HERE ARE THE LINKS TO THE FEBRUARY, 2019 SHOWS, AS HEARD ON 7440 khz and 6070 khz SHORTWAVE!!!!
Click HERE to listen to ALT UNIVERSE TOP 40 - FEBRUARY 23, 2019!
Click HERE to listen to ALT UNIVERSE TOP 40 - FEBRUARY 16, 2019!
Click HERE to listen to ALT UNIVERSE TOP 40 - FEBRUARY 9, 2019!
Click HERE to listen to ALT UNIVERSE TOP 40 - FEBRUARY 2, 2019!
ARCHIVES & REVIEWS!
BOBBY RUSH - DOWN IN LOUISIANA re-published January 8, 2016
One listen to the effortless storytelling of Bobby Rush in the title track "Down in Louisiana" lets the listener in on a not-very-well-kept-secret. The secret? Bobby Rush is one of the last authentic craftsmen in a genre that has become badly watered down over the last 15 years. Ain't no bad water here, though, folks. Bobby, under the expert guidance of producer Paul Brown, delivers. Period.
The staccato funk blues workout on "You Just Like A Dresser" is, to me, the highlight of the set. The tight rhythm section on this track allows Rush to venture out into the swamp with his smart-mouth vocal and tell his woman troubles to the world. Later, the conservative blues riff on "Tight Money" brings the listener back to the more traditional fretboard work that just sounds lonesome and broke.
True blues fans will appreciate the running space within the bass lines throughout the album, which evoke some older Memphis recordings. Very tasteful keyboard work also. And while this album was cut in Nashville, it BLEEDS Memphis...something I never seem to say about Nashville projects, except this one. Most of all, this recording captures the angst and despair (and sweet revenge) in the voice of Bobby Rush, a true bluesman. Bravo!
John T. McMullan
January 7, 2014
PERFECT PICTURE (ORIGINAL SCORE BY GAIL C. BLUESTONE & EILEEN SHERMAN) October 28, 2014
I must confess that I have not seen the musical PERFECT PICTURE. Nevertheless, listening to the original score by Gail C. Bluestone and Eileen Sherman was an absolute joy for me. Surprisingly so, since I have been known to impose a "moratorium on show tunes" when driving with my Broadway-crazed daughters in the car! This set sounded to me like the song crafting associated with the Golden Age of musical theater. No wasted lines, and very succinct melodic movement.
"A Husband Is" flows lyrically and melodically, with disguised modulations throughout. It is the perfect length, not drawn out to simply milk time from a female vocal. The major to minor key changing in "Let Me Paint You A Picture" draws in the listener, just in time for an interlude that sounds like Joe Jackson playing Gershwin. And, again, the lyrics tumble out and precisely match a chord progression of major sevenths and seconds. Brilliant.
The title song, "Perfect Picture," pushes forward with a bluesy structure, grinding its way toward a traditional show-stopping ending. "Think About The Future" employs a clever interplay between melody and counter-melody as it segues from structured score into a sung soliloquy. My favorite selection, "Life Is A Dangerous Dance," has a DAMN YANKEES feel to it, musically. Lyrically, its message is unmistakable, sewn into syllables that slither across the seductive melody.
Absolutely no rewrites needed here. The music in this musical is perfect. This PERFECT PICTURE is picture perfect, in fact!
John T. McMullan
ELIZABETH BUTLER - LOVE & LOSS & STUFF LIKE THAT October 27, 2014
The new album by Elizabeth Butler, LOVE & LOSS & STUFF LIKE THAT is a very solid piece of Americana that demonstrates more variety than most releases categorized as such. Butler's deep alto voice is perfectly suited for the kinds of songs that are too often thought to be the domain of male vocalists. She expertly tackles alt country, folk, blues, and even a little bit of classic country on this album.
The opening track, "A1A (Settin' Myself Free)," is the best country song I have heard in a long time. Not true country, it is built on a classic college radio chord progression, as good as anything written by the Long Ryders back in the mid-80's. The delayed and layered harmonies are perfect for the structure of the hook. This is what today's country music should sound like. Next, in an immediate shifting of gears, "Love Over Logic" features a descending triplet melody in the chorus and the instrumentation relies on a more traditional Americana sound. The backing vocals in this track are particularly impressive.
The catchy "Time Before, Time After" employs an oddball type genre mixing that often spells disaster. Here, however, it really works well. Imagine Jennifer Warnes singing a Suzy Boggus cover with Greg Kihn playing rhythm guitar and Van Dyke Parks arranging the strings. Add in Butler's heartfelt lyric, and this, my friends, is a great song. Then, she changes pace again. When Butler sings "...You were the love that I thought was forever" in "Summer and Fall," she jolts the listener upright. The song sounds like Dan Fogelberg could have written it, with its 6/8 melting into a 2 (a la "There's A Place In The World For A Gambler") and its haunting violin. I love it.
