If you rushed out some years ago to pick up Robbie Robertson's first solo album expecting it to sound somewhat like the Band, you were probably mighty disappointed. That is, until you listened to it a few more times, shrugged off your preconceptions, and dug it for the idiosyncratic masterwork it is. Same goes for axman Duke Robillard's latest slab.
A member of the Fabulous Thunderbirds for a spell, a founder of Roomful of Blues, and lately a tour mate of John Hammond, Robillard's name generally calls up associations with fiery blues or shoe-tappin' swing. Temptation confounds on those levels, offering instead blues-based rock that seems calculated to reach a crossover audience.
What elevates this album to interesting is its solid, New Orleans-flavored grooves. Sure, Robillard's guitarwork is remarkable as ever, one minute recalling Kenny Burrell's jazzy licks, the next making like Buddy Guy. And his singing is better than I've heard it. However, it's the drumming and percussion of Jerry McAllister that drives these songs, whether he's beating out a tempo on a bass drum case, providing texture on beaded gourd, shimmering accents on a bell tree, or doing Lord knows what with a "China boy cymbal" (hey, we're just quoting liner notes here) and a "space phone."
At first listen this seems standard fist-pumping rock fare, a compromise by an excellent blues musician. But repeated plays dispel the first impression, especially on standout tracks such as the menacing title song and "Rule the World," an assertion that if the singer could just have the girl, well, certainly becoming the planet's sovereign wouldn't be such a stretch. A cool cowboy song, "The Change Is On," sonically evokes "Ghost Riders in the Sky," made even spookier by a repeated riff on electric sitar. Sounding equally exotic on this eclectic collection is the jazzy "This Dream (Still Coming True)," where Robillard's lead is augmented by cornet, alto sax, and trombone.
Strangely, Temptation's weakest numbers are the two overtly bluesy tunes, a lame male-female duet called "Never Been Satisfied" and an over-the-top reading of Sugar Boy Crawford's "What's Wrong?" It seems Duke's muse has led him down a different road for now, but the scenery is still pretty groovy.
By Bob Weinberg
Duke Robillard Blues Band performs at 9:00 tonight, Thursday, at Stephen Talkhouse, 616 Collins Ave, Miami Beach, 531-7557, tickets cost ten dollars; and Friday at 8:30 and 10:00 p.m. at the Musicians Exchange, 729 W Sunrise Blvd, Ft Lauderdale, 944-2627. Tickets cost ten dollars.
Break the Chain
Swedish-born slide-guitarist-vocalist Anders Osborne sounds remarkably like Little Feats's founder Lowell George, the master of pop-boogie-slide. However, the George comparison is probably due more to Osborne's soulful, world-weary vocals than his slide wizardry, at least as displayed in the studio. (In fact, a live tape we managed to glom onto convinced us Osborne's a helluva lot more exciting in front of an audience.)
Stellar musicianship doesn't seem to play a big part on Break the Chain. Competent, yes. Stellar, no (except for the enchanting harmony vocals and fine fiddlin' of Theresa Andersson). You keep hoping to hear a hot slide solo, a big horn chart, a funky bass break to kick this lazy little record's ass into gear. Frustrating, given Osborne's great voice; he's got that Little Feat-Robert Palmer-Boz Scaggs-N'Awlins thang down. Think back to these Seventies icons of rockaboogie, and remember the supreme musicality A George's slide break on "Dixie Chicken" or those towering horns on Feats's "Spanish Moon"; Robert Palmer's stop-on-a-dime-and-ask-for-change transition between "Sailin' Shoes," "Hey, Julia," and "Sneakin' Sally Through the Alley"; the bass propulsion of the Bozman's "Lowdown."
Osborne approaches greatness here and there: the road-beaten title track, the funkshuffle "Real World," and a fine if unremarkable cover of Van Morrison's "Stoned Me." But again, most of Chain teases you with the promise of what could be. Osborne is a true talent and we hope his next outing will be a few degrees hotter: It takes more than laid-back vocals and a rolling New Orleans drum beat to fill Little Feats's shoes.
By Bob Weinberg
Anders Osborne performs Friday (tomorrow) at 11:00 p.m. at the Stephen Talkhouse, 616 Collins Ave, Miami Beach, 531-7557. Admission is ten dollars.
Do Something/The Taco Bell Album
(Sony Music Special Products)
I have a confession to make. Promise not to tell anyone cool? Swear?
I recently purchased this CD, the one advertised about 23 hours a day on TV. The one you buy along with your Burrito Del Grande at Taco Bell.
This is a disclosure that, as you can see, has at least two embarrassing elements: 1) I went to Taco Bell. 2) I purchased music at Taco Bell. But the truth of the matter is, I saw the commercial with old Billy from Melrose Place and all those hip band names bouncing around and a way-cool alternative song playing in the background and, well, what can I say -- it was an impulse buy.
Besides, Billy is super hunky.
Now, I could always use the excuse that the CD is being hawked in support of a nonprofit group called Do Something, which, according to the brochure, is run by -- and I quote here -- "young people under the age of 30" who are devoted to doing something about the awful state of the world, one taco at a time.
Ha ha ha! Just a little Dave Barry humor there. In reality, Billy and his Do Something gang want to do all sorts of positive things for our ailing communities, none of which, curiously, have they specified.
While I do not generally associate healing the inner city with shoveling more money into the fast-food industry (or the multinational corporations that run that industry), I'm willing to give these Do Something characters the benefit of the doubt (call it the Billy factor). And anyway, I can probably write it off as a tax deduction.
The important thing, of course, is the music. Unfortunately, though, the music kinda sucks. Actually, let me qualify that. It kinda sucks a lot.
Which is to say there are about four outta ten songs that won't make you heave jalapenos.
They are: "Low," by the always cool-rockin' Cracker; "Slowly, Slowly," by the incomparable Magnapop; "Possession," by the terminally sensitive Sarah McLachlan; and "I'll Take You There," by General Public, who are apparently making their effort at eco-friendly Do Somethingish behavior by recycling this geezer of a tune.
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The other six cuts include "Mary Jane," by the once annoying and now just pathetic Spin Doctors; "Tear," by pasty wusses Lotion; and a song called "Return to Innocence," by a band named Enigma (hey man, what a cooooool name). Enigma sounds a lot like the Hare Krishnas who perform outside the Government Center downtown, though the Krishnas have more energy. There is also a song called "Hold Me Up," by the Velvet Crush, who wanted to call themselves the Pasty Wusses, but were worried people would get them confused with Lotion.
Anyways, the folks at corporate central say we consumers should expect plenty more of these nifty product tie-ins, wherein we get the opportunity to buy stuff we don't really need and to pollute a whole bunch of orifices at the same time.
Me, I'm sticking with the Taco Supreme.
By Steven Almond