It's been two years since Roadkill Ghost Choir has taken listeners on a ride. Last trip, brothers Andrew and Zach Shepard packed the car with high aspirations, a top-notch crew of musicians and the profound swelter of the South. With the upcoming arrival of False Youth Etcetera, the brothers have outgrown their roots in a supersonic fashion - exchanging their broken-down vehicles for an electrified magic carpet ride that soars through the night sky. Amidst the surprise success of the band's first record, primary songwriter Andrew was hardened by his experiences on the road, and under pressure to deliver new songs that outshined previous releases. It's no surprise False Youth Etcetera feels like a turn towards the fantastical, an anthemic escape compared to past output. It's immediately felt on the band's first single, "Classics (Die Young)," which bends beautifully and purposefully in the direction of synth-pop, and sets the tone for the entire record.
The Choir, a mid-'60s band that eventually turned into the Raspberries, will release a previously unheard LP that was recorded at the end of the decade. The appropriately titled Artifact: The Unreleased Album will be issued on Feb. 16 and includes 10 songs that the group recorded in 1969.
Using some of the finest early-music soloists of the day, Parrott and his forces give posterity a recording that welds tightly focused emotion to a laudable and uncommon feel for the music. The soloists produce appropriately light but well-focused tone and display an ability to negotiate the intricacies of Handel’s notes evenly and with an exceptional grasp of the phrasing required for successful performance. The choral lines are carefully etched and meticulously balanced, resulting in a superlative overall sound that—in spite of the small choir—is rich and capable of exceeding power when required.
Andrew Parrott’s period Messiah from the late 1980s was re-released a few years ago by EMI Virgin Classics, and the re-release amply documents the richness and staying power of this generation of Messiah performances—a richness now removed from the aura of novelty—the “uncle” has been clean shaven for quite a while now. In part, the richness of this performance derives from Parrott’s soloists, then the unrivalled stars of the English early music scene, including soprano Emma Kirkby, countertenor James Bowman, and bass David Thomas.