The Long Ryders – Psychedelic Country Soul

Good music is often the product of unexpected alliances and strange bedfellows, so it makes a certain perverse sense that in 2019 Paisley Underground heroes and alt-country progenitors the Long Rydersreleased their first studio album in 32 years, and in a roundabout way we have gangsta rap icon Dr. Dreto thank for it. In the ’80s, Larry Chatman was part of the Long Ryders‘ road crew, and he’s since gone on to become Dr. Dre‘s personal assistant, helping to oversee Dre‘s Los Angeles recording studio, Record One. Chatman was able to stake his old friends in the Long Ryders to some studio time at Record One, and the result is the band’s comeback album, 2019’s Psychedelic Country Soul. While the Long Ryders had staged periodic reunion tours since they called it quits in 1987 (most recently in 2016, following the release of the box set Final Wild Songs), heading out to play material from the back catalog and recording a fresh batch of songs are two very different things, and given the circumstances that prompted its creation, one would be forgiven for expecting this project to sound a little stiff or tossed off. Thankfully, those expectations would be dead wrong. Psychedelic Country Soul is every bit as satisfying as 1984’s Native Sons and 1987’s Two-Fisted Tales, and it’s within throwing distance of their best album, 1985’s State of Our Union. This is a somewhat more subdued album than what the Ryders delivered in their salad days, with fewer fist-pumping anthems in the manner of “Looking for Lewis and Clark” and more contemplative, midtempo numbers (though their tribute to the love of music and the music of love, “The Sound,” comes close). But “What the Eagle Sees” and “Greenville” show that this band can still turn up the heat when they want, and even at its quietest, Psychedelic Country Soul sounds deeply committed and from the heart. They connect especially well on the country-flavored jangle pop of “Greenville,” the moody and lovelorn folk-rock of “Molly...

JIMMY WEBB – FINALLY IN FRONT OF HIS OWN HIT PARADE BY STEPHEN HOLDEN (NEW YORK TIMES)

IS it possible for a musician to emerge unscathed from the kind of early success enjoyed by the singer-songwriter Jimmy Webb? In the late 1960s, when he was barely 21, Mr. Webb was showered with Grammys for writing the Glen Campbell hits “By the Time I Get to Phoenix,” “Wichita Lineman,” “Galveston” and the Fifth Dimension’s “Up, Up and Away.” Then there was “MacArthur Park,” the grandiose quasi-symphonic “cake out in the rain” popularized by the Irish actor Richard Harris and in 1978 remade into a disco fantasia by Donna Summer. These songs established Mr. Webb — the son of a strict Baptist minister from Elk City, Okla., who moved his family to Southern California in the mid-’60s — as a pop music wunderkind with a Midas touch. But because his intensely romantic ballads straddled two worlds — traditional pop and country-flavored Southern California rock — Mr. Webb found himself on the far side of a generation gap. At the same time, he admits sheepishly today, he avidly subscribed to his generation’s slogan of not trusting anyone over 30. To his profound frustration, audiences over 30 didn’t buy him as a singer-songwriter when he began releasing albums in the early ’70s. Not that that kept him from the customary excesses of the time. “I lost it pretty badly,” he said of those days, “but unlike some others, I never wanted to die — not really.” Sitting in his publicist’s Lower Manhattan office on a steamy afternoon recently, Mr. Webb, tall and rangy, now 63, still has a wild man’s gleam in his eye. He is a marvelous storyteller with the expansive style of a rural yarn spinner, who becomes more excited the more wound up he becomes. If he is an endless storehouse of real-life rock ’n’ roll adventure stories, set mostly in Hollywood and London in the late ’60s and...

Jimmy Webb – Finally in Front of His Own Hit Parade by Stephen Holden (New York Times)

IS it possible for a musician to emerge unscathed from the kind of early success enjoyed by the singer-songwriter Jimmy Webb? In the late 1960s, when he was barely 21, Mr. Webb was showered with Grammys for writing the Glen Campbell hits “By the Time I Get to Phoenix,” “Wichita Lineman,” “Galveston” and the Fifth Dimension’s “Up, Up and Away.” Then there was “MacArthur Park,” the grandiose quasi-symphonic “cake out in the rain” popularized by the Irish actor Richard Harris and in 1978 remade into a disco fantasia by Donna Summer. These songs established Mr. Webb — the son of a strict Baptist minister from Elk City, Okla., who moved his family to Southern California in the mid-’60s — as a pop music wunderkind with a Midas touch. But because his intensely romantic ballads straddled two worlds — traditional pop and country-flavored Southern California rock — Mr. Webb found himself on the far side of a generation gap. At the same time, he admits sheepishly today, he avidly subscribed to his generation’s slogan of not trusting anyone over 30. To his profound frustration, audiences over 30 didn’t buy him as a singer-songwriter when he began releasing albums in the early ’70s. Not that that kept him from the customary excesses of the time. “I lost it pretty badly,” he said of those days, “but unlike some others, I never wanted to die — not really.” Sitting in his publicist’s Lower Manhattan office on a steamy afternoon recently, Mr. Webb, tall and rangy, now 63, still has a wild man’s gleam in his eye. He is a marvelous storyteller with the expansive style of a rural yarn spinner, who becomes more excited the more wound up he becomes. If he is an endless storehouse of real-life rock ’n’ roll adventure stories, set mostly in Hollywood and London in the late ’60s and...

