Pieta Brown, Mercury. Ready for the magic? To possibly go to that
quiet place where songs matter, and music can be our salvation? If so,
Pieta Brown will take you. Sometimes the stars line up just like they
should, and the sounds that pour from a person's heart are so pure and
passionate it can almost be too personal to listen. It's like
overhearing a private conversation by a couple in the next booth. But
the way Brown offers these songs is so full of love we can't help but be
immersed in her glow.
Recorded over three days in a studio an hour west of Nashville and
produced by Brown and known alchemist Bo Ramsey, Mercury sounds like
nothing else right now. There's a stark simplicity that works its
way under the skin, where everything turns warm and wiggly.
something is going on in this music that is beyond molecular structures.
Musicians Richard Bennett, Glenn Worf, Chad Cromwell, David Mansfield
and, on one song, Mark Knopfler, know their way around magic too, and
come together on these sessions with stirring sensitivity.
Pieta Brown has made other albums, all with their unerring charms.
This one, however, arrives from a separate place. She and her studio
cohorts entered the barn-like building in Primm Springs, Tennessee
likely not knowing exactly what was in store for them. They surely had
faith, and likely also a huge amount of hope - which may be the same
thing. When the last song was finished, the twenty empty acres of
rolling land around them could have been smiling back, all realizing
that something good had been accomplished. So true.
, The Whole Love
. Wilco albums are cause for celebration,
because they're never exactly what is expected but always an exciting
ride. The Whole Love
sounds like it could have been recorded on Nurse
Ratched's ward in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
. And that's a good
thing, because there are surprises galore while at the same time enough
known touchstones we're not left lost in space.
By now, the band isn't
afraid of trying anything. They veer around and through different styles
with deft precision while never losing sight that music should be
satisfying for the soul. If singer-songwriter Jeff Tweedy is Randle
Patrick McMurphy leading the patients in high-minded revolts and inside
information, then his musical cohorts are spurring him on into
breathtaking turns on the tightrope. No band does it better these days.
The journey of Wilco reads like a morality play, where they took
the ultimate gamble on themselves and came up with holding a royal
flush. When their first company Reprise Records cut them loose, it's
said the head of A&R there explained, "No more ugly bands on the
label." So the group ended up giving away their new music online and
soon enough found a happy home.
After a successful run on Nonesuch
Records they've started their own label and it shows. The air of freedom
that blows through The Whole Love feels like the whole truth, with a
tingly thrill around every corner and enough mystery to keep listeners
coming back with hopes up high.
The dozen songs on Disc 1 of the deluxe edition offer the perfect
primer for Wilconians old and new. There are moments of ultimate beauty,
with Tweedy's voice sounding like he's captured the crystaline secret
of infinite life. There's also squawking blips and noisy effects that
promise these players will never quit pushing at the outer edges of the
big-ass sonic envelope they've constructed by hand with special care and
Disc 2 features four songs, including a cool cover of
Nick Lowe's "I Love My Label" and the startling "Speak Into the Rose."
The album booklet contains artwork that could easily have been created
by the Chief, Billy Bibit and some of the others on the ward fighting
off the Combine; again a complete compliment. How often's it's the
outsiders who show us the way to the promised land. Follow them we
, Young Man with the Big Beat: the Complete '56
. The world changed in the summer of 1956 when Elvis Presley's
single "Hound Dog" exploded onto world consciousness. There had been
other singles, obviously, by the Memphis singer before that, but this
one, released July 13, sounded like a small neutron bomb. Rock &
roll had been unleased and nothing would ever be the same. This
five-compact disc collection of absolutely everything the King recorded
that year is an over-the-top assembly of massive proportions, but when
it comes to history why not go all the way?
Archival boxes are becoming an endangered species in a shrinking
retail landscape, so there's a joyous feel to something as voluminous as
Young Man with the Big Beat. Besides the music, which includes studio
and live recordings along with a disc of outtakes, there's a series of
interviews done then that show Presley is not only on the ball but deep
in the groove of what's going on all around him. He's clearly a man on a
With so many songs featured, the addition of an 80-page book with a
day-by-day timeline takes things into never-never land. What's really
amazing is just how busy Elvis Presley stayed, and shows that the
overwhelming success that was building all around him was no accident.
Manager Col. Tom Parker had learned during his days with the circus that
when opportunity strikes you have to turn up the heat. By the end of
1956 his first movie, "Love Me Tender" premieres and America had
succumbed completely to Presleymania. It couldn't last forever, but for
the next two years there was no bigger presence in the country. Nothing
would ever be the same again. This collection shows exactly why.