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MUSIC | Reviews of four albums
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The title cues you in to the gospel-rooted lessons that arise from the songs. But whether he’s Colorado dreamin’ on such a winter’s day or crying the Rio Grande, Andrew Akins isn’t telling stories. He’s baring his soul—to Americana melodies and instrumentation appropriate to such an endeavor. He tries “to be a good man,” even praying to stay “poor and humble” (because God causes the proud to stumble) and for God to “wrestle [him] down” Jacob-style. Still, he knows that he could end up doomed. Listeners familiar with Jeremiah 17:9 and Matthew 7:21-23 will understand.
Want to feel old? Will and Caleb Chapman are now about the same age as their father, Steven Curtis Chapman, when he recorded The Great Adventure. Want to feel young? Press play on “Landlocked Surf Rock” (the video’s narrator says it’s about “echoes of Eden”) and “Cannonballers” (Plastic Bertrand’s “Ça plane pour moi” on a roller coaster that might be a ghost train). The explosive energy of both will have you on your feet and dancing or air-banding in seconds. The other songs find the band realizing that life’s not all fun and games—sounding, in other words, like guys in their 30s.
Your Mother Should Know: Brad Mehldau Plays the Beatles
Mehldau has recorded Beatles songs before, six to be specific, five of those McCartney’s. This solo live-in-Paris recording adds 10: five more McCartneys, two Lennon-McCartneys, two Lennons, and a Harrison. (Sorry, Ringo fans.) Except for the gently barrelhousing “I Saw Her Standing There,” the interpretations have the feel of a daydream. The Bowie composition sneaked in at the end does not spoil the mood.
The Vivian Line
That Sexsmith’s 12 latest gems run to just over 33 minutes doesn’t mean that he’s scrimping. It means that he doesn’t belabor a point, whether verbal, melodic, or—in the case of the baroque-pop touches that his producer convinced him to apply—musical. The only sign of encroaching imperfection is that some songs are more gemlike than others: to wit, “A Place Called Love” (all are welcome), “What I Had in Mind” (take that, compulsory schooling), “Flower Boxes” (every day is Mother’s Day), and “Outdated and Antiquated” (about what makes Sexsmith’s songcraft increasingly valuable as time marches on).
When Chuck Jackson died two days after Valentine’s Day at the age of 85, more than 60 years had passed since the songs “Any Day Now” and “I Don’t Want To Cry” made him a pop chart two-hit wonder. Given his rich, burly voice (which Tom Jones must have studied) and the precise sonic definition of his many recordings for Wand (1961-1967) and Motown (1968-1971), his failure to connect more often with the singles-buying public remains a mystery.
For those interested in solving it, the compilations Good Things, Big New York Soul, and The Motown Anthology contain the relevant evidence. One clue that emerges is the inhibiting effects of typecasting. In almost every song, Jackson is either pursuing romance or recovering from a romance gone bad. More significantly, Brook Benton and B.B. King narrowly beat him to “Rainy Night in Georgia” and “The Thrill Is Gone” respectively. Had Jackson’s versions reached DJs first, the sky would’ve been the limit. —A.O.
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