Gotan Project, Tango 3.0

As we step into 2010, music blares from the radio that quite comfortably merges rhythms from Serbia and Colombia, the voice of Oumou Sangaré and the melodic thump of Maori reggae. But when it comes the new “world music” ie. the merging of DJ culture with music from the worldwide underground – Gotan Project were the first to successfully bring the traditional and the folkloric into the electronic space. The million selling ‘La revancha del tango’ was followed by their second album the more jazz influenced ‘Lunático’ and Gotan Project toured the world with their new “world music”. I’d always been a fan of Astor Piazzolla who I’d seen performing at Montreux Jazz Festival aged 14. Ever since then I’d been seduced by the bandoneón as an instrument and was curious about hearing it outside of its traditional bubble. Gotan Project not only established a unique and highly influential sound but they’ve also preserved the class and elegance of this instrument. Here we are then, 10 years on with their remarkable third album ‘Tango 3.0’ which, without breaking such radical new ground as their debut, has refined all the founding elements of what makes the Gotan Project the wondrous thing that it is. Understated beats, reflective moods and atmospheres rooted in the dusty backstreets of Buenos Aires and Paris, laced with marvellous voices such as Cristina Vilallonga on ‘Peligro’ or Melingo blessing ‘Tu Misterio’. Although in Tango 3.0 Gotan Project remain faithful to their founding principles, they have also managed to push the musical barriers further by inviting an exciting host of guests and collaborators. Dr. John lends the smooth sound of the Hammond B3 to ‘Tango Square’. The work of Argentinian author Julio Cortázar is honoured through a reading from his groundbreaking novel Rayuela (Hopscotch) on the track of the same name. Even Víctor Hugo Morales, the legendary...

Kings Go Forth, The Outsiders Are Back

The soul revival isn’t reviving any careers– it’s creating them. Older musicians like Sharon Jones, Lee Fields, and Charles Walker were never exactly household names, not even among record collectors, but now they find themselves with more professional potential in front of them than behind them. Since there is little context for these artists, they aren’t obliged to sleepwalk through old hits or old routines. Despite the reliance on old sounds, it’s all new. It’s an exciting moment for soul music, as albums by Jones, Fields, Walker’s the Dynamites, and now Kings Go Forth indicate these older musicians are taking nothing for granted, which lends their music an urgency that transcends mere revivalism. The musician known as Black Wolf wasn’t well known outside the world of cratediggers and soul enthusiasts when he struck up a conversation with Andy Noble, owner of Lotus Records in Milwaukee. During the 1970s, Black Wolf had been a member of the Essentials, a regional soul act whose claim to fame was recording in Curtis Mayfield’s studio. He and Noble started a new band and named it Kings Go Forth, after a 1958 Frank Sinatra-Tony Curtis movie. Since then, the 10-member, intergenerational outfit has released a series of 7″ singles and gradually but determinedly built a reputation as a dynamic live act, settling easily into complex grooves that highlight Black Wolf’s high-flying vocals. Along the way, the band has picked up some notable admirers: Famed disco DJ Tom Moulton, who really did invent the remix, mixed their “Don’t Take My Shadow”, and D.C. folk artist Mingering Mike, famous for painting covers for imaginary albums, created the artwork for the first Kings Go Forth full-length, The Outsiders Are Back. This record gathers singles dating back to 2007 yet proves cohesive and consistent. Rather than a collection of mismatched parts, Outsiders sounds like a unified work, even if it...

Mary Gauthier, The Foundling

“There’s freedom in knowing that you don’t have to know it all,” she says, “which is why to me, a song should end with a question, not an answer.”  It might seem that after six groundbreaking albums of original songs, more than a dozen years of recording and touring around the world, a harvest of music industry awards, and covers of her songs by a roster of great artists – that Mary Gauthier (say it: go-shay) should have a handle on some of the big answers.  Yet with each new album, with each new cycle of songs that illuminate her soul, with each old and new set of characters and life changes she introduces, Mary is always ending up with more questions.  Where do her people come from and where do they go?  How can they find shelter from the storm?  What is the truth? It is said that the master songwriters – the “truth tellers,” as Mary refers to the likes of Bob Dylan and Neil Young, Leonard Cohen and Patti Smith – always put a piece of themselves into every song and first shined light on the truth and lies of her world before she began to put pen to paper herself. It’s up to the listener to imagine what is real and what is a dream.  This sense of autobiography has always loomed large in the work of Mary Gauthier.  On her newest album, The Foundling, her first concept album, Mary opens the door on the defining circumstance of her life, the emotional journey and aftermath of finding the mother who surrendered her in New Orleans after her birth in March 1962 (the month Bob Dylan released his first album, to put a perspective on it). On The Foundling, Mary explains via her website (www.marygauthier.com), “the songs tell the story of a kid abandoned at birth who spent...

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