There are not enough words to describe the explosive, mindblowing genius of Little Richard’s classic albums, now collected on 140-gram vinyl in their original mono glory. All five of the artist’s studio albums for Specialty and VeeJay, from the rock ‘n’ roll masterpiece Here’s Little Richard (1957) to His Greatest Hits (1964), are included, with a 16-page booklet of new notes by Bill Dahl, and plenty of photos. This party in a box is worth every penny.
The sophomore result of a protracted, at times turbulent reunion, this is the payoff of six weeks of arrangements and rehearsals. But instead of feeling workshopped, these 12 songs crackle with combustible spirit. Pointy, fuzz-washed leads and pulpy, spaced-out chords drip with tremolo, flange, the tube-warmed veracity of the ’50s, ’60s, and ’90s. The woody midrange of precision rhythm buoys a ringing attack, showing bassist Paz Lenchantin fully integrated into a less violent, still gleefully cutting Pixies.
The formless songs of Biosphere’s twelfth album are produced by hundreds of samples of Eastern European and Russian folk music recordings, their disembodied voices hovering like beautiful ghosts circumnavigating your skull. Recorded at his home in Poland, near the site of World War II’s Katyn Forest Massacre, Departed Glories evokes death and darkness, the beatless symphony a work of spine-chilling sonic mindgames. “With Their Paddles in a Puddle” and “Than Is the Mater” summon an angelic world from beyond the grave.
Oli Bayston’s debut offered a tidy blend of cerebral dance pop and experimental electronic rock, defined further on this follow-up. Starting upbeat with the grooving “Jist,” Bayston steadily takes the tempo down as the album progresses. On the way he hits the early-’ 90s rave-up “Forget,” the quiet tones of “Black Prism,” and the softly grazing rhythms of “Open Ended.” As great as the combination of elements is, Bayston’s universally pleasing voice remains the main attraction.
OFTEN IN THE PAUSE
Though Often in the Pause’s dream pop can touch on the commonplace, beneath Kris Orlowski’s gruff voice and flowing tunes lies the heart of a shoegazer, an introvert cloaking his seclusion in alt-country and indie angst. The album casts a contemplative mood, from the Byrdsian guitar overlay of “Electric Sheep” to the somnambulant sheen of “Always Bring Me Back.” The fact that Orlowski’s music has found favor as mood enhancer on TV (Grey’s Anatomy, Hart of Dixie) does nothing to diminish its glow.
The listener’s first impression of singer/songwriter Cauthen’s release is nostalgic: There’s something very Waylon about the opener “Still Drivin,” and overall, about Cauthen’s deep-throated voice and commanding style. When Cauthen lets loose vocally, his voice shows almost operatic beauty and control—a la Raul Malo. But there’s a lot of tenderness to these songs as well, and sonically, the guitar and keyboard sounds are just dirty enough to keep Cauthen firmly on Americana ground.
After two decades and now 12 albums with nary a misstep, Drive-By Truckers continue deconstructing the pride and shame of heritage with soulful country-fried swagger. Bordering Neil Young’s ragged glory and a Stones/Skynyrd bluesy boogie, DBT display more haunting tenderness, never forced to overcompensate because the songwriting holds such gravity. Intimate character studies alternate empathy and sympathy, while the more condemning open dialog on the Confederate flag, police brutality, systemic racism and more, attack maladies with melody.