CD Madness - Catching Up On New Music

Andy "AG" Geib and Alley of Wise Monkey Orchestra - Winstons 2/1/02

report filed 2/13/02, 11:30 am pdt - I've been neglecting this website. Call it a vacation. An extended vacation. Didn't plan on taking so much time off, it just happened. And I'm not at liberty to give details. Let's just say I've been working 'under cover.' Sure, we've missed a few deadlines, but hey, deadlines come and go. That's just the way it is. Of course, I'm talking about 'self imposed' cyberspace deadlines here at the studio. Different story in the real world. Ink and paper editors know they can always bank on the Anytime/Anywhere Studios whenever there's a freelance fee on the line.

Here at the website, we've always done our best to deliver carefully crafted, high grade verbage on a regular basis. OK fine, on a semi-regular basis. Sometimes we hit the target with laser like accuracy and occasionally it's more of a hand grenade and horseshoe thing. You know, like baseball's 'in-the-neighborhood' double play - kinda sorta close enough to just barely get the job done, but far from pretty. And as the bull goose loony navigating this particular adventure in music journalism, that's fine by me. We do the best we can. Plain and simple.

While I'm comfortable, bordering on proud, of the tireless efforts our highly trained staff invests day after day, week after week, month after month, and yes, year after year, into the content published here at Anytime/Anywhere Studios, we know there's plenty of room for improvement. CD reviews for example. Too many CD reviews fall through the crack in our production room floor. We're working on it. As we go to press, our award winning 'Time and Motion' systems analysts are developing a faster, more scientific approach to evaluating the artistic merit of new music. Meanwhile, we're just gonna plug away and do the best we can.

So as we dig into the new year, the timing seems right to clean up as much unfinished business as possible from 2001. And that's what we're gonna do. Buckle up amigo, because here we go with a fast paced, jam packed (pardon the pun) edition of:

These CDs Don't Suck:

Robert Walter - There Goes The Neighborhood

Robert Walter burst onto the scene in '93 as a founding member of the Greyboy Allstars, fueling the cool funk, post acid groove ensemble with his dynamic keyboard stylings. When the Allstars disbanded in '98, Walter formed the 20th Congress and continued to tour while also releasing a pair of critically acclaimed CDs, Health & Fitness, and 2000's Money Shot. This time out, Walter joins forces with an old school backup band of studio legends put together specifically for this recording by producer Brian Brinkerhoff. The lineup reads like a Who's Who of jazz greats, including: guitarist Phil Upchurch (Ramsey Lewis, Curtis Mayfield); Harvey Mason on drums (Herbie Hancock); bassist Chuck Rainey (The Crusaders, Aretha Franklin); and Red Holloway on sax (George Benson). And the material is worthy of such high power treatment. Most of the songs are new originals written by Walter, including "4:00 Wash Up," an edgy collaboration in next-step fusion with Upchurch. Other tracks include, "The Tease," a simmering, funk-n-stroll number penned by Mason, as well as a silky smooth rendition of the traditional gem, "Wake In The Water," and a horn driven, jumpin' jive treatment of the Willie Dixon classic, "My Babe." Solid stuff throughout. There Goes The Neighborhood is an impressive outing for the young tiger Walter among such venerable jazz lions.

Jeff Coffin Mu'tet - Go Round

I'm not exactly sure what a "Mu'tet" is, but I do know for a fact that Jeff Coffin's Mu'tet makes some very intriguing music. Best known for his genre bending sax work over the past few years with Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, Coffin takes his sound in a decidedly bohemian direction with eleven original compositions on Go Round. The guy also plays a ton-o-different instruments to get there, including: tenor, alto and soprano saxes; clarinet; bass clarinet; and flutes. And he's not alone. Backed by a wonderfully dynamic trio of drums (Tom Giampietro), acoustic bass (Derek Jones) and piano (Chris Walters), Coffin also brings in a variety of guest musicians on trumpet, trombone, viola, guitar, bass harmonica, spoken voice, as well as fellow Flecktone, Futureman, to play dumbek on the opening track. At times exotic with an old world flavor, the Mu'tet is certainly jazzy with a flair of avant-garde, but there's way too much melody and rhythmic sensibility here to lump Go Round in with honk and squeak school of 'free' jazz. This is sophisticated stuff but far from pretentious. Sort of reminds me of Eric Dolphy's seminal Blue Note recording from '64, Out To Lunch. Very intellectual and artistically effective.

