"Parts of the Process"
Available at All That Jazz for $17.98
What if Billie Holliday and Sarah Vaughn were born in the last half of the 20th century instead of the first half? What if they were raised around urban beats, Korg keyboards and electric guitars instead of the baby grand pianos and horn sections of Harlem? What would they have done with their voices?
Those were the questions I asked as I listened to Morcheeba. If you peeled away the guitars and the samples, singer Skye Edwards sounds like a modern incarnation of the jazz diva, albeit with a soft British accent.
Her songs are just strings of images, but they tell stories. Your stories. Love stories.
As she sang, I thought of Bjork. I thought of Cat Power. I thought of Joni Mitchell. All those women who put the woman condition into words without resorting to trite catch phrases.
In the song "Otherwise," she sings "It ain't gonna hurt now/If you open up your eyes/You're making it worse now/Everytime you criticize/I'm under your curse now/But I call it compromise..."
Her voice sounds like a rough hand moving over silk.
"Parts of the Process" is a compilation of songs from four Morcheeba albums and a perfect entry point if you've never heard this band.
"Parts of the Process" is also a Malcolm Goble recommendation.
Rated: Part trip-hop, part chick flick.
Me First and the Gimme Gimmes
"Blow in the Wind"
Available at All That Jazz for $15.98
This album opens with a hard-rocking cover of Bob Dylan's "Blowin' in the Wind," complete with guitar solos, four-part harmonies and a tinge of sarcasm.
Every band that has a cover on their set list claims to "make the song their own," but as the Gimme Gimmes gag on the lyrics of the Beach Boys' classic "Sloop John B" or as they scream Cat Stevens' "Wild World" it sounds little like the originals.
Me First and the Gimme Gimmes is a side project and something of a stand-up comic routine for members of punk bands Lagwagon, NOFX and the Swingin' Utters.
There seems to be no rhyme or reason why certain '60s songs made the play list for this album. Each song is a sacred-cow classic, but the band gives each one a kick in the a** with a punk rock boot.
As you listen, you realize that Tammy Wynette's "Stand by your man" could have been a little funnier (they changed it to "Stand by your band") or "My Boyfriend's Back" sounds a lot better with louder guitar parts.
For any band that ever tried to play covers, take a lesson.
Rated: You'll know the words.
The Black Keys
Available at All That Jazz for $14.98
Is there such a thing as alternative blues?
If not, consider the genre invented. The instrumentation and the sad-man lyrics are 100 percent blues, but the approach is something new.
A two-man band with not so much as a liner note to accompany "Rubber Factory," The Black Keys are the kind of band that could play one night in a back woods juke joint, open the next night for the alternative blues man himself, Tom Waits, and wrap up the week by playing live on a late-night hipster college radio show.
And if you didn't pick up the concept by listening to its originals, the band lays out its one-foot-on-either-side-of-the-tracks approach to music, by following a rendition of the classic blues song "Grown So Ugly" ("Baby, this ain't me/Baby, this ain't me/Got so ugly I don't even know myself") with a honky-tonked version of The Kinks' "Act Nice and Gentle."
This album is also a Malcolm Goble.
Rated: Is there such a thing as modern vintage? If not, consider the sound invented.
-- Autumn Phillips