Afro-Celt Sound System – Volume 1: Sound Magic

Afro-Celt Sound System - Volume 1: Sound MagicServing as a bit of a musical mission statement for Afro-Celt Sound System, their debut effort starts off with two numbers which are still among their strongest: “Saor / Free” and “Whirl-y-Reel 1”. “Sure-As-Not / Sure-As-Knot” wears a bit as it throws in samples of children chanting in its second half, though admittedly that’s just my taste speaking there. The two “Whirl-y-Reel” cuts are a preview of the fast-paced, dense percussion dance tracks that will become the Afro-Celts’ 3 out of 4specialty in the future, and Sound Magic largely lacks the serene vocals that also become the group’s hallmark in later outings. Still, it’s well worth a listen; recommended tracks include “Whirl-y-Reel 1”, “Inion / Daughter” and “House Of The Ancestors”.

  1. Saor / Free / News From Nowhere (8:21)
  2. Whirl-y-Reel 1 – Beard And Sandals Mix (7:21)
  3. Inion / Daughter (4:15)
  4. Sure-As-Not / Sure-As-Knot – Jungle Segue (9:58)Order this CD in the Store
  5. Nil Cead Againn Dul Abhaile / We Cannot Go Home (7:20)
  6. Dark Moon, High Tide (4:12)
  7. Whirl-y-Reel 2 – Folk Police Mix (5:27)
  8. House Of The Ancestors (8:01)
  9. Eistigh Sealad / Listen To Me / Saor reprise (10:53)

Released by: RealWorld / Virgin
Release date: 1996
Total running time: 65:48

Common Ground: The Voices of Modern Irish Music

Common Ground: The Voices of Modern Irish MusicYou know, I’ll be the first to fess up that I’m not exactly a Thistle & Shamrock Listener (not that it’s a bad show, and not that I don’t like the music). And I’m a little wary of the mania for all things Celtic that has pervaded the underbelly of pop culture for the past decade or so, despite the fact that I’m able to trace my own lineage straight back to Ireland. Something about everyone embracing this culture just because it’s “in” bugs me – and many of the supposedly Celtic musical acts out there aren’t peddling the sound of old Eire, but rather of Enya, whose sound I associate with new age music more than I do anything that sounds distinctly Celtic. But I’ll expound on this soapbox more later. With all my griping, you’re probably wondering why in the world I even bothered with this CD.

The answer is the wonderful second track, “Mary Of The South Seas”, written and performed by Tim and Neil Finn. Aside from their dedicating the song to their mother’s Irish origins, your guess is as good as mine as to why two performers born and raised in New Zealand are on a compilation of “modern Irish music,” but it’s a lovely song all the same.

There are other good reasons to dig this one out, however; Sharon Shannon’s “Cavan Potholes” is a nicely traditional (and simultaneously modern) Celtic-flavored instrumental. Adam Clayton and Bono of U2 fame turn in a low-key number, “Won’t You Be Back Tomorrow”, and Sinead O’Connor turns in “On Raglan Road”. Toward the end of the disc, the tunes become more traditional and the readings become more tongue-in-cheek – I’m thinking primarily of Elvis Costello’s rendition of “The Night Before Larry Was Stretched” here – but in fine Irish tradition, the producers of this compilation probably expected us to have downed a couple of pints by this point, so I’m willing to forgive.

4 out of 4Though I originally bought it for one song by a couple of favorite artists, Common Ground quickly opened my eyes to some more good music. And I’m happy – and perhaps just a touch proud – to say that the whole thing smacks more of real Celtic music than a lot of the product that wears that label these days.

