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The House That Trane Built: The Story Of Impulse Records
by Ashley Kahn
W.W. Norton Publishers
Hardcover book, 352 pages
$29.95 US


As every jazz fan knows, some of the best and most adventurous jazz albums of the 60s and 70s are easily identified by their orange and black spines; the eye-catching calling card of Impulse Records. Created in 1961 by ABC Paramount, the Impulse legend has grown in stature over the years, accentuated by the longtime association with label resident John Coltrane.

In honor of the 45th anniversary of Impulse, author Ashley Kahn takes a look back at the history of the label and its roster of celebrated musicians. Kahn does a great job bringing the early days back to life, showing how the label came about in the midst of jazz's peak of popularity, how producer Creed Taylor established the look and attitude of Impulse releases, and how Coltrane was brought on board from Atlantic Records. Kahn then moves on to show how the label grew into one of the most innovative and cutting-edge jazz labels of all time, examing different artists and their albums in depth. There are extensive interviews with those involved -- a veritable "who's who" list in jazz -- including Taylor, Bob Thiele, Alice Coltrane, Rudy Van Gelder, and one of the last interviews given by Ray Charles.

In addition to the book, there will be a 4 CD box set collection with selections spanning the history of Impulse, along with 10 separate "best of" discs from various Impulse artists, including John Coltrane, Chlares Mingus, Sonny Rollins, among others. A jazz lover's dream come true.

MISH MASH Mandate: Jazz And The Abstract Truth
W.W. Norton Website

Impulse Records Website

Apollo Up!
Chariots Of Fire
Theory 8 Records
10 song CD


When I first popped this one into the CD player, I could have sworn it was Urge Overkill. So much so, I checked the liner notes to make sure our old friend National Kato wasn't fronting a new band. Now after a few listens, I'm assured enough to say that that UO could only wish they sound as good as these guys. This is some killer power pop, through and through.

The band dives right in with Walking The Plank, a driving track that leans hard on big guitars and blistering drum riffs. It's catchy stuff, but not enough to turn into a rock-n-roll cliche. The band continues on this warpath, building their songs around classic rock-styled guitars, infusing them with infectious power pop hooks that never let up. They shake it up a little bit more on the funky groove of Cut Up, which inventively features a horn section on the refrain.

MISH MASH Mandate: Uncontrollable Urge
Apollo Up Website

Bullfrog Jumped
Children's Folksongs From The Byron Arnold Collection
Alabama Folklife Association
42 song CD and 72 page booklet


Between 1945 and 1947, University of Alabama music professor Byron Arnold traveled around the state to record traditional folk songs as sung by the general population. This collection pulls together 42 different children's songs as sung by mothers and grandmothers, who were recorded live by Arnold while he was out on location.

The recording techniques used by Arnold were rather primitive, and this shows in the overall low fidelity of the tracks included on the disc. Instead of detracting from the music, it adds a thematic natural quality which could not be captured in a studio setting. You can almost picture these women singing

The booklet includes an overview of Arnold's recording project, along with song lyrics and short biographies of the actual singers. Overall, the set is a beautiful piece of work, a valuable insight into the folk music of the South, providing a rare-first hand glimpse into America's rich musical past.

MISH MASH Mandate: Hop Into History
Alabama Folklife Website


The Tinnitus Made Me Do It
23 song CD


Here's a fun one to round out the last dog days of your summertime. KS keeps it positive with this funky bunch of electronica-based tracks, all sure to get you up and moving to the beat.

The tracks are all short and sweet, so KS makes his statement with each one and moves on quickly to the next. There is absolutely no time to get bored, with every song full of cool sound effects and varying rhythms to keep you on your toes. As far as the sound goes, it has a retro 80s synth feel, with plenty of modern-styled beats to bring it up to date.

Part of the concept behind the album is to raise awareness about tinnitus, as it is something that KS suffers with on a daily basis. So let's all remember to turn it down (just a little) and hang on to the hearing.

MISH MASH Mandate: Now Hear This
KS CDBaby Webpage

Walter Trout And Friends
Full Circle
Ruf Records
13 song CD

The roster of guest musicians on Walter Trout's recent solo effort reads like a list from the blues hall of fame, past and present: John Mayall, Jeff Healy, Joe Bonamassa, Guitar Shorty, and many others. With help like that, it's almost impossible to fail, and Trout's album more than lives up to the expections of having such special guests.

From slow laid-back grooves to fierce, electric blues attacks, song after song on the disc hits it just right. According to the liner notes, many of the songs were done straight to tape as first takes with no overdubs, and this is apparent in the loose, live feel of the disc. It's not too polished, and that makes it really sound like the blues should, warts and all.

MISH MASH Mandate: How Blue Can You Get?
Ruf Records Website

Yesan Damen
The Never Beginning Story
New Wine Records
12 song CD

The group Yesan Damen borrows from past and present to forge their uniquely melancholy sound. The music reminds me of early 80s indie college rock, while the vocals are delivered with the oh-so-heartbroken style which is prevalent in modern alternative music. It's a nice mix of styles, and it works well with their introspective lyrics, which seem to focus mainly on spiritual themes.

The overall sound is pretty laid back, as the band takes its time to dwell upon each tune. While on the surface this may sound a little on the depressing side, it actually works in spite of itself. Certainly more of a sit at home on a rainy day kind of album, more so than one that makes you want to hit the highway. So put on a pot of coffee and let's talk.

MISH MASH Mandate: Black Coffee In Bed
Yesan Damen Website

Various Artists
Sanctuary Records
16 song CD

OK, my first question is, how do you do an album pitting US punk music versus that of the UK, without including two of the biggest UK punk bands? Perhaps they were only trying to make it a fair fight, but it seems to be quite pointless to hold such a battle without the likes of The Clash or The Jam.

Even with those limitations, the album does a pretty good job of doing a classic punk compilation without using the most obvious, over-used tracks. For example, the Sex Pistols are represented with a gloriously sloppy live version of "Anarchy In The UK," and the Ramones are represented with "Beat On The Brat". Some of the groups aren't worn out either: Generation X, The Undertones, The Buzzcocks, Black Flag, and Dead Boys. So at the very least we don't have to hear "Blitzkrieg Bop" or Iggy Pop's "Lust For Life" for the upteen-millionth time.

MISH MASH Mandate: Pugnacious Punks
Sanctuary Records Website

Carey Ott
Lucid Dream
Dualtone Records
12 song CD

Carey Ott's voice has a fragility that keeps you sitting on the edge of your seat. You hear the pang of pain and emotion, but there's an underlying sense of optimism there that lets you know everything is going to be alright.

It's a refreshing break from the sheer pessimism of modern rock, giving us a glimpse of the positive without slathering the fake smiles on too thick. An opitimistic pessimism? I'm not sure if there's such a thing, but it seems to fit.
At any rate, Ott's songwriting also reflects this attitude, giving us snatches of smart pop hooks without overloading us with too much of a good thing. It's an intelligent approach to pop for those who want a taste of the bittersweet.

MISH MASH Mandate: Refreshing Beverage
Dualtone Records Website

© 2006 Mish Mash Music Reviews, All Rights Reserved


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2005 Mish Mash Music Reviews, All Rights Reserved