By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
Are We There Yet? is by no means bad, but it’s all too familiar a terrain, and Bley’s apparent dearth of new ideas is indicated by the inclusion of as many Swallow compositions as her own (plus Kurt Weill’s “Lost in the Stars,” which Bley had previously arranged and recorded to magical effect as a big-band cut with Phil Woods). Bley is most effective when making the unexpected sound natural and off-the-cuff, but here it all merely sounds rehearsed. Swallow’s solos are gorgeous, as always, but Bley’s imagination sounds bound by her pianistic limitations. In fact, the album’s most effective turns come off like sketchbook ideas for big-band versions.
Along with the relative lack of new Bley material, Are We There Yet?, while certainly an engaging listen, mainly raises the following question: Why is one of the great large-ensemble composer-arrangers in jazz not composing and arranging more often for large ensembles? (Skip Heller)
THE ELECTRIC HELLFIRE CLUB
Witness the Millennium (Cleopatra)
|Listen to The Electric Hellfire Club:
The demonically filtered vocals on “Speed Demon” and “My Name Is Legion” evoke the Prince of Darkness him/herself — which is always a cool thing. Apocalyptic keyboard crescendos and faux pipe organs leaven the bulldozing guitar grind for just the right balance of cheese whiz and metallic cojones. And whether EHC have a forked tongue planted in cheek or not is missing the point, because the Christ-bashing on Witness the Millennium is truly inspired. “The Bishop’s Folly” begins with haunted-house harpsichord backed by the choir from The Omen as vocalist Thomas Thorn cries, “Somewhere in the night a fallen priest/Celebrates a Mass in the name of the beast/He gives in to his lust and breaks his vow/He serves a different master now.” This anti-Christian music is so silly it’d give Pat Robertson and the whole congregation a good chuckle.
For dancing goths who cut their fangs on the new-wavy synth pop of EHC’s Calling Dr. Luv, Witness the Millennium’s head-bangerisms could chafe a bit. As bona fide devotees of Anton La Vey and the Church of Satan, Thorn et al. probably thought an industrial-strength ear punisher was the more appropriate homage to their lord below. They could be right. (Andrew Lentz)
Crazy Rhythm: The Standard Transcriptions (Bloodshot/Revival)
Hank Penny, the Alabama-born country-jazz wise guy, was a one-of-a-kind talent, an outspoken renegade whose refusal to compromise and natural tendency to take off on wild improvisatory flights lost him more than one job. He arrived here in 1945, driven from the Southeast by a long-running grudge between himself and the popular Grand Ole Opry road shows, which he despised both for “fostering bad hillbilly music” and for the touring Opry packages’ tendency to take over any new territory that Penny himself had just gotten heated up. Where else could he go but Los Angeles?
Best known for chart toppers “Won’t You Ride in My Little Red Wagon” and “Don’t Roll Those Bloodshot Eyes at Me” (also a 1951 hit for blues shouter Wynonie Harris), by the time he opened North Hollywood shrine the Palomino in 1949, Penny had more than a decade of recording behind him and a future full of strife ahead. In the meantime, though, he was cutting some of the funniest, jammingest discs in country music. This 30-track collection of previously unreleased early-1950s broadcast transcriptions shows off both of Penny’s specialties — insane novelties such as “White Shotguns” and “Catch ’Em Young, Treat ’Em Rough, Tell ’Em Nothing,” along with swinging, hot instrumentals like “The Penny Opus No. 1” and, dig it kiddies, “Progressive Country Music for a Hollywood Flapper.”
Despite a commercially shrewd tendency to clown around, Penny also had a gift for pop (“Mister and Mississippi”), jazz (“Wang Wang Blues”) and ballads (“We Met Too Late”), which keep this set on a solid footing. While clogged with a few too many weak throwaways like “Peroxide Blonde,” there are also plenty of opulent delights here, including the marvelously bruised Eddie and Dearest Dean–penned “I’m Not in Love (Just Involved)” and an aching instrumental version of “September Song” that’s so moody it sounds almost dirgelike.
Penny, who died in 1992, was a powerful talent with a singular flair for juxtaposing the hilarious and the agonized — a characteristic mix the hardheaded Alabamian did better than just about anyone else in the business. (Jonny Whiteside)