soundbites
December '02

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The Reclamation Project

Various Artists
Produced by Barry Lee

Good causes don’t necessarily make for good music compilations. But Barry Lee, former host of KKFI’s Signal to Noise, opened his pocketbook, got on the horn to a bunch of Kansas City and Lawrence musicians, and the result was a very good collection of music titled The Reclamation Project, to benefit the Friends of Community Radio nonprofit group.

Of the 17 cuts only one, the spoken word selection “Empty Words,” is a clunker.The rest vary from competent to kick-ass, making this CD easily worth the money outlay, especially when considering artists such Millage Gilbert, Iris Dement, Mike Ireland and Darrel Lea serve up some offerings. But my favorites include “The Killer” by Forrest Whitlow, the Border Band doin’ “Mad Dog Blues,” Megan Hurt’s exceptional “Tall Grass” and The Wilders cuttin’ loose with a bluegrass shit-kicker “Ida Red.” —Bruce Rodgers

Ben Fold Live

Ben Folds
Epic

One might think a concert with only one person on stage would lack a certain sense of cohesiveness, but Ben Folds has proven that assumption wrong with Ben Folds Live. His combination of vocal talent and piano playing produces such an energetic stage presence that the listener might fail to realize it is a one-man show.

Recorded over a five-month solo tour, the album contains 17 live tracks, featuring both classics and new material that easily stacks up to the old. Following last year’s Rockin’ the Suburbs, this is Fold’s second album sans the five.

Also included in the limited edition package is a 35-minute live performance DVD that displays the bold yet playful Folds doing what he loves. It is clear from watching him perform that he is having a hell of a time doing what he does. –Jessica Chapman—Jessica Chapman

Music From and Inspired By The Motion Picture
8 Mile


Shady/Interscope Records

If you haven’t heard “Lose Yourself,” the title cut of this soundtrack, you’ve probably been in a coma for a couple of months. In the song, Eminem assumes the persona of Rabbit, the poor but tenacious rapper portrayed in 8 Mile. The song carries a positive, if somewhat narcissistic message, about succeeding against all odds. It’s amazingly melodic, like many of the tracks on this CD,
and driven by hypnotically repetitious beats.

Unfortunately, “Lose Yourself” is just a lure. Most of the other songs on the CD carry similarly appealing melodies and strong hip-hop beats. But most of the lyrics descend into a pit of vile language, misogynistic monikers and cruel jokes that include insults to a cast of R&B celebrities such as D’Angelo, Little Kim, Lauryn Hill and R. Kelly.

Inspired features four solo efforts by Eminem and new music by familiar hip-hoppers as Nas, Jay-Z and Rakim. Raspy R&B songstress Macy Gray also contributes a song. –Deborah Young

Dream of Blue

Lisa Moritz
Red Leopard Records

Singer/songwriter Lisa Moritz speaks from the heart in Dream of Blue. Her lyrics portray a sincere and optimistic account of life and relationships, challenging listeners to confront love. All tracks on the album are original compositions by the local folk artist.

Although her lyrics are thick with emotion, Moritz’s voice lacks the dynamics and feeling in some songs to make the album seem whole, and most of the tracks have a similar sound. However, Moritz’s guitar skills alone make this CD an excellent choice for a lazy day or a long car ride.

The remarkable “Begin Again” discusses how questions and problems in love are always present without easy answers. This is also evident in “Autumn Light,” which says, “When the flame has lost its spark/You just start again/And pretend/You’re not afraid of the dark.” Also notable is “My Father’s Words,” an honest and inspiring remembrance of a father’s advice to his child. –Jessica Chapman

End Transmission

Snapcase
Victory


Whoa, there. Snapcase, arguably the most popular hardcore band in history, is now apparently...Fugazi? Strange but true; End Transmission effectively ends the bands six-year tenure atop the alt-rock/hardcore/whatever food chain and places them among a laundry list of other young bands that go well out of their way to sound like Ian Makaye’s ageless, near omnipresent indy-rock deity. The difference: Snapcase is still so good.

But no kidding about the Fugazi thing. It’s quite remarkable, as “coagulate,” the album’s first track, booms and churns through it’s length, that there is no discernable way to tell the band playing the song is, actually, Snapcase. Long past are the times of bass-driven drums and harmonics that defined the Snapcase sound. Musically, they have drifted far from the center of what used to be Victory Records hardcore. Probably for the better, actually.

Now, their sound is pure and listenable, interesting and almost catchy. And as their sound has drifted far from center, their message has become grounded in hardcore’s original premise: Lyrics that motivate, politically, to step away from the status quo, question your surroundings, defy corporate control...the renewal of the ideology of hardcore’s past. Maybe it is all coming together for Snapcase on this undeniably progressive album, after all... —Ron Knox

Live 1975

Bob Dylan
Columbia/Legacy

From the exquisite separation in instrumentation to the layered, deep rhythm section, Live 1975 is the best-sounding concert release in Bob Dylan’s career. Culled from four winter evening performances during the storied Rolling Thunder Revue, it has some classics as you’ve never thought you’d hear them and a colorful cast of backing characters.

A 1974 tour with The Band, his first in eight years, never sounded quite right to Dylan. So in 1975, after recording Desire, Dylan assembles a loose-as-a-goose, yet tightly syncopated, backing band that in some instances added new level to his songs. Artists Joan Baez, Roger McGuinn (The Birds), T-Bone Burnett, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, Mick Ronson (guitarist for David Bowie) and others got together, along with unknown violin talent Scarlet Rivera, whose solos dominated Dylan’s work during this period. Renditions of Dylan standards will surprise for their startling revision — “It ain’t me, babe,” “A hard rain’s a-gonna fall” and “The lonesome death of Hattie Carroll” stick out.

Dylan’s voice is raspy, powerful and pleasantly decipherable. His duets with Baez evoke the days of folkies, but the album is clearly a rock n’ roll tour de force. –Lance Jungmeyer

 

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