"Walk On" is an energetic, gender-flipped "Already Gone" by the Eagles with a slightly twangier guitar. The attitude in Butler's voice is exactly what it should be in a kiss-off statement such as this. "Credit Card Blues" charges ahead with a Bonnie Raitt feel, a clever lyric, and a sassy background vocal. This toe-tapper sounds like it must be a fan favorite, live. The swirly melody in "Come Back To Me" reminds me of "Coming Up Close" by 'til Tuesday, except that the drums sound like Nigel Olson from the original Elton John Band. Like all of the tracks on this album, it is certainly worthy of repeated listenings. "Mama Knew" features a mid-tempo country-rock 4/4 that puts grit and drive into the life lessons referenced in the lyrics. The hymn-like "When The Troubles Get Too Much" showcases Butler's unique vocal ability, and features a Jerry Garcia-like guitar passage throughout.
If you are looking for an Americana album that is strong from beginning to end, here it is. Elizabeth Butler is a storyteller, voicing the experience that led her through topics such as love. Topics such as loss. Other stuff. Add it all up and LOVE & LOSS & STUFF LIKE THAT is simply a great album.
John T. McMullan
CATYA MARE - VOCE (Single) October 25, 2014
"Voce" by Catya Mare is one of the most interesting singles released in 2014, an instrumental hybrid that grafts classical violin to classic pulsating synthesizer voicings. The violin melody, while simple, is memorable and, in places, sounds like some of Gary Numan's best synthesizer work from I, ASSASSIN. While some violinists might cringe at being compared to a synthesizer player, I somehow believe that this detached, yet intimate sound is exactly what Catya wanted to achieve. It is the push and pull between the robotic rhythms and the lingering human melody line that give this song its life, and its hook. After I listened to it on my phone from a link, I immediately downloaded it from iTunes and played it at high volume three times in a row on a true stereo system. On repeat, the listener will marvel at this mixed marriage of violin and synthesizer, forgetting that the synth is an instrument often derided for its inability to accurately recreate strings. For this single, the cultural difference disappears. If Jean-Luc Ponty had joined Gary Wright during his "Really Want To Know You" period, they MIGHT have been able to come up with a single this good. Who knows? What I do know is that Catya Mare has crafted a burst of irony that demands numerous listens. Skip your soda today and buy this song on iTunes right this very minute!
John T. McMullan
SILVIA NAKKACH & DAVID DARLING - IN LOVE AND LONGING October 24, 2014
IN LOVE AND LONGING by Silvia Nakkach & David Darling is an adventurous, ambient album. Several selections exceed seven minutes in length and can best be described as exercises in sound splattering. This kind of experimental creativity usually bores me, or offends me with haughty excessiveness. With that sort of predisposition, I played IN LOVE AND LONGING from beginning to end, twice. I was amazed at the mental pictures that came into my mind, prompted simply from the sound of the music. This album is definitely something special.
Silvia Nakkach's haunting vocals are most evident in the song "Beyond Words." This recording is both attractive and terrifying at the same time. It sounds like it might be the audio track to a mild nightmare, but it is so beautiful that the listener will not want the slow creepy dream to end. While I usually can't stand songs like this, I absolutely LOVE "Beyond Words."
David Darling's cello is the key to this album's overall sound. I have never heard vocals, cello and piano balanced quite like this before. A limited use of percussion throughout keeps the focus on the tonic overtones that enter and exit the mix spectrum. "Luar" features an interplay between the cello and a tasteful piano that supports and enshrines Nakkach's alluring voice. She "sings" this song as if she is a siren, poised to heighten the listener's desires, all the while performing a type of hypnosis on us all.
"Icaro Blue" is something like a journey into an exotic subterranean martini cave. If you could bottle the sound of exciting distrust and record it, this is what it would sound like. "Slowly" is another dreamlike selection that features incredible vocal control from Nakkach. A more soothing and relaxing sound is achieved in "Awakening," a song that edges its way back toward more traditional New Age structure. Its melody belongs in the desert breeze of a clear Sedona sky.
For the listener wishing to step outside his or her comfort zone, and, yet be eerily comforted by the unfamiliar, IN LOVE AND LONGING should be the very next listen. The production is crisp, and the emotions raised by the music feel like temptation. Give in, and succumb to Silvia Nakkach & David Darling. I am in love and longing for their next release!
John T. McMullan
ALEX MITNICK - LOVE SONGS FOR MY BABY October 20, 2014
Remember "Old Witch" and "Lollipop Tree?" As a toddler with a cheap turntable and musical parents, I played, scratched, and ruined a treasure trove of children's records. I had them all. Burl Ives. Gene Autry. The Disney Storybooks. These were records made for very young ears, and, this many years later, my guess is that these records probably drove most parents crazy. Well, that is exactly the opposite of what happened when I played the new Alex Mitnick album all the way through. It is not merely a children's record, as it is a record that children will like, but also one that hits buttons familiar with parents as well. Genre-wise, it is difficult to describe, other than to say that it is a consistent and enjoyable album from beginning to end.
