Artist: Album (label, release date) 1-5 stars
Gary Moore Band: Grinding Stone (Reportoire, September 20, 2005) ****
Muse: Origin Of Symmetry [Enhanced] (Warner Brothers, September 20, 2005) ***
Herb Alpert: Whipped Cream And Other Delights (King Japan, September 20, 2005) **
Krishna Das: Pilgrim Heart (Triloka, September 20, 2005) **
You know it’s a slow week for reissues when Gary Moore has the most interesting one, and Herb Alpert and Krishna Das make the list. But we work with what we have.
Gary Moore Band: Grinding Stone
Gary Moore is barely known in the U.S., although he’s managed to keep a cult audience in England and Europe over the years. A guitarist in the style of Peter Green, who helped him land his first record deal, Moore’s mostly-instrumental Grinding Stone was his first project following the disbanding of his first band, Skid Row (not the 80’s hair metal guys), in 1972. Grinding Stone is from 1973, and the band consisted of Moore on vocals and guitar, Pearse Kelly on drums, and John Curtis on bass. Grinding Stone is something of a transitional effort; a little amplified blues rock, like Moore’s earliest work, and the barest hints of fusion, which hints at his later work with Colosseum II. The nine minute title track gets a pretty good groove on, while “Time To Heal” is a blues-boogie featuring Moore’s fairly ragged vocals. “Sail Across The Mountain” is slower and soulful; the 17-minute “Spirit” crosses the line from bluesy metal into fullblown progressive rock. Is there an audience for this? Depends how much you like Moore’s guitar, which still does recall Green’s, but with less fluidity. It’s a lumpen album in the worst excessive tradition of the the early 70’s, which isn’t really a put-down, but as a guitar album or a power-trio album it delivers the goods, and is fairly unique for its time.
Muse: Origin Of Symmetry [Enhanced]
English trio Muse is best known in the States for “Hyper Music”, from their 2001 sophomore album Origin Of Symmetry. Origin Of Symmetry was frequently compared to Radiohead when it was released, and while Muse is a little softer focus, the comparison still holds to a degree. Many of the songs on Origin of Symmetry take a similar approach even if they wind up in different realms; spooky quiet intros with muted piano or organ that erupt into uptempo, busy numbers with shaggy, loud vocals and a dusting of white noise. The album is anything but subtle; the riffs, organs, and screams are defiantly over-the-top. “Feeling Good” with its intensely silly filtered vocals and bogus blues progression is maybe the best thing here; the single “Hyper Music” and neo-prog-rock “Bliss” other standouts. Vocalist and primary songwriter Matthew Bellamy recalls Jeff Buckley at times.
Herb Alpert: Whipped Cream and Other Delights
The title is a giveaway. Herb Alpert was the king of lightweight, easy listening confection, and this album is about as tasty and ultimately sickly-sweet and unsatisfying as a bowl of whipped cream. Its re-issue is noteworthy as a curio; here we have an instrumental concept album with nearly every song given the title of some kind of food (“Whipped Cream”, “A Taste Of Honey”, “Peanuts”, “Lollipops And Roses”), the album cover features a pretty young nude model wearing only whipped cream, and the album itself was Alpert’s big commercial breakthrough in 1965. While it’s easy to say Alpert’s records all sound alike, there are subtle differences; “Love Potion No. 9” gets a brassy treatment that would’ve sounded at home in a 60’s strip club, while “A Taste Of Honey” shows off its complex time signatures and made the top-10. “Whipped Cream” sounds almost like Alpert’s later hit “Spanish Flea”. Can’t really recommend this to hardcore rock fans, but fans of 60’s kitsch may find it amusing.
Krishna Das: Pilgrim Heart
Pick your spiritual leaders carefully. Krishna Das is strongly recommended by Timothy Leary’s former partner-turned-guru Ram Dass, which ought to be a tip-off from the start. Krishna Das is Long Island raised Jeffrey Kagel, whose life apparently was changed by a several-hours meeting with Ram Dass in 1968; in 1970 he went on spiritual retreat to India. Flashing forward to 1990, Krishna Das formed his own record label, Triloka Records, which specializes in new agey World albums. Pilgrim Heart, from 1998, is his second album (he started recording late in life). It is pretty much what you might expect; devout, solemn, trance-inducing, somewhat treacly and sweet. Still, the vocals are quite pretty in places, particularly on “Govinda Hare” and “The Goddess Suite-Mother Song” which display Das’ rich baritone in interesting juxtaposition with his backing vocalists. Sting puts in an appearance on “Mountain Hare Krishna”. What does it all mean? Probably nothing; the new age always was vague on specifics. But if you’re looking for something pseudo-profound to do your yoga to, you could probably do worse. Or better.
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