On their third album, Shivering King and Others, Dead Meadow continues to prove just how apt their name is, crafting vast guitar epics that have all the beauty and strangeness of a frostbitten field at midnight. While both their self-titled debut and Howls From the Hills showed power and promise, they were still defined and confined by the heavy influence of forebears such as Zeppelin and Hendrix, as well as by contemporaries such as Bardo Pond. On this album – which is also their Matador debut – Dead Meadow seems to have found their own voice and pared their music down until it reflects nothing but their essence. The stunning opener, "I Love You Too," proves this immediately: based on a riff that's equally heavy and haunting, it unfolds over seven minutes, ebbing and flowing with squalling solos and Jason Simon's moody, reverb-cloaked vocals.
Something of a smooth jazz oriented answer to the label's 2003 straight-ahead compilation Jazz After Dark, this highly engaging two-disc set features oft-played radio hits that have helped define the genre's generally easy grooves and colorful melodies. For diehard fans, smooth jazz has always been as about much about lifestyle as music, and these tracks will no doubt remind them just why they became devotees. All the early classics (circa mid-'70s to mid-'80s) are here, from Kenny G.'s "Songbird" and Dave Grusin's "Mountain Dance" to George Benson's "Breezin'" and Grover Washington, Jr.'s "Just the Two of Us." These are supplemented by later hits like Boney James & Rick Braun's "Grazin' in the Grass" and Dave Koz's "You Make Me Smile." But it's not simply an objective survey of smoothness at its best. The collection also seems designed to promote artists in the Concord Jazz stable – David Benoit and Russ Freeman, the Rippingtons, the Braxton Brothers, Gato Barbieri, Eric Marienthal, and Cassandra Reed, among others.