Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Summer Soul-stice

Nothing I’m going to review is particularly soulful but this weekend is the solstice so I wanted to make use of the gag. Speaking of summer though - Dennis Wilson’s lovely, lost album Pacific Ocean Blue has finally been reissued in an incredible deluxe package that includes bonus tracks and an entire second (unreleased) album called Bambu. Kind of a Holy Grail item for Beach Boys fans, the original issue has been selling on ebay for hundreds of dollars until this much-welcomed reissue. It also has a Colorado connection being recorded at the legendary Caribou Ranch in the bad old days.

And now for something completely different: guitar genius and composer James Blackshaw has released another album on the great Tompkins Square label called Litany of Echoes. If you are a fan of the kind of contemplative, technically stunning work that John Fahey or Sandy Bull produced, this instrumental album is right up your alley. Blackshaw favors long, spacious compositions that are perfect for meditation, study or active guitar-fetish listening. It is another piece in the puzzle of this complex and important artist.

Speaking of guitar players, I finally got around to listening to John McLaughlin’s latest album Floating Point and couldn’t help but marvel at the energy and chops this veteran still shows in all his playing. Stylistically, it is all over the place; Shakti style here, psych rock style there, scientific note supplier, smooth jazzer(!?) , but through it all Mclaughlin’s playing is never less than awe-inspiring.

Grateful Dead watch. Volume 3 of the new Road Trips series is in and it’s a doozy. Recorded in the Summer of ’71 it is a wonderful recording that boasts some really strong performances of classics like “Bird Song,” “That’s It For The Other One,” “Sugaree,” “Dark Star” and “Uncle John’s Band.” Throughout Phil Lesh is booming, and proves again and again why he is a one-of-a-kind bass player. The bonus disc that comes with it for a limited time includes a newly unearthed soundboard of the greatest ever version of Pigpen’s “Hard To Handle” (Hollywood Palladium 8-6-71).Movie-wise, the bio-pic of Lon Chaney Sr. The Man Of A Thousand Faces starring the great James Cagney has finally been released on DVD. Probably not very accurate, and gussied up for Hollywood, the movie still made a huge impact on me as a youngster and set me off on a lifelong obsession with monster movies. I can’t wait to see it again. I also can’t wait to see Robert Plant and Alison Krauss at Red Rocks Saturday night. This should prove to be the show of the summer.

And don’t forget to come to see Rose Hill Drive next week as they celebrate the release of their new album (out the day before). They will play on Wednesday the 25th at 6pm. They are one of the most impressive, high- octane rock and roll bands to ever come out of Colorado.See you in the aisles,Paul Epstein

p.s. oops I almost forgot one of my favorite new albums. John Zorn is one of those artists who, due to the fact that he owns his own label, puts out too damn much stuff. To be honest, I have stopped listening because he has flooded the market with so much inconsequential music, and hidden amongst it is the genuinely brilliant stuff he is capable of. His new album, called The Dreamers is a gigantic return to form offering up his most listenable album, possibly ever. With a dream band encompassing many of his usual sidemen (Marc Ribot, Joey Baron, Cyro Baptista etc) Zorn offers up a hypnotizing amalgam of stylistic approaches that win again and again. The music is never willfully obscure or abrasive and each song creates a melodic environment that you might never want to leave. Of the 50 albums Zorn will put out this year, this is THE one.

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