Order this CD

  1. O Bhean A’ti – Maire Brennan (5:13)
  2. Mary Of The South Seas – Tim and Neil Finn (5:08)
  3. Tomorrow – Bono and Adam Clayton (4:36)
  4. Cavan Potholes – Sharon Shannon (4:10)
  5. Help Me To Believe – Paul Brady (5:56)
  6. On Raglan Road – Sinead O’Connor (6:05)
  7. As I Roved Out – Brian Kennedy (4:32)
  8. The Night Before Larry Was Stretched – Elvis Costello (5:09)
  9. Mna Na H-eireann – Kate Bush (2:53)
  10. Whistling Low Errigal – Davy Spillane with Donal Lunny (4:08)
  11. My Heart’s Tonight In Ireland – Andy Irvine (3:36)
  12. Cathain – Liam O’Maonlai (3:27)
  13. Bogie’s Bonnie Belle – Christy Moore (3:18)

Released by: EMI
Release date: 1996
Total running time: 58:11

V: The Final Battle – music by Dennis McCarthy

V: The Final BattleA few years before Star Trek: The Next Generation hit the air, composer Dennis McCarthy was recruited literally at the eleventh hour to rescore V: The Final Battle for Warner Bros. and NBC. The highly anticipated SF mini-series had already been tracked with a synthesizer score which met with the producers’ disapproval – not a welcome problem since they were still scrambling to complete the project after V (and later Alien Nation TV series) creator Kenneth Johnson divorced himself from the project over creative and commercial decisions. McCarthy had to re-score the entire show – and fast, with the broadcast scheduled for less than a month away. The result earned him the assignment to score the entire V weekly series which followed – which, as it turned out, didn’t even last one full season – but also earned him a reputation for turning out good work quickly. The rest is history when Gene Roddenberry and his army of producers started working on Next Generation in 1986.

McCarthy’s music from V: The Final Battle is very much what one would expect from having heard his Star Trek work, though the mini-series producers gave him much freer reign. Percussion is actually heard here. But in the same vein, it’s almost hard to believe how much this music sounds like McCarthy’s Trek work – one motif which begins to appear in “Aqueduct Attack” was actually recycled nearly ten years later – or, to give him the benefit of the doubt, very closely approximated – as McCarthy’s fanfare for Star Trek: Generations! On the one hand, I really do like McCarthy’s style a lot of the time, and I understand the constraints of time weigh heavily on the composer of episodic TV. But this degree of re-use of material almost puts him in a category with Christopher Franke, who slavishly recycled samples, sequences and entire cues in Babylon 5’s later seasons.

On the other hand, there are quite a few good cues, including one scene which everyone is bound to remember with either a fond smile or a groan, the balloon liftoff scene as the Resistance members take to the air with a Visitor-repelling toxin to drive the reptilian invaders back to the safety of their motherships.

4 out of 4All three of the V soundtracks are hard to come across, since they’re composer promos. Composer promos are barely-semi-official releases, more likely to appear on eBay than your local store shelves (I bought these directly from the now-defunct, who pressed them originally). But for fans of McCarthy’s work, as well as V fans (and we know you’re still out there), this might make a worthwhile investment.

Order this CD

  1. V: The Final Battle main theme (2:04)
  2. Lizard Raid (3:48)
  3. New Headquarters / Ruby’s Final Curtain Call (2:09)
  4. Memorial For A Heroine (1:22)
  5. Aqueduct Attack / Planting The Charges / Brad’s Sacrifice (7:18)
  6. The Balloon Theme (1:50)
  7. Maggie Mourns / Maggie And Brad (2:58)
  8. Pop Goes The Lizard / The End Of Father Callahan (3:50)
  9. His Father’s Looks / Lizard Twin Dies / Elizabeth Spits Venom (3:47)
  10. Robin’s Revenge (4:28)
  11. Donovan Really Pissed / Donovan And Tyler Debate The Issue (2:07)
  12. Love Theme (1:16)
  13. Into The Lizard’s Lair / “They Haven’t Got A Chance” (3:34)
  14. V-Day (2:54)
  15. The Doomsday Weapon / Diana Rants And Raves (2:08)
  16. Elizabeth Saves The Day / Diana Escapes / Finale (6:08)

Released by: Super Tracks Music Group
Release date: 1996
Total running time: 52:26

She’s The One – music by Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers

She's The One soundtrackAn unusual venture for Petty and company, this album consists of music from a 1996 movie which was little more than an attempt to launch Jennifer Aniston of Friends fame onto the big screen. But, perhaps a little like the soundtrack from 1980’s Xanadu, this is a case where the soundtrack was the only notable thing about the movie.

