Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Groove Pipe. Hangman (2012 Reissue)

Groove Pipe.  Hangman.
Canton Records, 2012.  Originally issued in 2008.  

Canton Records is doing good service to the music community by reissuing albums that didn’t get a fair shake the first time around.  That’s certainly the case with Groove Pipe, a
metal/grunge/sludge band from the Canton/Massillon/Waynesburg area.  They’ve been around since at least 2004, and their full catalog of two CDs and an EP became available again last year, repackaged.  Now a trio, on this album they were a foursome, with Chris Cox on guitar as well as Chad Speros.  

They’ve got a good sound, strong vocals, heavy without being overwhelming, and solid songs.  I like the lead guitar; it shows a virtuosity that I appreciate in harder music.  The drums are prominent, providing a churning forward motion.  I don’t know who wrote most of the tunes (few credits on the insert), but they do a cover of the Rolling Stones’ “Dead Flowers,” that sounds in some ways better than the original (they strip out the pseudo-country/western sound that the Stones were playing with back in the early 70s).  Groove Pipe almost goes punk with their version, and it’s refreshing.  

The title song starts off the album, and it’s a good one, establishing metal cred, and showing Speros’ voice off at its most impressive.  Further along in the album, “Air” has a similar effect, but adds some different guitar and percussive effects.  Each song after that moves in a slightly different direction, from the grunge of “If I Were the Devil” to the tricky rhythms of “Resolution.”  “Graves” has a bit of a 70s metal feel and seems familiar, but I can’t place it.  I like the solid, pounding beat provided by Brian Lewers.  I’m not so crazy about some tunes that begin as ballads, especially “Bring Peace to You,” but change of pace is important, and some folks like that slow build.  “Bleeding Again” works much better in that regard, and is much stronger both musically and vocally.

This is a solid album, worthy of wider distribution.  If you’re browsing the bins at Frankenstein Records in Canton or one of the other stores that sells local music and you are fond of this style, pick it up.  

Personnel:  Chad Speros (vocals, guitar), Chris Cox (guitar), Matt Herzog (bass), Brian Lewers (drums).
Tracks:  Hangman, If I Were the Devil, Dead Flowers, Rise, Resolution, Graves, Bleeding Again, Air, The One I Know, Dana, Bring Peace to You.


Sunday, October 27, 2013

Haze. The Addiction EP

Haze.  The Addiction EP.
Self-produced, 2012.  Angie Haze Project:  http://theangiehazeproject.com/

Angie Haze is a marvel.  On this three-song EP the Akron singer-songwriter manages to sound like three different singers, with three different bands, all of them consisting of her and one other person, either Spencer Martin, or Hoseff.  She also plays so many instruments (sometimes simultaneously) that it’s hard to keep track.  Nevertheless, from song to song, what is consistent is her lovely, strong voice that is both memorable and sensuous.  She calls herself a “vaudevillian.”  She is different in many wonderful ways. For example, please note the EP cover, where she has bells on one ankle, and a tambourine on the other.

On “Wave Goodbye,” Haze sounds most rock/blues-like in style, with the ghost of Janis Joplin hovering nearby.  She growls, she soars, and she mesmerizes.  With “Addiction” she shows the gypsy influence in her singing and playing,   The guitar work is lovely, and she changes her singing style to fit the music.  The third track, “Fireflies,” is a bit more folk-like, celebratory about love (unlike the first track), and full of joy.  Her voice sounds musky here when she sings softly, a very appealing sound.  She wrote all the songs.  She is a chameleon.

When she plays with a full band in concert, she includes a cellist, clarinetist, and other musicians.  I wonder several things.  First, what is the name of her band?  Is she going with Haze, or the Angie Haze Project?  Second, why is she not better known?  Angie Haze is a delight.  She is apparently working on a full-length album, which I anticipate with great enthusiasm.  By the way, she also sings with Hoseff’s band as well, and appeared recently at the PorchRokr Festival in Akron, where I picked up this CD. Whenever you get the chance, see her in person. She is dynamic on stage, and you too will be addicted.

Personnel:  Angie Haze (vocals, percussion, synth bass, keyboard, classical guitar, synth drum, mandolin, accordion), Spencer Martin (bass, bass guitar, lead guitar, vocal harmonies); Hoseff (bass guitar, vocal effect).
Tracks:  Wave Goodbye, Addiction, Fireflies.