Dexter Grove - Color Me Naked

Charlie Orlando and Steve Drizos are on fire. Musically speaking, that is. Hey, we've been big fans of the planet's most dynamic two piece all acoustic groove generator for years. And they've never sounded better. Or more diverse. Color Me Naked starts in typical Dexter Grove fashion - Orlando's gritty, passionate vocals and high speed acoustic strums racing time with Drizos' kinder, gentler machine gun of percussion. Orlando and Drizos have always been intense - nobody puts more energy into their music than these guys. But Color Me Naked is testament to Dexter Grove's ongoing evolution, taking their self proclaimed 'acid folk' sound a little further down road with superior dynamics. Not just more musical peaks and valleys, but expanded instrumentation. DG's old friend Tim Herron sits in on several tracks unleashing electric guitar leads over a fleshed out and 'plugged in' DG that at times includes both electric and acoustic bass, pedal steel guitar, kit drums, and a variety of keyboards. Color Me Naked is easily Dg's most accessible release to date for new listeners. Long time fans will dig it too... we sure do! Added bonus: check out the extra cool cover art on the back of the CD featuring our very own 'Dexter Doodle!'

Gordon Stone - Red Room

Maybe it's unfair. After all, Gordon Stone can't help it if Bela Fleck got rich and famous for sounding like him. Or that Phish, his old buddies from Burlington, Vermont, have sky rocketed in popularity to limousine rock star status while the rest of the scene continues to tour the hard way - driving beat up old vans and loading their own gear. Truth is, the only thing Stone, or any musician for that matter, can do is make their best music and let the chips fall where they may. And that seems to be Stone's plan. For starters, Stone gets back to basics with his trademark trio lineup, including longtime drummer Russ Lawton as well as Rudy Dauth on bass. Then there's the material. From mesmerizing banjo exotica ("Close Enough") and kick-up-your-boots barn dance ("Major Breakdown") to genre bending audio alchemy like the Cajun beat/Nashville twang juxtaposition of "Yesterday's Coffee," Red Room is vintage Gordon Stone. Mix in a few tracks with Dauth on vocals, including a serving of Phish with a rousing cover of "Runaway Jim," and you've got one of the most thoroughly enjoyable new releases of 2001.

Psydecar - The Other Syde Of Psydecar

West coast jamfans who've experienced Psydecar's live show know just how dynamic the San Diego based world beaters can be. They make your body move with sexy, Latin tinged rhythms and tantalize your spirit with the polyoctive and oh-so-jazzy vocal stylings of Tim Pacheco before blowing your mind with dribble-down-the-chin stoner dub. It's just that easy. Anchored by rock steady drumming from the multitalented Ed Fletcher, who also contributes on bass synth, keyboards and backing vocals, and highlighted by the articulate and textural guitar stylings of Scott Homan, The Other Syde Of Psydecar focuses on the dreamier, more heavily sedated aspects of their sound. Sure, there are exceptions, most notably the guitar driven' "Feels Like Real Leather," which alternates between crunchy, heavy metal power chords and floating streams of trippy riff bubbles, creating a delightful stylistic tension not only within the song, but for the album itself. Overall though, The Other Syde Of Psydecar is decidedly meditative. In fact, there's so much deeply grooved space here that even the most wiggle happy groovemeisters will need to occasionally just sit back, listen, and of course, smile.

Mushroom - Foxy Music

Forget the sexy blond on the cover, the first thing about Foxy Music that caught our eye was the record label, Clearspot, which is based out of Germany. Frankfurt, to be exact. But with a name like Mushroom, it makes perfect sense that these guys are actually based out of San Francisco. Also got a kick out of their song titles. Some, like "Americans own the moon, they bought it from the Germans - who won it in a poker game in World War II," and "The greatest pleasure in life is doing what people say you can not do," are funny, in a dorky kinda way. Others, are downright informative, like "Grooving with Herbie," which opens the CD with a nod to Herbie Mann's influence on Mushroom's post-fusion sound. And it's a big sound. Lots of instruments going on here, including: cornet, tuba, keyboards, guitar, flute, sax, violin, drums, trombone, guitar and bass. Surprisingly, Mushroom's polytextured soundscapes are pleasantly restrained and not too busy or abrasive, at times almost ambient. This is sophisticated stuff.

