CD Reviews for Nov. 17

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Mike Hart

Copy editor Mike Hart writes CD reviews for 4 Points. Contact him at 871-4206 or e-mail mhart@steamboatpilot.com.

Scissor Sisters

"Ta-Dah"

On sale at All That Jazz for $15.98

With the probable exception of the majority of those living in Red States, there aren't too many people who can honestly say they don't like the Scissor Sisters.

The band's flamboyant glam rock- and disco-influenced sound is as addictive - and for the same reasons - as many of its influences, including Elton John, David Bowie and Duran Duran.

Although the success of a band drawing from the sound of an era that spawned such spite (see the "Disco Sucks" campaign that culminated in the disco demolition night at Comiskey Park in Chicago) comes as a surprise to some (especially with its inevitable comparisons to the Bee Gees), the band fills a void of '70s-era dance music that is rarely claimed as an influence, or even acknowledged, by artists today.

Certainly the popularity of the Scissor Sisters' success can partly be attributed to its niche, but that insults the band's ability to write infectious, intelligent dance songs that place it in a league of such acts as Jamiroquai - groups trying to make old-school club records in a world of Justin Timberlakes, Beyonces and Ludacrises.

With songs such as "I Don't Feel Like Dancin'" (co-written by John), it's hard to write Scissor Sisters off as a gimmick.

"I Don't Feel Like Dancin'," the single from the band's latest album, "Ta-Dah," is not only one of the best dance songs of 2006, it's one of the best singles of the year. Jake Shears' falsetto vocals, a trademark of the band, lead the song's frolicking beat and its listeners on the dance floor in a fit of intrepid irony.

And although "I Don't Feel Like Dancin'" might be the standout track, the band embraces an array of sounds on "Ta-Dah" - all reminiscent of the music of the late '70s and early '80s. The second single, "Land of a Thousand Words," shows off the band's darker side. A ballad about isolation, "Land of a Thousand Words" undoubtedly draws from the play-turned-film "Hedwig and The Angry Inch."

Other highlights of the album include "The Other Side," a song saturated in melodrama, which also conjures scenes from "Hedwig," and "Kiss You Off," which is steeped in such pre-hair band artists as Pat Benatar.

Rating: '''

Medeski, Scofield, Martin & Wood

"Out Louder"

On sale at All That Jazz for $15.98

"Out Louder" isn't the first album in which John Medeski, John Scofield, Billy Martin and Chris Wood have collaborated, but the fact that it's the extremely talented foursome's first time recording under the moniker Medeski, Scofield, Martin & Wood is cause for excitement.

Previously working together on Scofield's "A Go Go," the quartet shares most of the writing credit on "Out Louder," and from the moment the album's first song, "Little Walter Rides Again," opens with Martin's drumming, it's obvious the band members enjoy working with one another.

The album's blithe nature and its experimentation with an assortment of genres yield a contagious joy that will anchor listeners' ears.

After the funky, organ-driven opener, the band moves onto a rock 'n' roll avenue with "Miles Behind," in which Scofield incorporates a wah pedal and fuzzy distortion in a psychedelic blaze.

Less than three minutes later, the band pays homage to Herbie Hancock with the harmonica-laden "In Case the World Changes Its Mind."

Then there's a Latin-leaning bit of acid jazz, "Tequila Chocolate," which, after a bass solo introduction by Wood, finds the band on the fringe of a straightforward Latin number.

"Out Louder" closes with a couple of covers - Peter Tosh's "Legalize It" and The Beatles' "Julia." Under normal circumstances, the message of Tosh's lyrics probably would steal the spotlight, but in this case - instrumental takes on the songs - it's "Julia" that leaves the lasting impression. In fact, MSM&W's soothing take on the "White Album" song is among the best variations of a Beatles song ever, and, in turn, makes it one of the best recordings on the album.

Rating: ''''

The Who

"Endless Wire"

On sale at All That Jazz for $15.98

The opening notes of The Who's "Endless Wire" should sound familiar. They're produced by the same synthesizer system employed on the band's hit "Baba O'Riley."

But "Fragments," the opening song of The Who's first studio album of original compositions in 24 years, isn't an attempt to relive the band's past, nor - wisely - is the rest of the album.

Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend are all that's left of the band's original lineup, and rather than try to fill the vacancies of drummer Keith Moon and bassist John Entwistle, both deceased, Townshend takes on most of the performing duties himself - guitar, banjo, violin and drums.

Townshend's lyrics on "Endless Wire" cover injustice ("A Man in a Purple Dress"), Stockholm syndrome ("Black Widow's Eyes") and divinity ("God Speaks of Marty Robbins") with the quirky, common man's state of mind that he's always had, and Daltry delivers them with as much zeal as ever (most notably on "In the Ether," where he pulls off a Louis Armstrong impression).

The second half of the album, not surprisingly, includes a mini rock opera called "Wire & Glass," which is meant to accompany a novella by Townshend called "The Boy Who Heard Music." It's not "Tommy," but it's an energetic soundtrack.

The opera climaxes with "Mirror Door," which closes with Daltry listing some of history's great musicians - Elvis Presley, Mozart, Johnny Cash and Beethoven, among others.

The album is accompanied by "Live at Lyon," a DVD which features footage of a July performance in France that includes classics "I Can't Explain," "Behind Blue Eyes," "Baba O'Riley," "Won't Get Fooled Again," as well as a song from "Endless Wire," "Mike Post Theme."

Seeing Daltry and Townshend well-groomed and wearing tennis shoes is a far cry from watching the band's "Live at Leeds" performance. But, considering Townshend now is partially deaf and suffers from tinnitus, it's impressive to see him playing an electric guitar, even if it's without the energy he held in his younger days.

Rating: ''''

- Mike Hart/4 Points

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