|The Seed||Natural Remedy||2:54|
|Watching Life||Natural Remedy||3:22|
|Take it Away||Natural Remedy||2:46|
|Wrong Time||Natural Remedy||4:24|
|Our Arms||Natural Remedy||4:09|
|On My Own||Natural Remedy||4:47|
|Body and Soul||Natural Remedy||2:45|
This two-fer CD (which replicates a double-LP reissue from 1976) pulls together two strong albums Joe Simon recorded in 1969 onto one disc. While The Chokin' Kind sounds a bit more spare in terms of its arrangements and production, and Better Than Ever lacks any songs written by Harlan Howard, for the most part these two albums fit together quite well; both sets are steeped in Southern soul with a pronounced C&W influence, and both make the most of Simon's strong, sad, and smoky voice. Both halves of the disc are also seasoned with a healthy selection of covers, and if Simon doesn't exactly cut Otis Redding on "(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay" or Glen Campbell on "Wichita Lineman," he brings qualities to both that set them apart from the better-known originals. And Joe Simon is at the top of his form on all 22 tracks; impassioned without overplaying his hand, and displaying a disarming emotional honesty that brings a touch of sorrow to even his most optimistic moments, this is stuff anyone who loves Southern soul will fall for. Strong material well presented (except for some audio anomalies on "Wounded Man"), this isn't quite as useful for beginners as Rhino's superb Music in My Bones: The Best of Joe Simon, but anyone with a taste for Simon's early work will love it.
Here is more evidence that fado is one of the great urban sounds, and Amalia herself, at her best, one of the finest singers this century has produced. No frills here, just enchantment backed by the equally classic duo of guitars, Portuguese (Jaime Santos) and six-stringed (Domingos Camarinha or Santos Moreira). Three cuts are in Spanish. The rest are pure Lisbon saudade.
In 2001, Ekkehard Ehlers released a compositional cycle of abstract tributes to artistic personalities. Released as a string of five EPs and singles on Staubgold and Bottrop-Boy throughout 2001 and early 2002, they were later culled and issued by Staubgold as Ekkehard Ehlers Plays in May of that year. The album comprises ten tracks, two per artist. Ehlers' music never references the works of its namesakes.
Instead it draws inspiration from a certain state that the music of Cornelius Cardew, Albert Ayler, and Robert Johnson, the films of John Cassavetes, and the writings of Hubert Fichte create in Ehlers' mind. Although each set has its own character, associating it with the corresponding artist simply doesn't work -- and to add to the intentional confusion, the order in which the EPs' titles are listed on the front cover and the actual track list given in the booklet differ. Ehlers' music draws on German experimental ambient and minimal techno, but also post-rock melancholy and drone-based improvisation. The best pieces are the two "Ekkehard Ehlers Plays Albert Ayler" tracks, featuring slow cello notes (almost drones) by Anka Hirsch. They sound like funeral marches. The two "Ekkehard Ehlers Plays Hubert Fichte" tracks, with delicate guitar work by Joseph Suchy, also captivate. On the other hand, the dancefloor-friendly beat in the concluding "Ekkehard Ehlers Plays Robert Johnson" brings things to an awkward end.
This album generates its own universe of cultural references but, beyond its conceptual side, it draws the listener into a highly introspective sound world, slow-changing and mesmerizing. It eschews the clichés of clicks + cuts, microsound, or any other trend rooted in experimental electronica at the time, making it definitely one of the strongest, most personal artistic statements of 2002. Highly recommended.
Ronnie Hawkins is known for many things but ballads are not one of them. Bear Family’s 2011 set proves this to be a misconception, illustrating that Hawkins is as adept with a slow burn as he is with a hopping rockabilly beat. Strictly speaking, these aren’t all ballads, at least not in the folk sense: there are plenty of those, but there are bluesy grinds, swaying slow dance crossovers, rolling progressive country, and any number of slow tunes, all of which are handled with ease by Hawkins.
Bear Family’s generous 30-track disc skips through the eras with grace, with simple early-‘60s sides sitting next to slicker ‘70s productions, but the disc never plays schizophrenically; rather, the shifting sounds reveal how Ronnie Hawkins could always deliver a song with unassuming skill.