Winter CD Reviews
For up-and-coming holiday season, Mark Johnston personally handpicked the collections for your winter, including Rodrigo Y Gabriela’s Live in Japan, Obi Best’s Capades, I’m From Barcelona’s Who Killed Harry Houdini, The Gaslite Anthem’s The ‘59 Sound, and Copper Sail’s Hiding Place
Rodrigo Y Gabriela
“Live in Japan”
The first time I saw a CD by Rodrigo y Gabriela I was like “Oh God, another ‘Hall and Oats’ / ‘Simon and Garfunkle’ / ‘Loggins and Messina’ mash-up”. I saw the alligator eye cover and thought instantly that it was some 80s rockers trying to do a throwback album, not even noticing that the names on the cover were Spanish. Unfortunately for me – I REALLY missed out, “Live in Japan” is an amazing collection of masterful classical guitar work that not even the most talented Metal Guitar God could pull off. This isn’t a collection of “look at how talented I am, my fingers are like lighting on the fretboard”, rather a live showcase of true talent and beauty. Even having two Metallica covers (and sneaking in a line on the opener) and a Led Zeppelin song, Rodrigo y Gabriela present fourteen tracks that not only showcase their raw talent and precision, but bring Classical Guitar music to the masses that couldn’t quite handle the likes of Ottmar Liebert and Luna Negra XL (the Kenny G of Classical Guitar) or the Gypsy Kings. My personal favorite of the album has to be the duo’s rendition of “Take Five”, my favorite standard, done flawlessly. The sound quality is superb, the playing is impeccable, and the material is well-chosen. The accompanying DVD just as amazing, rendered in 5.1 surround sound, and very well recorded.
Oh my God! Oh my God! Oh my God! The hot backup singer from The Bird and The Bee made an album…and it’s great! The first time I saw Alex Lilly was when TBaTB played the Troubadour for their CD release. I recall staring at her in her cute yellow frock for most of the concert, marveling at the talent of the individual players in the group, and anticipating when they would release their own works. “Capades” is done well because there aren’t tons of after-effects on Lilly’s sultry voice. Not a lot of studio magic to take away from the well written tunes. Quite often, when one member of a group gains notoriety, the album is mixed to focus on that person – not the case with “Capades.” This album draws from a wide variety of influences – I can hear Guided by Voices, Blondie, The Carpenters, and even some Inara George (I’m sure she won’t like that, but hey you play in a group together enough, you start borrowing). I’m curious to see the live show though; seeing The Bird and The Bee live ruined their CDs for me as the live band was bounds above the electro-synth music on disc, not sure if Obi Best live will do the same to me.
I’m From Barcelona
Who Killed Harry Houdini?
My favorite 20-plus member group is back with a follow up to their 2006 “Let Me Introduce My Friends”. Emanuel Lundgren and company bring ten songs that vary tremendously from their prior effort. This album is far less tongue-in-cheek, dropping titles like “Oversleeping”, “Collection of Stamps”, and “Treehouse”, for titles like “Gunchild” and “Music Killed Me”. I did like the Sesame Street aspect of the first album, but you can’t deny the infectious falsettos of “Houdini”, or the epic ending to “Rufus”. I’m From Barcelona probably won’t ever reach monumental fame or tour the world (having 29 members will quickly put the kibosh on that), but their albums will certainly outlive the newest from Underoath or Mudvayne.
The Gaslight Anthem
The ’59 Sound
I have to give it to James Cho, he maintains a respectable roster of bands in his fold at SideOneDummy (Manages some crappy bands, but that’s a different story). The Gaslight Anthem are a relatively new band from Jersey, and you can definitely hear the Springsteen in this band… in spades. Can’t say this band blows me away, although they did put on a decent live show when they recently toured with Alkaline Trio, Thrice, and Rise Against, but you can tell there is sincerity in their music. I also have a hard time saying no to a band that has guest vocals from Hot Water Music’s Chris Wollard and the Mighty Might Dicky Barrett. All-in-all, I can see this band being around for a while. Already having a strong team together, including famed booking agent Corrie Christopher (nice gal), The Gaslight Anthem have the makings of the next generations’ Social D… but probably won’t .
Already having two strikes against them for being backed by a beer company (Budweiser) and being featured on ESPN, I was going to just put this CD in the “Ignore” bin buuuuut I decided to give it a run and report on it. Unfortunately it seems that this CD was apropos to its merits. “Hiding Place” is America’s answer to Snow Patrol’s “Chocolate”, rich in layered choruses and breathy vocals, albeit lacking in originality. I can’t say this is a bad album per se, I just think that this music has run its course and is no longer relevant when bands like Yelle and Natalie Portman’s Shaved Head are gaining in popularity for their minimalism. I suppose Copper Sails are banking on the counter-culture responding to this growing electro-crap trend, and inviting them to bask in their heavy wash of guitars and keyboards.