I got this CD largely because I liked the single from it, “Walls” (which features a very unique background vocal assist from Lindsey Buckingham, the first trace of him I’ve heard since his 1992 Out Of The Cradle solo album). I was also curious as to why Walls didn’t appear on Petty’s 1998 greatest hits album, but the most likely explanation for that is the same as why ELO’s hits from the aforementioned Xanadu rarely, if ever, appear on their compilations – the soundtrack was released by a different label. Even after listening to the entire CD, “Walls” remains my favorite track, mainly because Buckingham’s presence and his signature stereo vocals (he’s singing something different in each of the left and right channels) give it a different feel from most other Petty songs.

Tracks 2 through 5 offer the standard southern rock that we’ve come to expect from the Heartbreakers, with “Zero From Outer Space” delving into very Dylanesque territory with Petty’s half-spoken, half-sung vocals. Things become more interesting with “Hope You Never”, which sounds more like some of the material from Full Moon Fever, Petty’s 1989 collaboration with producer Jeff Lynne. The following number, “Asshole” (which, from the title, one would most likely suspect to be another fast-paced country fried rock tune), has almost Beatlesque lyrics and instrumentation, with some excellent harmonies. Another 4 out of 4standout track, a short instrumental version of “Walls” listed as “Hope On Board”, precedes a second, more acoustic (and Buckingham-less) mix of “Walls”.

Overall, a good effort from Petty and friends to liven up a movie conceived and bred in corporate Hollywood. The music would probably be better remembered if its bad-idea-from-the-start film namesake hadn’t bombed.

Order this CD

  1. Walls – Circus version (4:25)
  2. Grew Up Fast (5:10)
  3. Zero From Outer Space (3:08)
  4. Climb That Hill (3:58)
  5. Change The Locks (4:57)
  6. Angel Dream – no. 4 version (2:27)
  7. Hope You Never (3:03)
  8. Asshole (3:12)
  9. Supernatural Radio (5:22)
  10. California (2:40)
  11. Hope On Board (1:18)
  12. Walls – no. 3 version (3:04)
  13. Angel Dream – no. 2 version (2:27)
  14. Hung Up and Overdue (5:49)
  15. Airport (0:58)

Released by: Warner Bros.
Release date: 1996
Total running time: 51:58

Schoolhouse Rock Rocks!

Schoolhouse Rock Rocks!This is a rockin’ selection of hysterically funny covers of the immortal tunes from those educational animated shorts that used to give ABC’s Saturday morning cartoons such a distinct identity. ABC tries to brand itself with an incredibly annoying series of banana-yellow graphics these days, but that will never even approach the popularity or instant recognition factor that ABC had with the Schoolhouse Rocks cartoons. Schoolhouse Rocks officially ascends to the status of cultural icon with this cover album, featuring a series of often faithful (and occasionally way-the-hell-out-there) covers performed by alt-rock and rap artists. The original Schoolhouse Rocks theme opens the proceedings, and Deluxx Folk Implosion promptly crashes the party with a very good copy of “I’m Just A Bill”, adding the modern touch of vocals dripping with thick, syrupy sarcasm. It’s hard to bang one’s head and laugh out loud at the same time, but this is a good song with which to try. Other standouts include a very good homage to “Electricity, Electricity” by all-girl band Goodness, and Ween’s very accurate rendition of “The Shot Heard ‘Round The World”. The more rap-oriented 4 out of 4covers, Biz Markie’s “Energy Blues” cover and Skee-Lo’s version of “The Tale of Mr. Morton”, weren’t really to my tastes, but I could actually see the wisdom of trying to introduce them to a new generation with a new idiom. And really, Biz Markie did pretty good with his tribute. I highly recommend this easy-to-find album for those in the mood for a nostalgic belly laugh!

