Album Review Saturdays 2024 Episode 20

It’s hard to believe that Album Review Saturdays 2024 is finishing up May with this our Episode 20.  While we can count on time marching on, we can equally count on the releases continuing to reach the digital and local shelves at a near daunting pace.  I wish I was retired or wealthy enough to do this full time, allowing the music to utterly consume me night and day, but the realities of the situation are probably equal to that of yours (wouldn’t we all love to just do what we love all day and night long).  This Album Review Saturdays 2024 Episode 20 we have English singer-songwriter that was a huge part of the electronic merge of alternative technically coming out with her first true solo album.  The second is a long standing swamp-rock, southern bluesing band that got its beginnings in 1969 because Frank Zappa fired a Mothers of Invention member who was just too talented to not have his own band.  There’s a push, right!  And then, we take on a young woman who might be approaching a one-of-a-kind vocal delivery status, and a master-type-musician in her brother, as they deviate — yet use impressive musical allegories to the beautiful, past — to accentuate their distance from the usual music industry chords and common tracks.  Yes, it’s another big album on Album Review Saturdays from Beyond Your Radio that we were anxious to get our ears into!  And, now, let’s give you what we thought!

 

LINK TO OUR YOUTUBE VERSION
[Mark Kuligowski & Panelist, The Grateful Dude, discuss these (3) albums + adds three (3) more reviews!]

 

 

Beth GibbonsLives Outgrown

Portishead is definitely one of the most important electronica meshed alternative bands of the 90s.  The trip-hop meets experimental aspects of rock with loop, real orchestra and electronic blending was ear-y, melodic, avant-garde, and classic.  The elements within are dynamic, but all held together by a unique, English woman, who had the specialized, whispy and angular delivery to not only pull it off, but to send it soaring.  That voice was Bristol’s Beth Gibbons, and she was nowhere near the household name of her awesomely named band.  I still remember the first time I heard the debut, Dummy, and the shivers it send through my body.  And now, nearly thirty years after the Mercury Prize winning, Dummy, Ms. Beth Gibbons emerges from a Polish classical album from 2019, Henryk Górecki: Symphony No. 3, where she brings to the music multiverse what is technically considered her solo debut, Lives Outgrown.

There is no question that she is under the heavy influence of orchestration, percussion, and the arrangements and how they create a wave of emotions and settings for song-writing.  The layers of responsibility that are on this recording are an audio astonishment to some, but to those that know of Portishead, and that magical night at the Roseland Ballroom in New York City know full on how orchestration changes everything, and the power of the music.  Beth Gibbons is truly one who understands, appreciates, and loves to push that environment into smaller places in sound, which is what makes her and her past a unique signature.  This is where Lives Outgrown lives, breathes, and navigates for over forty-five minutes filled with variety of sparseness of orchestral arranging, electronic-ambient enhancements, and the beautiful, emotive, storytelling vocals of Gibbons.

When we reach ‘Rewind’ we begin to hear the addition of international flavors into the mix, which I truly love, because she didn’t engage us right away, leaving the perfect movements and moments (including the strings) to showcase a change in the album.  It’s almost as if this is the bridge of the album, instead of that of a particular song.  Her vocal has even changed to some degree, leaving an edgier drift on it while she allows it to hang majestically in front of the out-of-control — gone to far soundscape that comes.  It’s probably the darkest of the tracks, but it is brilliant even in the addition of loops of children and seagulls (I believe).  It’s remarkable detail.

If you’re a Portishead fan, this might take a few listens to find your place in this.  A faster process if you had listened to her 2019 album mentioned above, as you already have a point of reference to the utilization of orchestra over the electronica of the past.  The richness of this record extends to every minor and major part, from her vocal to the variety of live orchestral percussion, to the strings, and eventuality of horn entry.  This is massive, yet subdued to the overall pursuit.  There were a few times I felt like a soundtrack entry might be in her future, like that of James Bond perhaps?  The arrangements, while reaching bleak arenas, are the best thing to grace 2024 so far in this scope of alternative music, and something that I encourage all our music multiverse travelers to partake of with determination, as this is what exploring music is supposed to be.  At the hands of a courageous, untrained, and slightly unusual combinational artist, Lives Outgrown, is rich despite the bleakness, and deserved of sincere attention for the first alternative-classical album ever made (I’m sure there was an orchestra right, considering I don’t see a list of musicians — fingers crossed).

