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Saturday, 2 June 2018

REVIEW: PETE YORN & SCARLETT JOHANSSON-APART (EP)

4/5

Found In Translation.

Coming into focus, back together again, great American singer/songwriter Pete Yorn thumbs the bridge of his nose between his eyes as he restlessly leans on the open window of American muscle. He pulls the sleeve of his suit jacket back to check the time on his elegant wrist watch and looks out of his passenger side window in polite impatience. And then there she is. Hollywood starlett Scarlett Johansson. Riding shotgun looking back at him like something cinematic on this long and swerving kaleidoscopic road. As if 2009 wasn't almost ten years gone next calender. Short bob rocking, singing about her "bangs growing too long" as she pulls the directions of a mascara wrote, alcohol smudged cocktail napkin out her diamond shining pocketbook purse. Her bottle green cocktail dress gleaming the same like the smashed glass on the back seat that twinkle like the stars in the back windows rearview. Carpool singing together about relationship woories and 'Bad Dreams' like it was the happiest song in the world. Air-drumming and swaying side to side in sing-along unison (with even a crazy to camera 'Planes, Trains and Automobiles' driver seat looking reference). All whilst turning the car radio tuner to a whole new beat and street, the She and Him of actress Scarlett Johansson and singer Pete Yorn reunite like M. Ward and 'New Girl' Zooey Deschanel are about to too. "Thanks for breaking up with me again" Johansson tells Yorn in the albums linear notes. Seems fitting.

They "broke up" in 2009 with these friends collaborative album 'Break Up'. When 'Back and Forth' singer Yorn phone call recruited Academy actress Johansson and femme fatale throwback Scarlett to work on a new album with him. Following her 'Lost In Translation' breakout to the movie mainstream of legendary legacy making leading ladies in 2003 when she was still a teen, Scarlett really came of age before the Avenging Black Widow days of Thor like blockbuster war dominance to 'Infinity' thunder. And her 2008 album of Tom Waits covers 'Anywhere I Lay My Head' showed she could beautifully go at it on her own, before Yorn called her up for their dual nine track album. One that birthed the instantly infectious, foot-stomping classic single 'Relator' and the solo Scarlett standout cover 'I Am The Cosmos', like Pete's own 'Someday' closer on a classic album as songwriting straight-forward as the timeless over a pad and pen cover. Now back with another classic one, their E.P. sister follow up to their 'Break Up' album, 'Apart' explores the aftermath of a broken relationship. But it almost has the fond, found feeling of a Sofia Coppola 'Lost In Translation' sequel reuniting with Bill Murray for Santori times in the Park Hyatt hotel (like the 'A Murray Christmas' Netflix special), or Johansson's return to the Tokyo neons for last years amazing anime adaptation, 'Ghost In The Shell'. And relating to 'Relator', 'Bad Dreams' reawakens the toe-tapping catchy opening single number.

"Worried I lost my car keys or that I said something wrong/Worried about the mess that's in my house, that's in my heart/Worried that I'll go crazy every time that we're apart" they sing in the chrome filter of traffic and night lights reflecting off their shimmering car for a standout single that shines like it does. And if that feels like something straight out of the flicks of a film then wait until you here the dual favourite on this half-album. 'Movies' feels exactly like one with Yorn's lasting lyrics, offset by Scarlett's smoky, smouldering vocals. Now their own trademarks like they are their own Ryan Adams or Norah Jones'. The out the gate permenance of the hook, "Take me to the movies/Take me where you're going/I don't want to live without you" as smoky and seductive as Scarlett singing "La-la-la-la-la, love you" in harmony with the outstanding opener 'Iguana Bird'. There's even an as red as romance, or this E.P.'s artwork cover remix to Pete Yorn's 'Tomorrow'; off his last acclaimed album 'Arranging Time' album on this five-track today. But it's the relationship ashes and dust stubbed out on 'Cigarello' that is cinematically, open-road and heart compelling and illuminating as a plugged in car cigarette lighter under the dash as Yorn years, "Cigarello in your eyes/Choking on the good goodbyes/We dream of better days". The whole EP has this same atmospheric feeling and need of wanting for more from the tracks and the tears of two unique artists in their own right. Finally back in each others collaborative embrace for after what feels like forever, but in an instant is brought back like they never left. We hope another decade doesn't age before these two decide to be apart no longer for even more songs. One good encore deserves another...together. And 'Apart'-even in its extended play half measure in comparison to the almost decade ago 'Break Up' L.P.-shows us sometimes the greatest love stories belong to the ones we lost. But like something that never really leaves us, will always hold close...forever. TIM DAVID HARVEY.

