Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Review: Possibilities by Herbie Hancock & Friends

Herbie Hancock is an indexing nightmare. His love for experimentation has seen him tagged under techno, funk, rock, disco, hip hop, electronica, and I almost forgot, jazz, though I have almost all of his work tagged under classics and favorites. It was with some trepidation that the purist in me first listened to Possibilities since I have not yet been able to appreciate why The Definitive Herbie should include Rock-It. However, after several listens, this album stands out as a fine partnership that showcases the real talent of the singer collaborators (and Phish guitarist Tray Anastacio) who are spurred by the subtle and nonintrusive yet demanding backing of Hancock.

The opening track with aspiring bluesboy John Mayer, Stitched Up, sets the tone for the rest of the album, you are going to listen to pop, but of a highly jazzed up sort. Stitched Up is bouncy, minimalist swing, something that tells you to sit back and enjoy, and not to take things too seriously. Santana and Angelique Kidjo team up for Safiatou, a standard Santana riff-held song, one wonders if Hancock is employing restraint or is just not into it. To be taken strictly as a Santana track. Christina Aguilera on Song For You comes and changes that, and you realize how untapped this lady’s singing is. Her Grammy awards night performance of the same song is however a slightly better version though it falters a bit as it climaxes to a close. Sting comes across on Sister Moon like a track missed out on All This Time, brooding and beautifully twisted, and one is reminded of his 1987 Umbria Jazz Fest performance with Gil Evans. When Love Comes to Town with Joss Stone and Johnny Lang is a classic blues rock, complete with growls and yelps, and the duo belt it out with reckless abandon, a pleasure indeed, reminds me strangely of Pam Crain and Nondon Bagchi. The three songs that take time and repeat listens to make their point are Annie Lennox’s Hush, Hush, Hush, Paul Simons I Do It For Your Love, and Raul Midon’s I Just Called To Say I Love You.

Overall, a great album if one approaches it without preconditions. This is not a Hancock showcaser, he is just providing the consistency to the gravy, and good gravy it is. The singers all bring their best to the album, and are allowed to do what they want without being overpowered or jazzed over. A definite good buy.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Review: Chaos & Creation in the Backyard-Paul McCartney (Capitol)

Being born in a month of Prairie Wind and A Bigger Bang, Chaos and Creation definitely risks coming across as pointless and watered down. However, this is vintage Macca, taking his standard wry digs at his own sugary lyricism ("very twee/very me" on English Tea), with a smattering of exotic instruments, almost all played by himself, and an early adapter apology cum standard disclaimer (It's a fine line between recklessness and courage/.../there is a long way between chaos and creation), and of course, a love song ("Got me hooked/Got me hooked" on A Certain Softness) that is, true to himself, silly, all of this held together by some very fine engineering, though on repeated listening, the layering on some tracks does sound a little contrived, but one can live with it. The recurrent themes of loss and grief, requited and unrequited love, being misunderstood, and unbridled, if not corny, optimism (Only love is strong enough to take it on the chin) run through this album. This is no Mensa pop, not a Band on the Run, not even a Tug of War, but it spells craftsmanship and comfort at every turn, and will stay in the beatniks' changers for a while to come.

Friday, February 10, 2006


Some of my other writing, articles, poetry, and other rants blogged here.
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