The Band

  • Beth Gibbons – vocals, production, mixing (all tracks); engineering (tracks 1, 3–10), arrangement (3, 8, 9)
  • James Ford – production, mixing, engineering (all tracks); arrangement (tracks 3, 8)
  • Lee Harris – additional engineering, additional production
  • Bridget Samuels – arrangement (tracks 1, 3)

Lives Outgrown Tracklisting

  1. Tell Me Who You Are Today
  2. Floating On A Moment
  3. Burden Of Life
  4. Lost Changes
  5. Rewind
  6. Reaching Out
  7. Oceans
  8. For Sale
  9. Beyond The Sun
  10. Whispering Love

 

 

Little FeatSam’s Place

Now I don’t know exactly where Sam’s Place is, but I’m sure I’ve passed by it a few times in my lifetime. Whether it’s in New Orleans or not, it certainly seems Creole in nature by the southern blues or swamp rock that they’ve always seemed to be categorized as, even if they’re from California. Now what I do know, is that the Sam’s Place, is that comfort food, that comfortable place, a place you can count on to bring you back or ground you. You get me musical drift or my musical plate? This is a grounded recording that harkens to a place, a time signature of sorts, and a music that at its basic principal is there to simply move – get you motivated by hearing familiarity, easy comparisons, and the tribulations and triumphs that life will offer.

This album is a well done, southernly executed bluesy and raspy little record to remind you of the simple way music can be catchy, presented, and darn right easily entertaining.  Amidst all the crazy albums I’ve listened to this year, and the compositionally sound and unsound, Little Feat has managed to take me back to the root of the equation and solve for “c.” And, “c” stands for comfort, because it certainly doesn’t stand for complicated.  You are going to hear the common chord structure of the blues, maybe even think they’re going to do a cover or two, and that’s as it’s intended.  Even the vocabulary of the lyrics is meant to strip it all down, and even ‘Mellow Down Easy,’ as the second to last song suggests in the harmonic blasting blues riffed song that’s been dug up and respun a dozen times by greats, bar bands, and people by a campfire.

You know what isn’t going to be comfortable for some, is Sam Clayton doing all of the vocals for every track, because this is the first album to ever feature him as the vocalist. But, I think it’s the right, solid, and perfect choice to carry the record.  He’s got it, and he’s even got a little Joe Cocker to his vocal, too.  It moves right into the harmonics of the entire album, and it does have a that genuine feel of what is being carried out around the audio of Sam’s Place.  So does it sound like Little Feat?   Well, if you’re referring to the 1970s version, I can tell you that it sort of does NOT, but I don’t think that’s what most will be expecting after the thirty years of changes, and life’s departures.  It is played though with the same feel for song structure allowing guitars, pianos, organs, and vocals to find their place within the southern melody, and that’s truly groove and jam of Little Feat from the 1971 debut self-titled album to 1988’s pop-driven Let It Roll.

Come on in to Sam’s Place, but bring your easy appetite. Don’t expect some fancy Eggs Benedict, Fois Gras, or Beef Wellington. Expect a heaping portion of Alligator bites, meat loaf, and smoked potato-salad with a nice cup of shine or hooch. The music is just as heaving as the portions with extra butter and slide sizzle on the side.  Will this start a new opening of chain restaurants?  Probably not, but it’s a great little roadside distraction in a complicated music environment and world.