Gottfried Klaas

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Alan Greene Band. No Stranger to Blues

The Alan Greene Band.  No Stranger to Blues.
Self-Produced, 2012.   Alan Greene Band:  http://www.alangreeneband.com/

I listen to a lot of different kinds of music, often just to hear what they sound like.  Some new stuff I like, some I don’t, and a few new artists I love.  But my real comfort zone, at my age, is good old-fashioned blues rock, somewhere in the ballpark of Johnny Winter, Eric Clapton, Savoy Brown, and the Butterfield Blues Band.  It takes me back to my college days, making that journey from rock into the heavier blues of Muddy Waters, Willie Dixon, and Howlin’ Wolf.  So I was delighted to get the recent Alan Greene Band album, which puts me right in that zone

Alan Greene, from Shaker Heights, has been on the Cleveland scene (and elsewhere) for decades.  He’s won a bunch of local awards for his guitar playing.  He’s played with Humble Pie and other bands from out of town, but would rather be here.  With his band, all local gentlemen, he graces area taverns with his brand of blues and rock.  This album contains mostly original material, a lot of it written by T.C. Odegard, who sings lead vocals (although somewhere in here, Justin Butcher sings too), along with three tunes by some other folks.  The band is tight, the vocals are right, and I really enjoy the results.

Odegard’s vocals change with each song, depending on the style, either more rock-oriented, straight ahead blues, or something else, although every song is drenched in blues.  The opening track, “Little Black Mark,” has him sounding like John Fogerty, and the band provides some CCR licks for good measure.  “True Love” is an odd combination of blues combined with what sounds like the riff from “Bang a Gong” by T. Rex.  It works pretty well.  “Angel Love” is the most rock-oriented song on the album, a tune Greene wrote with some other guys, including Mason Ruffner. It’s a fine song.  “Lonely Nights” is a ballad, with a country/honky tonk flavor reminiscent of Ray Charles’ forays into the genre.  It fits right in as a change of pace.  “Can’t Find My Way Home” is one of my favorite songs of all time, written by Steve Winwood and appearing on Blind Faith’s album.  The band does a credible job, but it can’t quite match the original, since, in my mind, the bar is set too high.

The straight blues material is simply great.  On many of the songs Odegard’s harmonica trades solos with Greene’s guitar, and the results are exactly in the groove.  “My Little Gal” sounds like a 50s juke joint tune, and “Blues Got a Hold on Me” has some real menace behind it.  Odegard’s harmonica really goes into high gear here.  The two big covers, “Who’s Been Talking” (Howlin’ Wolf), and “Been Gone too Long” (Billy Boy Arnold) sound just right, capturing the feel of the originals.  I haven’t said much about Alan Green’s guitar work.  What is there to say?  It’s amazing.  He takes a solo in nearly every song, and each one is special.  The rest of the band is damned good too.

You can hear these guys (normally a quartet) playing around the area, especially at Cebar’s Euclid Tavern.  Go hear some great blues.

Personnel:  T.C. Odegard (vocals, harmonica), Rob Luoma (drums), Justin Butcher (bass, vocals), Alan Greene (guitar), Brent Lane (keyboards), Dale Peters (percussion).
Tracks:  Little Black Mark, My Little Gal, Who’s Been Talking, True Love, Lonely Nights, Can’t Find My Way Home, Treat You Right, Been Gone too Long, Angel Love, Meal Ticket Blues, Blues Got a Hold on Me.


Sunday, October 20, 2013

Ohio Sky. This House is Old and Filled with Ghosts

Ohio Sky.  This House Is Old And Filled With Ghosts.
Electric Pyramid Studios, 2012.  Ohio Sky: http://www.ohioskymusic.com/
Ohio Sky is a progressive rock quintet from Cleveland, Ohio. They have one full length album, Curses, also produced by Electric
Pyramid Studios (Editor's Note: this was reviewed in this blog in October 2012). This EP starts off with a slow but steady rhythm paired with low, softer vocals. It’s a different turn from their previous music with an incorporation of a violin and cello to give the music an entirely different feel that had not previously been explored. This newer, slower, but still powerful music flows well and isn’t jarring. It sets the stage for a new experience and an enjoyable one at that.

