Summer Zephyrs

Some music to brighten and lively up your summer, all of them highlighting the best of styles that may be neglected today, but at their finest are timeless:

CD: Live on the Sunset Strip by Otis Redding — I won’t play the comparative game and say that Otis Redding was the greatest soul singer ever. After all, in a genre bursting with incredible vocalists in its day — “greatest” could just as easily be applied to Sam Cooke, Jackie Wilson, Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye and countless others — singing was a central tenet of the style. And so was the groove and bands that rollicked and rolled. And this expanded re-release from a 1966 stand by Redding at the legendary Whiskey A Go Go in Los Angeles catches three complete sets by a musical dynamo backed by his equally fervent ensemble at the height of his powers. Like a church on fire at his sweatiest and a beating human heart drenched with tears at his most heartbroken, Redding was powerful emotion made musical, ripping the roof off the joint in the kind of impassioned performance that it’s become hard to imagine coming close to today. This Southern friend feast with seconds and thirds served up reminds us of not just what we lost when Redding died at such a young age but also a style that has lost its magical yet very human essence.

CD: Intriguer by Crowded House — “Pop” didn’t used to be a dirty word to folks with more real as well as refined musical taste, and the group that made the purest pop-rock for now people in the late 1980s into the ’90s has returned to not just salvage but shine up and sophisticate the notion for this modern day. Singer, main songwriter and bandleader Neil Finn aptly describes this album as “exotic in parts, traditional in origin.” At its core is the eternal charm of the catchy, well-constructed pop song, sung with passion and beauty, that can be traced straight back to The Beatles. And what Crowded House has done before and now again is raise pop-rock to its highest art in contemporary terms. Sophisticated enough to wow even the most finicky listener while still sweetly engaging, this is a disc with riches to last all summer long and beyond.

CD: Street Songs of Love by Alejandro Escovedo — Real rock’n’roll has been at its lowest creative and commercial ebb for some time now, but you’d never know it from listening to the latest release from the deserving critical darling Escovedo. Stripping down from the strings and brilliantly rich, sometimes classicist arrangements of his past works that have offered some of the most brilliant embellishments on the rock ethos, the Texas-based singer and songwriter celebrates the power of love with the fire, kick, punch and crunch of guitars, bass and drums (plus back-up singers) of the sort too rarely seen these days without ever sacrificing his smart elegance and eloquence. Perhaps the greatest underappreciated rock’n’roll genius making music today, Escovedo proves that contention with force, fun and a mighty and gorgeous racket.

From The Progressive Populist, August 1, 2010


News | Current Issue | Back Issues | Essays | Links

About the Progressive Populist | How to Subscribe | How to Contact Us

Copyright © 2010 The Progressive Populist
PO Box 819, Manchaca TX 78652