By Benjamin Leatherman
By Glenn BurnSilver
By Glenn BurnSilver
By Troy Farah
By Roger Calamaio
By Mark Deming
By Glenn BurnSilver
By Brian Palmer
It's time for a long-overdue look at what kind of "product" is coming out of the local music scene. The number of tapes submitted was so large this time that one week won't cover them all. Be prepared for a second installment to run soon.
The variety of local music continues to expand. This batch included everything from a studio jazz ensemble to techno-dance grooves.
All of these tapes and CDs can be purchased at local record stores or from the bands at live shows. Other than going out to see live music, the best way to support the local scene is to buy these cassettes and CDs. If this group is any indication, the quality of what's called "local" can be surprising.
DON REEVE Spirit Wild
(Crash Landing Productions)
Go ahead, pick up a copy of Spirit Wild. Check out the picture of the handsome neohippie with his acoustic guitar. Read where he states that his new recording is "dedicated to the life forms of Planet Earth." Now, what kind of music do you expect to hear? Maybe the usual lush paeans to Mama Nature sandwiched between the sounds of canyon winds and soaring eagles? Thank Don Reeve for shunning the knapsack of new-age cliches and offering instead a unique approach to guitar playing. Faster than you can say "your mantra," Reeve bounces between finger-hammering his instrument into sitarlike drones and spewing out frenetic passages of 100 well-placed notes. Though Reeve may share the philosophies of other new-agers, his machine-gun playing sets him apart from the lullaby guitar work of less competent players. When reaching for sentiment in "Roses"-a title that preps the listener for cosmic sappiness, if ever there was one-Reeve turns out a fine balance of warmth and dark edge. His morose guitar isn't gently weeping, it's beating out a warning that makes you question the nature of the beast called romance. Reeve is playing as much for the thorns as the petals, you might say. The unsanded presentation is very refreshing.
No one-note musician, Reeve directs his masculine guitar pounding in a number of directions. His ax-whacking is playful on "Tickle," meditative on "Rain" and damned near danceable (if you jig) on "Celtic Cross." Obviously, this guy didn't whet his frets just listening to new-age patriarch William Ackerman. Bet he's got some well-played John McLaughlin and Stanley Jordan albums in his collection. Reeve deserves a lot of praise for not aping his high-minded, whole-grain musical brothers and their cosmic drudgery.
LOST EUROPEAN Lost European
The aptly titled Lost European is a band of local techno types with a self-described "Euro-British" sound and a stated "function" of providing "techno art rock for the masses."
The band's lofty goal is served pretty well, though, on this ten-song CD. Most credit goes to British-sounding singer Roy Lund, who, oddly enough, actually is British and not some Arizona schoolboy faking a Monty Python accent.
Lost European's credibility is further fueled by a slick studio performance enhanced by even slicker advanced recording techniques. Three of the band's founding members claim to be "degreed aerospace engineers," which helps explain the professional sound quality.
Unfortunately, the band members' claims at songwriting don't hold up as well. Much of Lost European's music flails through ideas borrowed from INXS and the Fixx. Indeed, anyone with the slightest recollection of Fixx songs like "Stand or Fall" or "One Thing Leads to Another" will blanch at Lost European's "Spiral Staircase," with its peppy tempos, mountains of polyphonic synths and staccato, "oh-oh-oh" vocals.
Still, computer smarts can count for a lot in the sterilized world of synth-pop. And Lost European has the chops-and chips-to reach whatever masses still yearn for the "rock of the Nineties" sounds of 1983.
JOE MYERS House With Nine Rooms
(Chameleon Dogs Artist Group)
Every Thursday at Mesa rockhaus Hollywood Alley, Joe Myers nudges the alternative bands from the stage to ply his own intelligent and elegant new-age wares. He packs 'em in, too. For an excellent sampling of this excellent musician's work, try his latest CD, House With Nine Rooms.
Myers is, first and foremost, a guitarist. House begins with "Visiting Planets," an acoustic-guitar instrumental that serves primarily to warm listeners to the more complicated offerings to come. The thing is, the deceptively benign rhythms in "Visiting Planets" are absolutely intoxicating. A single, selfish complaint might be that, at two-and-a-half minutes, it's just too doggone short.
Fortunately, there's plenty more on House to be mesmerized by.
Given Myers' prowess on his Reuter six- and 12-string double-neck guitars, bass, Moog and even chimes, it's easy to overlook his sleek and mature vocals. Gems like "In Winter" and "Wild Rain" are triple threats: extraordinary lyrics interpreted in soothing, stunning fashion, aided by some of the finest acoustic guitar work in the Valley.
Hey, set the warm body of your choice on the sofa, pour some heart-healthy red wine, snuggle under an afghan and put on House With Nine Rooms. Ooooh, baby.
Although the band takes its handle from those drippy, cheap-to-run saviors of the broiling Southwest, Swampcooler's music shares very little with those frustrating machines. It's reliable pop-rock that doesn't bang, leak or give out just when you need it most. The Byrds, R.E.M. and the Seattle scene are the influences this quartet blends seamlessly in its originals.