Order this CD

  1. Schoolhouse Rocky – Bob Dorough and friends (0:14)
  2. I’m Just A Bill – Deluxx Folk Implosion (3:26)
  3. Three Is A Magic Number – Blind Melon (3:14)
  4. Conjunction Junction – Better Than Ezra (3:44)
  5. Electricity, Electricity – Goodness (3:22)
  6. No More Kings – Pavement (4:23)
  7. The Shot Heard ‘Round The World – Ween (3:09)
  8. My Hero, Zero – Lemonheads (3:05)
  9. The Energy Blues – Biz Markie (3:10)
  10. Little Twelvetoes – Chavez (3:51)
  11. Verb: That’s What’s Happening – Moby (4:29)
  12. Interplanet Janet – Man Or Astro-Man? (2:47)
  13. Lolly, Lolly, Lolly, Get Your Adverbs Here – Buffalo Tom (2:14)
  14. Unpack Your Adjectives – Daniel Johnston (3:06)
  15. The Tale of Mr. Morton – Skee-Lo (4:05)

Released by: Atlantic
Release date: 1996
Total running time: 48:29

1996, B, C, D, G, J, L, M, Non-Soundtrack Music, P, S, W

Simply Red – Greatest Hits

Simply Red - Greatest HitsHey, admit it. You, like myself, probably remember Simply Red mainly for “Holding Back The Years” – right? Sure, we all do! But I also remember the lesser-known but tremendously appealing 1992 single “Stars”…and what do you know, it’s on here too. Amazing how record companies do that with best-of albums, eh? Of course it is! And for the much larger majority that loved Simply Red’s droning rendition of “If You Don’t Know Me By Now”, it’s on here too. Not a bad slice of hits and relative obscurities from Mick 3 out of 4Hucknall and company.

Order this CD

  1. Holding Back The Years (4:29)
  2. Money’s Too Tight To Mention (4:28)
  3. The Right Thing (4:22)
  4. It’s Only Love (3:53)
  5. A New Flame (3:58)
  6. You’ve Got It (3:55)
  7. If You Don’t Know Me By Now (3:27)
  8. Stars (4:08)
  9. Something Got Me Started (4:00)
  10. Thrill Me (5:04)
  11. Your Mirror (4:00)
  12. For Your Babies (4:17)
  13. So Beautiful (4:58)
  14. Angel (4:01)
  15. Fairground (4:23)

Released by: Atlantic
Release date: 1996
Total running time: 63:25

Claudia Christian – Taboo

Claudia Christian - TabooGood grief! Musically, this two-song CD distributed by the official fan club of Claudia Christian (Babylon 5‘s Ivanova) is quite good, but…whew! Those lyrics! Madonna might blush at some of this stuff. (Or, on second thought, she might join in. Doesn’t pay to think about it.) To quote Rick James, she’s a very kinky girl, the kind you don’t take home to mother. Claudia co-wrote the music and lyrics to both songs, the first of which seems to involve various out-of-the-norm activities (namely, S&M and threesomes). Claudia doesn’t actually sing most of the time – to my surprise, most of the actual singing is ably handled by the powerful voice of Julianna Raye, while Claudia chants/raps/speaks her way through the lyrics; in the case of “Taboo” itself, the lyrics shift into French and back to English numerous times, and Claudia basically moans her way through the French lyrics with her sultriest voice. Rating: 1 out of 4Occasionally, however, Claudia proves that she can, in fact, hit a specific musical pitch. Overall, though it’s a very pricey and very fannish item (face it, Taboo has the content of a CD single and the price tag of an expensive CD at retail), it’s a very tittillating listen, and wouldn’t be out of place belting out of a club’s speaker system.

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  1. Taboo (4:39)
  2. Partners in the Sublime (3:44)

Released by: Zard Productions
Release date: 1996
Total running time: 8:25