Track two builds on the previous song’s haunting melodies but begins to add in more rock elements, letting in more drums and guitars. “Shadows,” the third track, is an instrumental piece and is the longest track on the record. It’s faster and more in touch with their rock roots more so than the previous two tracks, leaving behind the melody and relying more on the drums and guitars to do the playing. The track rises and falls in terms of intensity but overall it seems to still fit in with the album’s exploration of this new sound.
“Daybreak” is the shortest song on the EP. It falls back into the slower rhythm that seems to complement the first two songs. However it is the final track, “The New World,” which pulls the entire album together. It starts off with guitar and drums and escalates to the loud and passionate vocals that I was waiting for throughout the EP. It is a powerful and intense way to finish the album and not at all an unpleasant one.
For being so short on lyrics I was surprised how well the artists carry the songs without dragging them out. It shows potential for keeping listeners interested but yet hanging on every word. Overall, I’d give Ohio Sky a big thumbs-up on their work with this EP. While some of the songs on Curses have a similar sort of feel, none of the songs come close to the same experience I had while listening to this EP. There’s a lot of potential for this band and I hope to hear more from them in the future.
Personnel: Vinny DiFranco (Vocals/Guitars) Michael Bashur (Guitars/Trombone) Eric Bambic (Drums) Patrick Finegan (Synthesizers) Ellsworth Turner (Bass/Grand piano).
Tracks: This House Is Old And Filled With Ghosts, The Silence, Shadows, Daybreak, The New World

Bryn Wolanski

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Dan Miraldi. Devil at Our Heels.

Dan Miraldi.  Devil at Our Heels.
DM Experience This Music, 2013.  Dan Miraldi:  http://www.danmiraldi.com/

Dan Miraldi continues to build both his recorded output and his reputation as a roots rocker.  This EP makes yet another case that he combines power pop from several decades in new and interesting ways.  I hear elements from the 1950s, 60s, 70s, 80s, and contemporary rock all in the same song (the 90s not so much).  This album was recorded in Nashville in five days, during a tour break.  Hard working folks.

There’s plenty to say about Miraldi, but let me start with the band.  They are really tight, very focused, and reveal a high level of accomplishment.  If Dan wasn’t singing, I’d still listen to the band, because they’re that good; solid rockers with a fine sound.  There’s no credit for the background vocals, but they work very well in songs like “Lovebomb!”  As for Miraldi, he sounds pretty much the same as his last time out, a bell-ringing tenor with a rockabilly sense of articulation and rhythm combined with modern sensibilities.  In that sense he reminds me of Chris Isaak, although their voices are very different, but both have this timeless quality that is pretty rare.  He has changed since his first album, with a more mature, stronger sound to his singing.

The songs are all potential hits, without a loser in the bunch.  “Untame” opens as if it’s the mid-80s, with an arena-rock riff, then launches into a fine power-pop love song.  The next track starts as a soft ballad, with echo chamber effects and tinkling piano, then about halfway through blows the doors off with a loud chorus.  There are some psychedelic, Beatles-era effects tucked in there too.  The title track is a strong one, maybe the strongest, with some really good guitar work.  I could see this one being covered.  “Asking Her to Stay” is a straight ahead power pop tune that I really enjoyed.  “Lovebomb!” is the longest song on the EP, and continues in the same vein with rhythm changes and other tricks that kept me listening.  The group closes with an uptempo rocker that closes out with handclaps, harmonies, and making me want to hear more.

Miraldi is getting better with each outing, bringing in new ideas, expanding his sound palette, and growing as an artist.  I think you can tell I like the artist and the band.  But enough with the EPs!  Let’s have another full-length album!

Personnel:  Dan Miraldi (vocals, guitars, keys, composer), Alex Bowers (guitar), Joe LaGuardia (bass), Sarah Luffred (drums), John Deaderick (guest musician).
Tracks:  Untame; Girl, You Made Your Mark; Devil at Our Heels; Asking Her to Stay; Lovebomb!, I Still Wish She Was Mine.

