IT’S been a long three years between albums for Alberta’s multiple award winning (Juno, CFMA, CCMAs, WCMAs) Corb Lund. I’ll tell you right up front that studio disc number seven was well worth the wait. Cabin Fever shows off Lund’s diversity. He flashes his topicality with tunes about post-apocalyptic survivalists, gravediggers, touring musicians ( Bible on the Dash with Hayes Carll), drinkers, Goth girls, cowboys and ranchers. Of course there are love songs to both the fairer sex ( September) and his vintage BMW motorcycle ( Mein Deutsches Motorrad)! Sonically he delivers rockin’ edgy country blues, country swing (ala Asleep at the Wheel), traditional Wilf Carter style C&W, rockabilly and a Waylonesque stomper in Pour ‘em Kinda Strong.
Corb Lund continues to grow as an artist. Not there is much faultt to be found with his previous output but his writing and singing is better than ever. Cabin Fever is Corb Lund at his very best. TORONTO’S wild Dearly Beloved takes no prisoners on their latest 11-track album, the strange and wonderful Hawk VS Pigeon. Of course, the pigeon would lose, but this brave combo beats down indierock convention just enough to bring blood to the surface of the skin.
Take for example Aimed Right At Me’s overdriven howl and the demons and money littering the lyrics of Living Proof. Informed by the underlying vibe of a studio called Rancho de la Luna, the trio (and friends) created a finer brand of progressive outsider fire. Sonic Youth devotees can look no further than the boiling mid-tempo throb of Lizard Fight for gut level satisfaction. Indeed, the short sharp shock of To Better Days is impactful, and it’s neck snapping acceleration will have the punks and punkettes spitting sloppy superlatives. She is a stunbass showcase, reminiscent of J.J. Burnel’s death-defying sonic depth charges with first generation English art punks The Stranglers. If it sounds like a dirty nighttime party of fed back guitars and banshee howls and purrs courtesy of singer Niva Chow then that would be correct. Beware of the hawk. shared among the main cast, which includes Whitney Houston, Jordin Sparks and Cee Lo Green. Houston has become the focus of the film and soundtrack since she died earlier this year. Her songs here should have served as a high note for the icon, but unfortunately her swan songs — His Eye Is on the Sparrow and Celebrate with Sparks — falter as the singer struggles to find her once sparkling, soaring voice.
Four Mayfield-helmed originals make the 11-track album ( Jump, Hooked on Your Love, Something He Can Feel and Look Into Your Heart), while R. Kelly gets in on the action by writing and producing a few funky, but too-modern sounding contributions ( Love Will, Jump and Celebrate). Mayfield’s compositions stand the test of time as the most vibrant and nuanced: Kelly doesn’t deliver, and at times his contributions sound cheesy.
While the record is adequate enough in reproducing the sound and cheerful naivete of 1960s, the period in which the film is set, it ultimately fails to linger in one’s heart, mind or feet past its last note. DON’T let the understated title of the new Branford Marsalis Quartet album mislead you into thinking this is some loosely arranged jam session. Saxophonist Marsalis leads one of the most cohesive, intense small jazz ensembles on the scene today. The group’s three long-standing members — Marsalis, pianist Joey Calderazzo and bassist Eric Revis — each contribute original tunes to Four MFs Playin’ Tunes and there are covers of Thelonious Monk’s Teo and the 1930s ballad My Ideal.
The CD begins with two tunes showcasing Marsalis’ prowess on soprano sax — Calderazzo’s playful, energetic The Mighty Sword, with a catchy calypso-like theme reminiscent of Sonny Rollins, and Revis’ bluesy Monk-influenced Brews, where Marsalis turns in a blaz- ing solo. It closes with Marsalis turning down the heat on the romantic standard My Ideal with a touching, tender tenor sax solo and on the bonus track Treat It Gentle, an original oldstyle Marsalis ballad that pays homage to his New Orleans roots.
This album shows that Marsalis’ quartet hasn’t skipped a beat with the change in the drummer’s chair, effortlessly playing often complex original tunes that are thoroughly modern while referencing past jazz masters. GARDINER sets up some pretty strong expectations, looking at the cover of a tightrope walker in full challenge followed by Gardiner proclaiming Bach’s Six Motets as the most perfect, the most hypnotic of all his works, bar none, and among the most challenging to sing.
Here though, Gardiner with all his splendid recordings and career integrity casts a fresh light on such well-earned hyperbole. This is not only a dazzling display of choral singing but a deeply inviting window into a profound and endlessly inspiring listening experience.
The choir is spellbinding in its precision and characterization, the depictions of instruments in BWV225 one example among many. Gardiner spotlights, underscores and colours fearlessly, his astonishing choir on hair-trigger alert with unfailing response to Bach’s frequent stance of joyful release in death plus many moments of response in faith and prayer that find exactly the right emotional settings. One is in awe of Bach’s airtight musical arguments throughout. Very likely the choral album of the year.