Sunday, January 16, 2011

My 2010 Illinois Entertainer Reviews, p. 5

The Everly Brothers: Reunion Concert: Live at the Royal Albert Hall (Eagle Rock)--First released on VHS in 1984, this concert marked the first performance by Phil and Don Everly, 44 and 46 respectively, since their notoriously acrimonious breakup midway through a California show ten years before. Older and wiser, and their tenor harmonies none the worse for the wear, they revisited their classic catalog (“All I Have to Do Is Dream,” “Cathy’s Clown,” “Devoted to You”) and then some (“Barbara Allen,” “Step It Up and Go,” “Lucille”) as only they could. They even wore tuxes. This DVD includes the documentary Rock ’n’ Roll Odyssey, thus allowing fans to bone up on the Brothers’ back story (up to ’83 anyway). But the real treat, of course, is the performance of a lifetime by an act the likes of which we’ll never see again.

Giant Sand: Blurry Blue Mountain (Fire)--Two themes run through Howe Gelb’s latest project: the way the passing of time wreaks existential havoc and the way one’s favorite songs function as signposts along roads less traveled. In “Fields of Green” Gelb marvels that he’s now “over fifty” and a “pathfinder” to “young, fresh folk,” in “The Last One” he paraphrases Shakespeare’s Sonnet 73, and in “Time Flies” time flies. Along the way, he quotes or otherwise refers to Herman’s Hermits, Billy Joe Shaver, Thunderclap Newman, and Leo Sayer. It may not look like much on paper, but as channeled by music appropriate to a spaghetti-Western set in the Twilight Zone and narrated in song-speech that’s equal parts Raymond Chandler and Leonard Cohen, it whispers of a mortality that’s every bit as seductive as it is inevitable.

Good God! Born Again Funk (Numero)--Forget what you think you know about ’70s black gospel, crossover or otherwise. At least in terms of their music, these eighteen songs, most of which were recorded by or before 1976 in or around Chicago, have as little to do with the Edwin Hawkins Singers’ “Oh Happy Day” or Andrae Crouch’s “Jesus Is the Answer” as they do with the James Brown implications of “Good God!” and “Funk” in the title. This music is soul, pure and simple. Only it’s neither pure (there’s grit aplenty in both the singing and the production) nor simple -- the tug of war between the lead and background singers is the easiest one to hear, but the ones between the elements of the various rhythm sections are the easiest to feel.

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