"Oh My My" is the birth announcement of the album. It has a funky rhythm and a Jack Johnson feel to the vocal. It is a perfect way to begin a song cycle celebrating the stages of both parenthood AND childhood. The following track, "Feelin' Fine," sounds like one of the good songs that the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band might have recorded in the late 70's, coupled with a perfect chorus lyric for a child to hear, "Feelin' fine, spending time with you."
"Morning Sun" is another selection that speaks directly to the parents, over a backing that sounds like Bruce Hornsby has joined Mumford & Sons. With a low voice with just the right amount of echo, Mitnick sings of the love of a life that has just begun. "Love Is All It Takes" is pure calypso joy, harkening back to classic calypso recordings of the Mighty Sparrow or Sel John's Combo. It is such a catchy track that it will stay in your head all day long after only one listen.
Mitnick keeps the hooks coming with a Harry Nilsson chord progression in the verse of "Hey Hey Lyla" before it morphs into a Zombies-like chorus. On the strength of the melody alone, this song sounds like it should have been an AM Radio hit in 1968. Then, "Music In My Heart (Miles Smiles)" features a Peter Tosh percussion over a basic 50's structure. The chorus of this track sounds like something Keith Sykes may have helped Jimmy Buffett put together during the former's sessions as a co-writer with Buffett and his Coral Reefer Band.
As the song cycle addresses lessons that children learn, the music becomes more directed to those aforementioned young ears. In "Having A Party" we find ourselves celebrating with the animals in Noah's Ark. The horns and backing vocals transform the parable into a delightful sing-along. "Honey Pie" sounds like a hapless Randy Newman in a power struggle with a toddler, with the toddler, of course, winning! "Baby" is the most childlike song on the album with its lyrics about "feeding chickens" and "checking on honey bees."
"In The Right Place" is a parent's affirmation, sung expertly by Mitnick. It closes this superb album with a heartfelt tug. For those that are in the sometimes frustrating stages of parenting, and who have hearts that are, as the song says, "in the right place," this album is a must. I was pleasantly surprised, song after song after song, by Mitnick's ability to tackle and conquer multiple genres. I was also impressed by the expert production of Ross Bellenoit, which presented each song in its best light, much like that perfect family portrait that emerges from a chaotic shoot during the toddler years. Alex Mitnick gets the best smiley face that the kindergarten teacher can draw!
John T. McMullan
I know. The release of a new piano album is not supposed to be a musical event these days. Practically every piano teacher on earth seems to be recording one, and college recital halls are turning away accomplished pianists daily because they all sound the same. Right? WRONG! LOVE'S RIVER by Laura Sullivan IS an event! It is nothing less than an essential listen, especially for those who have been skeptical in the past about New Age music. Essential for wordsmiths who mistakenly believe that emotions such as heartbreak or awakening can only be conveyed by sung or spoken lyrics. Essential for worn out New Age fans who find themselves turning to 30 year old George Winston or Liz Story recordings over and over, because they believe New Age has withered. Essential.
"Secrets From The Deep," the first track, is built on an old-world structure, over which the piano and woodwind flutter. It has a pleasant and comforting feel. A really good song. Then comes "Wishing On A Dandelion," a song that has one of those "stop what you're doing and listen" chord progressions. It indeed caught me mid-text message, and jarred me into a sudden realization that I was hearing something special!
Sullivan's dynamics and phrasing on this selection accentuate the brilliance of the composition she is playing. "Awakening to Love" has an open feel with its delayed upward triplet accompaniment and wistful horn. The song is an audible daybreak, daring the listener to look upward and move forward. "Blessed" is a spine chilling composition. Somehow, Sullivan has channeled the perfect backdrop for the listener's most longing or reflective moments in his or her life. Its simplicity is deceitful. Its melody is mournful. Every New Age pianist that has ever sat at the keyboard has attempted to capture this song. Until now, it has escaped them all. "Blessed" is an instrumental masterpiece, able to stand against any recorded moment on any record, in any genre, forever.
The title track, "Love's River," is perfectly named, with its traditional New Age left hand, meandering melodic right hand, and moody woodwind flowing between the banks of early Windham Hill on one side, and groundbreaking soundtrack music on the other. "Calligraphy" is the most George Winston-ish recording in the set. However, it only touches on the outskirts of AUTUMN, as it breaks mid-song to elbow its way out of the '80's. Sullivan's respect for the New Age Masters is obvious, but not overdone. Yes, William Ackerman did help with some production on this project, in conjunction with Sullivan's husband, Eric Sullivan. Yet it is (Laura) Sullivan's command of the keyboard that shines throughout. Very evident on "Calligraphy."
The album closes with "Snow On Water," a selection that is almost as powerful as "Blessed." As the song develops, it is as if Sullivan is holding back tears as she plays. At the 2:30 mark, the mood shifts from some unspoken loss to the sound of the composer musically strengthening herself. She ends the album starkly...a wiser, yet more deliberate pianist. This is an ESSENTIAL album. It is poetry, spoken through the command of Laura Sullivan's gifted musicianship. JTMc