The Weekly Jive

Posted June 19, 2008 in Music

Various Artists—Big Blue Ball (Real World)

Talk about long gestation periods. Culled from single recording weeks in 1991, 1992 and 1995 when Peter Gabriel hosted 75 international artists from 20 countries at his Real World Studios in England, Big Blue Ball is finally seeing the light. The delay is no surprise considering Gabriel is always so damn busy with humanitarian efforts, Internet and sound innovations, plus Real World Records. Originally overseen by himself and World Party’s Karl Wallinger, the Ball project sat on studio shelves until producer Stephen Hague whipped hours of material into a cohesive hour-long album last year. Half is devoted to World music that’s quite intriguing (Natasha Atlas, Papa Wemba, Marta Sebestyen). Arabic, Congolese, Swahili, Gaelic and Hungarian languages collide with Egyptian, Flamenco, Japanese and other international sounds. English rock-leaning highlights here include Sinead O’Connor leading the somber, thought-provoking “Everything Comes From You,” Gabriel, Wallinger and Joseph Arthur in tandem on a funky “Exit Through You,” Gabriel’s soulful “Burn You Up, Burn You Down” (reprised from an earlier hits collection), Wallinger’s lovely title track and Gabriel’s enthralling “Whole Thing,” aided by Tim Finn on sweet backing vocals. (George A. Paul) 



Ry Cooder—I, Flathead (Nonesuch/Perro Verde)

Ry Cooder’s musical journey has landed him in the Mississippi Delta, Hawaii, Cuba, Mali, Mexico, and India, but he’s never traveled anywhere without his native California. Completing his marvelous Golden State trilogy, which includes the Latin-flavored Chavez Ravine (2005) and rootsy My Name Is Buddy (2007), I, Flathead, is another tribute to California’s rich history. Where its predecessors dealt with dustbowl emigrants (Buddy) and Latino life in LA (Chavez Ravine), these 14 songs loosely chronicle the life of the fictional Kash Buk, a hot-rod racing avatar for late ’50s/early ’60s California cool. Filled with Bakersfield twang, mariachi trumpet blasts, honky-tonk dance halls, trailer parks, and steel guitar heroes, the record is as much a sonic throwback to Cooder’s underrated ’70s catalogue as it is this narrative era. “Steel Guitar Heaven” may name-check some of the greats, but its ragtime shuffle would nestle nicely on ’78’s Jazz; “Waitin’ for Some Girl” has the soulful vibe of Bop Til You Drop (’79); “Filipino Dance Hall Girl,” with Flaco Jimenez’ one-of-a-kind accordion and mariachi strings, sounds like a Chicken Skin Music (‘76) cut, and “Ridin’ With the Blues” even recalls Cooder’s sideman era with the early ’70s Stones. Cooder’s tasteful guitar chops are omnipresent, even during a couple of easy-to-forget spoken-word missteps, but this final chapter in the trilogy confirms it: Cooder is a national treasure. (John Schacht)



Valient Thorr—Immortalizer (Volcom)

With their blatantly post-Spinal Tap name, song titles like “Nomadic Sacrifice” and “Tackle the Walrus,” a fictitious/supposed-to-be-funny back-story to rival GWAR’s and artwork apparently by someone’s teenage sister, Valient Thorr come on like another “ironic” metal band who lack the balls to indulge their schoolboy macho musical fantasies with a straight face. But, wait, these five hairy denim boys appear to be serious on this third full-length—only they somehow end up on Warped Tour (as a novelty) rather than Ozzfest (where they sonically belong). VT are all about pre-punk, intelligent hard rock—Thin Lizzy’s intricate twin-lead axes; AC/DC’s businesslike dive bar riffing; Motörhead’s street-level confrontation—with anti-establishment, borderline conspiracy theory lyrics. It all ends up sounding like a garagey take on stoner kings Corrosion Of Conformity, only (sadly) without their epic, escapist sense of scale. Competent, sincere, hard working and mildly humorous. (Paul Rogers)




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