Friday, October 29, 2010

Tracy Chapman - "Crossroads"

Tracy Chapman's second album is very similar in tone and style to her first. The album is made up of confessional and observational singer/songwriter type songs. Much of the music again focuses on acoustic guitars and Chapman's excellent voice. The major difference is that the songs here are far less open and they don't draw the listener in like the first album did.

There are a number of excellent songs here but they are not as catchy as the songs on the first album were. The excellent songs include the powerhouse "Freedom Now," about Nelson Mandela and is definitely the best song here. Also wonderful tunes are "Bridges," "Be Careful of My Heart" and "All that you have is your Soul." The rest of the album is a little too closed off to really connect to. It is a strong album that gains from multiple listens as you can examine Chapman's lyrics, but it is a difficult album to get into. I often find myself only playing the five best songs on the album. But this is still a decent companion to Chapman's debut album.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Tracy Chapman - "Tracy Chapman"

I bought this album from Tower Records somewhere around the year 2001. I kept hearing the song "Fast Car" on the radio and thought it was awesome and in reading glowing reviews of this album I decided to buy it.

Tracy Chapman's eponymous debut did not disappoint. A true singer/songwriter album and it was definitely a throwback to the 1960s and 70s style of music when it was released. In 1988 the era of dance music, hair metal, and lots of effects and big sounds this was an oddity but it caught the ear of many listeners making it an unexpected big hit. There is the hit single "Fast Car" a quiet heartbreaking tale of someone who just can't get out from under the mud of life. But every song is a winner on this album produced very simply with Chapman on acoustic guitar and vocals. Some songs feature piano and drums but overall the only instruments are an acoustic guitar and Chapman's deep textured strong and beautiful voice. Other notable tracks include the excellent "Talkin' Bout a Revolution" and "Baby Can I Hold you," but like I said earlier every track is strong. The songs focus on often dark subjects but the album is consistently appealing and the honesty of the whole enterprise keeps me coming back to this album. A great debut.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Cecilio & Kapono - "Lifetime Party 30 Years of Firends"

Even though Cecilio & Kapono had been disbanded for almost 20 years, excluding a number of brief reunions over the years, they decided to celebrate the 30th anniversary of their meeting and first album in 2003. C&K staged a series of concerts at Kapono's waterfront restaurant from which this live compilation, as well as its second volume, was culled. Of the two volumes this is by far the better one with a better song choice and better performances.

This contains thirteen tracks 10 of the duo's biggest hits and three new songs. As for the new tracks "Gather Round" is a "GoodTimes Together" style nostalgia song by Cecilio. Kapono provides an one of his best songs with "Too Many Lovers" both are very good and would turn up in studio versions on C&K's 2009 album "Back in the Day." The third new song is a cover of Kenny Loggins' "Danny's Song" which goes on for ten minutes of too much audience sing-a-long.

This release is really for the fans who have followed C&K over the years and also serves as a souvenir of their 30th anniversary concert series. The live versions are very good and several include extended musical jams that warrant a listen. The insert contains a number of archival photographs of C&K over the years all in a fold-out poster format. Overall this is not really necessary but is a nice addition for fans who own all of C&K's studio albums or who own the two "Journey" compilations.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Cecilio & Kapono - "The Journey Continues"

So after a week break to pay tribute to John Lennon's 70th birthday we are back to alphabetical order.
Here is the second half of Cecilio & Kapono's excellent best of compilation. The first installment "Journey through the Years" contained basically all their biggest hits but everything that was missing from the first disc is definitely included here. Between the two compilations C&K's entire landmark first album is included and almost their entire second album. While this does focus a little more on the "Night Music" album whose songs are a little lesser than their first two albums. Overall, though, this is a fine continuation of the first compilation. The liner notes include another historical essay by John Steel. These two compilations are really all that is needed for fans of C&K. "Journey Through the Years" and "The Journey Continues" are two of the finest compilations to be created for a Hawaiian Music Artist or Group.

Friday, October 8, 2010

John Lennon - "John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band"

Since tomorrow Oct. 9th, would have been John Lennon's 70th birthday I am breaking the sequence of my loosen the key blog to honor him. But next week we shall return to the alphabetical order that has been going on.

When I was in high school I was incredibly interested in John Lennon, I still have an interest in him it is just not as dominating. I used to have shirts with his picture and sayings like "Imagine" and "Give Peace a Chance." I found him mesmerizing in a way and just researched him and listened to his music.

His first solo album "John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band," excluding the sound experiments of "Unfinished Music," is a brutal confessional album focusing on all the feelings that Lennon was experiencing at the time, including loss, anger, insecurity, bitterness, love and hope. The album is incredibly demanding as it does not bend to the listener, Lennon wants to talk about these things and if you do not want to listen you should buy a different record. When he sings, "I was the Dreamweaver and Now I'm Reborn, I was the Walrus but now I'm just John, The Dream is Over," its a truly moving statement that is heartbreaking. While there is a bleakness to the album, Lennon wraps some simple yet melodic music around his lyrics. I connected with this album in High School because I knew what "Isolation" felt like, and "Love" but also losing dreams and "Look at me What am I supposed to be?" I was feeling those emotions and the confessional feel of the album connected. He also brought some hope on the horizon with songs like "Hold On" and "Love" which I also identified with.

As with all Lennon solo albums, with the exception of "Double Fantasy," some of the songs seem unfinished or simply demos but here it adds to the feel of the album. It is not a perfect recording, the screaming at the end of some songs gets overbearing, the CD reissue also adds two singles to the end of the album seemingly to balance the bleakness. This album brought Lennon from the heights of Beatle power to a regular person who happened to being feeling the same way that many of us everyday people felt. That is the power of the album it explores universal emotions in a simple confessional way. This album is not for everyone as it may be too demanding for some listeners, but it is something special from a very special musician.

So for what would be your 70th birthday I write this review to you John Lennon. You were stolen from us but thank you for the music that you made, as it connected us. I hope you are somewhere hanging with George and jamming with Elvis. Happy Birthday John.