vocals, incl. when ["I'm his"] "Ex" warns her successor of the pain that stains, deeper and deeper, it seems, but really it's the same, the same; but most of this is happy around that, and "purely physical, baay,by": Keep On Moving, either way.)(Also, Forced Ex should still have Panama! Latin, Calypso and Funk on the Isthmus 1965-75. lots of familiar and new and nascent styles and notions sorting themselves out, mash-ups not waiting for a DJ. Fave: The Exciters' "New Bag," which sounds like somebody's been listening to mid-60s James Brown, Miles Davis, and Velvet Underground's bread-x-butter, a-go-go rhythm guitarist, which one is he?)


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