Lo Faber - Henry's House

Lo Faber is ecstatic - again. For years, the singer/guitarist was happy fronting God Street Wine, a now defunct, east coast jamband that played three HORDE tours in the mid '90s with neo-hippie heavyweights Phish, Blues Traveler, Widespread Panic and the Spin Doctors. Faber also did the major label thing, recording for music biz biggies Geffen and Mercury. But the only part of the corporate gig he really enjoyed was leaving it all behind. These days Faber is completely independent and his first solo release is Henry's House, an ambitious double CD rock opera. Combining a grand musical vision and Faber's self-described "eccentric" sense of humor, Henry's House is a toe tapping fantasy world of classic rock influences - Bowie, Zappa, Genesis, the Kinks - mixed with quirky, high octane bluegrass and acid laced vaudeville theatrics. Faber is so pleased with the results, he's taking the show on the road with the same group of musicians who made Henry's House, including former GSW bandmates, friends from another upstate New York jamband, the Ominous Seapods, and an opera singer. Oh yeah, the packaging is a gas - the illustrations are warm and vibrant and the illustrated lyric booklet is a work of art. Make no mistake - Henry's House was built on a solid musical foundation by highly skilled rock and roll craftsmen.

Solomon Grundy - Follow The Tide

There's a shimmering elegance to Solomon Grundy's music. It starts with the voice, or tone, of each instrument. Notes sparkle off the SoCal quartet like sunlight reflecting off a waterfall - clear, fresh and flowing with a natural grace. A number of different influences gurgle through Follow The Tide's ten original tunes, including the high brow jazz of Chick Corea's Akoustik and Elektrik periods, Phishy power-psychedelia, Latin rhythms and funkish R&B. All these guys are top notch players. Guitarist Mark Hamrock and Brent Brandon on keyboards are both versatile musicians, equally adept at pulsing rhythm or articulating melody, and Mike Manzer on drums is a top notch time keeper. And then we have Corey Cofield on bass. Yowza - this guy is a monster! Sure, Cofield's got serious chops, but the guy is also extremely smooth and doesn't dominate the mix, opting instead to lay back and groove. Not that Cofield is shy. Far from it. Just give a listen to "She Comes At Night," to get an idea of what this very talented bottom end rumbler is capable of. Together, Solomon Grundy is a band to keep an eye on, and both ears as well.

Wingnut - Color

Don't be misled. Although Wingnut's new CD, Color, was released on the reggae heavy I-Town Record label, the edgy, keyboard driven' jazz rock trio haven't abandoned their occasionally dark, artistic leanings for the mango soaked sunshine of the islands. Not by a long shot. At times sounding like a post industrial Emerson Lake & Palmer, others a freshly dropped Medeski, Martin & Wood, Wingnut still makes some of the moodiest music currently on the scene. The I-Town connection is a location thing. Specifically, Ithaca, New York, which in addition to being the home town of both the band and label, is one of the coolest jamband hotspots in the country. Haven't been to Ithaca? Give Color a listen and check out what you've been missing.

New Monsoon - hydrophonic

Rhythm heavy and deeply grooved, San Francisco's New Monsoon effectively mixes highly danceable, world beat percussion with a country rockish melodicism on this fine debut release. Fans of Widespread Panic, Rusted Root and the String Cheese Incident will find plenty to harvest from this fine crop of fresh hydrophonic.

From the Live Music desk: Our production crew had the pleasure of checking out Wise Monkey Orchestra's triumphant recent return to Winstons in Ocean Beach. It'd been about a year since the seven headed rhythm monster graced the stage of their home town club before the much anticipated two night stint. Fresh off a short tour of Colorado, WMO was clicking on all cylinders and rocked the house both nights with their patented, non stop, one set marathons of swanky, acid-funk grooves. Here's a few shots from Friday night's show:

Marty Schwartz

Jason Robinson and Chad Stewart

Bruce Stodola

Believe it or not, we've also posted a few new articles for your reading pleasure! Get the inside scoop on a couple of very interesting bands, the Mobile Chicken Party Unit and Yamagata, as well as our tribute to the late Ken Kesey, all at no extra charge with your regular price of admission!

OK amigo - 'til next time, that was this time. Check back soon to see what's new, when our adventure in music journalism continues...