A COMPILATION OF five tracks recorded between their first and second albums, including three tracks from The Kelso Run 7-inch EP and two previously unreleased titles, Sage is an aural abstraction of desert mystery, smoothly melodic, a collection of wistful expanses of panoramic beauty distinctively and essentially Southwestern in concept. Spatially aware, the songs' seamless textures are created by the complex interplay of simple and repeated chords and phrases overlaid with poignant, spare melodies. Murky and brooding, "Another Way" is a mural: Sheets of mid-range repetition are suspended as a backdrop for the sustained, plaintive guitar and versatile, erudite bass lines, while barely audible or merely imagined ghostlike whispers call dimly in the background. Haunting "Down Back Canyon Road" captures the essence, the emptiness and fading light of crisp winter in a desert canyon. The meld of sounds and styles is at once distinct, evocative, nostalgic and supremely beautiful.
"IS TUCSON IN Arizona?" John asks. "Yeah. It's where they film High Chaparral," Paul replies. The exchange isn't on this disc, which offers fewer instances of between-songs banter than the first two volumes in the Anthology series. A full-tilt version of "Get Back" is, however, along with a few treasures, especially Lennon's "What's the New Mary Jane," a masterpiece of psychedelia; a work-in-progress demo of George Harrison's "All Things Must Pass"; and McCartney's "Come and Get It," which Badfinger later recorded nearly note for note. By 1968, when this volume picks up, the chirp and pop had pretty well gone out of the Fab Four, and many of these outtakes and unreleased tracks seem dispirited, done by the numbers, and downright tired. Which is not to say that Beatlemaniacs still won't find this set essential.
Fanning The Flames
JUST LAST NIGHT I counted how many releases I've recently reviewed that come from artists who were hot stuff back when many readers were still pissing in disposable cotton pants, and it made me feel like I was some liver-spotted motherfucker about two years short of returning to the practice myself. Nonetheless, longtime artists like Maria Muldaur, bless her, deserve attention for continuing to get better and better--in her case, as a result of finally settling into a God-ordained New Orleans groove. While jazz vocalists are generally mimics of Ella and Billie, Muldaur sounds like no one else: sexy but rough, bluesy without sounding like she's faking it, entirely comfortable with her gospel roots, and vocally too unique to encourage copycat wannabes. Bonnie Raitt, who would probably admit she's half the artist Muldaur is, backs her on several cuts, as do a load of other hot players.
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