Cool Spins

The Mix Staff Members Pick Their Current Favorites Laurie Anderson: Life on a String(Nonesuch) There's no one I'd rather hear doing a spoken-word piece

The Mix Staff Members Pick Their Current Favorites

Laurie Anderson:Life on a String

There's no one I'd rather hear doing a spoken-word piece over music than Laurie Anderson. Her speaking voice is so rich and evocative, full of nuance. It soothes and seduces. What I sometimes forget when I don't hear her for a while, though, is that Anderson is also a very effective singer, with a simple and lovely voice that also conveys meaning beautifully. Anderson's latest is typically bold and experimental, combining tracks of ethereal beauty (“One White Whale,” “Dark Angel,” “Washington Street”) with noisier avant musings. There's nothing at all conventional about the instrumentation from song to song — some are mostly electronic, others feature sumptuous strings (Anderson plays violin on a number of songs), sampled elements, mellotron, guitar…it's quite a backdrop for Anderson's always intriguing layered vocal performances. And though this is her show from beginning to end, she's assembled quite a cast of characters to help her out, including guitarists Bill Frisell and Lou Reed (her paramour), keyboardist Mitchell Froom, drummer Joey Baron, bassist Skuli Sverrisson and arranger Van Dyke Parks. Lyrically, it's all over the map, too, with a couple of pieces apparently derived from her Moby Dick touring show, and others on themes relating to New York and various personal ruminations rendered in a dreamy and confessional style. This is my favorite L.A. album since Strange Angels more than a decade ago, but her music is always worth checking out.

Producers: Hal Willner and Laurie Anderson. Engineers: Martin Brumbach (tracking, some mixing), Bob Brockman (mixing). Additional engineering: Laurie Anderson, Dante DeSole, Josiah Gluck. Studio: The Lobby (NYC). Additional studios: The Magic Shop, Edison Recording, NuMedia (all in NYC). Mastering: Bob Ludwig/Gateway Mastering (Portland, ME).
Blair Jackson

Queensryche:Live Evolution
(Sanctuary Records)

Taken from two shows at the Moore Theatre (Seattle) in mid-July 2001, Live Evolution, a 2-CD live album, documents the astounding success that Queensryche has enjoyed over the years. With a career spanning eight studio releases, this progressive hard rock band has now put out a disc that spans their entire output and captures the essence of a live Queensryche show — with its explosive highs and soul-wrenching lows. It offers a fine selection of representative songs from each of the band's releases, providing some of the character and personality of the different albums. But the true soul of this release is found in how well the songs meld into each other, from disc one's opening track “NM 156,” right through to Mindcrime Suite's “Suite Sister Mary.” The only break you get from this Queensryche extravaganza is having to physically change discs; otherwise, the transition between tracks is seamless. I like the second disc more than the first; not surprising, because I started listening to them when Empire came out. But this double-disc CD is a really great promotional kick to get us kiddies to listen to their older stuff, while pleasing the much more devoted Queensryche fans.

Producers: Queensryche. Recorded by Kelly Gray at the Moore Theatre. Mastering: Eddy Schreyer and Gene Grimaldi.
Sarah Benzuly

Sing Along With Los Straitjackets

What a great time to be a music fan. Only in these days of low-cost indie recording could a retro surf/rockabilly instrumental quartet wearing Mexican wrestling masks put out an album featuring more a dozen great performers from the roots, Americana and punkabilly scenes. Fans can sing along, too, because they cover some real classics: Raul Malo (Mavericks) sings “Black Is Black,” and the Reverend Horton Heat does “Down the Line.” Dave Alvin doesn't sound like a surfer, but he rocks hard on “California Sun.” By far my favorite is “Chica Alborotada” — “Tallahassee Lassie” sung en Espanol by alterna-swing's consummate crooner, Big Sandy. If this is your kind of music, then it's worth noting that the new Yeproc label seems to be behind a lot of cool releases. Personally, I love old-fashioned, sweaty rock 'n' roll with real drums, and screaming guitar solos and vocals, and this is possibly my favorite album of 2001.

Producers: R.S. Field, Mark Linett, Los Straitjackets. Engineers: Jim DeMain, Mark Linett, Rich Mattson. Studios: The White House, Hum Depot (both in Nashville), Your Place or Mine (Glendale, CA), The Flower Pot (Minneapolis). Mastering: Jim DeMain/Yes Master and Mark Linett/Your Place or Mine.
Barbara Schultz

Le Tigre:Feminist Sweepstakes
(Mr. Lady Records)

Sorry, you're just not cool enough to listen to Le Tigre. Sure, that's kind of harsh, and that's kind of elitist. But that's also the point. All in all, Feminist Sweepstakes is a perfect “one-fingered” salute to the sophomore jinx. Here's the skinny: Former Bikini Kill singer/songwriter Kathleen Hanna and multi-instrumentalists Johanna Fateman and JD Samson deliver another slick, hook-laden, post-everthing mix of lo-fi new wave and punk served up on a delicious platter of sampled beats and cut 'n' paste grooves. And Hanna certainly hasn't forgotten what got her here, but she's managed to mature her approach just a bit. Where Bikini Kill were infamous for driving their politics down the throats of anyone who would listen, Le Tigre destroys the opposition with scathing sarcasm and sickly sweet melodies. And sure, she still turns in lyrics like, “Ten short years of progressive change. Fifty f — in' years of calling of names.” But this time around, you can dance to it!

Producers/engineers: Chris Stamey and Le Tigre. Studio: Modern Recording (Chapel Hill, NC). Mastering: Brent Lambert/Kitchen Mastering (Chapel Hill, NC).
Robert Hanson

Jerry Garcia and David Grisman:Grateful Dawg
(Acoustic Disc)

This is actually a soundtrack album for a documentary film of the same name made by mandolinist/“Dawg music” pioneer David Grisman's daughter, Gillian, tracing the long and fruitful musical relationship between her father and the late Grateful Dead guitarist. It contains a few choice tracks from previous Garcia/Grisman CDs, one from their early '70s bluegrass band Old & In the Way, a pair of songs by folk influences Bill Monroe and Ewan MacColl, and the real motherlode for their many fans: seven previously unreleased live recordings by their excellent quartet (Jim Kerwin plays bass, Joe Craven percussion and violin), including the spry title tune, a lilting version of Jimmy Cliff's “Sitting Here in Limbo,” the Dead favorite “Friend of the Devil” and Grisman's epic instrumental “Arabia,” which came out originally around the time of the Gulf War in '91, and is suddenly eerily appropriate once again. It all adds up to a wonderful portrait of a fond and enduring friendship that encompassed so many different acoustic music styles.

Producer: David Grisman. Engineers: Dave Dennison (studio and some live), John Cutler (live), Owsley Stanley (live Old & In the Way).
Blair Jackson