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LAINIE MARSH/The Hills Will Cradle Thee: Emmylou Harris got it right away and Harris has a nose for unearthing progressive Appalachian sounds. She's found another winner here with this singer/songwriter whose bluegrass reflects life in a 2010 Wal-Mart countryside. Not so progressive that's she's singing about meth labs powered by stolen ammonia from farmer's tankers and the influx of gang activity looking for a docile population to sell drugs to, she does keep it back porch with an ear for state of the art and a eye on the future. A perfect example of the kick in the pants Americana needs every so often. This is one of those sets that insidiously becomes one of your faves before you even realized it happened.

FRED FRIED & CORE/Core 3.0: Acoustic guitar jazzbo that felt the need to one up Bucky Pizzarelli and debut his new 8 string guitar, Fried has that light, knowing touch that makes it sound easier than it is. With an easy, affable sound that carries you right along, this is low key pleaser that you should call smooth jazz only because the ride isn't bumpy. This is the sound of the weekend on the way.

THE RUNAWAYS/Mercury Albums Anthology: The only similarity between Runaways and Spice Girls is that you were dealing with 5 head strong, hormonally driven teens that had the world kissing their asses. Do you think there'll be a Spice Girls movie in 20 years? Do you think "Wannabe" will be anything more than a post-pomo novelty ala "Y.M.C.A."? C'mon. From the first few bars of "Cherry Bomb", you knew the Runaways were on to something. Eventually collapsing under it's own weight and label/management struggles, they burned as brightly as momma trailblazers like Marilyn Monroe and burned out just as quick. But look at the after burns: Spice Girls do lame disco albums and reality tv/life; Runaways almost all have successful solo careers. Simply one of those cases where two discs says it all and say a lot, this collection rounding up their wares for Mercury, whether available here or not, is where rock should have been headed in the 70s. If only we'd known these jailbait rockers would be the spiritual grandmothers to the current harvest of Disney jailbait (hey, this was 35 years ago), perhaps we'd have done more to support them in real time and avert the musical travesty being foisted on the young today. Where was the DeLorean when we needed it, Dr. Brown? In any case, this cherry bomb can still pop louder than any other. Still hot stuff that might be in the after burn but still hasn't even burned through it's original half life. Hot stuff forever!
14074 (Mercury)

KAMAL/Zen Mama: There comes a time when you just get tired of being politically correct and the cover shot of this mother and child in tune session reminds us that every women you see doing yoga to strengthen her core is someone trying to get into MILF fighting shape to trade up from the pooch that got her preggers and make herself appealing to your wallet. Ach, it's the times we're living in. Well, you can't hold Kamal responsible for that, he just trying to scam her like everyone else. Thing is, he does it with pretty, relaxing music that opens the ears to let the listener go within. Even hauling out the new ager's old pal, the Gyuto Monks, Kamal pulls a multi instrumental assault out of his bag of tricks and you just know you'll hear this coming through the wall of the calming place next door that used to be a hot dog joint until the recession claimed it. MILFs, pay attention, here's your new soundtrack.

PARIJAT/Offerings: Way cool alert! You don't have to be a new age freak/geek to like this set. Sure it's right in the classic new age bag, but it's actually nice, sweet music that was simply made for mellow times whether sipping tea, getting a massage or not wanting to kill that rotten fuck in the Escalade that just cut you off going 65 mph (when you really need to be mellow what with all the cop cams and road rage penalties that will foisted upon you if you take action. A perfect example of chill out music for when you really want to chill out without any subtext or subgenre agendas. If you've got a taste for the whens and whys, check it out, this really does the job.

SYLVIA BENNETT/Smile: If Bennett came to me during pre-production and asked for a set card of bar room classics that everyone knows, loves and doesn't get tired of hearing when done right, this set comes pretty close to what I would have told her to do. Working with her long time producer, they have the vibe and groove down pat but they don't do it by rote. A lovely dose of jazz/piano bar/samba that easily serves to remind you that it's 5 PM somewhere in the world. Why wait? Tasty, easy going stuff that is a tonic or can be mixed with tonic.

SONES DE MEXICO ENSEMBLE/Fiesta Mexicana: Perhaps the coolest out of the ordinary kids record since Pete Seeger's "Sleepytime Songs". A double cd set of kids fun by this crack Mexican music ensemble, with help from several generations of gringo kids entertainers. There's music and stories, with stuff in English and Spanish. There's something for everyone, and the typical urban kid of this generation won't bring the baggage to this they might have had a generation or two ago. Totally cool entertainment for kids of all ages but a real godsend if you have kids to deal with in the car for any trip longer than dropping them off at school. Some of this is even timely with 2012 approaching (listen and see). A really wonderful collection that could only exist outside the box no matter how healthy the economy or how creative the record biz. Check it out for fun with your kids or expanding your horizons.

HANK KETCHAM'S COMPLETE DENNIS THE MENACE 1961-62: I you're a boomer of a certain age, you remember that pop used to bring the evening paper home from work and as long as the paper didn't run the comics in the back of the sports or business sections, you got down to business with "Peanuts" and "Dennis the Menace", both of which are being given complete series treatment by Fantagraphics. This look at pre-Kennedy assassination Dennis is pure prime. The strip had already been around 10 years, but Dennis captured the foment that was in the air in the post Elvis/post war years as the suburbs were the new frontier. Easily loaded with anti-"Family Circus" panels, do you really remember Dennis being such a snotty bastard to his elders? We all remember him as a trouble maker, but this stuff is pretty zesty for single panel strips. And in the New Year's Eve 1962 panel, is that a wife swap party going on in the midst of the Cuban missile crisis? How come Joey looks like a mobster in training (where did he get that beard?) Over 600 panels with no misfires and a pay off that almost reads like haiku, this little fucker is simply 2 good 2b 4gotten. As long as you've been downsized out of your job, this is a great walk down memory lane to recharge your batteries with and take your mind off things.

Volume 33/Number 125
March 6, 2010
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL., 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
Copyright 2010 Midwest Record

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