Louis Armstrong
The Wonderful World Of Louis Armstrong
Time Life
DVD & 2 CD Box Set

Louis Armstrong was such an obvious force in American music, it is almost easy to overlook him. It's like saying that water is wet --- we just take it for granted. Thankfully, Time Life has put together a helpful reminder as to why Armstrong is considered to be the most influential artist of all time when it comes to popular music. He brought jazz into the mainstream, and his popularity crossed over racial lines at a time when that was extremely rare, paving the way for future artists to break through these barriers with greater ease.

The two CDs cover a lot of ground, featuring songs from the 30s through the late 60s, mostly highlighting his singing tunes. His voice is distinct and instantly recognizable, there's not another one like it. It commands your attention, and its rough-hewn quality has an appeal that stands the test of time. The DVD features various performances from throughout his career, along with a number of famous faces along the way. When you watch Armstrong perform live, you understand why his memory is still revered to this day, more than 30 years after his passing.

MISH MASH Mandate: Now You Has Jazz!
Time Life Website

When The Lights Go Down
Progressive Global Records
14 song CD


Sojorn is the guiltiest of pleasures, one of those discs you turn up loud when no one else is around to hear or see. Sticky sweet and dripping with irresistible dance grooves, this disc is as infectious as they come.

The basic setup revolves around a male/female vocal duo featuring Hunter Williams and Jennifer Morrison, set above glistening and pulsating pop. The team plays off each other rather well, Williams coming across as the prowling macho guy and Morrison as the flirty ingenue. They often venture into a hip-hop mode, with Williams rapping and Morrison weaving soulful melodies around his rhymes. It's the perfect combination for pop bliss.

My only regret with this one is that I didn't have it over the summer---this is the perfect chill-out record for sitting by the pool. At the very least, I can dream about those lazy sunny days while I'm waiting out the hazy shades of winter.

MISH MASH Mandate: Summertime Blues
Progressive Global Records Website

Hello Operator
Hello Operator
Coalition Management
4 song CD


I don't know what it is about The Cars, but it seems that many new up-and-coming bands are paying homage to their quirky rock sound. Hello Operator embraces everything great about Ric Ocasek and the automotive boys, and they take it to the next level, making the sound all their own.

The group blends the best of 80s New Wave plastic synth rock with today's post-mod punkery, slamming together a smart little EP that rides the vibe brilliantly from beginning to end. Where Hello Operator really succeeds is their songwriting; the tunes are tight and they aren't afraid to be catchy. The hooks glide like clockwork, and you'll be tapping your feet and singing along before you realize it.

MISH MASH Mandate: Shake It Up
Hello Operator Website

Raise 'Em High
10 song CD


Every once and a while, a band will come along to wipe the slate clean. Caddle does just that, using their no-nonsense country rock to remind us that sometimes it's good to get back to the basics. Simply put, this is music from the bottom of the gutter --- down, dirty and just plain loud.

Southern Rock is the main attraction, chock full of redneck attitude and classic country-inspired plays on words, and those bases are all covered in the first song, Mississippi Doublewide. And it only gets better from there. Caddle is the band you want playing when you walk in the honky tonk, because they provide the perfect soundtrack for drowning sorrows or a good old-fashioned barfight.

MISH MASH Mandate: Mouth Of The South
Caddle Website


The Reformation
"The Floral War"
June Records
9 song CD


The Reformation is the working moniker for singer/songwriter/producer Westin Glass, who comes across in this release as a possible modern day successor to Brian Wilson. I know it sounds like a stretch, and it probably is. While Glass may not be quite at that level just yet, he's well on his way, as "The Floral War" falls just short of being a pop masterpiece. Yes, it's that good.

Glass is obviously thoroughly schooled in late 60s rock, as his songs skillfully embrace the innocence and freshness of that era without coming across like a throwback. He avoids the trappings of overused angst, which is so prevalent in contemporary music, and still retains the modern flare of irony. At the same time, he somehow blends the optimism of yesteryear with the ever-so-slightest sting of rebellion, borrowing a few pointers from post-punk to keep everything on edge. In other words, it's the best of both worlds, and not many artists can pull that off.

It'll be interesting to see where he can go from here. This disc would be hard to top, but if he does, then the comparison to Mr. Wilson won't seem too far off the mark.

MISH MASH Mandate: Promising Pop
The Reformation Website

The Size Queens
Is It IN Yet?
14 song CD

Goofy, yet somehow still touchingly poignant, The Size Queens offer up a captivating juxtaposition of biting attitude and songwriting aptitude. The sarcasm is poured on thick,
while the musical background is woven in a magical fashion.

Singer Adam Klein has the fragile tenor of Vic Chesnutt, an unbeautiful voice which is endearing in its weakness. He plants his tongue firmly in his cheek, and proceeds to sing absolutely ridiculous lines about a variety of ridiculous things, at one point pleadingly pining away with the lyric "You're my gummy bear." You almost don't know whether to laugh or cry, because the song is so darn good, and the words come right out of left field. The crazy thing is that it works, even though it doesn't exactly fit.

MISH MASH Mandate: Care Bears
The Size Queens Website

Impostor Syndrome
Fresh Air
4 song CD

Impostor Syndrome has its roots planted somewhere in the days of early punk rock, coming across like a mix between Blondie and the Pretenders before they got big. That probably has a lot to do with the strong female lead vocals from Kristen Persinos, as her voice is absolutely captivating.

The songs themselves are rough around the edges both musically and sonically, but that only adds to the punkish appeal. Persinos seems right at home growling along with her overdriven guitar lines, so there's no need to try and pretty it up, even though she could probably croon well-structured pop songs sweetly if she wanted to. Something tells me that too much polish would probably put out the fire this New York-based trio is trying to set, and that would be a shame. With that, I think I'll turn this one up a little louder.
MISH MASH Mandate: Great Pretender
Impostor Syndrome Website

© 2006 Mish Mash Music Reviews, All Rights Reserved


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2005 Mish Mash Music Reviews, All Rights Reserved