Sunday, 1 April 2018

REVIEW: BEN HARPER & CHARLIE MUSSELWHITE-NO MERCY IN THIS LAND

4/5

Land Of Hope & Blues.

Credit late blues great John Lee Hooker for this perfect pairing. Hooker woke up one morning and decided that blues icon Charlie Musselwhite and multiple bandsman Ben Harper needed to cut an album together. So he made the necessary introductions and the rest my friends is beautiful blues history like John Lee's own legendary legacy. Now after the Grammy winning 'Get Up' album (and stellar standouts like the last waltz of 'We Can't End This Way' and the cowboy fedora of 'I Ride At Dawn'), it's time to get down on the dynamo duos new album 'No Mercy In This Land', for a world that needs that sort of peace right now. And what better than the spirit of the blues? That are as soothing to yearning or roadside wandering hearts like a tended whiskey slid over the bar and placed on top of a cocktail napkin at the end of a long and winding day. And in the catalogue of all the collaborations the epic, eclectic Harper has constantly created and curated (from his Fistful Of Mercy supergroup, to the gospel of the Blind Boys of Alabama or even his own mother Ellen for 'My Childhood Home'), between reuniting with the Innocent Criminals for 2016's 'Call It Like It Is' and the rumor of getting the Relentless7 band back together for the next go round, no one has quite left as indelible mark on Harper than the legendary blues muscle of Musselwhite. Charlie kisses the harmonica like the great love of his life. Whilst Ben meticulously and tenderly cradles his trademark slide guitar like a craftsman working a lathe. And together in soul they hone this music with all their heart, giving new color to the blues.

Looks like these two actually are looking twice with their second album. And after the traditional blues of 'When I Go' sets everything off like stomping feet, 'Bad Habits' shows the ever lyrical Harper writing more classic couplets that rhyme with the reasons the blues were born. "When a man gives you his hat/He's living on borrowed time/The shoe fit so I wore it/But I left one lace untied" the man who once told us "you have to live my life to get boots like these" warns as he sings and brings wisdom to what otherwise would be a life cliche. These creations continue on the blood and bone of 'Love and Trust'. That as Harper plays the slide like a harp with Musselwhite in harmonica harmony gives us gospel, writing, "Like a horse in a race/That doesn't want to run/An executioner who won't fire his gun/Like a boxer who won't take a swing/Like a prince/Who don't want to be a king/Haven't we suffered/Suffered enough/Now we're out here fighting/About some love and trust". As the man influenced by Marvin, Martin and all sorts of kings like B.B. refuses to muddy the waters of what's really going on. But the maverick man of modern music with more meaning doesn't just point fingers without turning them inward as he takes a few shots, some subliminal and some just straight on 'The Bottle Wins Again', yearning, "Broken hearts and broken dreams/Turns out they weigh the same/Passed down through generations/Like the family name/There's a gilded coat of arms/For those who heal from within/But tonight the bottle wins again". Then the beautiful ballad 'Found The One' really haunts the heart like the first dance of matrimony. Before it ends up being the last one too as the brooding returns to shoulder the pain of loss. This is the blues after all.

