Friday, February 11, 2011

2003 Review Music Award CD - "Volume I & II"

Bob Martin and his alter ego Review Magazine has been faithful to the beat of Mid-Michigan's music scene for as long as I can remember. (the Review debuted in May 1979). And for the last seventeen years, Martin and his staff and many loyal and dedicated volunteers have put together the Review Music Awards - a magnificent showcase of our local artists. This is where the coolest bands from the local scene get a chance to stretch out and "do their thing". At times, the best music meets at that intersection where cultures collide and the tension creates new rhythms. Something palpable emerges in this undercurrent.
And popular culture's drive to mediocrity is momentarily suspended.
You won't find something this good on the radio
Well...Mose Allison once said (to paraphrase), "When a piece of music finally gets to that point of and's typically not worth a damn".
Jim Dickinson, Memphis favorite-son musical legend and agent provocateur describes how the consumer culture's machinery homegenizes the creative impulse. And that pop culture can absorb just about anything and will "co-opt, preempt, and recycle" the ideas, techniques, and best impulses of the original artists .
He says, "the best songs don't get recorded, the best recordings don't get released, and the best releases don't get played"

This 2-Disc set attempts to set things straight and fight the music industry's torpor by recording acts that have otherwise been criminally neglected. These recordings represent a cross section of the bands and the beautiful sounds circling the tri-cities.
Something is in the air
The sound is impeccable. Crisp and clear and wonderful separation.
The music breathes.
Rick Levario, the recording engineer, soundman Al Limberg, and mixer/producers Eastside Mike and Jim Schmitke deserve credit for the superb sound quality of the recordings. It sounds better that most of "live" LPs I've purchased through the years - (pick any) by the Rolling Stones or Moody Blues or the soundtrack to Woodstock or semi-major artists - remember "Bloodrock Live"...DOA says it all.

The Review's Music Awards has a MISSION of sorts - to showcase a music scene rich with talent.
The messengers may have changed but the message is the same.
And finally one of the shows is caught on disc.
About time!

As cool as it is to be recognized, the awards are secondary to the feeling of community. And that vibe is contained in the performances. I only wish more of our great artists would have been captured. But how could we ever do them justice...
a 12-disc box set would scratch only the surface. That's just how deep the current runs. Saginaw has always been a hotbed for music from forties blues (remember Frank Washington & the Ramblers)and Angelo Lorenzo pop (Sleepy Time Gal) to mid-sixties Bossmen rock 'n' roll.

Maybe it's the dichotomy between the haves and the have nots or the confluence of barely recognized cultural imperatives.
Or is it that very moment when complex social factors intersect to compel a when authenticity and free thinking bump into a conformity to yield a tension so complete that creativity is spring-loaded. It's in this tension that rock 'n' roll, blues, jazz, and reggae sprang to life....a breath of fresh air in a oppressively dim ethos.

That said, let me take a deep breath...a little sip of PEPSI ONE...and let's take a listen to the 2-disc set from the 2003 Review Music Awards Show

Disc one opens with the Brush/Lopez trio performing Jack, their tribute to local jazz legend Jack Bruske. This is cool jazz at it's best...from the creative "juice" of Mike Brush (a legend in his own right). Brush sings with affection as he recalls one of Saginaw's original "cool cats".

Brush follows with "Into the Night". It opens witth a folk/pop vibe like early Elton John circa "Tunbleweed Connection" but segues to a mid-tempo rock format with a dominant organ riff ala Al Kooper on "Positively 4th Street". But it's actually a modern spiritual. Check out the lyric...

"Time to Shine through"
"Be who we are"
"Radiant lights"
"Dazzling stars"
"All of us are"
"In God we are one"
"And seeing it clearly"
"We dance in the sun"
"Oh - we can't all deny it"
"Hide it from sight"
"And sooner or later we'll step into the light"

A fantastic track...a HIGHLIGHT.

Lila Rasa is the spirited vessel for Noel Howland's Magic Medicine. This is a syncopated funky showcase for Howland's sensual and expressive voice. She displays some great chops on piano. Chris Mohn's masterful guitar work weaves in & out of the piece with an economy of expression that recalls the best work of Howard Glazer (Harmonica Shah). This is a powerful piece of music and a shining example of Lila Rasa's artistry
They follow-up withBetter Plan - a mid-tempo jazz rocker led by Noel's piano and Mohn's soaring guitar. The percussive effects are outstanding and color the song's aural landscape. Noel Howland provides another extraordinary vocal - a knockout performance that is at once soulful and nuanced. The instrumental gymnastics in the coda not only kick ass - they're way too fun.
It's about time this great band appears on disc!

The Timothy Hyde Project is next with Shining Light. A ringing guitar and an ascending tremelo bassline open the track with a sense of foreboding. I was told these tunes were part of a larger project.
A stage presentation.
The musical elements both instrumental and vocal combine for a dramatic reading that is both well executed and breathtaking. It is mildly reminiscent of a heavier "Bat Out Of Hell" by Meatloaf. Their second track, The Shelter is a blues rocker with (what sounds like)a Hammond B3 giving it some "punch". It is a uniformly great performance by the cast with some great blues guitar
Who is that axeman?

Marty Viers performsKeep On uptempo gospel rocker with heavy drums and organ up front in the mix. But it's Marty's wondrous mid-range tenor that takes center stage. A GREAT performance. Viers is another local performer that needs to be recorded. And he tells me his long awaited solo CD is about ready for release.

