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Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2023-02-22



MUSIC (Ex)-Men
by Gregg Shapiro

This article shared 3134 times since Wed May 21, 2003
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Both Paul McCartney and John Lennon had productive solo careers that rivaled what they achieved as members of The Beatles. However, the same can't be said for Mick Jagger or Keith Richards. Venturing out on one's own, especially after establishing oneself as a member of a group can often be a risky proposition. It can also provide an important creative outlet.

As the front-person for British punk-pop band The Jam, and later The Style Council, Paul Weller established himself as one of the most innovative songwriters of his generation. Weller was adept at writing in a variety of genres, and often favored R&B and vintage pop styles. As a solo artist for more than 10 years, Weller has continued to mine his varied musical influences. The luminous Illumination (Yep Roc/Independiente) moves from retro Brit-pop ('Going Places,' 'Leafy Mysteries') to blues rock ('A Bullet For Everyone') to soulful sampling ('It's Written In The Stars') to subtle borderline contemporary Christian ('Who Brings Joy' and 'All Good Books'), with equal grace. Bonus tracks 'Horseshoe Drama,' 'Push Button, Automatic' and 'Talisman' live up to their title.

I never cared for the pseudo Rolling Stones cock rock swagger of The Black Crowes. They sounded like posers who were trying too hard to something they weren't. On his solo disc, New Earth Mud (Redline), Black Crowe Chris Robinson displays his mellow and sensitive sides on songs such as 'Safe In The Arms Of Love,' 'Silver Car,' 'Untangle My Mind,' 'Barefoot By The Cherry Tree' and 'Katie Dear' (written for love interest Kate Hudson). Black Crowes fans might be a little put off by this gentle set, but Robinson could potentially earn himself a new legion of fans. A DVD is also available with a documentary by Darren Ankerman and live acoustic performances.

After recording with NYC pop-punk outfit D Generation during the last half of the '90s, front-man Jesse Malin switched gears to explore his Neil Young-influenced insurgent country side. The results can be heard on The Fine Art of Self Destruction (Artemis). Fittingly produced by Ryan Adams, songs such as 'Queen Of The Underworld,' 'TKO,' 'Downliner,' the acoustic version of 'Brooklyn,' and 'Cigarettes and Violets,' which reflect a definite country bent. Malin also proves that he hasn't lost the ability to pick up the pace as you can hear on 'Wendy,' 'High Lonesome' and 'Almost Grown,' as well as the echoing beats of 'Riding On The Subway.'

Speaking of Neil Young's influence, you can hear Young's impact on Howe Gelb (of Giant Sand fame) on his exquisite new solo disc The Listener (Thrill Jockey). There is also audible evidence of the influence and inspiration of Lou Reed on the glorious 'Felonious' (in which Reed is name-checked), Tom Waits in both 'Jason's List' and 'Cowboy Boots,' and Leonard Cohen 'Torque (Tango De La Tongue),' to mention a few. Amidst the beauty of songs such as 'Glisten' (which does!), there are moments of inspired chaos as you will find on Gelb's reinvention of the Bill Wither's classic 'Lean On Me' in his own 'B 4 U (Do Do Do).'

A Grown-Ass Man (Shrimper), the sixth solo disc by Yo La Tengo bass player James McNew's Dump, is a lovely achievement full of pop songs that straddle the line of accessibility. The back-to-back acoustic 'I Wish/You Wish' and falsetto punk feedback of 'The History Of Love' are a good example of McNew's musical juxtaposing that occurs throughout the album, which also includes Chi-Lites-like '70s soul on the cover of LeVert's 'Mr. Too Damn Good.'

Before he became a member of highly regarded new-grass trio Nickel Creek, Chris Thile released a few well-received solo discs. Fellow Nickel Creek member Sean Watkins has done the same, his most recent album being 26 Miles (Sugar Hill). The young guitarist and vocalist is in fine form as a performer, his voice as expressive an instrument as his guitar. The 13 original tunes, including three instrumentals (such as the brief, yet brilliant 'Creeping Beauty'), also indicate that Watkins has developed into a wonderful songwriter. Standout numbers include 'Hiding' (with harmony vocals by Glen Phillips), 'On Ice' (with Jon Brion on keyboards), 'Chicago,' and the drum looped and sequenced title track and 'Brick Window.'

On his second solo disc Human Conditions (Hut/Virgin), Richard Ashcroft (formerly of The Verve) continues to mine his gifts for creating gorgeous pop ballads and pseudo-psychedelic blues rock, both of which he demonstrated in his former band and on his previous solo disc. Genuinely beautiful tunes such as the sumptuous 'Buy It In Bottles,' 'Paradise,' 'Lord I've Been Trying,' and 'Nature Is The Law,' are some of Ashcroft's best compositions, while mid-tempo pop numbers such as 'Science of Silence' and 'Man On A Mission' also provide delights.

Because Peter Stuart was the main focus of Dog's Eye View (remember the hit song 'Everything Falls Apart'?) and DEV was primarily a one-man band, the concept of Stuart's first solo disc is not that hard to take. Propeller (Vanguard) consists of the same catchy and well-crafted pop tunes that made the DEV a pleasurable distraction. Songs worth mentioning include 'Take Me Back,' 'With My Heart In Your Hands,' 'Let's Get Lost' (with a trumpet solo by Mark Isham), and 'Songs About You.'

For some people, going solo may not be all it's cracked up to be. Shortly after leaving Soundgarden in the mid-1990s, Chris Cornell released a solo disc titled Euphoria Morning. It didn't get the warmest reception and a few years later he teamed up with the remnants of Rage Against The Machine to form Audioslave. On its self-titled disc, Audioslave (Epic/Interscope) rises from the ashes and dusts itself off because Cornell's feverish roar sounds like it was meant be matched up with Tom Morello's wailing and screaming electric guitar. Ironically, it is the unexpected heavy metal funk of 'Like A Stone,' the most divergent song on the disc that is the most promising, leaving me hoping for more of the same on the next disc.

Consonant, comprised of current and ex-members of Mission of Burma (Clint Conley), Come (Chris Brokaw), Bedhead (Matt Kadane) and Fuzzy (Winston Braman), several bands with formal connections to the abundant indie music scene in Boston. In songs such as the terrific 'John Coltrane's 'My Favorite Things',' you can hear the echoes and influences of all the above-mentioned bands, especially Mission of Burma, on their self-titled debut, Consonant (Fenway).

Other solo outings of interest include Lost Planets & Phantom Voices (Recordhead /Wigwam) the fifth full-length album by Tobin Sprout (of Guided By Voices fame) and Don't Look Down (Blackberry) solo debut disc by ex-Buffalo Tom keyboard player Phil Aiken.

This article shared 3134 times since Wed May 21, 2003
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