"Everybody says I love you/But not everybody lives I love you". "I could've held you more carefully/And I suppose you could've been there for me". "Choosing not to remember/Is no way to forget/That's just a losing bet". "These old streets of shame/Will they ever look the same/Will they remember our name"Just ask the dust". On arguably the most lyrical of all the laments on this disc for the record, Harper tells us a tale of 'When Love Is Not Enough' just mere seconds after 'Found A One' fades out. He pulls no punches after he's gut checked with a black eye from the blues. Back at the bar with a cup of blues poured to the brim the innocent criminal who once warned us "not to stand insincere at the side of my grave", brings those contrasting couplets back to the barstools bedside manner as he slams the shovel in. "Spend your whole life with one woman/Die and leave her your farm/The very next day she's on your best friend's arm/There ain't no worries/You can't drink away". Clicking with the spurs of those wild ones that still live in the old west the man who has now made the fedora his trademark is as rhinestone as the slicked back shirts of Musselwhite. And the pair play it again like Sam for the 'No Mercy In This Land' title-track as Musslewhite mourns, "Father left us down here all alone/My poor mother is under a stone/With an aching heart and trembling hands/Is there no mercy in this land". With a vivid vocal from behind the harmonica that aches and trembles with leather worn, brutual beauty of the very words he sings. All from a man who has been through it all and will tell us more than we will ever likely see. Harper gets clever for those who "learned to hustle, but never learned to dance" on 'Movin' On' as he rolls, "Won me in a poker game/Lost me in a bet/Then you got the nerve/To turn around and get upset". Before the beautiful blemishes of the slow-burn closer 'Nothing At All' really brings those bitter and sweet life lessons, that hauntingly and heartbreakingly never leave you like an inner scar only you can see. "This world's too hard to not have someone break my fall/We climb this world stone by stone/We love each other bone by bone/There are sins for which one just cannot atone/There's a price we pay/For the places we lay", Harper sings over strained strings and the man playing behind him in black that will always have his back 'till the bones. 'Get Up' got a Grammy. There will be the very name of this album if 'Land' doesn't at least lay the groundwork for another one. Whether an award or album for this trilogies conclusion. Lord have mercy. TIM DAVID HARVEY.

Wednesday, 28 March 2018

REVIEW: JACK WHITE-BOARDING HOUSE REACH

4/5

Third Man's The Charm.

"I'm thinking of starting a corperation. Whose with me?" Jack White proclaims on the White Stripes, Raconteurs and Dead Weather trilogy bandsmans third solo album on his Third Man imprint. But don't worry, despite his self-made record business in the heart of Music City, Nashville, Mr. White isn't selling out to the masses. It's all not so subtle, tongue in cheek lashing passive aggression to not be passed over on the track 'Corperation'. Which also features starting a revolution lyrics like "Nowadays, that's how you get adulation" and "I'm gonna buy up all the empty lots and make one giant farm/Who's with me?" Highlighting an album highlight off 'Boarding House Reach', that after the solo self 'Blunderbuss' beginning and lavishing 'Lazaretto' follow (not to mention or forget his amazing acoustic recording, the gold standard, shining 'Great Gatsby' standout for Jay-Z's curated soundtrack ('Love Is Blindness') and his 'Lemonade' sip in return with Beyonce ('Don't Hurt Yourself')), is a bat#### classic. Weird and wonderful and brilliant and bold like his trademark guitar riffing. Jack's most ambitious shot out the box yet is screamingly beautiful. Complete with soul singing in the background for a rock and roll king from the town that's a little bit country, who with all his recent musical company has found a nuanced hip-hop niche. Yep, Jack White raps on this album that is all over the place but in a grand and great way that will have your headphones permanently in place. Besides when Beck does it you don't complain like his latest classic 'Colors'. Or how about when late, great Aussie INXS ruler and most formidable frontman Michael Hutchence turned the 'Kick' of the bands biggest hit 'Need You Tonight' into a remixed interlude 'Mediate' complete with placard phrase, Dylan-esque cue cards? White can do it too and this Jack of all trades jacks up both the amps and the 808s...and that's not even a self-serving plug. Whose with me?

