JOE ELYLetter To Laredo
THIS NEW SUITE of songs, deftly mixing elements of country, rock, bluegrass and Tex-Mex, reveals a couple of new influences--especially the Spanish poet Federico García Lorca and folksinger Tom Russell, whose "Gallo del Cielo" gets a robust workout. Ely's world-weariness is straight out of the Hank Williams school; but his arrangements have taken on a new, almost orchestral turn, thanks to contributions from Flamenco guitarist Teye, accordionist Ponty Bone, and bassist Glenn Fukunaga. Backing vocalists Jimmie Dale Gilmore and Bruce Springsteen and guitarist David Grissom also make guest appearances. Ely sings like a man possessed, turning in a fine, uncommonly melodic, rootsy collection that begs to be played over and over.
The WhoMaximum BBC
AS FAR AS expensive, obscure import discs go, this one's essential. It presents, in chronological order, 28 radio tracks spanning the '65 to '70 period, from the hokey R&B flavors of "Just You And Me" to a fiery (and mono, I think) version of "Pinball Wizard." For the most part, these crisp-sounding tapes appear to have been sourced highly.
What's most significant is not the band's well-documented transformation from mods into rockers. Rather, it's hearing how Pete Townshend learns to fully master the recording studio over time. And alternate takes of familiar tunes are always fun: "I Can't Reach You," while less polished than the Sell Out version, is fleshed-out, arrangement-wise; "I'm Free" is rawer than Tommy's incarnation but has some amazing, and different, effects going on in the mix.
BEFORE THE HYPE there was...this amazing lady, who should justifiably be awarded Debut of the Year. Part of the appeal is how Osborne's dewy, raspy voice channels genuine icons such as Raitt, Joplin and Baez without appearing to be a conscious imitation--which suggests we've got a natural here. Unlike the sledgehammer sexuality of those other two newcomers, Alanis and Poe, Osborne uses suggestion and nuance; "Right Hand Man" sounds sleazy, but the lyrics are from the blues school of metaphor, not an f-word in earshot.
Finally, before the hype there was...that tune, which should justifiably be awarded Song of the Year. Aside from its obvious melodic appeal (pure George Harrison) and quirky invocation of a tot's mealtime blessing, the affectionate portrayal of a supreme being who might be "a slob like one of us" is utterly unique. You can't help grinning when you hear it, which is what music's supposed to do for you, right?
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