The Mix Staff Members Pick Their Current Favorites
Is there anything more satisfying than finding a CD by a complete unknown that just knocks your socks off? Ejigayehu “Gigi” Shibabaw is a 27-year-old Ethiopian singer who migrated to San Francisco three years ago. A tape she made that circulated through the Bay Area's sizable Ethiopian community eventually found its way to Palm Pictures' Chris Blackwell; he, in turn, signed her and hooked her up with producer/musician Bill Laswell, who has shown his deft touch, fusing different strains of world music on project after project through the years. Gigi wrote all of the songs on the CD, in her native Amharic language, and her assured vocals (and there are many tracks of them) provide the dynamic center for this amazing aural excursion. There are pieces that sound like they are derived from Arab culture, others that skip along with a sub-Saharan lilt and more that have Western pop antecedents. Laswell has put together a first-rate group of adventurous players for Gigi's debut outing, enlisting his longtime associate Nicky Skopelitis on guitar, percussionists Aiyb Dieng and Karsh Kale, and Laswell himself on bass. Guests include sax greats Wayne Shorter (incredible on a song called “Mengedegna”), Pharoah Sanders and Henry Threadgill. All in all, it's a wonderful polyglot of ancient and modern styles. This is sure to become one of the year's top World Music discs.
Producer: Bill Laswell. Engineer: Robert Musso and Khaliq Glover. Studio: Orange Music Sound Studio and Garage Sale Studio. Mastering: Michael Fossenkemper/Turtletone.
— Blair Jackson
Various Artists:Songcatcher: Music From and Inspired by the Motion Picture(Vanguard/Combustion Music)
Oftentimes, soundtrack albums that include music “inspired by” the movie seem like studio money-grabs, but the Songcatcher CD is an obvious labor of love. For one thing, this is not a genre musicians choose for financial gain; it's gorgeous high-lonesome bluegrass sung by almost all women artists. There's an old-school, Carter Family-inspired (what isn't?) version of the traditional “Barbara Allen” sung by one of the film's cast members Emmy Rossum, followed by a haunting, plaintive version of the same song from Emmylou Harris. Appearances by singer/songwriters such as Julie Miller, Iris Dement, Roseanne Cash and Gillian Welch with her collaborator David Rawlings are equally moving, but the best surprise here is the chance to hear some mainstream “new country” artists sing in the old style on tracks that are simply produced. I always knew Deana Carter would sound great with the right accompaniment.
Producers: Steve Buckingham, Chris Farren, Ken Levitan and Christopher Covert, John Leventhal, Buddy and Julie Miller, Emory Gordy Jr., Gillian Welch and David Rawlings, and David Mansfield. Engineers: John Leventhal, Gary Paczosa, Neal Cappellino, David Mansfield, John Saylor, Dan Gellert, David Thoener, Dennis Ritchie, Justin Niebank, Buddy Miller, David Rawlings, Steve Macantonio, Glen Neibaur, Tony Volante. Studios: 12th Studio, Avatar Studios, Soundtrack (all in NYC); 17 Grand, The Doghouse, Ocean Way, Nevada, East Iris, The Cave, Emerald (all in Nashville); Hound's Ear (Franklin, TN); Royaltone (L.A.); L.A. East Studios (Salt Lake City).
— Barbara Schultz
Jim Lauderdale:The Other Sessions(Dualtone)
Meanwhile, back in the big city, the brand-new Dualtone label has released Jim Lauderdale's latest batch of superb honky-tonk songs. Lauderdale, whose compositions have been covered by the Dixie Chicks, George Strait, Vince Gill and dozens of other artists, makes the craft seem easy; his songs sound like country classics you can't believe you've never heard before. For this release, he worked in collaboration with a few other talented composers, including four songs co-written with the great Melba Montgomery, and he is joined by a laundry list of more than 30 of country's finest musicians. With titles like “Merle World” and “Diesel, Diesel, Diesel,” this album is true to the spirit of country music. Lauderdale's not “alt,” he's just for real.
Producers: Jim Lauderdale, Tim Coats and Luke Wooten (one track). Engineer: Tim Coats. Studios: Moondog Music, Javalina Recording Studio, Station West (all in Nashville). Mastering: Robby Turner/Turner Up Recording (Nashville).
— Barbara Schultz
The Go-Go's:God Bless the Go-Go's(Beyond Music)
They're baaaack. Yup, that's right. Gone from the pop scene for 17 years except for a quick tour last year with co-headliners The B-52's (“All Access,” October 2000), cult '80s group returns with another healthy dose of quirky pop. These five lovely ladies (and they are ladies now) are focusing on what they do best — sugar-sweet tunes for the new age beboppers. In fact, the album focuses so much on the grown-up side of The Go-Go's that the cover shows each bandmember dressed in nun garb, with each photo captioned with honesty, chastity, mercy, purity and modesty — who are they kidding?! God Bless the Go-Go's, a 13-song release, sounds more like a sampler of their previous albums, with such tangy songs as “La La Land,” “Automatic Rainy Day” and “Daisy Chain.” Even Belinda Carlisle sings with that same gritty yet very feminine style that catapulted the group to stardom and left just about every guy in the '80s champing at the bit. Charlotte Caffey's and Jane Wiedlin's guitars rock out with the same veracity of yesteryear's “We Got the Beat.” I'll file this one next to my Debbie Gibson records and secretly hope for more to come!
Producers: Paul Q. Kolderie, Sean Slade and Rick Neigher (track 6). Mixers: Paul Q. Kolderie, Sean Slade, Mike Shipley (tracks 1 through 4), Marc DeSisto (track 6), Tom Weir (track 13). Mastering: Steve Hall at Future Disc. Studios: Sound City Studios and Sound Image. Mixing done at: The Record Plant, Fort Apache, The Magic Shop and Record One.
— Sarah Benzuly
No One:No One(Immortal Records)
It seems that this year's manufactured hard rock/metal bands, who seem to appear and disappear with the tides, can be summed up quite nicely in four words: 15 minutes of fame. In fact, making it on MTV's TRL or cramming their way up to the top of the charts is really the only sign of life from such bands. But sometimes there comes a band, without radio releases or becoming fast friends with Carson Daly, that spin wildly from the underground and blitzkrieg their way into the hearts and bleeding ears of metal fans. No One's debut release is textbook metal/hard rock, without the sparkle from the bright lights of Hollywood. Gleaning the talents and sounds of Korn, Pantera and Slayer, No One maintains its edginess throughout the entire album, relentlessly infusing each note with the venom of intense, hard-hitting licks. Hailing from the Windy City, No One hits the speakers like a train wreck — their powerful grooves, intense vocals and impossible-to-lose-track-of guitar lines show just how heavy No One is. The lead track, “Down On Me,” is a showdown of brute force and screaming guitars. (In fact, according to Murk, the band's lead singer, the song came out of an emotional pressure pile-up after Immortal Records signed them; the band was signed based on a three-song demo, the label assumed No One had the entire album worked out, the band didn't — you do the math.) No One is a riveting album, full of subtle textures and layers of moods, that climaxes all the way to the end.
Producer/engineer/mixer: Johnny K. Mastering: Ted Jensen at Sterling Sound.
— Sarah Benzuly