Like what real music is supposed to be all about. It's just all connected. Connected like the lead single and very human alien invasion video says, 'Connected By Love'. Singing, "Woman, don't you know what I'm suffering from/Ease my pain, make it wash on with the rain/Relieve me and put it up on your shelf/Take it away, and give it to somebody else" on what may be the superior solo single of his collaborating career, Jack gives us one of the best blues numbers in a grand genre. But it's got nothing on the soul stirring, straight-laced, second single standout, 'Over and Over and Over' with again a Penrose perfect back and forth video, painted in 'Boarding House' and 'Lazaretto' blue and even A-Ha/Paddington background white. With 'Icky Thump' duking licks and a visual as epic as the White Stripes video classics of the groundbreaking kaleidoscope of 'Seven Nation Army' and the repeating 'The Hardest Button To Button', 'Over and Over' impresses as one of the strongest songs in his entire, epic classic catalogue. But as he sings, "The Sisyphean dreamer/My fibula and femur/Hold the weight of the world/(Over and over)/I think, therefore I die/Anxiety and I rolling down a mountain/(Over and over)/My shoulder holds the weight of the world" screaming for the sign of the times this even has nothing on some of the themes traversed on this groundbreaking and stereo shaking piece of album art. 'Why Walk A Dog" takes on all forms of animal cruelty for the vegan generation without petting or pandering as Jack preaches, "Are you their master?/Did you buy them at the store?/Did they know they were a cure/For you to stop being bored?/So somebody mated them/And took their babies away from them/Stuck a price tag on their nose/And now you’re buying it clothes" with bitter bite we should all heed more than bark about.

After the 'Abulia and Akrasia' spoken-word interlude like 'Ezmerelda Steals The Show' the hyper 'Hypermisophoniac' keeps the motor running for the 'Motor City' Detroit kid in the same rock and rolling vein. Whilst the licked strings of 'Ice Station Zebra' continue the coldest singles streak of White, matched with his animalistic lyrics aimed to claw away at both the competition and the corperation that thinks it's running things. "Everything in the world gets labeled a name/A box, a rough definition, unaffordable/Who picked the label doesn't want to be responsible/Truth, you're the one who needs the keys to the prison/You create your own box, you don't have to listen/To any of the label makers, printing your obituary" he wearily warns with industry scathe. Before rejoicing and celebrating with us that, "Everyone creating is a member of the family/Passing down genes and ideas in harmony" lyrics that couldn't sign, seal and deliver the meaning of this envelope pushing album further. After a cautionary commercial like opening of fifties sensibilities, 'Everything You've Ever Learned' rocks like its 'Respect Commander follow up as White yearns, "Every single thing about this situation/Says I can't be wrong/And every time she gets her satisfaction/I want her to control me all night long". The sonic song beautiful, but in the heart brutual blues continue with the play to the collection, church organ orchestration of 'What's Done Is Done' following the funky Parliament ode to 'Get In The Mind Shaft'. But it's the timeless, time goes by, last goodbye of 'Humoresque' that at its most beautiful brings this collection to a complete close. White or even the Beatle/Rolling Stone rock and roll genius and king of the modern days closest contemporary have never wrote lyrics as potently poetic or as pure as this, "Over the air, you gently float/Into my soul, you strike a note/Of passion with your melody". In chorus with the heartfelt hook of, "Sunbeams are playing/Flowers and trees are swaying/Captured within your magic spell/If the children are dancing/Lovers are all romancing/Is it any wonder, everyone is singing?" Showing that just like countrys own Hall of Fame's Johnny Cash's 'Forever Words' lyrics and prose, behind ever rock star from the Man in Black to this man of White is a heart and soul, not made of granite, but gratitude. In a divisive already 2018 where we need music to help and heal aswell as point fingers and direction we can't help but be thankful for that Springsteen blue collar like human touch. Something that knows how low our blues can be, but soulfully rocks with us and takes us higher, from a maverick raconteur of a man who has earned his stripes. After all aren't you just as bored with regular music as you would be just staying in the house all day watching that same television? Then this one will reach. TIM DAVID HARVEY.