Beat Goes On
München Szene; Die Frankfurt Szene (Bear Family)
The German Bear Family label has put American labels to shame
with the thoroughness and high quality of their reissues of
artists from the United States. The ongoing Smash. . .
! Boom. . . ! Bang. . . ! series shows them to be equally
adept when turning their attention to their own homeland.
Documenting the ’60s music scene in Frankfurt and Munich,
Die München Szene and Die Frankfurt Szene follow
an earlier volume in the series devoted to Hamburg—and all
are part of a planned 30 volumes devoted to the various bands
of the German beat boom of the mid-’60s. The discs feature
a mix of popular German groups and some great lost combos
who had varying-sized followings in Europe, but made no inroads
across the Atlantic. Listening to these discs is like hearing
a parallel universe: It all sounds like the music of the day,
but it’s slightly reconfigured. There are many covers—hits
of the day remade as close facsimiles—but the vocals have
that alluring sound of non-English speakers aping the phrasing
off the records they learned the song from. There’s everything
from “2000 Light Years From Home” to “Daydream Believer” (both
performed by the Lovers), “I’m Free” (the Spotlights) to “Black
Is Black” (the Rangers).
The changing styles of popular rock music are also mirrored
in these collections. Some of the earlier entries, up until
1964, feel more linked to music-hall traditions (such as the
pair by Tess Teiges and the Dynamits). As the ’60s rolled
along, all manner of expansiveness (from fuzztones to flutes)
found their way into the music. There are also slabs of pure
lunatic abandon (“Jimmy Jimmy Coco Nut” by Rock Ready &
the Raves) and wiggy surf tunes (“Go, Go” by the Taifuns).
The packaging is superlative, and jam-packed with photos.
The notes are all in German, but the music is in the universal
language of rock & roll.
Even though Shelby Lynne is almost as well-known for identity
crises as for artistry, there’s no crisis here. Rather, there’s
versatility, passion and power. Largely written and totally
produced by the complex Nashville singer-songwriter, the archly
titled, enigmatic Identity Crisis should reestablish
Lynne as one of the more compelling and penetrating of today’s
In 2000, Lynne released I Am Shelby Lynne, a sultry,
bluesy masterpiece. In 2001, she stumbled badly with Love,
Shelby, a misguided, overproduced pop collection presenting
her as a bimbo. Here, she’s her own person again.
the first single, is a memorable, sultry tale of rue. “I Will
Stay” presents Lynne as a chanteuse; this complex, beautiful
tune melds Bill Payne’s accurate, plangent keyboards, a rich,
tasteful string arrangement, and Lynne’s plush, oddly innocent
voice to paint a romantic, perfumed picture of devotion. The
multitracked “Lonesome” sounds like it might have been recorded
under the influence of Lynne discoverer Billy Sherrill, a
Nashville producer who wrapped her in sonic gauze, but, suffused
with Lynne’s high, lonesome sound, it’s ravishing rather than
The album is packed with fine material: the punkish “Gotta
Be Better,” the taut rockabilly “I’m Alive,” and “One With
the Sun,” a cosmic statement that affirms how effectively—and,
one hopes, permanently—Lynne has traded the mawkish for the
About You (Cutout)
see, this is a perfect example of a decent local band who
have just plain flown waaaaaay under the radar. Maybe its
because they aren’t 20-something
or part of the Lark Street nouveau pauvre, but the
done anything but sell out, mind-melding everything I ever
liked about Joe Jackson, Randy Newman and Elvis Costello into
14 tracks of acerbic, witty platitudes about life, liberty
and your basic art of underachievement.
About You was engineered locally by the omnipresent John
Delehanty (who, for all his efforts, can’t seem to catch a
freaking break—see previous ML issues for details)
sometime in 2001. The Sellouts have since disbanded, but this
smart effort is a great buy if you can hunt it down. Tracks
like “Manchester” and “Other Side of You” capture that delicate
emotional balance between knowing and not caring, the whole
thing rife with powerful hooks and instantly memorable refrains.
There’s also “Mary Kay,” a knock on the former Valentine’s
partner who mysteriously disappeared. Apparently, the Sellouts
flew under her radar too, despite their offer to “even do
it downstairs.” I mean, is it the shoes? This is decent stuff,
good music for feeling good or feeling like the dentist in
Marathon Man. Your choice.
Sparks (Gaff Music)
Glenn Phillips seemed at one time poised for large-scale success.
Starting in the mid-’70s, the Atlanta-based guitarist toured
regularly, offering up exuberant performances at every stop
along the way. He released albums through his own small label,
a handful of U.S. indies, and was also picked up overseas
by the more formidable Virgin label. But such are the difficulties
of instrumental music that radio play, even on college stations,
never brought him any more than a devoted cult following.
Sparks is his first new release in seven years. The 11
originals all utilize Phillips’ guitar as the center-stage
voice. The setting is, for the most part, that of a rock band—but
it’s not a typical fit. Rock instrumentals most often bring
to mind Duane Eddy, the Ventures and their progeny, or such
novelties as the muscle-bound cartoon of Edgar Winter’s “Frankenstein.”
Phillips has a tone that links him to a guitarist like ECM’s
Terje Rypdal, but he’s not a jazz player. He clearly loves
verse-and-chorus songs, but just doesn’t need the words, and
has rendered them superfluous. In his writing, Phillips presents
long melodic lines (as opposed to simpler riffs), making him
a songwriter of the first order. This is emotionally charged
music. While fairly direct, it’s full of the mysterious powers
of melody and sound. A piece like “Talking to Spirits” is
at once haunting, celebratory and prayerful. It’s heartfelt,
but it’s also got guts. It’s soulful and subtle, and it fearlessly
breaks open to reveal the pulsing heart within. Phillips continues
to make quiet and loud lie down together for glorious results.