Les Paul and Friends
"American Made/World Played"
Available at All That Jazz for $16.98
Les Paul performs every Monday night at the Iridium Jazz Club in New York, reminding us that even though he's 90 years old and struggling with arthritis, the legend is still among us.
"American Made/World Played" is part of a marketing blitz that includes an autobiography and a biography as well as re-releases of early albums, all in celebration of his ninth decade on this planet and in recognition of all he's given to music during those years.
This album is nothing like Paul's other music, which won't matter to most as he tends to be better known for the solid-body Gibson guitar that bears his name than for his music.
Changing rock music forever, Paul was the inventor of said guitar and the pioneer of several widely used rock 'n' roll studio techniques.
Paul's life and this album are all about the guitar.
This newest album brings in guest musicians who, like Paul, represent a living history of the instrument. The guests include Eric Clapton and Keith Richards.
Although no one who has seen Les Paul recently would predict the end of his life anytime soon, "American Made/World Played" reminds me of Johnny Cash's America series, released as a last musical statement before he died.
It's one last chance to make a mark -- to make sure he's remembered.
Rated: Don't worry, Les. I don't think they'll forget.
"Blinking Lights and Other Revelations"
Available at All That Jazz for $15.98
This is one of the sweetest albums I've heard in a while. As I listen, I imagine myself in a long pink tutu, spinning inside a jewelry box. But I am smoking a Pall Mall, and somehow I have three days worth of man stubble on my chin. It's the musical effect of melodies that tip-toe through the upper end of the treble clef but are accompanied by horns and a sad, dive bar Tom Waits outlook.
If the early Beatles lullabies were sung by a jaded and cynical indie band, it might be this album.
"Blinking Lights and Other Revelations" is another album for the "Garden State" soundtrack crowd.
Consider these lyrics, "Not much to see and not much left to lose / I know I can walk along the tracks / it may take a little longer / But I know how to find my way back / I feel like an old railroad man / getting on board at the end of an age / stations empty and the whistle blows / things are faster now and this train is just too slow."
Beautiful sentiment, but not one you should listen to like a mantra, or at least not in February.
Although Les Paul's "American Made ..." is a perfect album to do manual labor to, the Eels' "Blinking Lights" is better for a day such as last Sunday, when it won't stop raining and you're lying face down on the living room rug.
Rated: If you like breaking glass with your pump organ, this album is for you.
Available at All That Jazz for $16.98
Thank God I am a sucker for packaging. Thank God that anything hinting of Japanese obscuria catches my eye, filling my life with the strangest and most wonderful music.
Thank you for my one-mindedness, because I am always rewarded.
Consider this find discovered in the bins of All That Jazz.
Before you even get to the music, there's a 30-day calendar of April. Each day is a different sketch by Japanese cartoonist Yoshitomo Nara. Along with the drawings of unchildlike children, there is a listing of the holidays celebrated each day of the month. We all know that April 1 is April Fool's Day, but did you know that April 4 is "Drop of Water is a Grain of Gold Day" in Turkmenistan?
Fantomas are the experimental noise guardian of the concept album.
"Suspended Animation" is a celebration of cartoon music and of the month of April. There are 30 tracks -- one for each day in April -- and each song is full of cartoon sounds strung together with fast guitar and the occasional throaty scream.
"Suspended Animation" was recorded at the same time as Fantomas' last release, "Delirium Cordia," an album that contained one 74-minute noise-rock song.
This album isn't for everyone -- think John Zorn or Mr. Bungle -- but for those with a sense of the absurd and a desire for something original, this is it.
Rated: I can't wait to celebrate "Eight Track Tape Day" next April 11.
-- Autumn Phillips