Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
Genres: Alternative Rock, Folk, Pop, Rock
A musical tour-de-style
Glen Engel Cox | Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia | 06/06/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"As music lovers, we all have certain styles or similarities that mark our musical tastes. This was illustrated for me recently when my friend Steve made me a mixed CD that was heavy on multi-part harmony, something I'm not sure Steve even realized when he was selecting favorites to include, but which makes sense as Steve himself is a bass in a local a cappella group called BlueLine. My wife, although she jokes that the only musical instrument she can play is the radio, tends to favor songs that feature a solo piano and even fell for my poor keyboard skills when we were courting. I personally love music with horns, possibly a result of my high school band days when I played both the baritone and trombone. While I like plenty of songs without a brass section, that sound will likely make me pay closer attention to it.Not every song on Michelle Shocked's Captain Swing has horns, but those that do are my favorite moments on this album and also responsible for making this my favorite Shocked album, although I also quite like Short Sharp Shocked and Arkansas Traveler. The inclusion of a brass section also underscores how much of a metamorphoses Shocked went through on her first three albums, from the recorded-on-a-Walkman (and basically released without her permission) The Texas Campfire Tapes to this multitrack, multi-instrument album. That first album, where one can even sometimes hear crickets in the background, was just Shocked's voice and her guitar, recorded live during the Kerrville Folk Festival. Her second album didn't add much in the way of instruments, but Short Sharp Shocked was made in a studio with multiple takes that smoothed out imperfections while maintaining her intimate style. For Captain Swing, the pendulum had swung all the way over into lush production although not so much that it overshadows Shocked's clever songwriting, but does transform her at least somewhat from the doyenne of the piney woods past the "skateboarding punk rocker" into a folky k.d. lang-inspired torch singer.The theme is swing and Shocked is catholic in how she applies it to her songs. She transforms her earlier composition, "(Don't You Mess With) My Little Sister," into a hard-rocking set piece of Bakersfield that wouldn't be out of place on a Dwight Yoakam album. "It Must Be Luff" comes straight out of a dance hall of Basin Street, New Orleans with its combination of tuba bass rhythym, slightly out-of-tune jangly piano, and slide-and-muted trombone. Shocked anticipated the big band revival with "God is a Real Estate Developer," "Too Little Too Late" and "Sleep Keeps Me Awake," while "On the Greener Side" and "Silent Ways" highlight the fast and slow moods of Texas swing. The cool later jazz stylings that combined Glenn Miller with Duke Ellington can be found in "The Cement Lament," with some of the best clarinets you'll ever hear in a rock song; "Streetcorner Ambassador" even makes a play for a modified Miles Davis BeBop groove with its muted trumpet solo and cool jazz rhythm. Even "Looks Like Mona Lisa," where the horns are replaced by a plaintive string part, has at its core a swing bass rhythm part.The subject of the songs match her earlier albums, though: concerns about the homeless and the inner city, memories of growing up in small towns, and satirical takes on life. But more than anything, these songs have a sense of fun to them that was sometimes missing in those first two albums. They are fast and bouncy and funny at times, sometimes so much that you miss the serious message of some of the lyrics. Shocked duplicated some of this chemistry in her next album, Arkansas Traveller, although the musical theme there was less interesting to me as it was based on bluegrass instead of swing."
Absolute Breezy Beauty
Glen Engel Cox | 06/05/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This album, Michelle's second major label album, is full of breezy beauty and sparkling moments. The atmosphere is airy, less intense than Short Sharp Shocked, and has a fuller sound. The production sounds a little 80s at times, but the songs remain some of her best melodies and cleverest like Everest wordplay (I think she wrote all the music for her first 3 albums at the same time).
God Is A Real Estate Developer ("angels dancin' 'round with pinheads");
On The Greener Side ("send me a dozen long-stemmed roses... I'll bend them into a crown of thorns and send it right back to you");
Silent Ways (everything);
The Cement Lament ("It was that kind of misting rain, it was that kind of night...");
Looks Like Mona Lisa (melody);
Streetcorner Ambassador ("Those patronizing liberals took the words out of your mouth!");
Must Be Luff ("I'll drink the whiskey, don' drink no water, yeah!");
Russian Roulette (the 'mystery song,' "I say Russian Roulette is just a hole in one").
This reissue includes a bunch of pretty polished demos of many of the album songs (usually Michelle and a fiddle accompanist) and live performances. One unreleased demo in particular, "Early Saturday Morning," is beautiful... perfect lazy morning song, strong enough for an album cut, and worth getting the CD for."