By Jacob Katel
By Laurie Charles
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Abel Folgar
By Kat Bein
By Jacob Katel
Like last year's U.S. debut, Made in USA, the new The Sound of Music highlights songs taken from the group's releases in Japan (over two dozen since 1985's "Audrey Hepburn Complex"), where P5 are superstars. Again, the ever-changing group masterminded by Warhol-wanna-be Yasuharu Konishi and fronted by Twiggy-disciple Maki Nomiya has borrowed, sampled, and stolen its way through an irresistible melange of Esquivel's bossa nova cocktail swing ("Rock N' Roll"), Bacharach's jazz pop ("Fortune Cookie"), chewy psychedelic bubble-gum ("Strawberry Sleighride"), cartoonish Jackson Five Motown ("Happy Sad"), and Deee-Lite's frenetic disco house music ("The Night Is Still Young"). While Maki sings a mix of Japanese and English, the only language that makes sense in P5's Sound of Music menagerie can be heard in the expressive ba-ba-bah's and ti-ti-tika-ti's that occasionally burst forth. It is, though, a code only the beautiful people understand.
By Roni Sarig
Live My Way
No surprise that Mark Arm's side project Bloodloss should display as much A or even more A Stooges influence than does his day-job outfit Mudhoney. While Arm sings only two of the twelve tracks on Live My Way, his guitar does wield plenty of power over the band's meld of Iggy-ish rage, Beefheartian wisdom, and Tom Waits-style existential disgust. Saxman Renestair EJ offers an inspirational rant about Woodstock '94 on "Face Down in Mud" ("the festival's just been sold"), as well as a bit of punkish dozens playing on "(All I Get Is Your) Dissatisfaction." And drummer and occasional guitarist Martin Bland takes a deranged lounge-act point of view on "Frank's Wig," the kind of joke you wouldn't want to tell in Sinatra's neighborhood. While Live My Way is a bit less direct than Mudhoney's recent My Brother the Cow (punk record of the year, I say), it's still a skewed gem that the Seattle Chamber of Commerce should be proud of.
By Rickey Wright
Paul Motian Electric Bebop Band
Reincarnation of a Love Bird
Although it's been 50-some years since its invention, bebop remains one of the most challenging forms of jazz. Drummer Paul Motian and his excellent septet manage to reinvigorate bop while paying homage to its progenitors on the aptly titled Reincarnation of a Love Bird.
Using bop as its touchstone, the seven-piece nonetheless sounds extremely contemporary, perhaps attributable to the inclusion of electric guitar, which is played with modern sensibilities and featured as prominently here as the tenor and alto saxophones (Kurt Rosenwinkel and Wolfgang Muthspiel dexterously handle the former, Chris Potter and Chris Creek perform ably on the latter). Bebop was as much a rhythmic as harmonic revolution -- its name derived onomatopoeically from the sound of the drums -- and the steadfast grooves laid down by Motian, percussionist Don Alias, and bassist Steve Swallow display a sublime mastery of the form. Alias and Swallow proffer a light touch, while Motian expertly drives the songs with plenty of vigorous rolls and splashy hi-hat.
The songs -- Miles Davis's "Half-Nelson," Dizzy Gillespie's "2 Bass Hit," and Charlie Parker's "Ornithology" -- are immediately familiar to jazz lovers, but they're far from regurgitations of the originals. Thelonious Monk and Charles Mingus are also represented with outstanding renditions of the spiky "Skippy" and the bluesy title track, respectively.
The spirit of high-wire creativity, cool mystery mixed with fiery musicianship, is as central to this project as it was to bop's pioneers. Reincarnation may look back for inspiration, but it sounds as fresh and creative as the original masters at the top of their form.
By Bob Weinberg
Riding on the success of his multiplatinum single "Gangsta's Paradise" (it appears on the soundtrack of the Michelle Pfeiffer drive-by movie Dangerous Minds), Coolio plays the teach-and-preach Jesse Jackson of the street-gang set here, as he reflects thoughtfully on his violent surroundings instead of helping to perpetuate them. Utilizing hooks and riffs from the likes of Sly Stone, Stevie Wonder, and Smokey Robinson, Gangsta's messages range from man-on-the-street commentaries (the upbeat "Geto Highlights") to proud parentisms (the family-stonin' "Smilin'," which lifts its one-line chorus of "people let me tell you 'bout my best friend" from Harry Nilsson's "Best Friend," the theme song of the old TV show The Courtship of Eddie's Father).
However, Coolio's rap style lacks the distinctiveness of his words on cuts such as "A Thing Going On," as he talks about not getting caught with another lover A "holding hands, a smile, the glance, a kiss, and dance but we can't take a chance" A while cadging snippets of Billy Paul's "Me and Mrs. Jones" for musical accompaniment. And on his stylish retooling of Kool and the Gang's 1980 love jam "Too Hot," Coolio is backed up by the Gang itself as he delivers a funked-up sermon on safe sex, exhorting "put a condom in their hand and hope it don't bust." With some flavorful grooves and a slick production pit crew (DJ Wino, Ram Kass, and E-40, among others), Coolio puts a positive spin on his Paradise, making the ghetto seem a lot less bleak.
By George Pelletier