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Music Reviews

Roy Orbison

Roy Orbison

The Last Concert December 4, 1988

Eagle Rock entertainment

Someone once said “Every show is your last show” and for Roy Orbison that show took place in lowly Akron, Ohio in 1988. After half a century of setting the standards for pop and rock, Roy Orbison and his trademark dark glasses left us with a legacy of standards that populate nearly every “Best of the ’50s and ’60s” disc plugged on late night TV. It’s not clear if this recording was planned as part of a live concert disc, or if it was just made for archival purposes. The sound quality is acceptable for a live show and it doesn’t appear to have undergone much post recording sweetening. Of course, with Roy out of the picture they really couldn’t loop much, but the playing is flawless as are the vocals. However there is a sort of flat quality in the sound — it’s hard to pin down exactly what’s missing and that’s why I think this is the real deal, taken right off the master mix board. Possibly it’s the room acoustics, perhaps just the vagrancies of any random performance, but Roy’s voice is clear, and his falsetto three bars into “Only the Lonely” shows he still had all his vocal chops.

His show seems short with just 14 tracks the liner notes claim are in the show’s running order, but he covers the big hits and adds a few nice obscurities. “In Dreams” floats along languidly and reminds us all of why Orbison became the king of lonely love songs. There aren’t any bad cuts here, and highlights include “Blue Bayou” and a very sad “Cryin’.” “Candyman” picks up some unobtrusive female backing vocals — the girls are in other cuts but very hard to notice. There aren’t many upbeat cuts here, but “Ooby Dooby” adds some rockabilly piano and on “Lana” it sounds like he finally got that date he’s been moping for for the last 10 tracks. Showman that he is, he keeps his biggest hit in his back pocket and ends the show with a rousing “Pretty Woman” (it’s the only cut with audience whistling in the middle). It’s not the best “Pretty Woman” I’ve ever heard him do, but it’s not bad. The Last Concert is a solid set of music and a must for the diehard fan, but I feel his studio work is better than this live collection. Faint praise, but praise none the less.

Eagle Rock entertainment: www.eaglerockent.com

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Music Reviews

Chris Joss

Chris Joss

Sticks

ESL

Chris Joss’s music is deceptively retro. The first listen brings back thoughts of hip parties in ’60s films, sitar and hemp-soaked Love-Ins, and the whole distant memory of the hippie revolution. But as you sit through the disc a few more times, the underbrush of memory fades leaving Joss’s technical skills. He’s an artist who can create a post-post-modern soundscape that sounds authentic, but reveals the curious anachronism of a four track sound created with modern digital precision. Super Fly mixes with guru Maharishi Yogi while early Rolling Stones dissonate with a Peter Sellers sound track. The whole ensemble is slick and convincing, rolling over hill and metaphoric dale and sounding like your next costume party. No vocals intrude beyond a gentle female “uh-uh-uh,” nor is there any need for words. Why suffer through a jarring power ballad or up tempo duet? It’s pure chill-out music, perfect for some long-term lava lamp gazing.

ESL Music: www.eslmusic.com

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Music Reviews

Petula Clark

Petula Clark

Open Your Heart / Portrait of Petula Clark

Collectors’ Choice

If one woman summarized ’60s girl pop, it would be Petula Clark. With her innocent good looks and bubbly singing style, she erupted out of the Swinging London scene and conquered pop music. Mega hits like “Downtown,” “Don’t Sleep in The Subway Darling,” and “A Sign of The Times” ate up the charts, and after this initial success, she settled into a long if less chart-topping career in France, and currently hold the Guinness Record for biggest selling British pop star. Collectors’ Choice has released this twin pack of Petula goodness with a CD of her later works, and a surprisingly entertaining NBC special from 1969 on DVD.

Open Your Heart features her post-1972 recordings, and while none are oldies radio staples, all of them are consistently listenable and have that “I’m sure I heard that somewhere” quality that comes from her solid performance style. There’s a loungy redo of “Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You,” but potential standards “Walking on Air” and “Little Bit of Lovin'” keep the disc surprising. There’s no filler in any of these 21 cuts.

The DVD, complete with the old NBC Peacock intro, is not only a good look at Petula, but a vibrant time capsule of network television production values from 40 years ago. The variety show, a long-eared holdover from vaudeville still brought in the ratings — singing, dancing, skits, and corny humor satisfied America’s entertainment needs before the dozen of cable channels began narrowcasting to thinner and thinner demographics and splintered America viewing habits. Crooner Andy Williams joins Ms. Clark, along with French heartthrob Sacha Distel and London stage actor Ron Moody fresh from his triumphant role as Fagin in Oliver. She sings “My Funny Valentine,” “This Girl’s in Love With You,” and “I Know A Place” along with a duet of “Visions of Sugar Plums” with Mr. Williams. Second Unit footage shows her with her identically dressed twin daughter at their French home, on London streets, and other semi-exotic locals. While there’s a certain amount of corn (Williams sings “You Can’t Roller Skate in a Buffalo Herd”), the show engages and rarely are you tempted to fast forward. Either of these history lessons is worth a look, and Petula Clark might be as close to timeless as a British invader can ever be.

