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MUSIC | Four new albums reviewed
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Defiance Part 1
One advantage of having a raspy voice at 33, Hunter’s age when he cut “All the Young Dudes” in 1972, is that you can still sound like a relatively young dude 50 years later, especially when backed and surrounded by a who’s who of rock. The fondly reminiscing “Bed of Roses” is the pick to click, with “No Hard Feelings” (a sharper father-forgiving song than 1979’s “Ships”) not far behind. But Hunter’s pretty interesting emoting from the points of view of Picasso (“Guernica”) and a drug-sniffing canine (“Pavlov’s Dog”) too.
While talking his way through the first minute and 18 seconds of “Stompin’ at the Savoy,” Mahal lets listeners in on the fact that his parents met while stompin’ there, so he owes the ballroom his very existence. He repays the debt by performing 14 Savoy-era classics just the way his parents would’ve liked ’em. Most of the songs have long been staples of the Great American Songbook. Still, it’s always good to be reminded that “Sweet Georgia Brown” has lyrics, that “Baby It’s Cold Outside” has nothing to do with date rape (especially with Maria Muldaur voluntarily fogging the windows), and that the triptych of “Caldonia,” “Killer Joe,” and “One for My Baby (and One More for the Road)” is a mighty fine way to close out a disc.
The “voices” belong to women composers who, except for Florence Price (represented by the Sonata in E Minor), remain little known outside their respective niches, whether jazz, Negro spirituals, or hard-to-pin-down expressionism. But it’s Estelle Ricketts’ charming “Rippling Spring Waltz” (the first known piano piece by a black woman) and Alice Ping Yee Ho’s Salvador Dalí–inspired “Aeon” that cast into sharpest relief what Morrison and her piano achieve: the amplification of the under-heard, yes, but also the transformation of “diversity” into something more than a shibboleth.
The Bus Routes of South London
Cherry Red’s new 21st-century compilation Dark Luminosity has its moments, but at four discs it’s simply too much. So for those whose interest in Wobble’s throbbing bass was rekindled by 2021’s Metal Box: Rebuilt in Dub, these nine glistening nocturnes composed on an iPad during bus rides are the place to board. “I found the experience entrancing,” Wobble writes, “for the most part anyway.” For the most part anyway, you will too.
If Van Morrison’s Moving on Skiffle has you craving more of the genre, Jasmine Records’ new Banjos, Tea Chests, Thimbles & Washboards: The Great UK Skiffle Boom! is a good place to start. Contemporaneous with the rock ’n’ roll that Sun Records was unleashing in the United States, skiffle spiked folk tunes with homemade instruments and happy tempos and was the United Kingdom’s way of telling Beethoven to roll over.
Because folk first took root in the fertile soils of Christendom, skiffle did not shy away from traditional morality (Lorrae Desmond and Her Rebels’ “Preacher, Preacher”) or gospel (the Chris Barber Skiffle Group’s “Where Could I Go?,” the Delta Skiffle Group’s “Ain’t You Glad”). “Hallelujah, I’m saved from sin!” sang Lonnie Donegan, “The good Lord’s comin’ for to see me again.” The song? His version of “Rock Island Line,” the recording that got the skiffle craze rolling in the first place. —A.O.
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