The Grand Wazoo

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Zydeco Kings. Mighty Fine Gumbo

Zydeco Kings.  Mighty Fine Gumbo.
Self-produced, 2013.  Zydeco Kings:  https://www.facebook.com/pages/Zydeco-Kings/112249608790246
There aren’t a lot of Zydeco bands in Northeast Ohio.  I can think of two, Mo’ Mojo and the Zydeco Kings, but I’m sure there are more.  Zydeco originated among rural Black Creoles of Southwestern Louisiana and combines traditional music from that region (already a mix of styles from the rich stew of cultures there) with blues, R&B, and other more modern influences.  It became known outside the region as a result of Clifton Chenier, the first major Zydeco star, back in the 1950s, and its popularity has spread worldwide.  It is first and foremost, dance music.  These days you’ll hear waltzes, two-steps, blues, rock, hip-hop, and almost anything else in the mix, depending on the band, but the core is the Creole-style music and the instrumentation.  There must be an accordion, and there must be a rubboard (a washboard that is worn over the shoulders).  Beyond that, other instruments are optional, although drums and brass are most common.
There are as many styles of Zydeco as there are bands, and each one brings a different mix of influences and instruments to their unique sound.  I like some artists (C. J. Chenier and Beau Jocque come to mind), and a few others not so much (I won’t list them).  I am happy to report that I place the Zydeco Kings in the former category.  They’ve got a great sound, combining the basic Zydeco style with New Orleans R&B, Chicago blues.   Other instruments include keyboards, guitar, drums, and saxophone.  The first two tunes, “Junco Partner,” and “Slow Horses, Fast Women,” are straight out of the New Orleans songbook, standard repertoire for Zydeco bands.  I’m not sure who is singing here, since vocal credits are not given, but he’s got a style that is vaguely like Jimmy Buffett’s, not a bad thing in the context of the Caribbean influences in the style.  “Mighty Fine Gumbo” brings us a Jefferson Rice original, with few vocals but a lot of good rhythm.  More Louisiana comes through with “Morning Train” by Andrus Espre (AKA Beau Jocque) and two Meters’ tunes, “ Hey Pocky Way” and “Cissy Strut.”  
We cross over into blues territory, courtesy of Willie Dixon, with two songs, “I’m Ready,” and “Help Me” (the latter based on Booker T.’s “Green Onions”).  “Help Me” is my favorite song on the album, although there are hardly any I don’t care for.  I have to say that one, “Man Smart, Woman Smarter,” leaves me a bit uneasy in the politically correct department, despite its pedigree as a hit for Harry Belafonte way back when.  The tune is good though, with a Caribbean flair.  As far as musicanship goes, everyone plays magnificently.  I am especially impressed by the guitar and accordion solos in “I’m Ready” and the organ in “Help 

The surest way to determine the quality of a Zydeco album is by the dance/head-bopping scale.  If it makes you dance or, if sitting, bop your head, then it’s a success.  While I was listening to this album sitting on the couch with my headphones on, my wife came in and started laughing at me.  I realized that I was head bopping like mad.  
Performers:  Bob Corlett (keys, vocals), Paula Hart (rubboard), George Lee (bass), Doug Smith(drums), Dave Howard (guitar, vocals), Jefferson Rice (sax, keys, vocals).
Tracks:  Junco Partner; Slow Horses, Fast Women; Mighty Fine Gumbo; I Got Loaded; Help Me; Hey Pocky Way; Morning Train; I’m Ready; Man Smart, Woman Smarter; Cissy Strut.
Jeff Wanser

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Jamey Haddad/Mark Sherman/Lenny White: Explorations in Space and Time

Jamey Haddad/Mark Sherman/Lenny White.  Explorations in Space and Time.
Chesky, 2013.  Jamey Haddad:  http://jameyhaddadmusic.com/

Explorations in Space and Time is a recording that has come out of the meeting of three distinctly different musicians.  Jamey Haddad, a master hand drummer and world music expert (Cleveland-born and Professor at Oberlin) has teamed up with classically-trained percussionist Mark Sherman and drummer Lenny White of the ‘70s fusion band Return to Forever to offer an all-percussion album of diverse music. These three musicians had never played together before this recording nor had they rehearsed or composed anything for the project.  This adds interest and an element of spontaneity to the performances.  It should also be noted that this disc was recorded as a “binaural” recording, meaning that it is possible to hear where the instruments are in relation to one another, providing a more concert-like experience for the listener. Everything on the recording was done without overdubbing, which is a real testament to the players’ level of artistry.  

