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February 06

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The Giraffes
The Giraffes
Razor & Tie

The creature once know as "Heavy Metal" has gone through more stylistic face lifts than Joan Rivers, often ending up with somewhat, shall we say, shocking results. Those halcyon days of straight-up beer and whiskey metal ala AC/DC and Black Sabbath have long faded to be replaced by the chest hair and spandex of White Snake, which in turn fell to the trailer-park white trash of Guns 'n Roses, who lost to the uberhipster Metallica, while the neogoth eye-liners like Seraphim Shock not-so-quietly wait for their run at the throne.

The New York based Giraffes have created a style they call "Sexy Metal" for their self-titled debut on the Razor & Tie labels, and that's a pretty damn accurate phrase. The deep croon (yes, believe it or not a lot of metal singers croon) of Aaron Lazar on vocals is evocative of Axel Rose's pre-really fat days, and fits well with Andrew Totolos's insane drum work. The bass and guitar of John Rosenthal and Damien (every metal band should have a guy named "Damien", just on general principals) Paris merge so closely they sound like some kind of two-headed, four-armed monstrosity.

Kicking off with the old-school weight of “jr. at his worst,” the songs here are both different but matched, and by the time the rockabilly-tinged "million$man" comes on, the virtuosity of these ass-rocking animals is unquestionable. Screw the boys in their mom's black makeup: These guys deserve their own chance at that big, gold and very heavy ring at the top, and they might just have the necks long enough to grab it. Hail to the king, baby. —Brandon Whitehead (posted 02/24/06)

Various Artists
Gospel Music
Hyena Records

For decades, while the majority of Americans were listening to whatever passed as mainstream music, there was a whole hidden world waiting at the far right edges of the radio dial. Starting with the short and simple "Precious Lord" by Slim & The Supreme Angels, Gospel Music is a compilation of 18 songs that reaches out and grabs you from across more than eighty years of the triumph and tragedy of gospel music.

Co-produced by Joel Dorn and famed photographer Lee Friedlander, this is more a loving work of art than just a record. By collecting such soul-stirring performances such as the Staple Singer's version of "Stand By Me" or the Blind Boys of Alabama singing "This My Be The Last Time" (who happened to perform here in last year's Blues and Jazz Festival), these men have done a service for all music fans everywhere.

The clear and crisp recordings (many taken from old recordings often done as cheaply as possible, with equipment that was primitive even for that time) seem almost blessed themselves; and in an age where even mentioning the word "religion" can start a fist-fight (usually between those who argue who's the “truest believer”), it raises the soul to hear joyful sounds of praise towards a higher power. These are not the dry organs of some Johnson County mega-church of rich white people — these are the songs of the South, of the poor and desperate who turn to the church because they truly need faith to hold on, not because it's a good place to network.

While this album probably won't make anyone rich or famous, if you say you're either a fan of music or a musician, do anything to get this: borrow it, copy it, anything to listen, because even though we might have lost much of the glory and honor that once made music that could shame the angels, we should never forget it. www.hyenarecords.comBrandon Whitehead (posted 02/17/06)

Aberdeen City
The Freezing Atlantic
Dovecote Records

While the average “new” CD release that wanders across this reviewer’s desk tend to be more useful as coasters than albums, there are the rare occasions when the music actually demands that you shut off the TV, put away the cell phone, turn down the lights and…well, just listen, man.

That being said, the four guys that make up Aberdeen City have created an album that does all that and more. The Freezing Atlantic may be a somewhat cryptic title, but the eight tracks inside are simply some of the best pop music that’s come out in a long time. If any body in radio land gets a hold of this, get used to hearing it A LOT, and justly so. Evoking complex harmonies, clear and wonderful lyrics and an unpretentious approach that mixes the The Killers with U2 (those guys did pretty well, so we’ve heard…), Aberdeen City has produced one the top albums to come out this year.

Right from the first track “Another Seven Years” this quartet of Ryan Heller on guitar, Rob McCaffrey on drums, Chris McLaughlin on (another) guitar and Brad Parker on vocals and bass flip out songs that seem far more mature than most of the Kelly Clarkson Barbie-doll drill that passes for popular music; and if anything, the worst thing here is that there’s only eight tracks.

Don’t know what the name of the band means, or the title of the album, don’t care: good music is good music, no matter what ocean it comes from. www.aberdeenmusic.comBrandon Whitehead (posted 02/10/06)

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