Canned Heat rose to fame because their knowledge and love of blues music was both wide and deep. Emerging in 1966, Canned Heat was founded by blues historians and record collectors Alan “Blind Owl” Wilson and Bob “The Bear” Hite. Hite took the name “Canned Heat” from a 1928 recording by Tommy Johnson. They were joined by Henry “The Sunflower” Vestine, another ardent record collector who was a former member of Frank Zappa’s Mothers of Invention. Rounding out the band in 1967 were Larry “The Mole” Taylor on bass, an experienced session musician who had played with Jerry Lee Lewis and The Monkees and Adolfo “Fito” de la Parra on drums who had played in two of the biggest Latin American bands, Los Sinners and Los Hooligans.
While The Professional marked the American breakthrough of populist French director Luc Besson (and his long-time composer, Eric Serra), the ambitious, futuristic sci-fi adventure The Fifth Element proved to be Besson's stateside sophomore jinx at the box office. Still, Serra's score shouldn't be overlooked. Easily the composer's most digitally daring studio concoction, The Fifth Element offers up a brave stew of synth beats, orchestral flourishes, and ethnic influences ranging from Middle Eastern modalities to Italian operatic arias.
Boasting big, bold pop production that suggests the anthemic-but-personable sound of Natalie Imbruglia, Siren bursts out of the speakers with a giddy rush of emotion. But Heather Nova's not one to wail stridently like some Alanis-come-lately; instead she favors a breathy, delicate style that's nevertheless strong enough to ride comfortably atop the layers of acoustic and electric guitars. (In fact, it's Nova's own guitar that's at the heart of most of the arrangements here.) Throughout Siren, Nova utilizing an intriguing catch in her voice, and ultimately, it's Nova's unique vocal style and winning pop sensibilities that make Siren work as well as it does, doing double duty as substantive singer/songwriter statement and perfect pop-radio product.
Desert Poems both consolidates and expands Stephan Micus's solo quest to fashion a music of archetypal, world-ranging import: music–often modal in nature–which would be both as old as the proverbial hills, yet as fresh as tomorrow. If you've followed this multi-instrumentalist's musical odyssey of the past 30-or-so years (this is something like his 15th solo project) you probably won't need any encouragement to buy an album that finds Micus's mastery of such instruments as the sarangi, nay, shakahuchi, steel drum and humble flower pot enhanced by a range of solo and polyphonic vocals. His pan-global sources are filtered to create a somewhat sombre, strongly devotional sense of the deeper rhythms of life to which music may awaken us. Apart from the vocalising on pieces like "Contessa Entellina", standout tracks include the solo shakuhachi feature "First Snow" and an instrumental reworking of "Shen Khar Venakhi", a masterpiece of old Georgian polyphony.