So titled because the original album, simply titled Bat Chain Puller, had to be ditched and rerecorded after a legal tuzzle involving Frank Zappa's manager, Shiny Beast turned out to be manna from heaven for those feeling Beefheart had lost his way on his two Mercury albums. Then again, what else could be assumed with a song titled "Tropical Hot Dog Night" that sounds like what happened when Beefheart encountered Miami disco and decided to make something of it?
Long after Bob Marley's death from cancer in 1981 and Peter Tosh's murder in 1988, members of Marley's band continued to record under the name the Wailers Band. On 1991's Majestic Warriors, some of the key players include lead singer/guitarist Junior Marvin and bassist Aston "Family Man" Barrett. Marley fans couldn't help but wonder if Majestic Warriors would sound anything like his classic albums of the '60s and '70s but, in fact, enjoyable selections like "Sweet Cry Freedom," "Bad Mind People," and "Trip" are notably slicker and more produced than anything you'll find on Natty Dread, Catch a Fire, or Exodus. Though one of its highlights is a likable cover of Marley's 1980 hit "Could You Be Loved," the CD on the whole isn't as Marley-sounding as one might expect. This decent but rather uneven album does have its moments…
Faded old-world flowers adorn both sides of the cover with a big strip of black grease disturbing the lovely imagery on the back. Beginning with Arthur Crudup's "My Baby Left Me," like that other band of famous backup players, the Section, how can this be anything but very musical? Guitarist/vocalist Henry McCullough's "Mistake No Doubt" has eerie backing vocals and is suitably well done, as is his "Let It Be Gone," and though this is far from commercial, it is important to have this document of the guys who made magic behind Joe Cocker in 1969 and Marianne Faithfull in the mid-'70s. This came right in the middle, and the Grease Band's collaborative effort, "Jesse James," could be mistaken for Doug Yule singing Lou Reed's "Train Comin' Round the Bend." It's got that chug-a-lug subdued rock sound. With Henry McCullough's Wings connection, The Grease Band gets a touch of the Beatles' guilt-by-association mystique. As intriguing and wonderful as this album is, had Joe Cocker guested on bassist Alan Spenner's "Down Home Mama" or had Marianne Faithfull taken on the traditional "To the Lord," there would have been that something extra, that intangible that makes records so very special.
The 20th-Century Cello performed by Matt Haimovitz is a great way to wade into the waters of 20-century music. His technique and musicality are inspiring and the 3-CD collection of pieces is extensive and diverse. It is a great value and a great educational tool for aspiring cellists.