The second album of Elektric Band, "Light Years" is more funk-oriented than its predecessor. Saxophonist Eric Marienthal joins the band and Frank Gambale replaces Henderson and Rios (who plays still on some tracks) to form what is considered the band's definitive lineup.
An unprecedented project in the rock field: a five-CD box set of unreleased material by a cult artist that never had anything close to a chart hit. Of course Captain Beefheart is the ultimate cult artist, and one with a following so rabid (if limited) that the compilation has a wider audience than many would anticipate. Despite the impressive chronological span and variety of demos, live performances, backing tracks, and outtakes, be cautioned that this is not a best-of or ad hoc career overview. A good deal of the tracks (some of which have long been available on bootleg) are of slightly substandard or low fidelity, and Beefheart's most significant work is ultimately contained on his numerous official releases.
The Vienna Art Orchestra is a 15-member jazz orchestra that features the avant-garde arrangements and compositions of its leader, pianist Mathias Ruegg. This is a reissue of their 1980 debut, an important document in the post-modern jazz movement. The opening, title track is a joyous, folkish tango that's been cartoonishly toyed with, featuring three solo sections. The marimba section is also ornamented with vocalese from Lauren Newton, followed by an extremely playful horn lead that sounds like a toy instrument. The solo offering from violinist Rudi Berger has an electronically effected fusion sound. A tight, alto sax solo by Wolfgang Puschnig ties everything together neatly with a lengthy, unaccompanied performance.
Nicholas McGegan has done more for the early music movement in America than nearly anyone else, and his tireless explorations of the byways of Baroque opera have put many fascinating works into the concert hall and onto recordings. He studied piano at London's Trinity College of Music and learned to play the flute while he was there, but entertained no special desire to study historical performance.
The Kansas City swing blues of the Sweet Baby Blues Band is very difficult not to enjoy. Jeannie Cheatham's exuberant vocals (propelled by her forcefully swinging piano) inspire the many soloists on the blues-oriented material, and there is plenty of variety in tempo and feeling to keep this set continually interesting. Among the main soloists are ageless trumpeter Snooky Young, tenorman Rickey Woodard (making his debut on clarinet on two cuts), and guest altoist Hank Crawford, who sits in on four songs.
In 2006, Howe Gelb embarked on a journey with a gospel choir with the result the astounding, critically acclaimed album Sno' Angel Like You. This new chapter sees Howe embellish a troop of amenco playing gypsies, including the virtuoso guitarist Raimundo Amador (collaborated with Bjork and BB King) and is mixed by the legendary John Parish (PJ Harvey). Recorded atop a Cordoba roof with his 'Band Of Gypsies' in the AndalucAa sun, Alegrias, is an exceptional new work from Howe Gelb. Originally only available in Spain, where the record enjoyed considerable success due in part to the wondrous contribution from Flamenco guitar virtuoso Raimundo Amador, Fire is pleased to be releasing the latest jewel in the considerable crown of Howe Gelb's musical delights.
The contemporary blues bannerman's recording debut (originally released as Who's Been Talkin' in 1980), while naturally not as strong as his later work (especially Bad Influence, released five years later), is the work of an extremely promising artist. The album is an appealing mix of standards (Willie Dixon's "Too Many Cooks," Howlin' Wolf's "Who's Been Talkin'," O.V. Wright's "I'm Gonna Forget About You," among others) and originals. Among the strongest of the latter are the slow blues "I'd Rather Be a Wino" and the closing number, "If You're Thinkin' What I'm Thinkin'," which contains the flavorful mix of tight rhythms, excellent guitar work, strong vocals, and bittersweet mood that would become Cray's hallmark.