ELVIS COSTELLO AND THE IMPOSTERS
Club Date: Live In Memphis
DVD (Eagle Vision)
Live In Memphis is an explosive set that clearly shows that Costello has lost none of the magic or fire that imbued his finest rock recordings. This night was captured fresh from the making of Costello's latest studio album, The Delivery Man, which was recorded and produced by Dennis Herring at his compound nearby in Oxford, Miss. It makes sense that this would be captured in Memphis, a town known the world over for earthy soul, blues and rock, but also a town that has a long love affair with great English rock 'n' roll.
Many of Costello's best tracks have embodied the best of incendiary rock band chemistry and deep soul grooves, and all of that is clearly evidenced on this sweaty set. It's hard to narrow down highlights, but “Blue Chair” is a stand-out, as are any of his classics, like “Radio Radio,” “Pump It Up,” “Mystery Dance,” “(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love & Understanding” and “Alison,” which ends with a nod to that other Elvis' made-in-Memphis Chips Moman classic, “Suspicious Minds”.
Costello also throws down a nice trashy version of Dave Bartholomew's overlooked gem, “The Monkey,” and Emmylou Harris appears on five tracks supporting Costello on vocals.
The mix is approached in a way that is clearly intended to capture the roaring low-end sonics of a band playing so loud and furiously that the room is practically on overload. The result may not be everybody's taste, as some may find it too compressed, bottom-heavy and a little muddy. That said, there is no doubt that the excitement in the performances hasn't been cleaned out of these grooves.
DVD bonus features include Costello and Pete Thomas getting an interesting music tour through Memphis and the Mississippi/Arkansas Delta in a '50s Cadillac, with stop overs at the Stax Soulsville USA museum and a video of crazed fans lining up for tickets for the show held in the tiny venue.
All in all, this is a must for any fan of Costello's work and a perfect introduction to the passion and genius of this artist's long career.
— Rick Clark
Live at the Fillmore
Finally, an artist so beloved for her emotionally cathartic live performances issues an expertly mixed concert recording covering three nights at the Fillmore in San Francisco. True to form, roots-rock's grand dame opens the two-CD set with “Ventura,” oozing deep despair and longing like a jar of slowly spilled ink. From there, Williams gives us “Reason to Cry” and a couple more melancholic tunes before leading into more upbeat numbers such as the bluesy “Change the Locks” and the ZZ Top-inspired “Atonement.” Disc two holds pace with “I Lost It,” an early gem, “Pineola” and more recent favorites such as “Joy” and “Essence.” Her band — guitarist Doug Pettitbone, bassist Taras Prodaniuk and drummer Jim Christie — flat-out rocks.
Executive producer: Frank Callari. Producers: Lucinda Williams, Taras Prodaniuk. Engineers: Guy Charbonneau, Charlie Bouis, Michael Dumas. Studios: Le Mobile, Radio Recorders. Mastering: Stephen Marcussen, Marcussen Mastering.
— Heather Johnson
NINE INCH NAILS
Nine Inch Nails' Trent Reznor has emerged after a six-year hiatus — not to reclaim his throne, but to remind us that it was always his. In his latest opus with NIN, Reznor's typically raw, candid lyrics now complement an atypically untreated, dirty, honest sound. For the first time, Reznor recorded live drums, enlisting drummer Dave Grohl on six of the album's 13 tracks. Between Grohl and resident drummer Jerome Dillon, With Teeth sounds not only live, but alive, peppered with meaty bass lines. The standout track, “Only,” is a tribute to '80s synth pop, with Reznor drolly delivering lines such as “Yes I am alone/but then again I always was” over an up-tempo beat, tongue perhaps in cheek.
Produced/engineered by Trent Reznor, Alan Moulder. Engineers: Leo Herrera, James Brown, Rich Costey. Programming by Atticus Ross. Mastering: Tom Baker at Precision Mastering (L.A.). Recorded at The Village Recorder, Sound City Studios and Grandmaster Recording Studios (L.A.).
— Lori Kennedy
From beyond the heartbreak that inspired his beautiful and pensive release Sea Change, re-appears the playful, the inimitable Beck. With signature guitar and scratch- and hand beat-driven grooves, Guero (Spanish slang for “white boy”) provides yet more evidence of his talent to conjure up a world of contrary images through lyrics and a collage of sounds — some bizarre, some everyday — while getting you to dance along. From a haunting harmonica on “Farewell Ride” to sounds from an L.A. street scene on “Que Onda Guero” (presumably a nod to his Southern California upbringing and its rich Hispanic culture), Beck's love for experimentation translates into these upbeat but sophisticated tracks — overall, some of his very best. (See “Producer's Desk” for more.)
Producers: Beck, the Dust Brothers and Tony Hoffer. Engineers: Beck, the Dust Brothers, Hoffer and Danny Kalb. Mixers: Beck, the Dust Brothers, Hoffner, Nigel Godrich and Dan Grech-Marguera. Recorded at The Boat (L.A.).
— Breean Lingle
(In the Pocket)
San Francisco Bay Area-based singer/songwriter Samantha Stollenwerck caused a mild sensation at SXSW this year, and this well-made indie album shows why: She is a magnetic singer and an interesting songwriter. At times, Stollenwerck's style recalls Tuesday Night Music Club-era Sheryl Crow, with a sort of earthy folk charm that occasionally veers into rock and R&B, and obviously personal songs that are still easy to connect with. The mix puts her singing up front and mostly unadorned, and that's as it should be: The vocals carry the album. I wouldn't be at all surprised to see a song or two from this disc turn up on One Tree Hill or The O.C. and for Stollenwerck to be signed by a major label. She's clearly ready for prime time.
Producers: Jordan Feinstein, Stollenwerck, Gregory Haldan and Jim Greer. Engineers: Jonathan Chi, John-Paul McClean. Mixing by Chi, Stollenwerck and Feinstein. Studio: In the Pocket (Forestville, Calif.). Mastering: Robert Hadley.
— Blair Jackson