Audio review 9/27/02

Friday, September 27, 2002

'So Much Shouting, So Much Laughter'"So Much Shouting, So Much Laughter" is a two-disc compilation of indie-rocker Ani DiFranco's live performances. It features some of her best-loved songs on social ills and corporate greed, as well as her take on the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

On the spoken-word piece "Self Evident," she describes Sept. 11 as the day "... America fell to its knees/ after strutting around for a century without saying thank you or please." That track is one of three new songs on the CD. We're also treated to a six-piece band treatment of some of her previous songs, such as "What All Is Nice" from "Revelling-Reckoning."

DiFranco makes luscious use of her horn section in these performances culled from stages around the world. The jazzy arrangements are a perfect complement to her power vocals, filled with the kind of liberated bliss that can only be delivered by those who own the label they record on. The only thing better is hearing her live. Rock on Ani.

'Spiritual People' Former Arrested Development frontman Speech embarks on his fourth effort, "Spiritual People," in which he ventures into alternative musical genres.

Speech keeps his preachy lyrics to a minimum on this 13-track CD, as he experiments with musical styles such as psychedelic rock, hip-hop, a bit of blues and folk rock.

"Ghetto Fabulous" is a Beach Boys-styled jaunt about how he needs to restyle his life because his "ghetto fabulous ways just don't cut it no more." "Cruisin' in My Super Beetle" is a fun, sing-along-with-the-hook tune with a pop-friendly melody reminiscent of Smash Mouth's "All Star."

Speech blends folk and hip-hop influences on the guitar-driven ballad "It's a Challenge for Me," while the bluesy "Burning Rage Inside," with its choral backing vocals and guitar solos, is a pure delight.

"Spiritual People" provides a broad landscape of styles, and Speech pulls them off well, making this one of his best works yet.

'Mind If We Make Love to You'Los Angeles-based quartet Wondermints serve up light and sweet psychedelic pop on "Mind If We Make Love to You," their sophomore release. It's cool and refreshing in some spots, but they often use a cupful of sugar when a teaspoon would do.

The full sound of an acoustic piano at a moderate rock tempo forms a soulful vamp on "Another Way," but the oboe break goes a little too far. A vibraphone features prominently on "Project 11," while a harpsichord can be heard on "Out of Mind." These ornamentations seem superfluous -- just more sugar coating.

The Wondermints can't get away from the bahh-ba-ba-bahhs, either. Their backing vocals often consist of nothing but these silly syllables.

The band's influences are clearly heard throughout the 12 tracks -- the Beach Boys, the Beatles and Electric Light Orchestra among them. But these songs sound imitative, not groundbreaking.

'Au Cabaret Sauvage' "Au Cabaret Sauvage" is the third U.S. release from French world music collective Lo Jo, which draws inspiration from African nations such as Mali, Mauritania and Algeria.

Those familiar with the exotic amalgams of the Afro-Celt Sound System will appreciate Lo Jo's eclectic influences. The six-member group combines French songs with North African rhythms and gypsy melodies in an intoxicating sonic brew.

Like the Afro-Celts, Lo Jo uses a vast array of unusual folk instruments such as the kora and balafon from West Africa and the Indian harmonium. The group takes advantage of electronics, sprinkling samples here and there. But Lo Jo's strength lies in their seamless tapestry of organic sounds that's both uniquely French and truly global.

'Divine Operating System' On their new album, "Divine Operating System," Supreme Beings of Leisure live up to their name with dance tunes flush with string arrangements reminiscent of carefree '70s acts such as Lipps Inc. and Silver Convention.

Los Angeles-based duo Ramin Sakurai, keyboardist-programmer, and vocalist Geri Soriano-Lightwood have moved from the easygoing trip-hop groove of their debut album toward a slicker, more disco-flavored sound.

"Give Up," the opening track, is dizzying in its overproduction. But there's more restraint as the album moves into "Ghetto" and the bossa nova-inflected "Catch Me." These tunes benefit from the sparseness. The strings succeed in coloring this electronically sophisticated music with that happy disco feeling, but when overdone, it spoils the fun.

'The Rodeo Eroded' Tin Hat Trio interjects jazz and classical sensibilities into traditional American roots music, bluegrass, folk and country and traces of Eastern European melodies.

On their third release, "The Rodeo Eroded," the trio -- Bob Burger, accordion and keyboard; Carla Kihlstedt, violin and viola; and Mark Orton, guitar, dobro and banjo -- bring a refined musicianship that's both technically adroit and innovative.

The album opens with "Bill," an eery but graceful waltz. "Fear of the South" veers toward a tango tempo, with guest artist Bryan Smith on tuba gently propelling the rhythm. Willie Nelson provides the disc's only vocals on a dreamy rendition of "Willow Weep for Me."

It's an all-encompassing American tableau with melodies both strange and beautiful.

-- From wire reports

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