Category: Music reviews

A Garden of Wisdom, from Some Long-Ago Dream: Carole King’s Tapestry

On Tapestry, King’s singing, sincere and strong, is quite good in “I Feel the Earth Move,” which has a driving rhythm and engaging melody, and uses earthquake as a metaphor for a stirring love.  The song is more dramatic than romantic, as it contains energy and hunger.  It is followed by the ballad “So Far Away,” in the album’s regular pattern of an uptempo song followed by a ballad.  One can hear a little jazz in “It’s Too Late,” a rock song about a failing relationship, the rhythms of the song matching the intensity of the situation. 

When Strength is Earned and Becomes Beauty: On Tina Turner, “I Might Have Been Queen,” Private Dancer, Break Every Rule, Foreign Affair, and More

Tina Turner: hair, eyes, mouth, teeth.  Glowing brown skin.  Breast, hips, legs.  A burst of dazzling energy.  Honesty and passion.  Dignity and sexiness.  Tough history, tougher spirit.  Serenity sought and found.  A new telling of a woman’s story, of an American life—and the evolution of an international artist and entertainer.  In “I Might Have Been Queen,” a song that she sings with sorrow and pride, with resignation and triumph, Tina Turner looks out over time, looks at and through history, and sees no tragedy. 

Seven Compositions (Here Playful, There Serious): Beautiful Mechanical by the classical group yMusic

On Beautiful Mechanical, the title song has a nearly comic frantic energy, something the strings both soften and deepen, before going off on their own quick currency against a droning beat.  The piece is actually hard to grasp, to think about, as it contains much frequently fast textured movement.  “Proven Badlands,” featuring cello and horn, is slow, sonorous, and has a cinematic quality, especially in the rise of the horns in repeated phrases.  The high, mellow but still sharp, soaring trumpet playing, and a three-beat rhythm, and a scraping against strings, distinguish it.

The Use of Quiet Powers: The Very Best of Mariah Carey

So much for failure in love. Mariah Carey’s voice can sound hammer-strong or feather-light, and she uses different parts of her voice in “Breakdown,” which opens with a man’s chanting voice (the voice, appearing in different instances in the song, makes the song nearly a duet, which is odd since most of the lyrics focus on separation). It is a song with texture—layers of sound, and rhythms going in more than one direction.

That’s the Way Love Is: The Best of Marvin Gaye, The 60s

The music listener heard references to family, church, and school in Gaye’s work, those early educators and touchstones, the expected resources for affection and knowledge, and often what must be left behind if life is to be lived fully or honestly.  Leaving them behind meant freedom—and risk, if not trouble.  There is a female choral arrangement in “Pride and Joy,” and it is somewhere between male doo-wop and the call and response of a church choir. 

Emotion and Style, Jazz and Soul: Until Tomorrow by Zara McFarlane

Zara McFarlane’s voice can be really pure or take on a husky quality, and her inflections are subtle, varied, as in “Captured (part 3), a song about the memory of a woman, with a swinging rhythm.  Delivered with syncopation, the lyrics of “Mama Done” suggest something ominous: “she talked herself right into the ground.”  McFarlane’s voice floats in the air in the song “Until Tomorrow,” which seems to be about an impasse in a relationship that time and distance might ease.  Her voice could be a sound alive on the wind, without a body.

The Country Dance Music of Fiddler Joel Savoy: Linzay Young & Joel Savoy, together; and The Right Combination by Jesse Lege, Joel Savoy, and the Cajun Country Revival

They are keepers of a tradition that includes Dewey Balfa, Michael Doucet, Feufollet, Wade Fruge, Doc Guidry, D.L. Menard, Dennis McGee, Steve Riley, and Horace Trahan. Yet Joel Savoy went on to explain that he listened to popular music: “My mom has very diverse taste in music, and we heard all kinds of stuff growing up. She used to make me mix tapes of all kinds of things like Django and Billie Holiday and lots of Cajun stuff—old-timey Cajun fiddlers, even some rock ‘n’ roll.” Savoy learned to play some of what was on those tapes; and, subsequently, he has performed with T-Bone Burnett, Allison Krauss, Steve Miller, and Linda Ronstadt.

An American Bluesman in Europe: Kid Man Blues by Bert Deivert

On the album Kid Man Blues, an album recorded in Sweden, Thailand, Germany, and the United States over a period of years, Bert Deivert does the Paul Jones song “Rob and Steal,” and there’s something very head-down-and-focused about the energy in the song, as if something burning in the music matches the intensity of the scavenging character being described.  Downbeat, haunted, “Come Back Baby” is a moodily dramatic request for a lover’s return, featuring blues-rock guitar (that is, Dulyasit Srabua on electric guitar and John Dooley on electric bass).