BAD SEEDS, GOOD TUNES
Also: Seven CDs of suave swing, and what happens when career changes go bad
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
“Abattoir Blues/The Lyre of Orpheus”, Anti
With his deep, portentous voice and grave manner, Nick Cave demands to be taken seriously. His literate lyrics often rely on biblical and mythological allusions: even the titles of the two-disc set Abattoir Blues/The Lyre of Orpheus could use footnotes.
But Cave’ s pretensions are a large part of his appeal, and after 20 years with his ever-evolving band, the Bad Seeds, he still pulls off audacious rhymes like “Orpheus”/ “orifice” without sounding ridiculous.
The mainly acoustic, piano-driven Lyre is the more accessible album. The rolling ballad Breathless is the most beautiful song in Cave’s vast catalog, and Babe, You Turn Me On isn’t far behind.
The more visceral “Abattoir raises a holy clatter of apocalyptic noise in songs such as There She Goes, My Beautiful World, an invocation to the Muses to cure writer’s block that links St. John of the Cross to Johnny Thunders and features a gospel choir. Based on the inspired songs in these albums, the Muses must have listened.
Review by Steve Klinge
Robert Downey Jr.
“The Futurist”, Sony Classical 1
Robert Downey Jr. found fame as a talented yet troubled actor. He’ll need to leave it at that with this partly laudable, partly laughable transition into music. The downtrodden, introspective vibe of The Futurist – one mid-tempo piano-driven ballad after another – is tiresome, despite the earnestness of the whole affair. To his credit, singer-songwriter-pianist Downey (who sang on Ally McBeal as well as in his Oscar-nominated turn in Chaplin) brings a solid sense of melody to his own compositions, smartly enhanced by subtle flourishes of jazz and folk. But his voice is hardly endearing, even on his understated rendition of Chaplin’s “Smile”. And he’s painfully off the mark on a cringe-worthy version of Yes’ “Your Move” that even Jon Anderson’s backing vocals can’t save. There’s raw talent here, but Downey had best stick with his day job.
Review by Nicole Pensiero
Art Farmer/Benny Golson
“The Complete Argo/Mercury Art Farmer/Benny Golson Jazztet Sessions”, Mosaic
The jazztet created in 1959 by the trumpeter Art Farmer and saxophonist/composer Benny Golson more than merits this seven-CD extravaganza from Mosaic Records.
The two created a group with a suave sound that showcased great melodies from a swinging core. Farmer, who died in 1999 and helped popularize the flugelhorn in jazz, was among the most sensitive of brass players, while Golson, a heavyweight reed man, remains one of jazz’s top composers.
Included here is his classic tribute to trumpeter Clifford Brown, I Remember Clifford, which encapsulates the greatness of the partnership: Farmer’s trumpet finding poignant nuances in Golson’s elegiac composition.
The jazztet, which ran through 1962, was a great vehicle for Golson’s tunes, which range from Killer Joe, with its spoken and theatrical introduction, to the goose-stepping Blues March, and from the earthy Blues After Dark to the noir ballad Park Avenue Petite.
Review by Karl Stark