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May 06

THE SLEEPINGTHE JUNIOR VARSITYSNOW PATROLRAHSAAN ROLAND KIRK

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The Sleeping
Questions and Answers
Victory Records

Long Island-based outfit The Sleeping declares its intentions with the first song from Questions and Answers. "Don't Hold Back" explodes with a driving guitar riff and drums as singer Doug Robinson urges the object of his affection to take control. Testosterone and tight rhythms work in tandem throughout this release to grab the listener's attention.

Joe Zizzo propels the sound with fierce drumming that urges "Loud and Clear" forward. Cameron Keym's searing guitar work pushes the pedal to the floor. The band keeps their taut sound and intensity balanced by melodic breaks. "King of Hearts" is a power ballad that showcases Robinson's vocals as he undergoes stages of suspicion, heartbreak and defiance.

The final track "Still" switches to a moody atmospheric backdrop. The songs touch on a friend's death, failed relationships, and forlorn love. Questions and Answers probes a range of emotions lyrically, but their aggressive musicianship explains much more about their style. — Pete Dulin (posted 05/26/06)


The Junior Varsity
The Great Compromise
Victory Records

The Junior Varsity knows how to pack a punch and package their pop punk for their fans. The deluxe edition of The Great Compromise loads songs from the original 2004 release, adds nine bonus songs, and tosses in a DVD with live performance footage for good measure.

This band emerges from a crowded field of whiny-voiced New Generation Punk and treads ground broken by Green Day. While they don't possess raw punk swagger, The Junior Varsity demonstrates solid power pop sensibility and musicianship.

Guitarists Andy Wildrick and Sergio Coronado layer energetic riffs and fluid solos over rapid-fire drums. Comparing the digital demo to the longer studio version of "Anti-Climatic" reveals how the band polished their sound without losing any bite. Bonus acoustic song "Everyone's Got Something They're Running Out Of" strips down to Asa Dawson's earnest voice, nimble guitar work and soft synth to burnish the edges.

Synth also adds a distinct element to "Peter Cottontail and the Demise of the Carrot Tree." This song experiments and exemplifies The Junior Varsity's ability to draw from strengths and build on studio techniques to produce a refined song. Rather than compromise, this young band has delivered a great accomplishment.— Pete Dulin (posted 05/26/06)


Snow Patrol
Eyes Open
A&M Records

Snow Patrol reaches deep to deliver the expansive sound of Eyes Open, an atmospheric, emotion-laden album that pushes beyond past releases. A more fragile undertaking replaces the fuzzy, post-grunge origins of 1998's Songs for Polar Bears.

Singer Gary Lightbody and company might endure comparisons to the bloated emo-ness of Coldplay, but Snow Patrol's sound reaches for insights rather than arenas. And it's beginning to get to me / That I know more of the stars and sea / Than I do of what's in your head, Lightbody sings on "It's Beginning to Get Me."

Melancholy infuses tunes such as "Shut Your Eyes," but hope counterbalances on the insistent "Open Your Eyes" and "Hands Open." Guest singer Martha Wainwright provides an elegant foil for Lightbody on one track. Epic, orchestral arrangements create an aural landscape where poignant lyrics and sentimental shadows can reside alongside bolder tracks like opener "You're All I Have."

Eyes Open, recorded in a studio on the west coast of Ireland, looks toward the horizon even as emotional waves crash below.— Pete Dulin (posted 05/26/06)


Rahsaan Roland Kirk
Brotherman In The Fatherland
Hyena Records

To a lot of white people, particularly a young white kid like myself in the late ‘60s, early ‘70s, Rahsaan Roland Kirk was kinda scary. He wore African clothes, was outspoken — even militant — about civil rights, declared his musical vision under the banner of “Black Classical Music,” and played instruments no one ever heard of. Fellow musicians sometimes backed away from his eccentricities and called his ability to play multiple instruments at once, plus his stage antics, a “carnival act.”

Such distractions took people away from Kirk’s immense talent. As Hyena producer Joel Dorn (becoming legendary in his own right with releases of artists forgotten or ignored) proves with the release of Brotherman In The Fatherland, Kirk is truly an America jazz giant. This live recording from Germany circa, 1972 is a jazz treasure in every sense. It is here that Kirk demonstrates his DNA coding; one seeped in music and creative sensuality.

The opening cut of “Intro/Like Sonny” presents a disciplined artist beginning a creative roll for an appreciative audience — powerful, self-assured and intoxicating, leaving the jazz fan with the life-long question, “Why wasn’t I there?”

From that cut Kirk melts into “Make It With You” with all the musical shutters and shifts that paint a picture of seduction and sexual maneuvering. Next is “Rahsaan’s Spirit,” a more free-form expression, a sort of ID pronouncement of a jazz genius out to release himself in his art, popularity be damned. The final cut, “Blue Trane,” turns the heat up even more. It’s the type of jazz fire that widens the traditional jazz sound. Kirk just takes off in a wondrous perfect jazz attitude.

The rest of band can’t be ignored. Besides Kirk on tenor saxophone, flute, nose flute, manzello, stritch and clarinet, they include an incredible Ron Burton on piano, Henry Pete Pearson “Mettathias” on bass, Richie Goldberg on drums and percussion handled by Joe “Hobao” Texidor. This CD helps continue the sorrily needed reevaluation of Kirk’s artistry, almost 30 years after his death. He’s due to be treated, as he should be. —Bruce Rodgers (posted 05/05/06)


 
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