Goin’ Home: a tribute to Fats Domino, Vanguard
Fats Domino may seem almost like a distant, prehistoric myth today, but the natural fact is that the New Orleans piano man was both one of rock & roll’s earliest breakout successes and primary architects. With the formidable accompaniment of bandleader Dave Bartholomew’s incomparable, saxophone-driven combo, Fats racked up hit records at a mind-bending rate during the mid-1950’s and, for a brief moment, threatened to eclipse the Crescent City’s pride, jazz itself.
The all-star line up featured on two-disc compilation Goin’ Home: a tribute to Fats Domino (Vanguard) may not all manage convincing performances, but at least they collectively gave enough of a shit to show up and contribute to this noble homage. Whether it’s Elton John’s terminally square bleat or Norah Jones’ barely able murmur, many of the songs serve as stark reminder of just how much soul has been bled out of rock & roll, but there are more than enough thrillers to keep the listener satisfied.
Plenty of N.O. homies are featured—funk provocateurs Galactic, potent blues stalwart Walter “Wolfman” Washington, the passsion-personified pipes of R&B empress Irma Thomas—and all conjure the unique spiritual kapow peculiar to the fabled city. There’s a couple of California artists who also really come through: Los Lobos tear up Domino’s signature tune “The Fat Man” with a vivid, zealous cool, and the IE’s own Ben Harper, working with the surviving core of Jamaican innovators the Skatalites, on “Be My Guest” deliver a shimmering stand-out among the thirty titles found here. Often weird and uneven (Neil Young, Tom Petty perpetrate deplorable misfires) but occasionally revelatory, Goin’ Home’s bid to reassert Domino as one of rock’s greatest spearheads is most welcome—and long overdue. (Jonny Whiteside)
KRISTEENYOUNG, The Orphans, Test Tube Baby
Kristeen Young doesn’t think Christians are cool. She also thinks the Midwest, being culturally marginalized, is uncool. Consumerism isn’t cool, and it’s also not cool for people to stare at her as she saunters down the street and nonchalantly flaunts her cool, dark aesthetic and cool, enlightened pagan sense of spirituality. Her new album, The Orphans, is that litany of complaints, making it feel more like a malaise-inducing notebook full of trite teenage gothic poetry attempting to document her Cool Manifesto than a bold art statement.
The music on the album is decent enough. It’s melodramatic piano/drum combo might seem about five years behind the Dresden Dolls, but Young has been pushing the piano-rock aesthetic for almost a decade and counts Morrissey (whom she ranks just above the Gods) and David Bowie as fans, so much so that she’s made cameos on albums put out by both. Her tunes channel a Kathleen Hanna-in-a-piano-bar feel—that’s Bikini Kill Kathleen, not the one who’s dying to tear down Cassavettes—in its better, angstier moments, but the better moments are always deflated by noisy interludes where Young yarbles incoherently like an inebriated Stevie Nicks. Seriously, how cool can that be? (Phil Fuller)
Jens Lekman, Night Falls Over Kortedala, Secretly Canadian
No one crafts finely-tuned guitar-pop masterpieces that are string and sample heavy, vaguely retro and plenty soulful as well as Swedish-born pop-prince Jens Lekman. His charmingly deadpan vocals and witty, melancholic if not schmaltzy romanticism conjure comparisons to The Magnetic Fields’ Stephin Merritt—especially on the track “It Was A Strange Time In My Life”—or the more sugary Belle And Sebastian numbers without sounding corny, gimmicky or forced. Lekman’s new Night Falls Over Kortedala isn’t a huge departure from either of his previous releases, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. He’s perfected his pop sensibilities, making the music sound meticulously planned yet effortless and easy, and Kortedala sees Lekman’s elusive baritone adorned with everything from Mariachi horn samples, booming tympanis and ukulele. The album isn’t earth-shattering enough to earn Lekman the legion of fans that he deserves, but Kortedala will certainly cement his spot as a pop prophet in many a record collection and maybe earn him a few converts along the way.