(As published in the Times of Acadiana unless otherwise noted...)
Mary Karlzen: The Wanderlust Diaries (Dualtone)—Within the first seven-and-a-half minutes, Karlzen goes from gentle, foggy-morning beauty to full-bodied rock to gorgeous Replacements cover, thus mapping out the musical and emotional parameters of an album that’s never dull and frequently arresting. It’s also consistently smart, so much so that when she sings the refrain that goes “Do you think I’m stupid or something?” there’s no temptation to answer in the affirmative. Even the song to her child and the song to her mother avoid bathos, sketching intimate portraits so plainspokenly that one almost wishes she’d gone for a filial hat trick and made “Rock and Roll Lullaby” and not Tom Waits’ “Heart of Saturday Night” the disc’s second-best cover. Rating: Four mother and child reunions out of five.
KC and the Sunshine Band: KC and the Sunshine Band (Collector’s Choice)—Compilations aside, this 1975 album is the most consistently exhilarating disc from the greatest disco hit machine ever. Donna Summer, the Bee Gees—no one matched these Floridians when they were in the zone. Everyone knows “Get Down Tonight,” “That’s the Way (I Like It),” and “Boogie Shoes,” but almost no one knows “Ain’t Nothin’ Wrong” (imagine Archie Bell slowed down and sweetened up) or “I’m So Crazy (’Bout You)” (bubblegum at its brightest, bounciest, and most vibrant). It’s just as well this reissue adds no bonus tracks; in music this efficient they’d just be an encumbrance. Rating: Four glitter balls out of five.
KC and the Sunshine Band: Part 3 (Collector’s Choice)—Compilations aside, the great disco hit machine’s second-most consistently exhilarating release.
Killing Joke: Hosannas From The Basements Of Hell (Cooking Vinyl)--Doom and gloom don’t mean a thing if they ain’t got that boom, so congratulations to drummer Ben Calvert for providing heavy-duty “punch lines” to what would otherwise be an all-too-grim twenty-sixth-anniversary excursion from this relentlessly apocalyptic punk-metal band. Titles like “Implosion,” “Judas Goat,” and “The Lightbringer” (English for “Lucifer”) pretty much say it all, and it’s a good thing, as Jaz Coleman’s Lemmy-on-steroids vocals leave something to be desired in the enunciation department. Still, those needing clarity can always squint at the lyrics, whereupon they’ll encounter such cheery insights as “We come into this life in blood and tears we leave this life in blood and tears” and “Orwellian Machiavellian Hegelian dialectic world management has come and it’s to be expected.” Justifying Coleman’s liner admonition to “play at welding volume” are longtime guitarist Geordie Walker and sometimes bassist Paul Raven, who remain in meltdown mode from beginning to end.*
Andy Kim: How’d We Ever Get This Way?/Rainbow Ride (Collector’s Choice)—Kim is no lost master, but he did know the ins and outs of ’60s bubblegum well enough to plaster the top forty with it a few times. The co-writer of, and an uncredited performer on, the Archies’ “Sugar Sugar,” Kim made three LPs of immaculately conceived sugar pop under his own name that, had it been promoted with comic-book characters, might’ve conquered the world. Or maybe not—man doth not live by bubblegum alone. This disc compiles his first two albums, stranding his equally catchy third with his lachrymose, singer-songwriterly fourth on another two-on-one CD. So till a single-disc best-of comes out, this one’s the one to get. Rating: Three-and-a-half aural cavities out of five.
Lacuna Coil: Karmacode (Century)—Ambient, goth, progressive-metal bands shouldn’t cover Depeche Mode’s “Enjoy the Silence”; it makes their own songs sound gloomier and more melodramatic than they already do.
Lisa Loeb: The Very Best of Lisa Loeb (Geffen)—Lord, she took romantic disappointment hard. She made some pretty (sometimes too pretty) songs out of that disappointment too--songs certainly worth the attention of any guy inclined to make passes at girls who wear glasses. Rating: Three-and-a-half wishing hearts out of five.
Andy Fairweather Low: Sweet Soulful Music (Proper American)—Forget the name of his current record label; if anything, Andy Fairweather Low is a proper Englishman. Although best known for his work as a sideman for Eric Clapton, the Who, and currently Roger Waters, Low made four solo albums for A&M between 1974 and 1980, proving himself an ace purveyor of philosophically acute, jaunty folk and pub-rock in the process. Sweet Soulful Music finds him picking up where he left off, singing one catchy, mainly acoustic ditty after another in a voice that’s equal parts Clapton and Paul McCartney. The lyrics, which use stoic good humor to plumb the mystery of life in a universe that’s just unfathomable enough to need plumbing, will prove catchy too, at least to anyone wise enough to know that “life, it ain’t no competition” and that sometimes one needs the help of “Jehovah” to “get over.” Rating: Four amen corners out of five.
*As published in Illinois Entertainer