The Band

  • Sam Clayton – percussions, lead vocalist
  • Scott Sharrard – lead guitar, vocals
  • Tony Leone – drums, vocals
  • Bill Payne – keyboards/piano, vocals
  • Fred Tackett – guitar, vocals
  • Kenny Gradney – bass

Sam’s Place Tracklisting

  1. Milkman
  2. You’ll Be Mine
  3. Long Distance Call (feat. Bonnie Raitt)
  4. Don’t Go No Further
  5. Can’t Be Satisfied
  6. Last Night
  7. Why People Like That
  8. Mellow Down Easy
  9. Got My Mojo Working (Live)

 

 

 

 

Billie Eilish – Hit Me Hard and Soft

It is very hard in the modern music world to find yourself as completely unique. There always seems to be some sort of comparison one can make to some other band or artist from the past or even the current music multiverse that share a sound, a type of singing style, or the creative ruses. The truth is, a person’s influences usually lead to them being compared slightly to them, and especially if there is a mesh variety in the artist’s passion for the art. Rare to have a signature to your material, delivery and albums. I can think of Sting, Bob Dylan, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Tool, Frank Zappa, and Bessie Smith just off the cuff. Distinct from start to finish. This is starting to be the catch of Billie Eilish, and she make more strides to closing her circle of song-writing, fortifying her position, as her brother steps carefully and masterfully into classical touches, music memorials, and a slick sense that the minutest amount of quality can go a very long and deep.

Oddly enough (after that great paragraph intro), Hit Me Hard and Soft is exactly the album one would be expecting from Billie Eilish.  She can’t escape her vocal, and she would be extremely foolish to try to parade into a pop or indie environment without a hazmat suit.  She lives and breathes this album in all her tones, under-the-breath statements, and intoxicating pronunciation queues.  The album is desperate while it’s hopeful.  It is a search for identities as much as it is about the expression of them.  It is the first Eilish record that I believe is free from trying to make something to bring to the masses, rather than trying to put the music into a carefully selected genre.  She is the very opposite of Taylor Swift in choosing her position.  The position is chosen based on the whim of the duo and their passion toward the music, and where the songs lead them (as much as it is to where it leads us the listener, too).

The shackles of the industry are completely off, and I don’t feel they need or feel the need to play by any such rules.  There is also a clever, calculated way of letting go, allowing a lot more sound in (even if they are brief or understated).  They are wonderfully placed and produced (the groove of the record sneaks up on you in a lot of places), and this is something of the effect of Finneas on what is Billie Eilish.  There’s fun in the movement of the record, and there’s sincerity, too.  Whether acoustic or hip-hoping oriented, there was not a moment of the record that I thought was there for filler purposes.  Delicate?  Yes, there’s plenty of it within the song-writing, the melodies, and in the intentful and mindfully produced details.  While it has the delicate it does stiffen to engage, to make an emphasis, and to help the ear contemplate the worth of the hard and the soft.

This is her best full record, and it appears to my ear that the duo is going to continue to trend upward, considering the sounds and the attention to detail I am still hearing in this record.  Her vocal has miles to go before it could even think of sleeping, while the creative genius of musician and songbird-writer moves into what sounds to be seamless sympatico.  Think of these two like you do Atticus Ross and Nine Inch Nails, and you will get an understanding of the status of music creation they are in.  Now, they just have to work on those album covers (you know what I mean).

The Band

  • Billie Eilish – vocals, keyboards, synthesizers, vocal editing, engineering
  • Finneas – bass, drums, glockenspiel, guitar, keyboards, percussion, programming, synthesizer, vocals, production, engineering, vocal engineering (all tracks);
    string arrangement (tracks 1, 6, 10)
  • Andrew Marshall – drums, percussion
  • Andrew Yee – cello (tracks 1, 6, 10)
  • Andrew Marshall – drums, percussion (tracks 1, 6, 10)
  • Nathan Schram – viola (tracks 1, 6, 10)
  • Amy Schroeder – violin (tracks 1, 6, 10)
  • Domenic Salerni – violin (tracks 1, 6, 10)

Hit Me Hard and Soft Tracklisting

  1. Skinny
  2. Lunch
  3. Chihiro
  4. Birds of a Feather
  5. Wildflower
  6. The Greatest”
  7. L’Amour de Ma Vie
  8. The Diner
  9. Bittersuite
  10. Blue
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