CDs old and new

Most album reviews are usually about either CDs the community hasn’t heard yet, or brand-spankin’ new albums that no one’s had access to. This particular column includes both those, as well as CDs that perhaps people haven’t heard yet, even though they might have been collecting dust on a shelf at Borders for a few weeks, months or years.

If you’ve got it under your skin to update your music collection with something different, this writer suggests you go pick up a copy of The Slackers’ latest, Close My Eyes. Although the title seems to be a reference to a Kerouac piece (as an excerpt is etched underneath the CD when you open it), the music is in traditional Slackers’ style of being intellectual yet down-to-earth with no pretensions. It sounds a little raw, but keyboardist/lead vocalist and headman Vic Ruggiero has been heading back in that direction for a while now. Maintaining their classic sultry lounge/reggae/ska/jazz (and sometimes rock) sound, the new one is even a touch more bittersweet than The Question. One could say The Slackers have grown up, but I think they were born as already love-jaded 30-year-olds. All in all, they haven’t changed much, and it’s a great album.

The new Outkast is great, pure and simple. The two-disc album including The Love Below and Speaker Boxxx splices Andre3000 from Big Boi as they have their own separate spaces to do what they’d like. Giving the two rappers their own CDs instead of having them perform and produce together on one begs the question: why didn’t they just split up and do their own thing without the farce of one CD case? Well, there is some crossover on each work, and getting it in one fell swoop helps answer the other question: who do you like more, Dre or Big Boi? Dre’s rapping style is excellent with his eloquent staccato and expansive vocabulary, and Boi has some great beats in his corner and comes across with sophistication. Outkast proves once again that they are here to stay and aren’t just a passing fad in rap. Intelligent, fun, serious and sometimes almost verging on poetic brilliancy, their songs stick in your head like some contagious brain disease—in a good way.

For jazz fans out there, I have a message for you: get something NEW. You already own all the Miles and Coltrane ever made—and trust me, there isn’t going to be more any time soon. I’ve been diggin’ on Bad Plus (self-titled) lately, and as far as jazz, it’s a little unorthodox but it’s really great stuff. Their cover of Blondie’s “Heart of Glass,” (I know, I questioned it, too) has a steady 4/4 time, with a rhythmic 7/4 break at the end verging on disco craziness. They also cover Nirvana’s “Teen Spirit,” with unique adaptation, incredibly tight grooves, and fresh concepts. Using jazz improvisational styles with rock ‘n’ roll drums and modern cover songs, these are well-rounded musicians. Bad Plus is perfect for the “I’m into jazz, but not that much” type.

Also, as far as new-old albums (released more than three months ago, but under five years) pick up trumpeter Dave Douglas’s Songs for Wandering Souls. With the Tiny Bell Trio, Douglas is unstoppable and classic. Jubilant and unique, some of the tunes last a little too long, but that’s contemporary jazz for you. If you have the attention span for it, listen to every song carefully and note the superb tone and musicianship of his work. Songs for Wandering Souls is just that, and is great for the serious music lover.

That wraps it up this week, so go out and support the record labels—these musicians have already gotten paid. Also, if anyone has the new Belle and Sebastian, give me call and let me know what you think at 964-9767—I couldn’t find it last week.

Enjoy The Rock River Times? Help spread the word!