The disc starts off with “Stank”, a funk groove on drum set where the melodic interest comes from timpani glissandi.  In contrast, the second track “Wood and Metal” is a spacious and timeless piece framed by tuned gongs and wood blocks evoking the sounds of a forest perhaps.  “War” begins with a scream and quickly evolves into a groove on the drums with gongs and timpani providing color.   Random runs on the vibraphone and tuned gongs add to the chaos.  The piece fades out to the sound of a martial-sounding snare drum cadence.

“The Wind” follows and completely changes the mood.  Ringing wind chimes and mark trees are augmented by bird calls and gongs.  The aptly-named “Seven” is a groove in 7/4 time with Haddad showing his virtuosity on the kanjira, a south Indian drum, and the djembe.  “Tranquility” takes us back out of time with a track that sounds like something one might hear at a visit to their masseuse.  “Groove” again showcases Haddad, this time on the tar, a middle Eastern frame drum.  “Phrases” is completely void of instruments.  Instead, you hear the voices of each performer vocalizing the rhythms that they might otherwise play on drums.  “Long Distance” is a dialogue between ocean drum, drum set, and concert bass drum and tam-tam.  “Rhythm” showcases Sherman’s vibraphone playing on top of a subtle groove on the drum set played with brushes.  “Roots” gives White and Haddad a chance to solo over Sherman’s timpani ostinato.

In short, Explorations in Space and Time is a very eclectic musical collection that showcases percussion instruments from all over the world as played by three master musicians.  

Tracks:  Stank, Wood and Metal, War, The Wind, Seven, Tranquility, Groove, Phrases, Long Distance, Rhythm, Roots.

Andrew Pongracz

Friday, October 4, 2013

The Lighthouse and the Whaler: This is an Adventure

The Lighthouse and the Whaler.  This is an Adventure.
Self-released, 2012.   The Lighthouse and the Whaler:  http://thelighthouseandthewhaler.com/
The Lighthouse and the Whaler is a band of merry bibliophiles in the great city of Cleveland and they have the worst website I have ever seen. Seriously, really awful, change that font color, but keep the bios, those are spectacular. Despite the unforgivable but common sin of an illegible website, I have enjoyed the Lighthouse and the Whaler since their first full length album came out in 2009. This is An Adventure is an excellent follow up with catchy and melodic songs that give the impression of sweeping landscapes drifting past car windows and rolled down windows.
The Lighthouse and the Whaler could be a brooding band but often swing the other way, with chirpy keyboard work and soft tenor vocals that lacks a lot of the drudge and drag and namelessness that many bands in this category manifest. They’re like the Lumineers on Prozac only with better use of hand claps and drum beats. Songs like “Pioneer,” “Chromatic,” and “This is An Adventure” are really full pop songs that are excellent use of traditionally annoying keyboard sounds. Congrats, gentlemen, you’ve used a keyboard as a solid base with great ornamentation, and even melted my cold, cold heart with your love song “Venice.” I’ve put it on about three playlists so far. Lighthouse also has this uncanny ability to not fall into gimmicks. They sound vaguely like eight things I have heard but strip away things I don’t like about all of them and keep the parts I like. They’re a Frankenstein Monster of musical composition and manage to borrow elements from bands like Bright Eyes and Death Cab for Cutie without seeming like a copy or falling into Conor Oberst’s self-indulgence.
While the band name is taken from Moby Dick, I didn’t really pick up on an overall story to this album. But the album had a great musical arch. Each song led into the next one without seeming too similar or riding the coattails of the surrounding songs. I did lose interest in “Untitled” and it felt a tad like a song that wasn’t as strong as the rest (as indicated by the fact that it didn’t have a title) and the album could have worked just fine without it. The vocals of Michael LoPresti compliment the overall compositions so well and I am choosing to forgive him for his love of jean cut off shorts. It’s hard to find one instrument or musician that stands clearly above the rest. There is no Slash dominating the spotlight. Lighthouse presents as a very united and equally matched set of musicians that collaborate beautifully. I feel there is a craftsmanship that exists in this group, a delicate and steady hand in each piece that doesn’t allow anyone to overpower the music. It will be a pleasure to see where their sound takes them.
Personnel:  Michael LoPresti, Mark Poro, Matthew LoPresti, Steven Diaz, Aaron Smith.
Tracks:  Pioneers, Chromatic, Venice, The Adriatic, Little Vessels, Burst Apart, This is an Adventure, Iron Doors, We’ve Got the Most, Untitled.

Lauren Parker