Natural Woman finds Shar Archambeau doin' her best "Aretha". She has the pipes.
And it's a powerful performance

One of the disc's highlights is Dick Wagner's 4th Street - an autobiographical account of his life and times in New York City. This is Wagner at his rockin' best. Brian Bennett's imaginative and dynamic keyboard work drive the tempo. Wagner is in great form. His guitar sings and moans with conviction and his lead vocal is p-e-r-f-e-c-t. The unique chording and sudden signature changes are characteristic of Wagner's more complex work. Another Wagner masterpiece.
And if 4th Street didn't pound it home and slug ya straight in the chest, Wagner makes it clear he'll take no prisoners. You are gonna learn your lesson from the master right here and now with Darkest Hour from his seminal work with Ursa Major. This is the original "power ballad" - an existential masterpiece of pain, longing, and redemption. Musically breathtaking and lyrically sophisticated this is Wagner's "finest hour".

Baked Goods brings disc one to a proper rock 'n' roll conclusion . These cats power chord their ass off on Sunshine Ray. It opens with a lonely guitar riff...nice and quiet-like until it builds into a cacophany of drums, bass, and vocals. A wall of sound that explodes with urgency and distortion. The tempo comes back down only to build back to a compelling discordance ala Nirvana. Baked Good have a compelling vocalist with a great stage presence. The final number is "Prescription" a grunge rocker that opens with a Bo Diddley-like riff and segues into some savage rock 'n' roll. An exciting performance.
Where are they now?

Disc 2 opens with Gretchen Toth's solo acoustic performance of Frustrated. She has a great voice that recalls the range and expressiveness of Alanis Morrisette. This tune has a repetitive riff and minor chording that gives it an edge. This is a romance song that "smolders".

Laurie Middlebrook is the premier country artist in mid-Michigan and she shows you just how good it can get with The Damage Done. She's sho 'nuf a country girl and one helluva natural born storyteller. This song is about troubled relationships with the historical backdrop serving up a series of metaphors that tell the story. Middlebrook's rich contalto is an instrument all by itself. She just may be the best singer around the state.
Beautiful Goodbyes is less traditional country and more of a pop rocker. But it still has that trademark Middlebrook touch...that warm, inviting vocal. This is a song from a woman that has been around the piss-pot and has some hard earned wisdom to share. A great performance.

The Dave Kellan Band perform the title track of their latest CD, Truth of the Matter
Kellan's voice is hoarse... the vocal has a raw and rough-hewn quality that gives the song an added edge. This is a mid-tempo jazz rocker with a cool piano riff by Matt Cohen. Kellan is one of the finest artists performing in mid-Michigan. He does it all - writes great songs, sings like Stevie Winwood, and rocks his axe off.

Liliana Rokita...what can I say that hasn't been said about this talented singer/songwriter
Liliana just may be the most exciting performer in mid-Michigan. She is a pure and expressive singer who can convey layers of nuanced and complex emotion just by singing an aria....without lyrical accompaniment. Yet her lyrics are poetry that add depth and meaning to her message. And like any great piece of music. There IS a message. Liliana chooses a diverse vehicle to get the word out. Her music is anything she wants it to be. Funky dance music, Latin soul, or rockin' Salsa with a twist. The track listed as "I'll Do It For You" is actually a cover of Latin superstar Paulina Rubino's Lo Hare Por Ti'. The track opens with Bobby Balderama's funky wah-wah and segues to a steady latin beat. Erotic and sensual rhythms. Liliana's warm vocal takes over and your suddenly transported to a tropical paradise....lying blanketed on hot golden sand, the waves crashing gently onto the shoreline...and the palm tree's shiver ever so slightly as a cool breeze washes over your moist skin... And then... just as Liliana's captivating beauty takes your breath away... and your body reaches a vise-grip tension... Liliana begins to dance. And the release is sweet - and liberating
The next track is listed as "Com Mi Vida" but it's correct title is Mi Amor A Escondiditas. This Liliana original is uptempo Latin/Salsa at it's heavenly best. Bobby Balderama's soaring guitar gives it a rock-edge and puncuates the overall texture of the song. The groove is driven by an insistent latin beat. Liliana's vocal is earthy and energetic and compels the listener to come closer and join Lilana's "dance of life" .
Gracious Liliana...this is one of THE highlight performances of the 2003 Awards Show.

The Robert Lee Band is represented by two souful covers My Girl and Midnight Hour

- with leader Balderama's (and keyboardist Rodriguez') impeccable sixties credentials as a founding member of Question Mark & the Mysterians lending the vibe an easy confidence and a strong measure of credibility.

My favorite alternative rockers Radio Therapy contributes Need To Find, a great little rocker that confirms the groups status as one of the premier rock bands in mid-Michigan... an outstanding lead vocal and rich, imaginative axemanship. My Blood is Red is a cry for justice an appeal for humanity. A Bo Diddley-esque beat gives the song an R&B vibe that underscores Atha's magificent power chording.
A great performance

The disc closes with two fantastic numbers by metal rockers BORN. These cats are way too cool. And the vocalist may be one of the best front men around the block. Another Illusion comes on like "metal thunder"...but there's more to it - avant garde poetry set against a compelling but discordant rhythm.
They got something here
And It's GOOD
They are create a progression of ambient tones and shifting moods that seem to reflect a growing awareness...enlightenment - satori?
Born ends the disc with Side With The Lights. The song opens with a provocative tremelo, shifts to a quiet and thoughtful vocal interlude before EXPLODING with sheer metallic power. The singer croons like a sober Jim Morrison on "Touch Me". And he's got such a compelling stage presence, he just might be the next "Lizard King"!!!
No matter
Born is an excellent band in fine form.

So there you are two elpees worth of tunes from our best and brightest. Cool cities my ass...this is the real deal.
You can purchase copies at the offices of Review Magazine. Call Bob Martin @ (989) 799-6078 for more information about how to purchase these little treasures

...or stop over to White's Bar.
We have a few copies to sell ya

Bo White

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