2000 Records to Die For Page 9

Wes Phillips

IAN TYSON: Old Corrals and Sagebrush & Other Cowboy Culture Classics
Bear Family BCD 15437 (CD). 1989. Ian Tyson, prod.; Richard Harrow, eng. AAD. TT: 69:05
Ian Tyson has produced the classic cowboy record here. His renditions of "Leaving Cheyenne" and "Whoopie Ti Yi Yo" sound definitive, but the disc's true strength lies in Tyson's own songs about life as a working rancher in the West today (which he is), as well as some well-chosen covers on the same subject. The West Tyson sings of is defined by hard work and low wages, and his love of the land and of the lore is overwhelmingly obvious. He makes cowboying seem like a higher calling—and reminds me of my six-year-old dreams of life in the saddle. The sound is as filled with natural glory as the landscape Tyson sings about. This one's reference quality.

DAVID BROMBERG BAND: Reckless Abandon/Bandit in a Bathing Suit
Fantasy FCD-24748-2 (CD). 1977/1988. David Bromberg, Jim Price, Hugh MacDonald, prods.; Joe Tuzen, Phil Kaffel, engs. AAD. TT: 74:44
The David Bromberg Band never did garner the respect it deserved. Quite simply, the band could play anything, from Irish fiddle tunes to Western Swing to low-down dirty blues—each concert encompassed an amazing range of music.

Eclectic as their records were, no single release was capable of reflecting the breadth of their stage shows—at least not until Fantasy paired two of the best Bromberg Band studio outings on this CD reissue. This one's got it all, from Jim Ringer's hilarious take on the Staggerlee legend, "Mrs. Delion's Lament," to Bromberg's delightful audience-response classic "Travelin' Man"—and with reels, jigs, and jams galore.

And it sounds good, too.

Robert J. Reina

HOLE: Celebrity Skin
Geffen DGCD-25164 (CD). 1998. Michael Beinhorn, prod.; Paul Northfield, eng. AAD? TT: 50:30
Although I've admired Courtney Love's previous work, I found it lacked originality: it was too derivative of late husband Kurt Cobain's material. Not so with this, her latest, in which Love has created an intricately orchestrated and varied web of simple but sophisticated pop tunes cloaked by her usual dark and cynical lyrics. This CD is currently in permanent rotation on my car audio system. I can't drive any distance without hearing that power-pop attack on musician sellout, "Playing Your Song"; or Love's power ballad, an apparent ode to her late beloved, "Northern Star"; or the infectious attack on Hollywood phonies, "Celebrity Skin," the catchiest pop tune I've heard in a decade. Sound is relatively unprocessed, considering the genre.

FRED FRITH: Eye to Ear
Tzadik TX7503 (CD). 1997. John Zorn, prod.; Benno Gordon, eng. AAD? TT: 55:48
Fred Frith has been an icon of the downtown New York new music scene for the last 20 years. Whether wailing a high-energy guitar in a Bill Laswell power group, engaging in free improvisation on "prepared" electric guitar in small ensembles, or providing a bass continuo to Naked City, John Zorn's erstwhile rock band, he's demonstrated that no other guitarist has more catholic taste. Since relocating to Germany in the early '90s, he has made his mark as composer for European theater, art films, and TV. This showcase for Frith's versatility covers his favorite works for various media recorded over the last decade. The delicate brass and woodwind chamber works for TV melodramas weave a sophisticated interaction of melody and harmony in the manner of Bernard Herrmann, while Frith uses electronic synthesis, loops, and percussion to create a bath of sound for the film pieces. On the other end of the spectrum, the theater pieces jar the listener with dissonant, distorted guitar-percussion attacks over static electronic backdrops. All of the works stand up very well on their own without the visuals, and the sound is uniformly rich and natural.

Richard J. Rosen

Atlantic 82218-2 (9 CDs). 1991. Steve Greenberg, reissue prod.; Bill Inglot, Dan Hersch, digital remastering. AAD. TT: 10:52:07
When I bought the Stax box in 1991—as soon as it came out—I realized that it was time to give in and get a CD player. In fact, so many of my friends went digital because of this collection, it might as well have come shrinkwrapped with a player as a matched set. It still boggles my mind that the entire output of the first nine years of the hallowed Stax Studio in Memphis can be comfortably carried in the crook of my arm. To me, that's like putting the Library of Congress on the head of a pin, except way more important. You get the essential recordings of Rufus and Carla Thomas, Sam and Dave, Otis Redding, et al. And then, almost as a bonus, practically every track is backed by Booker T. & the MG's—one hell of a house band! Where else are you going to get a copy of Eddie Floyd's "Big Bird," the official song of the Empire State Soul Club? It's an instant record collection. As my friend Hound so succinctly puts it, "Rock'n'roll happened on 45s. It just did not happen on LP." The only way to get all of this indispensable music has been to spend your life scrounging through dusty crates of singles. Until now. (XIV-9)

UP BUSTLE AND OUT: One Colour Just Reflects Another
Señor Roody, flutes, field recordings; Vicki Burke, saxes; John Donegan, piano; Clandestine Ein, drums, Rhodes & Hammond organs
Ninja Tune SDW001 (LP, CD). 1996. Señor Roody, arr., prod.; Clandestine Ein, eng. AAA/AAD? TT: 78:08

"It's organic!" I'd given up any hope of finding any trance/trip-hop/house/acid-jazz/ambient music that didn't leave me absolutely cold. Almost all of that crap breaks my cardinal rule of music: it's gotta sound as if human beings had at least some hand in creating it. One Colour... is different. It's a mix of field recordings from Bolivia, Peru, and Turkey set to modern, driving beats, and combined with saxophones, timbales, flutes, bicycle horns, flamenco guitar, and other real instruments played by authentic musicians. Heck, it's got drum sounds created by using actual drums! What a concept. It's full of serious grooves, musical ideas, jazz, funk, soul, Latin...it's a mélange that works, and has kept its freshness well past the usual shelf-life of current music.