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Now Hear This

Reviews of DFA Records dance music compilation, Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis' remake of "A Love Supreme," and new releases by Clive Palmer, Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings and Mike Doughty.

Various Artists "DFA Records Presents: Compilation #2" (DFA)
In the past three years, New York dance label DFA has pursued an A&R vision rooted in the post-punk of the late '70s and early '80s, a time when bands like Public Image Ltd. integrated danceable rhythms with angular guitar rock.

The label's second compilation of singles and exclusive tracks is an embarrassment of riches, two packed CDs of individual tracks, plus a third with a label showcase DJ set deftly mixed by Goldsworthy. Everything DFA represents is here, from epic disco (Black Leotard Front's 15-minute "Casual Friday"), to The Rapture's Cure-channeling frenzy ("Alabama Sunshine"), to the experimental sounds of Black Dice (the tribal and spacey "Endless Happiness," as remixed by eYe of Japan's Boredoms).

While the two discs of singles are surprisingly eclectic, Goldsworthy's mix CD connects the dots, finding the party-rocking heart at the core of each artist. Essential for anyone searching for new dance sounds.**** - Mark Richardson

Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis "A Love Supreme" (Palmetto)

This is great news for those longing to see "A Love Supreme" eviscerated, stuffed and mounted on the Lincoln Center's hallowed walls. It's hard to think of a worse candidate for this kind of treatment than John Coltrane's personal, improvisatory, intensely spiritual masterwork, or a musician as simultaneously clueless and capable as Wynton Marsalis to attempt it. The problem isn't the playing, which is professional and assured, or even the arrangement, which respectfully echoes the original. It just falls so preposterously and predictably short of the towering original that the attempt seems at best misguided and at worst a kind of sacrilege. Saying you've heard "A Love Supreme" after listening to this version is like saying you met Elvis at the wax museum; it's the Madame Tussaud's School of Jazz. The Coltrane Quartet's original is an essential jazz performance; the Marsalis simulacrum is a dispensable collection of notes. *1/2 - Peter McElhinney

Clive Palmer "All Roads Lead to Land" (Communion)

Founding member of the influential '60s folk collective The Incredible String Band, Clive Palmer remains a virtuoso banjoist able to mix Celtic, Eastern, Appalachian and Edwardian folk traditions with effortless poise. Recorded during a 1999 session with two additional tracks culled from previous U.K.-only releases, most of these tunes feature a solo Palmer twanging away with percussive emphasis on five-string banjo and singing in a voice at once stately and worn by age. Five of the 12 tracks are gorgeously simple instrumentals (including a hopeful rendition of Gershwin's "Embraceable You"); elsewhere, Palmer inspires with wordless chanting and droning bagpipe on the medieval-sounding "Breizh" and ISB co-founder Robin Williamson joins him on fiddle for the melancholic cabaret ballad, "Paris." Overall, this is a heartfelt album of mesmerizing old-time music from an artist who seems to incorporate a world of musical knowledge into one hypnotic sweat lodge of visions. **** - Brent Baldwin

Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings "Naturally" (Daptone Records)

The new release by Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings single-handedly reinvents American funk and soul music in an era of saccharine, machine-driven imitations. This funky eight-piece from New York City takes its cue from the infectious, soul-driven jazz of the early 1960s and the southern R&B of Tina Turner and creates a vibrant hybrid of body-moving intensity. The star of the show is Augusta, Ga., native Sharon Jones, who gives the razor-tight arrangements of the Dap-Kings their emotive soul and spiritual resonance. When she sings, she is the center of the universe, as evidenced by the funky reworking of the Woody Guthrie classic "This Land Is Your Land," and the melancholic lament "How Long Do I Have to Wait for You?" A breathtaking release, "Naturally" is proof positive that the best music will always be made by human beings. An instant classic. ***** - Chris Bopst

Mike Doughty "Skittish / Rockity Roll" (ATO Records)

On this double-album reissue on Dave Matthews' label, former Soul Coughing front man Mike Doughty proves he can go it alone. The first disc, "Skittish" (1996), features Doughty and his acoustic guitar doing good old coffeehouse laments, saying goodbye to the pace and polish of Los Angeles life and the old band days. The second, "Rockity Roll" (2003), updates his sound with drum-machine effects that make the songs pop and burble along with hints of his former band's synthetic jazz and cartoon jingles. Then, as now, Doughty's smoky rasp and cynical lyrics tie the whole thing together, giving the light pop songs complexity and depth. Doughty has pulled back on the technical tricks and lets his voice do most of the harmonic work, with subtle guitar work keeping time. The songs are playful and sad, silly and festive, somewhat like being lost in a circus. Doughty is reintroducing himself, finding a new direction for that well-worn voice. **** - Brandon Reynolds

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