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Weekend Reissue Roundup

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Dr. John: Right Place, Wrong Time (2005)   Devo: Shout (1984)   In Flames: Subterranean (1994)   Bree Sharp: More B.S. (2002)

Artist: Album (label, release date) 1-5 stars

Dr. John: Right Place Wrong Time (Collectables, June 14, 2005) ****
Devo: Shout (Collectables, June 14, 2005) **
In Flames: Subterranean (Cabdlelight June 14, 2005) ***
Bree Sharp: More B.S. (Ahimsa/Union June 14, 2005) ***

An unusually slow week for reissues, these are the most noteworthy of the small lot:

Dr. John: Right Place Wrong Time
Dr. John: Right Place, Wrong Time (2005)
Dr. John (Mac Rebennack) gained fame in the 1970’s as both a session musician and a solo act, although his career is much longer, dating back to the 1950’s, when he first gained session work that would include recordings with Professor Longhair, Frankie Ford, and Joe Tex. As a stylist, he’s best known for two approaches; fairly traditionalist r&b/blues, and a wild fusion of New Orleans r&b, rock, and Mardi Gras music he dubbed “voodoo music”. Originally a guitarist and a pianist, a gun accident that injured his hand led to his dropping the guitar and focusing solely on piano. His debut as Dr. John, the Night Tripper came in 1968, with the well-received album Gris Gris; his commercial peak was the 1974 album In The Right Place, which included his lone top-10 hit and signature song, “Right Place, Worng Time”. Now 65, he still places albums at the top of the jazz charts, most recently in 2004 with Storm Warning, a #3. Right Place Wrong Time is a typically no-frills, budget priced quickie best-of from Collectables. Consisting of 10 tracks from his 1968-1975 peak including “Right Place, Wrong Time”, “Iko Iko”, “Let’s Make A Better World”, and “Such A Night”, it is a fairly good intorduction to his unique musical world. Those looking for a more thorough overview should look for Rhino Records’ The Very Best of Dr. John, which has 16 tracks from mainly the same era, and good liner notes.

Devo: Shout
Devo: Shout (1984)
Shout was Devo’s sixth studio album, after a six year run that saw them go from an obscure one-note joke new-wave band led by a pair of Kent State art majors to a fairly successful commercial career; all of their albums reached the top 100, and New Traditionalist, their 1981 fourth album, peaked at #23. Their fifth album, Oh No! It’s Devo! didn’t fare as well, and this album sold even more poorly, peaking at #83. Four years would pass between this album and their seventh, final release. In hindsight, what probably doomed the band was their evolution from the tacky, cheap, often homemade electronic instrumentation of their first few albums to the glossy, state of the art synthesizers on their late albums. By losing their original defiant quirkiness, their concept (and joke) lost meaning, and they became another run-of-the-mill synth-pop band, of which there was an overabundance in the early 80’s. Also missing on Shout are the hooks; there’s nothing approaching the willful simplistic joys of their first releases, instead the material is pretty bland. The most noteworthy cut was a cover for Jimi Henrdix’ “Are You Experienced?” which fails to do what Devo did for the Rolling Stones on their debut. Completists will welcome this album’s return to availability, but the non-fan needn’t bother. Bonus cuts would’ve been nice; none are included.

In Flames: Subterranean
In Flames: Subterranean (1994)
In Flames is a Swedish death metal band led by guitarist Jesper Stromblad, who had been in Ceremonial Oath in the 1980’s. Relentlessly aggressive and dark, the band’s essential sound is a mix of gothic heavy metal, with shades of Black Sabbath and Iron Maiden, and given towards progressive arrangements and textures. Their lineup was in complete flux through the 1990’s before stablizing; once it had, the band began making inroads in the American market. Their 2004 release, Soundtrack to Your Escape went top-10 on the Heatseekers and Independant Album Charts, and reached #145 on the Billboard 200; good showings for a death metal act. Given this success, their earlier 1990’s albums, never easily available in the U.S., are starting to surface. Subterranean was their 1994 sophomore EP release, and shows them closer to their death metal/speed metal roots than their more progressive later outings. Fans of the genre might like this for its purity of vision and atmospherics; those not pre-disposed toward the genre are unlikely to get into this.

Bree Sharp: More B.S.
Bree Sharp: More B.S. (2002)
Bree Sharp is a contemporary singer/songwriter from Philadelphia whose music bears some of the folk rock of Dylan fused with punk-era songwriters like Patti Smith and Elvis Costello. Her 1999 debut, Cheap and Evil Girl made the tiniest of ripples, peaking at #47 on the Heetseekers chart, a feat thusfar unmatched by her subsequent efforts. More B.S. was her 2002 follow-up, and sounds like a stab at a more pop-oriented sound than she had on her debut, even covering Don Henley’s “Boys of Summer”. This isn’t a bad thing; her pop songcraft is pretty good, particularly on “Everything Feels Wrong” which recalls Sheryl Crow, or the amusing “Dirty Magazine”. “Morning In A Bar” is borderline psychedelic, with a vaguely “Strawberry Fields Forever” sound to it. In short, a good album to accompany a Sunday morning cappucino. More B.S. revealed Sharp to have potential; she hasn’t yet followed through on it, releasing a live album in 2004 but no studio discs as yet. Ahimsa/Union’s re-issuance of this disc is perhaps a sign that a new album may be forthcoming soon.

Weekend reissue Roundup appears every Friday night/Saturday AM.

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    Dr. John is a must have for music lovers, this sounds like a good collection. Considering what I have of his works are on cassette, I will be picking this one up.

    Devo’s ntholgy “Pioneers get Scalped” is aptly named, IMO. Fans of electronica and a lot of pop are probably unaware that a lot of the studio tricks and weird noises they enjoy were probably on a Devo album 20 years ago. I think their geek image overshadowed the fact that they were ahead of their time. Have to agree with you assessment of “Shout” though, it is one of their weakest albums.