March '03

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Wind-Up Records

Evanescence exploded onto the mainstream radio waves with the premiere of the film Daredevil. The soundtrack features two of the group’s songs, “My Immortal” and the hit single “Bring Me to Life,” which KC airwaves quickly moved to the ranks of the overplayed.

Fallen’s strength comes from finding diversity among styles while still connecting its lyrical themes of passion and solitude. Amy Lee’s bold yet fragile vocals lay over a background of a pulsating electric guitar with an interspersing of wandering piano lines. Despite doubts about this combination being successful, Evanescence has proven it so.

The background choral arrangements of “Haunted” and “Whisper” give the pieces melodic depth, yet on a first listen one might relate the sound to the background music of a horror flick. The agony of the lyrics in the ballad “My Immortal” represent the overlying tone of Fallen. As it cries, “I’ve tried so hard to tell myself that you’re gone/ and though you’re still with me/ I’ve been alone all along.” – Jessica Chapman

Orchid in the Storm

Aaron Neville
Hyena Records

The re-release of Aaron Neville’s 1983 solo debut, an R&B-soul tribute, hits you like a seemingly long-lost set of ‘50s recordings. But it’s really this: ballads so sweet they ascend sappiness, lush strings to hold the mood and Aaron’s angelic falsetto rising above it all.

“Pledging my love” and “For your precious love” would make prom night standards even now. On “The Ten Commandments of Love,” with a spare piano and sweeping strings, Neville achieves something sublime, his voice maintaining a fine, bouncing tremelo. A medley with Art Neville includes the inevitable doo-wop.

Originally released as a five-song EP, this version includes four bonus tracks. The Neville Brothers first tackled the classic “Mona Lisa” on their 1980 album, Fiyo on the Bayou. Aaron Neville does a fine solo job here, countered by a deep, resonating set of bass cellos. A final treat is “Mickey Mouse March,” which was originally included on a Disney tribute album and was often chosen as the finale in Neville’s early concerts. – Lance Jungmeyer

The All-American Rejects

The All-American Rejects
Dreamworks Records

All-American Rejects’ music recipe: tone down the punk and add variety to Blink 182, mix in two parts pure Weezer and add a dash of Green Day.

Nevertheless, this Oklahoma-based quartet’s crafted style stands strong against its predecessors. Although all of the tracks seem to be one-minded about relationships, the Rejects prove their talent by the musical tone and variability among the tracks.

Originally released on the independent Doghouse label last October, the new album contains an enhanced feature which allows listeners to visit a secret website, full of downloadable videos and additional tracks.

The repetitive lyrics and unembellished chord progression of the Rejects’ single “Swing, Swing” easily makes it one of those songs that you find yourself humming while walking down the street. The mood of “Why Worry” wins as the most lighthearted and balances well against the angst-filled “Don’t Leave Me.” Other highlights include “Too Far Gone,” which starts off subtle and sweet yet has surges of anger. – Jessica Chapman

Mambo Sinuendo

Ry Cooder & Manuel Galban
Nonesuch/Perro Verde

Back in 1996 famed slide guitarist Ry Cooder ventured to Havana in search of the best traditional musicians Cuba had to offer. The result was the Buena Vista Social Club, an award-winning documentary that did for mambo what Oh Brother Where Are Thou did for bluegrass.

This time Cooder returns from our southern neighbors with Manuel Galban, from the legendary Cuban group Los Zafinos. Together they join on the twelve tracks on Mambo Sinuendo, and the result is a mix of blues, mambo, classic jazz and Havana beats that showcase two true masters at their absolute best. The music is stunning, poignant and simply filled with a love and respect of traditional music that few if any top-ten acts could ever hope to even weakly emulate. So just put down that Eminem CD, children, open your ears real wide and listen to what real musicians can do. – Brandon Whitehead

calendar days

The Rocket Summer
The Militia group

While The Rocket Summer might sound like the name of an entire band, it isn’t. Or rather: it is, and it isn’t. The Rocket Summer is whole insofar as it features every instrument you would expect to find on a pop album — including a children’s choir — but the band is comprised of only one young man, Bryce Avary, playing and singing every note and word on calendar days.

Recorded at Eudora’s Red House Recording, this short, repetitive album gushes over with strict pop sense, but somewhere along the line the sensibility gets lost in cookie-cutter guitar and keyboard melodies, coupled with love songs that could have been stolen out of any pop band’s lyric sheet. Still, in a sense, it is quality work considering one person created every part of every song; but, alas, there is something lost without the dynamics of a multi-member band: chemistry."

The album’s brightest track, “This Is Me,” might hint at what Avary understands to be his own downfall: “The things I do/might need to be thought through/Because I don’t know what I am doing now.” – Ron Knox

The Ascending Masquerade

Jerry Dowell
Thunder Horse Music

A first listen of Jerry Dowell’s The Ascending Masquerade begs the question whether this local poet and musician is trying to appeal to too broad an audience — the jazzy, bluesy, country, pop, singer-songwriter crowds. Another spin reveals that Dowell has real talent across a spectrum of music genres though, at times, the line between what he can claim as his own and what he absorbed from other artists gets a little blurred. “Guitar blues” is reminiscent of the Doors “Roadhouse Blues” both in Dowell’s Jim Morrison-like voice and the licks, and in “Stardust Cowboy,” Dowell is very much a Johnny Cash soundalike.

“Detachment,” with its refrain “I don’t want nothin’ that I can’t leave behind/’cause where I’m goin’ there ain’t no space and time,” is superb, a fast-beatin’ highway song of one leaving an emotional landscape behind. Dowell’s band is tight and mighty. Kenny Glover on sax adds the chops everywhere, particularly on “Thelma James” and the honky-tonk flavored “Cheap Reds And Whiskey.” This CD is a keeper. — Bruce Rodgers


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