Collectors’ Choice: www.collectorschoicemusic.com, • Petula Clark: www.petulaclark.net

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Music Reviews

The Clientele

The Clientele

God Save the Clientele

Merge

For any band making a long go of it, stylistic change is inevitable and when that shake-up occurs there are bound to be divisions drawn by long-time fans. Belle & Sebastian is a prime example of this. Their graduation from bedroom to Broadway on Dear Catastrophe Waitress ended up alienating some but also enabled them to reach a wider pop audience. With God Save the Clientele, the sonic shift has struck The Clientele and while this release might not sound dramatically different to casual listeners, it took some getting used to for folks like me.

One of The Clientele’s defining characteristics was their dream-like sound. It had an agelessness that’s practically erased in this digital age. That low lo-fi hum — like the whisper of a running 4-track cassette tape — was like a reliable fourth instrument among the bass, drums and guitar. On this release, the band forsakes allusions to this ambiance to embrace clear melodies and bubblegum riffs. The inclusion of new member Mel Draisey on strings and piano to the band’s line-up has freed singer/guitarist Alasdair MacLean to focus more on rhythm rather than tremolo-soaked guitar leads. As such, the obvious Monkee-isms on the opener “Here Comes the Phantom” are momentarily shocking, as is the strident dance-punk strut (!) of “Bookshop Casanova,” but this band has had such a deep knowledge of pop songwriting at their disposal their whole career that there isn’t the slightest faltering in this boundary pushing. Tracks like “I Hope I Know You” and “The Queen of Seville” are more languid, restrained fare and sure to please those who reveled in the cool commiseration of The Clientele’s past. It’s too soon to tell if God Save the Clientele is a transition record from dream pop to a more ’60s bent psychedelic revival, but it’s a quality addition to their body of work and a fine tuning of their sound that should please all fans of well-crafted pop music.

Merge Records: www.mergerecords.com

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Music Reviews

The Blue Van

The Blue Van

The Art of Rolling

TVT

The PR for this Danish band’s new album tries to present the band members’ all-consuming love for, and slavish devotion to, the burgeoning power-pop of the ‘ 60s as a remarkable feat. As if making a conscious decision in their youth to ignore more contemporary music styles has a greater weight to it than a band making that choice today. It’s all academic really, because the average listener isn’t going to know the band’s backstory from listening to the CD. They’re only going to note that The Blue Van is excellent at capturing the sounds of their idols.

Many of the songs here sound like alternate takes or long-lost B-sides from The Kinks’ catalogue. There’s also enough stomp, swagger and wall-of-organ to please any Animals fan. “The Bluverture” even pulls off an odd amalgamation of “Strawberry Fields Forever” pipes, Keith Moon drumming and Ennio Morricone whistles. The closest modern approximation to this album is Supergrass’s I Should Coco, and while that album is clearly superior, The Art of Rolling is a harmless bit of nostalgia for those still infatuated with the summer of love.

TVT Records: www.tvtrecords.com

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Music Reviews

Sheek The Shayk

Sheek The Shayk

Hour Of The Seventh Moon

Laughing Outlaw

Sometimes it’s hard to appreciate the appeal of garage band music to the musician, since it has a rather limited following in the record buying public. Certainly, there’s a low barrier for entry: a thrift shop guitar, a stolen drum kit and parents old and deaf enough to permit “rehearsals” out behind the Toyota. If the neighbors don’t kill you, you have at least a small shot at fame and fortune. There are good garage bands, and bad ones. Sheek the Shayk is in the better-than-average pile. They clearly hearken back to the psychedelic days that were old news when these guys were conceived — the graphics, lyrics and fuzz tone Les Paul all are in place. The press kit even points out their intentional similarity to the Nuggets series of LP’s, so while I can•t guarantee these guys have actually seen God on the yellow acid, they act that way on disc.

Sonically, the band has it all in place. Pseudo Hendrix guitars open “69 BC,” and gently melt away to a subtle yet intense bass line. “Daughters of the Revolution” leans ever so slightly towards the T-Rex sound, and other tunes could be identified with the pillars of rock. None of this is to imply that this is a slavish cover band — they take the roots of rock and allow them to grow in a controlled yet unconstrained direction. The result is a listenable, maybe even drivable sound suitable for beater cars or a party, but only the sort of party where you don’t expect any chicks to show up. Pound down a sixer and crank these guys, they aren•t that bad, even if they released a disc with just enough digital crap on it to require a black marker to listen on your Dell laptop juke box.

Laughing Outlaw Records: www.laughingoutlaw.au/