Title: "Heavy Merge"
Label: Funk Sandwich Music
Format: 8 song CD
There's nothing quite like a great solid groove--Heavy Merge does not disappoint. Throw in the strong and beautiful voice of diva-in-the-making Genevieve Gazon, and you've got a record that can't miss.
At times, Heavy Merge reminds me of The Brand New Heavies, especially on the acid jazz grooves of "Elektra" and "Mother Instinct". The cool caribbean sounds of "Other Side" leave the soft impressions of Sade, while "Say Nothing" lets the band get aggressive with a funky fusion thump. The truly inspired parts of the album comes in the Latin flavored elements of "Photograph" and "Nino Bravo". "Photograph" begins with a jazzy be-bop piano which transitions into a Samba-inspired rave-up at the end. "Nino Bravo" is an incredible Latin groove that Gazon sings in Spanish.
Heavy Merge holds a different experience in each listen, revealing layer upon layer of skill and soul.
MISH MASH Mandate: Muy buena!
Title: "The Scapegoat Factory"
Label: Big Deal
Format: 11 song CD
The term "eclectic" would fall short of describing Cockeyed Ghost--while they embrace a traditional rock sound, their list of influences run long & deep. The most obvious being the Brian Wilson/Beach Boys/Jan & Dean sound that mysteriously creeps into almost every song. These guys really remind me of Urge Overkill in their approach, especially Urge's 1993 album "Saturation", which scattered multi-faceted pop around a hard rock core. Cockeyed Ghost does a little bit of the same, except their core is beach/surf music.
"I Hate Rock'n'Roll" starts the album with a fuzzed-out British Invasion sound that ironically bites the hand that feeds. Ramones-punk meets surf city in "Big Big Yeah", while "Crap" takes a pure punk kamikaze nosedive. "Falling Down the Hill" and The Fates Cry Foul" take an oddball turn, the former being a mellowed-out in trippiness, and the latter going the route of 70s piano pop (think Supertramp). "Coda For Carl" rounds out the CD with a retro surf number.
This one is unpredictable and exciting to listen to. Best of all, you'll being humming some of these tunes hours later.
MISH MASH Mandate: Surf's Up
Title: "Little Dreams"
Label: frumdahart productions
Format: 12 song CD
"A simple caress and you are mine" sings Jaime Michaels in "One Diamond Down", and he could well be making a reference to his uniquely captivating blend of soft, sometimes foreboding, bluesy music. His vocal tones and inflections remind me of James Taylor, while his enigmatic lyrics and arrangements have a quality much like Daniel Lanois.
"Steal Light" begins the album with a light country/blues shuffle that's just happy enough to share with family and friends on the back porch. "Almost Daedalus" gets a little more introspective and solitary, while "Never Be The Same" and "One Diamond Down" take on a darker, mysterious tone. A southern bayou sound wafts around "Somewhere Like Italy", which creates a feeling very similar to Lanois' work. "Waiting for You" slithers along with treacherous rhythms--it is a mean, melancholy song that bites with bitterness: "Nobody ever listens to a silly little man like you...you're just a jerk without a clue".
The genius of this album lies in its simpleness; subtle yet powerful in its bare honesty.
MISH MASH Mandate: Honest to goodness
Title: "Cellophane Persona"
Label: Peachy Way Records
Format: 12 song CD
The first four songs of this CD seemingly reveals a band steeped in slacker rock, centered around under-driven gangly guitars and post-grunge a la Pearl Jam/Eddie Vedder. What's funny is the alter ego of the band that pops up on song 5 ("Rabid") and extends to out to the end--a punk garage sound that revels in noisy classic rock riffage.
The album begins with "Cellophane Persona", a dissonant, almost humorous slacker classic, in course followed by "Sink", which deceives the listener with its ultra-subdued sad sounds. That's when they kick the guitars into overdrive and burn it up with the aforementioned "Rabid" and the weird 90s modern rock of "Latex Annie". The guys even go a little bit rockabilly on the instrumental "Hucklebuck", which quickly transmorgrifies into the garage smoker, "Neck 12".
Multiple personalities with a list of influences a mile long, Sleeve knows how to keep you riveted--mainly because you don't know what they will try next.
MISH MASH Mandate: To slack or not to slack
Title: "Pilgrim Soul"
Format: 10 song CD
Surprisingly sincere and open, Patrick McCarthy has no qualms about wearing his heart on his sleeve. The lyrics reveal a spiritual side that is refreshingly human and non-judgmental; a healthy dose of self-inspection that doesn't put on airs.
"Everywhere" leads off with a poppish, feel-good sound that bops along over a cool guitar riff. "It's Got To Be" follows with a slower introspective feel that starts to dig deeper: "Yes, I confess that I've stumbled/and trembled before/and questioned your authority/divinity and more". This continues with the beautifully lonely "Angel", which has a great backing vocal line provided by Sharon McCarthy. Mr. McCarthy throws in a twist with the 80s pop sound (Naked Eyes, perhaps?) of "Just Like Love".
Strong songwriting and integrity take "Pilgrim Soul" to the top. This is a very strong and solid piece of work.
MISH MASH Mandate: Solid and sincere
Format: 11 song CD
It's been said that familiarity breeds contempt. Perhaps this is the central fault of this mostly misguided tribute album. I mean, who needs to hear straightforward cover versions of LedZep staples that were worn out long ago by AOR radio--much less a poorly done RUN-DMC styled rap version of "Black Dog"(by The Royal Mixxers)?
WHAT IS: The only saving grace comes in the form of four songs that are somewhat "obscure" by Zep standards. "Down By The Seaside" is delivered in a creatively unique & low-key way by Robert Kuhlmann & Flying Boats--it's almost hard to identify it as a Zep tune. The Earwigs present a fun, hopping ska version of "Four Sticks" that breathes new life into this hard rock dinosaur. Twice Shy does its best INXS swagger in an 80s rock dress-up of "In The Evening", and Hellen Keller Plaid does a fair attempt at juicing "What Is And What Should Never Be".
WHAT SHOULD NEVER BE: The rest of the album tends to rehash most of the Zep "hits" in close to standard fashion (one exception would be the old blues "Rock and Roll", but it is predictably weak). It would have been better to dig a little deeper into the Zep catalog to find more offbeat tunes--it would have at least served up a few things we haven't heard a million times already.
MISH MASH Mandate: Dazed, confused, crash, and burn...