Artist: Carole King
CD Name: Love Makes The World – Deluxe Edition
Artist Site: Carole King
Love Makes the World, the deluxe edition, is a reissued album that was originally released in 2001. King’s record label Rockingdale Records is launching a series of double album remasters and concert DVDs and this is the first release.
This two disc set includes two music videos, a making-of, and an exclusive interview with Carole King on disc two where you've got your birthday, Christmas and Spanish songs covered. (Remember the sexy “Mi Corazon”? Well, “Lo Que Tu Eres Para Mi is far more subdued with a classic Spanish feel and duet with Alejandro Lerner.) However, I found the over-all music production of this double album comparable to an overdone casserole; bringing true meaning to Sylvester the Cat’s catchphrase, “Suffering Succotash!”
Really, my first gripe was the overuse of vocal layering and vocal warping. It works forEnya and the Beatles, but not for King. I Wasn’t Gonna Fall In Love” and “It Could Have Been Anyone” suffer the same problem, and the latter includes some unusual hip hop elements. King confirms, “I particularly enjoyed writing and recording this album because I got to explore styles and influences from rock to hip hop.” I can appreciate that, but does it work? To put it lightly, “You Can Do Anything” sounds like Wilson Phillips! However, if you enjoyed the collaboration of Babyface and Eric Clapton, you may enjoy the pairing up of Babyface with King on this one.
The worst case example of the succotash syndrome was “The Reason”. Really too eclectic and overproduced for its own good, the song gave me no “reason” to enjoy hearing it. It begins with Carole and her piano the way we love her. But then the song adds on ‘80s Journey-style guitar. Next the harmonies warp into a psychedelia best left with Sergeant Pepper, breaking at one point for soul-induced Alicia Keys- styled vocals that seemed out of character for King. To top it off the song ends with a brief duet with Celine Dion
The only “redeeming” song on the album was “I Don’t Know.” I absolutely love a southern gospel style song. This comes complete with electric organ, and a hand clapping choir. The song is reminiscent of “Smackwater Jack” and borders on a Billy Joe/“River of Dreams” style. The lyrics also harken back to King’s best political works like “Believe In Humanity”: “I don’t care whose in the world series or who does what in their own bedroom/News is blues and it doesn’t really matter.” I also loved the song, “I Want To Feel Safe Again.” The song incorporates a gorgeous flute element, and the lyrics are amazing, “Seems so hard/all I want to do is let down my guard/laugh like a child and play out in the yard/I want to feel safe again".
This should be an essential multimedia addition to your Carole King collection. But I also recommend Carole King’s Greatest Hits if you’re looking for a more delicious sampler!
Artist: Simple Kid
CD Name: SK2
Artist Site: Simple Kid
Label:Country Gentlemen Recordings
If Doyle Bromhall Junior had a child with Beck (hypothetically, of course!) it would be Simple Kid. This alternative album is absolutely fun in every way! Totally in touch with the Neofolk movement, Simple Kid is taking the banjo to a whole new level. I am a major fan of slide blues guitar and songs like “The TwentySomething” and “Lil’ King Kong” have plenty to spare.
There are so many great songs on this album! My absolutely favorite track was “Mommy n Daddy.” It seriously reminded my of Doyle Bramhall Junior’s hit “Green Light Girl” – something of a Jimmie Hendrix rock blues with female vocals joining in for the chorus. The difference here is a lo fi buzz and scratch that recalls The Pixies. The gospel-themed lyrics are absolutely amazing, “Mommy and Daddy sold what they had to save the congregation/If I could go a way down south I’d meet a better man/I don’t want no IOU’s they ain’t no consolation.” This song seriously rocks!
There were a few throw away tunes on this album, depending on your definition of quality. “Old Domestic Cat” is understated with a flubbed intro and restart. It has a charm though. “Seratonin” also is an unedited stream of consciousness reel; fitting considering the title is a happiness-inducing brain chemical.
The lyrics on these songs are both hilarious and smart. “The Ballad of Elton John” is so much fun! “Celebrities go home, go home to yo mama!” Need I quote more? Again, clever on, “Lil’ King Kong, “It’s no use looking for black and white/Cos even zebra crossings got traffic lights.”
The guitar on “You” is gorgeous and the melodies almost reminded me of early Crosby Stills & Nash or America. For those of you that are not in on the Neofolk movement - oh you don’t know what you are missing. This is where the good music that we haven’t been hearing on mainstream radio has been hiding, and it is high time we had such a return to musicianship and songwriting from the heart rather than a prepackaged pop in your mouth digital byte that leaves you hungry for something more.
“Loves An Enigma, Part Two” is the album finale, leaving an overfull feeling of cohesiveness for this album. This one seriously reminded me of Jane’s Addiction and G. Love at points. The song throws you for a loop with an electric organ finale and space age melt down with alien lasers. Definitely reminiscent of Beck’s “Soul Suckin Jerk.” It’s the banjo element that separates it from the pack. The lyrics state, “I want a lover that can sit through me.” (Hopefully you’re not a Lord of the Rings Extended Boxed Set!) The song goes from the chaos of outer space to a lovely finger picking segment.
For those who have become disenchanted by Beck’s recent works, I think you may dig on this “alternative” alternative. I’m definitely going to sit through this album again and again!
Artist: No More Kings
CD Name: Debut Album
Artist Site: No More Kings
Label: Astonish Records
“Born in the ‘70s. Raised in the ‘80s. Perfected in the ‘90s. This album is a thank you letter to the ‘80s,” reads the press kit insert for No More Kings debut album.
Well that description seems to fit me to a tee. I am the target demographic for No More Kings.
So do we care?
To quote Faith No More, “We care a lot!” Probably not since Faith No More have I heard a reference in a song to an ‘80s toy (Remember the Transformers reference in “We Care A Lot!”?) No More Kings serves up a healthy portion of references. You’ve got your Smurfs, Ghostbusters, and Beastie Boys. Ah yeah. Life is good.
If Riders of the Purple Sage joined forces with CAKE you might get something that sounds like No More Kings. I have so many nice things to say about this band. The lyrics on these songs are ingenious and whimsical: “My name is Gulliver/I’ve been lying here all day/I’m kept like a zeppelin/tethered to the ground/so I won’t fly away.” – “Leaving Lilliput” Or on “Sweep the Leg,” we get our Karate Kid action on, “I was always Cobra Kai, but I caught a crane kick to the face.” Wax on. Wax off.
But even better is the eclectic combination of instruments and sounds here, ranging from new country to old school funk with the occasional break to let the instrument take center stage; be it on the Peanuts inspired, “About Schroede” that is strictly piano or “Old Man Walking,” an old school simple basic blues guitar with very slight cymbal tap, and a little bit of female harmonizing.
There are some fun themes and sound play here. “Zombie Me” incorporates a chorus of the living dead! Music production probably hasn’t seen as much fun since the Beach Boys did the munching chorus of “Vegetables.” “Grand Experiment” also sticks with a sound theme; starts with typing and then moves into a funky riff incorporating a typewriter ding that turns to a xylophone ting.
Over all this is a highly original and enjoyable album! With plenty of hand clapping choruses I am sure this band is a blast to see perform live.