With A Twist
This was a BAD idea. Despite Rundgren's notes on the back of the album that he is "serious" about this transmogrification of some of his hit songs into Bosa Nova style, you're left after listening with the feeling that this has to be a bad joke. And a joke that beats its punchline into un-funny land pretty quickly. That initial smile of amusement soon becomes a frown of disappointment, because Rundgren really sounds serious (or bored) as he rhumbas with near monotone vocals through "I Saw The Light," "Can We Still Be Friends" "Mated," "Love Is The Answer" and "Hello It's Me" (a particularly heinous arrangement with weirdly creepy background sound effects). This albums sounds like a Runt pretender fronting the house band at the Holiday Inn Sunday brunch with a smarmy assortment of oooh/aaahh background singers. Maybe he's hoping to garner more play on shopping center Musack.
All I can say is "ick."
Realms of Gold
The name nudged at my subconscious, but I didn't make the full-blown "OH YEAH!" connection until the second song, "The Coming of Grace." Then the voice was clear. Those '80s music trivia buffs will remember Dr. Robert as the flamboyant singer of The Blow Monkeys, who scored a Top 20 hit in 1986 with "Digging Your Scene."
This solo album from Dr. Robert (Robert Howard) doesn't include the rest of the Monkeys, but his soulful vocal style remains unmistakable on this collection's range of styles which move from rock to blues to folk to lite reggae (on "Sanctuary"). The opening title track "Realms of Gold," finds Howard working with stomping acoustic guitar and harmonica blues, along with hammond organ punches and some bluesy backup vocal support from Karen Richards. "The Coming of Grace" comes closest to Howard's old sound with an easy rocking call for spiritualism that includes Paul Weller on background vocals. Weller also turns up on guitar on other tracks on the album.
Howard gets pleasantly folky on "Follow Your Path," offers a Woodstock-era Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young vibe on "Have No Roots" and rocks with an electric funk riff on "Pond Life," one of the album's best tracks. Ultimately, Howard creates a pleasing, if not consistently rivetting album. Many of these songs could use an extra hook or two to keep things interesting. But there are a handful of tracks that leave you wondering why you haven't missed the croons of Dr. Robert before now.
I've gotten more collections over the past couple weeks than regular studio albums. Here's a run-down of some of the new compilations you can seek out on your local record store shelves:
The soundtrack to Demi Moore's G.I. Jane movie is a strange collage. In addition to three instrumental orchestral soundtrack pieces, it includes two low key Pretenders songs, "Goodbye" and "The Homecoming," classic rock oldies from Three Dog Night and Bad Company, a blues cut from John Lee Hooker and a frantic punk cut from Auntie Christ featuring Exene Cervenka from X fame. One note of trivia - the track listing on the back of the CD is out of sequence; the John Lee Hooker and Tarnation songs are actually reversed on the CD running order.
Rhino Records has released a three-CD set featuring oft-overlooked Chicano soul groups. Brown Eyed Soul: The Sound of East L.A. vols. 1-3 features '50s and '60s songs from Cannibal & The Headhunters, Peaches & Herb, The Penguins, Safaris, Brenton Wood, The Turks, War, El Chicano, Little Julian Herrera, Ritchie Valens, Thee Midniters and more. As the liner notes discuss, many of these songs were never widely known outside of the Chicano community, but that community's habit of passing favorite songs down loyally from generation to generation has kept these songs alive.
Speaking of successful Chicano bands from L.A., War has continued a into the '90s career on the basis of a dozen hits in the '70s. Avenue Records has compiled some of those cuts on Coleccion Latina. Included are "Low Rider (Espanol)" "East L.A." (remix - con Jose Feliciano" and the hits "All Day Music," "Me and Baby Brother," "Gypsy Man," and "Ballero."
Disco fans who remember the Andrea True Connection and True's two Buddah Records albums from 1976-77 can now get her two hits and a small assortment of other tracks on The Right Stuff label's More, More, More The Best of The Andrea True Connection. The liner notes offer the fascinating story of how True came to record the #4 hit "More More More" and its followup "N.Y. You Got Me Dancing" before True disappeared into obscurity once more (the liner notes are irritatingly remiss in recounting where True has been for the past 20 years.) Both hit songs are offered here in two alternate mixes, as is her other single, "What's Your Name, What's Your Number." Four other songs are also included. Given that True only produced two albums for Buddah Records in the '70s, there's no reason that The Right Stuff label couldn't have compiled her entire output on this CD for fans who want this material on disc. But you take what you can get, I guess.