By most counts, One -- Texas is a strong sampling of a futuristic Texas, perfect fodder for fans of the utterly curious and electronica both. (***)
-- Seth Hurwitz
Dreams of Freedom: Ambient
Translations of Bob Marley in Dub
Dreams of Freedom is billed as a Bob Marley release, but it sure doesn't sound like one. Think of it, rather, as deboned Bob, with almost all of the real vocal meat of the long-dead Jamaican superstar removed. In fact, there's hardly enough traces of Marley DNA to clone him, even if producer Bill Laswell's specialty had been microbiology rather than techno-noodling.
For the most part, Dreams is yet another in a seemingly endless stream of misdemeanor rip-offs by Marley worshippers. Its electronically smeared reconstructions of his classic songs are strictly the feathers from the original tracks, floating on the surface of a thin aural gruel flavored with a bit of Senegalese percussion, here, and Japanese ambient artist Tetsu Inoue's electronic whooshes, there. Laswell has said that he just couldn't bring himself to use Marley's vocals, because "I didn't want to cut up Bob's voice. I thought of his vocal as poetry, a message not to be mutated just yet."
Too bad he didn't feel the same way about Marley's body of work as well. Island label flacks claim that under Laswell's touch, old Marley standards such as "Rebel Music," "Midnight Ravers" and "Waiting in Vain" are "virtually reborn." A partial-birth abortion is more like it. (1/2)
-- Tim Fleck
Lili Hayden is something of an anomaly. While most rebellious, classically trained instrumentalists might be content to merely wear a leather jacket on occasion, Hayden has lived the rocker's lifestyle, touring and recording with the likes of Janet Jackson, Tom Petty, Chaka Khan and Porno for Pyros.
On Lili, her debut CD, Hayden and band sound a little like Kate Bush fronting Fishbone. There are big guitars, heated, funky jams, Eastern melodies and Hayden's wild violin. With the extremely catchy "Take Somebody Home," Hayden proves she could be a viable pop star, while at the same time seeming to debunk supply-side economics -- which points to the only real annoyance of an otherwise likable disc: Its lyrical content generally falls into the Upton Sinclair school of social realism, boasting somewhat heavy-handed tales such as "Stranger," about a teen mother resorting to a job at a strip club to support her child, and "Mama," which details the pain of a woman caught in an abusive marriage.
While we're on the subject of serious intent, the Lili instrumental "Salome" certainly appears to reference the Richard Strauss opera. It spotlights not only Hayden's gorgeous playing in an evocative setting, but more than a little chutzpah. It's almost as if Hayden is making sure we know that even though she's gone commercial, she didn't have to.
Not that pop songs should be brain-dead, mind you. But the job Hayden sets out to accomplish is an awfully difficult one: to expand the thematic vocabulary of the four-minute, radio-ready pop song. And she doesn't always succeed gracefully. Even so, the playing is top-notch, the music rich and interesting and Hayden's voice lovely -- all of which makes a cringe-worthy line such as "Her faith is strong, her heart betrothed / Her song intones the myth of Job" ultimately forgivable. (***)
-- Seth Hurwitz
The long-delayed sophomore CD from the Derailers, Austin's prime purveyors of the Bakersfield sound, has finally arrived. Behind-the-scenes industry wrangling was responsible for holding up its release (it eventually ended up as the first product of the new Watermelon/Sire partnership), but none of that really has anything to do with the fact that Reverb Deluxe is as fine a sampling of pure-strain C&W as has been given to the public this year.
Obviously knowing a good thing when they hear it, bandleaders Tony Villenueva and Brian Hofeldt once again employed Dave Alvin in the producer's chair on Reverb Deluxe. Together, Alvin, Villenueva and Hofeldt expand the band's sound just enough to keep things fresh, while keeping their feet planted firmly in the roots-country tradition they've cultivated so effectively. "California Angel," with its Beach Boys-style surf-guitar breaks and sunny harmonies matched to a wailing pedal steel, is a tune that immediately sticks out as one of Reverb Deluxe's best, and at the same time most unusual, moments. It's just such seemingly incongruous combinations that provide the CD's many thrilling moments, from the Tex-Mex-flavored "You Don't Have to Go," with its playful accordion and Spanish lyrics, to "Tears in Your Eyes," a charming Everly Brothers simulation, all chiming acoustic guitars and perfectly matched vocals.