A Consumer Guide to the Trailing Edge: May, 2010

Recycled Goods (#74)

by Tom Hull

A relatively short month, amid lots of other distractions, but that's been the deal since Recycled Goods returned in April 2008: you get whatever I managed to get to during the past month. (At 12 records, this is the shortest month since March 2009.) Wish I had the other two Rail Band compilations to report on, but they're not on Rhapsody and I haven't yet broken down and bought copies. That will likely remain true as long as the column floats in its current limbo. Could use a real publisher with some pull. Would still need more time.

Beatles Beginnings: Quarrymen One: Skiffle - Country - Western (1926-59 [2009], Rhythm and Blues): Before the Beatles John Lennon and Paul McCartney had a covers band called the Quarrymen, heard only in a 1962 Hamburg bootleg, but legend has it they had a repertoire of 600 songs presumably including these 28. Roughly a third are English -- trad jazz and skiffle -- likely unfamiliar unless you're into Lonnie Donegan (three cuts); the others are American -- blues and pre-rock pop as well as country -- unless you want to quibble about Marlene Dietrich (or Ray Charles or Gene Vincent), and you'll recognize some of them: if not Fats Waller's "Your Feet's Too Big" at least Hank Williams' "Hey, Good Lookin'." Guessing on the dates -- the Blind Lemon Jefferson has to come from 1926-29, and only Vernon Dalhart might be earlier; the most recent is probably Donegan, who started around 1955. The Beatles tie-in strikes me as a chintzy way to sell history, but makes for a pregnantly idiosyncratic mixtape. Hope the booklet is helpful. A- [R]

Beatles Beginnings: Quarrymen Two: Rock 'n' Roll (1952-59 [2009], Rhythm and Blues): Hard to go wrong here, what with the UK's 50-year copyright rule yielding prime cuts from Elvis Presley, Little Richard, Fats Domino, Jerry Lee Lewis, Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly, the Coasters, Carl Perkins, Eddie Cochran, Gene Vincent, the Everly Brothers, Lloyd Price -- only the Dell-Vikings and instrumentalists Bill Justis and Duane Eddy don't have must-hear best-ofs to move on to, and the former show up in better doo-wop comps everywhere. Skewed a bit to UK ears, where "Wild Cat" is especially prized. And I have to admit that a couple of these songs, like "Roll Over Beethoven" and "Honey Don't," I first heard on Beatles albums. A- [R]

Kleenex/Liliput: Live Recordings, TV-Clips & Roadmovie (1979-83 [2010], Kill Rock Stars, CD+DVD): Female punk band from Switzerland, formed in 1978 as Kleenex, cutting some singles and an EP before Kimberly-Clark got pissed and cried trademark infringement. They regrouped as Liliput (or as they prefer: LiLiPUT) and cut two albums in 1982-83, mostly overlooked, until 1993 when they wrapped it all up onto two landmark CDs, or 2001 when an American label picked them up and gave them some distribution. This answers the question of whether there's anything more to be had: the answer is not much. The CD has two live sets: Kleenex in 1979 was crude and the sound was crummy; Liliput in 1983 fared better, but it's mostly redundant to the studio recordings. The DVD is reportedly fun, but I can't say. B+(*) [R]

Youssou N'Dour: I Bring What I Love (2008 [2010], Nonesuch): Touted as "music from the motion picture," we are fortunate that the movie is a documentary of a Youssou N'Dour tour, and that the music is limited to live performances of Youssou N'Dour songs. Booklet could provide more info: don't have dates on the performances, but much of this refers back to his Grammy-winning 2004 album Egypt, where he made a timely pitch for Islam as a religion of peace. A little soft for a best-of, and softer than his rep for concerts, focusing less on the incredible rhythms his band pioneered in the early 1980s than on his voice, touted as the world's greatest, and certainly in the running. A-

Rail Band: 2: Mansa (1970-83 [2008], Syllart/Sterns, 2CD): The band that put Malian music on the map, with initial singer Salif Keita later turning into a major star, 1973-replacement Mory Kanté going on to a significant career, and eventual fill-in Makan Ganessy going nowhere in particular. The second of three 2-CD sets, full of sweet guitar and seductive grooves, I followed Robert Christgau's recommendation to start here, but it's tempting to follow up with the others. A-

Briefly Noted

Black Tambourine (1989-92 [2010], Slumberland): DC twee pop group, released a single in 1991, cut a few more things like "Pam's Tan" on a 1989 label sampler, ultimately good for the 10-cut Complete Recordings in 1999, reproduced here along with six farther out outtakes, like a cover of "Heartbeat"; the proto-shoegaze drone and echo predominate, a protein cloak for the truly obscure. B+(**) [R]

Cachao's Mambo All Stars: Como Siempre (2009, Sony/Eventus): Shades of Israel López, the late great Cuban bassist better known as Cachao; they get the basic moves right, but lack something -- perhaps a little magic in the bass. B+(**) [R]

Bob Greene: St. Peter Street Strutters (1964 [2009], Delmark): A Jelly Roll Morton specialist rumbles through a trad set at Preservation Hall in New Orleans, backed the old-fashioned way with banjo and tuba, with Ernie Carson filling in for the late King Oliver. B+(***)

Roy Haynes Quartet: Out of the Afternoon (1962 [2007], Impulse): Cover photo puts the band out in the woods, the model for MOPDTK's new Forty Fort; drummer-led group is a study in contrasts, with Tommy Flanagan's erudite piano, Henry Grimes' arco bass, and Roland Kirk irresistibly rotating various sax-like instruments. A- [R]

The Jeff Healey Band: See the Light (1988 [1995], Arista): Blind Canadian guitarist-singer, plays holding the guitar flat on his lap, a knack he works for a bit of edge in an otherwise straightforward blues context; first album, sold a lot of records, wrote a few tunes and leaned on John Hiatt and ZZ Top for others; weak vocals, strong guitar runs. B+(*) [R]

Quiet Sun: Mainstream (1975 [2004], Expression): One-shot group featuring Roxy Music guitarist Phil Manzanera, a pianist named Dave Jarrett, and Brian Eno lurking obliquely in the background; sort of a Soft Machine groove, which the one vocal at the end breaks up awkwardly yet finally transcends. B+(*) [R]

Francis Albert Sinatra/Antonio Carlos Jobim: The Complete Reprise Recordings (1967 [2010], Concord): Sinatra waited to hop on the bossa nova bandwagon until it was going really slow, fitting with his newfound has-been status; his takes on "Dindi" and "The Girl From Ipanema" are especially pained, and the strings seem to be permanently wired into his hearing aid; the outtakes favor his usual material, which Jobim loosens up graciously. B- [R]

Legend: B+ records are divided into three levels, where more * is better. [R] indicates record was reviewed using a stream from Rhapsody. The biggest caveat there is that the packaging and documentation hasn't been inspected or considered.

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Copyright © 2010 Tom Hull.