For its fourth CD, the musicians, dancers, acrobats and even the two guys on stilts from the most amazing live band in the land, MarchFourth, went from their Oregon home to Louisiana to record and self-release their Magic Number, funded by their fans on Kickstarter. New Orleans opened up its arms to these revolutionaries. Produced by Ben Ellman of Galactic, engineered by Count Eldridge (DJ Shadow), the two trumpets, two trombones, five saxophones, five percussionists, electric bass and two guitarists made a holy noise. Now add Trombone Shorty on “Inventing The Wheel” and Matt Perrine from Bonerama on big bad tuba for “Science” and you really have a party. The funk is non-stop. The rock is pounding. The jazz is beyond modern.
The first time I saw these guys (and gals), I was smitten like a kitten in your lap. I stood there, stock still, just to take them all in as half-naked females climbed up atop the guys on stilts, then hung back down backwards and upside down to display their physical wares while the most insane Crescent City wildness mixed with African motifs, salsa-infused percolatin’ percussion and the kind of big-band crazy-sick brass adventurousness you don’t get to experience every month…or even every year. The second time I saw them was at MusikFest in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, on my way to see Don Henley. They were so good and I was so riveted to the spot, I gave away my Henley tickets. The Magic Number is here. I’ll never be the same.
“Yes it’s me and I’m in love again/Ain’t had no lovin’ since you know when.”—Fats Domino
I feel the same way as 88-year-old Antoine Domino, Jr., now retired but forever in my heart. The occasion? If The Static Clears (Sandlewood Records) by singer/songwriter Gabrielle Louise is deliciously literate and thought-provoking (thus sexy) Americana. This Colorado songstress—born in Maine, she was raised on the road by her traveling musician parents—had gone to 12 different schools by the time high school was finally over. So of course she studied composition at Berklee in Boston. With Joni Mitchell as her muse, her songs reek of confession, dreams, regret, and the kind of angst one could turn into a career.
Recorded at Kaleidoscope Studios in Union City, NJ, the 11 songs befit the entrance of a new queen. “Another Round On Me” is, of course, a drinking song. “No Moon At All” is a look at the mesmerizing historical kiss between Mexican painters Frida Kahlo [1907-1954], known for her self-portraits, and Diego Rivera [1886-1957], known for his murals. “The Graveyard Ballet” is a mesmerizing ballad, sung as vulnerably as a wounded bird. “Someone Else’s Life” recalls summers in Buenos Aries. Tough to pick a highlight but I do love “Not Dead Enough To Bury.” She’s learned her lessons well.
Verde (Product Of Imagination Records) by the Francisco Pais Lotus Project is a very special concoction from this Portuguese singer/songwriter who knows his way around a guitar. Another Berklee alum, Pais plays, composes and arranges with a fusion mindset. A lover of sound, he blends his slide with distortion, synth, reverse delays, vibrato amid a way cool drum ‘n’ bass bottom (depending upon the track). There’s 14 of ‘em and certainly something for everyone (as they say). With help from tenor sax, alto sax, piano, bass and drums plus two lovely female voices, it’s a 51-minute salve to the soul so sweet.
Finally, there’s old friend Pete Townshend, 71, of The Who, a man who has given me years of rock ‘n’ roll joy and who I’m glad didn’t die when he got old like so many of his peers. Face The Face (Eagle Rock Entertainment) by Pete Townshend’s Deep End is a surprisingly vital chapter of his legend. Recorded when he was 41 with Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour, Toto drummer Simon Phillips, longtime Who touring keyboardist Rabbit Bundrick, Medicine Head’s Peter Hope-Evans on harmonica, a five-man horn section, five-person backing vocal choir and two percussionists, such Who hits as “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” “Behind Blue Eyes” and “Pinball Wizard“ sound nothing like you’ve ever heard them before. Atop swirlingly grandiose circuitous complex arrangements, Pete’s in fine voice and even lays down some guitar hero-type soloing (something he was always loathe to do in The Who). The CD/DVD package has the original Rockpalast German television show for which this was filmed as well as the accompanying soundtrack on CD. (They cover “I Put A Spell On You,” the insane 1956 Screaming Jay Hawkins novelty, on DVD only.) Such solo Townshend nuggets as “Slit Skirts,” “A Little Is Enough” and “Rough Boys” also get brand new harmonica-heavy arrangements. For a 1986 live album, the sound is practically studio-quality. This one’s a real find.