By Amy Nicholson
By Juan Barquin
By Stephanie Zacharek
By Michael Atkinson
By Stephanie Zacharek
By Amy Nicholson
By Stephanie Zacharek
By Alan Scherstuhl
Of all the spin-off satellites orbiting George Clinton's Parliafunkadelicment mothership, Mutiny was arguably the best A and one of the few to distance itself from its former employer. The group was formed in the late Seventies by drummer Jerome "Bigfoot" Brailey, the coauthor of several P-Funk hits who left the band after a financial squabble with Clinton. Mutiny's debut album, 1979's Mutiny on the Mamaship, was a masterful bitch session in which Brailey railed against Clinton (described in one song as "George Penatentiory") and backed up his rants with a minimalist brand of funk punctuated with chopping guitar, horns worthy of James Brown, and fatback beats that made good on Brailey's nickname. Two more fine albums followed (1980's Funk Plus the One, 1983's A Night Out with the Boys), but by the late Eighties Brailey had abandoned the group to work as a producer.
Aftershock 2005, Mutiny's first new release in more than a decade, is an ambitious and largely successful fusion of dense hip-hop beats, Sixties freak-out guitar, and the cosmic funk you'd expect from a guy who had a songwriting hand in loopy hits such as Parliament's "Tear the Roof Off the Sucker." Brailey and original Mutiny guitarslinger Skitch Lovett are joined by a cast of innovative musicians, including P-Funk synth man Bernie Worrell, Material guitarist Nicky Skopelitis, and turntable whiz DXT. Under the direction of executive producer Bill Laswell, the conglomeration spans the gamut of black rock and funk -- from the hard-riffing boogie crunch of "It's All Good" to the neoclassic soul stylings of "Passion." And "No Choice," Brailey's most explicit foray into rap, reveals the genius at work throughout Aftershock: He's one of only four or five old-school funksters who can both summon the power of R&B's latest mutation and make it his own.
By John Floyd
American alternative rock encourages listeners to look inward -- not outward -- for the sources of their discomfort. England's Pulp, however, targets the status quo, sometimes physically: Angular frontman Jarvis Cocker was recently arrested for crashing Michael Jackson's stomach-turning performance of his "Earth Song" at the Brits, the British equivalent of the Grammy Awards. Cocker's behavior expressed his disgust with a society that permits an accused pedophile to perform with children on international TV.
Expressing disgust is Pulp's forte. The band attended the Brits because its "Common People," included on Different Class, was a smash in the U.K. last summer, yet it's hard to imagine thousands of British teenagers dancing to this song at discos. In this epic track, Cocker snidely dresses down a rich girl who's into slumming. But what starts as nasty sarcasm builds into a vicious attack, not only against the girl's attitude but against the entire British upper class: "You will never understand how it feels/To live your life with no meaning or control/And with nowhere left to go." All the while, synthesizers, guitars, and drum machines churn in the background, ebbing and flowing in exhilarating crescendos that help communicate Cocker's rage.
Nearly every song on Different Class tackles the soul-numbing banality of English life: A bitter, disillusioned nobody who feels entitled to greatness goes after his neighbors in "I Spy"; "Disco 2000" steals a riff from Laura Branigan's psychodrama "Gloria" to back up a perverse sexualization of a supposedly innocent playground romance; "Sorted For E's & Wizz" disses rave culture; and "Underwear" captures hilariously the ludicrous aspects of sexual attraction. Throughout all of these soap operas, Cocker gasps and groans, snarls and seethes, making him one of the most entertaining British singers since Morrissey warbled for the Smiths.
Blur's Damon Albarn once said that pop music is better than rock music because only pop music transcends race, class, gender, and sexual orientation. If you buy into Albarn's dictum, then you no doubt also accept that pop music can tap into the collective consciousness and express and encourage real subversion. Like Blur, Pulp uses pop music as a forum for the British underclass by smartly and powerfully expressing its dissatisfaction with the way things are.
Generally speaking, I don't think parents and their children should perform together. They should stick to arguing, which is what they do best. Despite this bias, I've always harbored a soft spot for the country mom-and-daughter duo the Judds, who not only got along on-stage, but also appeared ready at all times to hug one another to death.
Although mama Naomi always struck me as mere window dressing, daughter Wynonna's bluesy leanings and sultry purring tenor lent the pair's music a rare vibrancy. I was overjoyed when Wynonna struck off on her own, and liked her first solo album just fine. But the only "revelation" apparent from Wynonna's second outing is this: Maybe Naomi wasn't so bad after all.
Judds albums were always heavily produced, but revelations sounds not so much produced as assembled. Wynonna recruited Nashville's finest songwriters and session players, and then constructed ten cuts that just sort of sit there. With a couple of exceptions A the foot-stomping "Old Enough to Know Better" and a sultry ballad titled "Change the World" A this is Nashville pablum at its worst. Wynonna's attempts to accessorize her songs with gospel backing vocals and strings fall flat within the uninspired arrangements. Her ballads are still excruciatingly sappy, and her up-tempo offerings feel about as authentically rowdy as a bunch of commodities traders playing Nerf football in an empty conference room. And you know Wynonna's in trouble when she trots out a lackluster cover of "Free Bird," fast becoming the "Yesterday" of the hayseed set.
I've got a sneaking suspicion that Wynonna's new attention to image and aesthetics is behind the nosedive in musical quality. Judging by the photos that blanket the album, the ugly Juddling has been airbrushed into a swan. She's jazzercized her plump frame into oblivion, and Rebacized her noggin with a mane of bright orange hair. She's a soft-filtered babe, all right, and imminently marketable to a mainstream audience that doesn't particularly cotton to musical innovation.
Come to think of it, there may be a second revelation floating around here: The apple doesn't fall far from the tree.
Part musical theater piece, part documentary, The Cave is an extremely ambitious work. Composer Steve Reich and video artist Beryl Korot asked dozens of Israeli Jews, Palestinian Moslems, and Americans of various belief systems (as well as those with none) about the biblical figure of Abraham A Was he a Jew or a Moslem? A and about his sons Isaac and Ishmael, who are regarded as the progenitors of the Jews and Moslems, respectively. The responses, which were as personal and different as fingerprints, were recorded on video. Reich then translated the intrinsic pitches and rhythms of the respondents' spoken answers into musical notation (a technique he also used in 1988's Different Trains), and Korot manipulated and edited the video portion of the tapes.
The combined result -- which includes keyboards, percussion, winds, singers, a string quartet, and the faces and voices of the interviewees -- was a potential hodgepodge. However, Reich and Korot exerted remarkable control over their material, and they shaped it into a totality that I found curiously moving as it stimulated reflection on my own spiritual and familial roots, which belong neither to Judaism nor Islam. Although The Cave is not an overtly political work, it opens a door to peace in the Middle East by pointing out that Jews and Arabs might have a common ancestor in Abraham. If half-brothers Isaac and Ishmael reconciled by coming together to bury their father in a cave in Hebron -- the biblical event that gives this work its title -- can't other peoples reconcile as well?
Speakers include professors, artists, journalists, a hotel manager, an actress, Carl Sagan, an advocate for gay and lesbian youth, and Daniel Berrigan -- "Jesuit priest, author, convicted felon -- alleluia!" The vocalists echo their words and sing relevant portions of scripture, and the instrumentalists provide supporting drones and riff on the speech rhythms.
One caveat: Clearly, this is a work that deserves to be seen and heard. An opportunity for CD-ROM has been missed here, but it's a tribute to the strength of Reich's and Korot's concept that, even minus the visuals, The Cave is so compelling.
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