Record reviews for Nov. 26

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Escalay: The Water Wheel

Oud music from Nubia

by Hamza El Din

I found this album in a used record store years ago for a couple of dollars while I was going through a Middle Eastern music phase. I was in love with the sound of the oud (a kind of thick-bellied guitar played in Turkey, Egypt and surrounding areas). I listened to it once and didn't like it. It sat on the shelf for years protected by its cardboard sleeve. No scratches. No dust. No play.

Hamza El Din hails from Northern Sudan. His music is a strange combination of Middle Eastern and African influences. His music is slow, going a whole measure with only one note played. His voice is more of a cry, the cry of the nomad alone in the desert.

I didn't take Hamza off the shelf until two weeks ago. I was given an old Califone phonograph, the kind of record player that comes in a vinyl suitcase and probably was used by some public school kindergarten class decades ago. I wanted to test the needle on a record I didn't care about, so I brought out old wailing Hamza El Din.

The needle hit the record, and I heard the music in a way I wasn't able to hear it years ago. I felt an ache for a place far away -- a place I've never been -- and I've been using the record to transport me there over and over again.

All That Jazz can order El Din's other album, "Instrumental and Vocal Music of Nubia," for $15. "The Water Wheel" is available on Amazon.com for $42.98.

Plastic Ono Band

John Lennon / Yoko Ono

This is another album that sat on the shelf for months before I gained an appreciation for it. The album was ranked No. 22 in Rolling Stone Magazine's "Top 500 Albums of All Time" issue last year, which put it in my must-buy memory bank.

I saw a used copy of the "Plastic Ono Band" record in the sale rack this summer and shelled out $3 to see what all the hype was about. I carried my pile of records home and put the record on for a few waiting friends. I left the room to take a shower.

When I returned, both of my friends were writhing on the floor clutching their ears. The record was still spinning, but the needle was off.

"We couldn't take it anymore."

The Plastic Ono Band album also is known as the "Primal Scream" album.

John Lennon opens Side B by saying, "Now Yoko is going to do her thing all over you." At first, it sounds like she is choking on her tears. Then she is full-on screaming over the sound of guitars.

My friend's pain kept me from listening to the album until recently. I didn't cover my ears. I listened. I liked it. The album isn't for everyone, but if you're a fan of Lydia Lunch or experimental noise bands, the Plastic Ono Band can be ordered at All That Jazz for $16.98.

Welcome to the Monkey House

The Dandy Warhols

This is a good transitional album for vanilla listeners who are trapped in the world of crappy pop music but want to get out. Breaking free from popular music's candy-coated ear mucus takes a series of baby steps and a desire to feed yourself rather than being fed.

I heard the Dandy Warhols for the first time on the radio. Their music is catchy and poppy, but, with their obvious influence from Velvet Underground and Nico, the band is willing to experiment with musical styles.

The vinyl pressing comes in yellow, which makes it just as fun to watch as it is to listen to.

The Dandy Warhols have opened for such musicians as David Bowie, if that helps pique your interest. "Welcome to the Monkey House" can be ordered from All That Jazz for $17.98.

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