COLOURS have always been important to Baroness. After the triumphs of 2007’s Red Album and 2009’s Blue Record, the band switches gears and expands its palette from primary colours to the experimental double album Yellow & Green, with each colour getting its own disc and having its own distinct feel that expands upon the band’s sound for better and worse.
The Savannah, Ga., quartet has ditched its heaviest and sludgiest material and focused more on its melodic side while keeping its harmonized guitar lines intact and adding in some arena-sized anthemic choruses.
Yellow is the heavier and more immediate of the two colours with Take My Bones Away and March to the Sea showcasing the band’s newfound appreciation for melody. Cocanium could be an homage to the Meat Puppets with a splash of psychedelia, which continues on the mellow Back Where I Belong.
Green is more moody and features a few tracks with the band veering into some modern rock with Board up the House sounding like something that could be a play to get on commercial radio. Stretchmaker is a go nowhere acoustic instrumental, bested later by ambient closer If I Forget Thee, Lowcountry, but the highlight on this one is The Line Between, a groove-heavy banger with harmonized solos.
Yellow & Green is a bold move that proves Baroness isn’t content to stick to simple shades. It doesn’t always work, but when it does, it’s golden. ½ TORONTO singer-songwriter John Royal Wood Nicholson is eminently likable. He’s attractive, well-dressed, and a talented multi-instrumentalist with a rich, pleasant voice and tunes that have a jangly surface charm that’s instantly appealing.
Unfortunately, there’s something about the melodic, modest pop on his third album that just washes over you and drains away without leaving anything lasting behind. It doesn’t help that his lyrics are nothing to write home about, trading in vagaries about love and relationships and never finding a real poetic moment.
There are some stickier songs, however; the Paul McCartney-esque guilelessness of The Thick of It and the fuzzed-out pop of I Want Your Love among them. The Glory finds him sounding a bit like a les ethereal Jeff Buckley, while his wife Sarah Slean sings counterpoint. But mostly this is paint-by-numbers pop: pretty, but not a masterpiece. ANGUS Stone’s second solo venture outside of the duo with his sister Julia sees the Aussie multi-instrumentalist singersongwriter handling production chores too.
River Love builds progressively from slow and pretty to a lively infectious jig complete with Irish flute. The Wolf and the Butler is a peculiar country love song. The Blue Door is a murder ballad with an obvious Johnny Cash guitar influence. Monsters is a banjo-driven tale of internal struggle. Bird on a Buffalo is catchy acoustic folkpop with airplay potential.
Sounding at times like Bon Iver fronting Mumford & Sons, Stone’s unique vocal style and off-kilter phrasing is truly spellbinding. Stone weaves a lush, atmospheric sonic tapestry held together with cryptic lyrics and washed in aural textures dictated by roots inflected instrumentation courtesy of guitar, mandolin, harmonica, Dobro, organ, cello, violin and of course those old standbys the pinball machine and, uh, space machine! ARRANGER and composer Gil Evans holds an exalted position in the jazz world for his 1940s-’50s work with Claude Thornhill’s band, through his great collaborations with Miles Davis to his own bands and recordings. So the release of 10 never-before-recorded arrangements to mark the centennial of Evans’ May 13, 1912, birth is a rare treat.
Producer and composer Ryan Truesdell uncovered 50 scores and narrowed them down to 10 for this disc performed by 35 top-notch musicians, including three singers.
The time spans 25 years of writing and carries the unmistakable Evans sound — airy, less brassy, great use of woodwinds and French horns; just a huge orchestral monster.
The CD includes an early version of The Maids of Cadiz, and a 14-minute Punjab, introduced by Dan Weiss’s tabla, swirls and sweeps with all the horns and a great Frank Kimbrough piano solo.
It’s a gem of a collection of work by a member of jazz’s arranging royalty.