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When guitarist Neil Haverstick gets philosophical about alternative musical scales, as he did not too long ago in these pages ("Toning Up," April 16), he sometimes gives the impression that his music can only be appreciated by people who know how to use a slide rule. But on Acoustic Stick, a CD subtitled Music for 19 & 34 Tone Guitar, he proves that he can be accessible as well as innovative. He applies a 19-tone system to the first four songs on the album and an even more complex 34-tone approach to the final two. But Haverstick is able to hold and reward a listener's attention even when the compositions are at their most eccentric, as on "34 Steps"--and because the melodic units seldom resolve themselves in ways most fans of Western music would predict, there are surprises around every corner. Stimulating, and not nearly as weird as you'd think (available in area record stores). Keepers of the Flame, by country artist Jon Chandler, comes with a subtitle, too--A Tribute to America's Farmers and Ranchers. The latter isn't there just for show: The rear of the CD is stamped with the logos of organizations such as the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, the American Farm Bureau Federation and the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, which cooperated in the making of the album. Given these connections, it's no surprise that the sentiments expressed in the songs are thoroughly old-fashioned. For instance, the lyrics of "That's My Wife" include the lines "She does the books/She loves to cook/And she looks like a million bucks to me," while words to some of the other efforts suggest thirty-year-old public-service announcements. But Chandler's earnestness is appealing, and the instrumental assistance of folks like Sam Bush, Tim O'Brien and Sally Van Meter is first-rate. Sometimes corniness isn't such a bad thing (Ginny Ragsdale & Associates, 331-8322).

The self-titled disc by Richard Allen's One-Man Band uses guitars and a range of synthesized instruments to achieve a sound that's the musical equivalent of Disney's Tomorrowland: The harder it tries to be modern, the more retro it seems. The bubbly space noises, six-string riffing and treated vocals on "Hanged Man" suggest the lost work of Gary Numan, while "Protagonist" whips up synth noises à la the art rockers of two decades back. Unfortunately, Allen's got his style down too well; there's not enough variety here to keep you coming back for more (Richard Allen Music Publishing, P.O. Box 5334, Greeley, CO 80631-0334). The Biscuit, by a Colorado Springs combo of the same name, is a conundrum. Produced by Kirwan Brown, who left Opie Gone Bad under interesting circumstances (see Feedback, February 19), and featuring jazz keyboardist Eric Gunnison, it has a fusion-friendly sound over which guitarist/theremin player Lewis Keller raps, to put it bluntly, in a really white way. The playing is impeccable and the sound is roomy and expansive, but songs such as "We Got the Butta," "The Weatherman" and "Smidgen" are too weak to stick. Add talent to lousy material and you won't get too far (The Biscuit, 1237 Terrace Road, Colorado Springs, CO 80907).

On the more-fun-with-capitalization tip, the latest album by dERiSiOn is rock of a very serious sort. Robert Williams comes up with some singular tones on his guitar; if it weren't for a liner note stating that "no samplers or synthesizers were used on this recording," you'd swear that some of the sounds were electronically produced. The instrumental skills of drummer Garry McCulley and a bassist known only as Todd are noteworthy as well. But the nine tunes on hand sound more like one track split into pieces; with only rare exceptions (such as the riff-heavy "Tumbling Down"), the songs overuse similar tempos and techniques until redundancy sets in. If these guys temper their pretentiousness and mix it up more next time around, however, they could become contenders (784-4719). Available Jones, from Nederland, comes to you with a good band name and a self-titled demo tape that contains four songs in the neo-hippie mode. The playing's okay (kudos to saxophonist Bruce Lish), but "Money Green," "Suzie," "Drown" and "Available Jones" hew so closely to what is by now a time-worn formula that it's practically impossible to come up with anything new to say about them. That's the sound of my lips being zipped (Available Jones, P.O. Box 838, Nederland, CO 80466).

On its demo for the World Entertainment Management Group, Millennium delivers three songs' worth of expertly rendered corporate rock. Dan Reed has a voice that's pure Tommy Shaw (or maybe Dennis DeYoung), and he uses it to wail lyrics like "Turn your face from the lies ever blinding/Reach within your last remains of dignity," from "A Thin Disguise." Everything about the cassette's presentation is accomplished, from the packaging to the sound, but unless you're still wearing out your Scorpions albums on a regular basis, this probably won't be your dream recording. Also from World Entertainment is Kindred, a past Westword profile subject ("Kindred Spirits," July 10, 1997) whose three-song demo is just as slick but considerably more distinctive. The music is rather metallic, but Cody Qualls's voice is effective, not affected, the lyrics speak of youthful experience in ways that don't feel juvenile, and the structures are smart by the standards of the genre. Hard rock that isn't hard to enjoy (World Entertainment, 1873 South Bellaire Street, Suite 915, Denver, CO 80222).

In a review of John Herdt's CD Rip City, published in these pages back in 1995, I praised the main man's guitar playing but identified his singing as "an acquired taste" (which was an example of me being as kind as possible). Fortunately, Sidelong Glance, Herdt's latest, concentrates on his instrumental acumen as opposed to his pipes. Although it was recorded on a four-track, the disc boasts good sound quality and a wide range of styles, from the lively "Believe Me" to the atmospheric "Poudre Canyon." When Herdt opens his yap, as he does on "Serious Jones" and "Country Boy Gone to Town," he tests your patience quite severely, but his picking, plucking and shredding are consistently diverting (John Herdt, 753 South Union Boulevard, Denver, CO 80229). The demo by Boulder's Merry Madness made me think of the Police--and I'm betting that most other people who've heard it are behind me 100 percent. "Dinner With Myself" has a particularly Reggatta de Blanc flavor, and Ian Cramer's Stingy vocals on "Get It Right" and "Ox" don't do a lot to dispel this impression. The drumming of Christopher Wylie, the bass playing of Jeff DeWeese and Cramer's guitar leaps are accomplished; as for the songs, you've been there and done that (Christopher Wylie, 4800 Baseline Road, Suite E104-264, Boulder, CO 80303-4623).

Wacky name-change news: To reflect recent personnel changes, Filmstrip has altered its moniker to (ready for this?) The Filmstrip. The act joins San Francisco's Luxt (not the Luxt) at the 15th Street Tavern on Thursday, July 2.

In a Hit Pick that ran in last week's issue, I cheered the return of Nebula 9 and the reunion of the group's founding members, Jim Stout and Julian Bradley. As it turns out, I got it half right. Nebula 9 is indeed back, but this year's model is a one-man show starring Stout; Bradley is not participating. I regret the error--as well as so many other things that I'd need another twenty columns just to list them all.

Don't worry--I'm not going to try. On Thursday, July 2, Jinx Jones and the Tel Rays hit Herman's Hideaway, and the New Morty Show debuts at the Fox Theatre, with David Booker. On Friday, July 3, Jerry's Kids accept donations at the Boulder Theater, with JAKA, and Gas Huffer tanks up at the Bluebird Theater, with Whatever... and the Gain. On Saturday, July 4, the Wicked Farleys turn nasty at the 15th Street Tavern, with Blue Ontario. On Sunday, July 5, Man or Astro-man? takes a space odyssey at the Bluebird, and the Gluey Brothers inhale deeply at the Fox. And on Wednesday, July 8, Harry Tuft and Mag Hayden stage a picnic concert in the backyard at Swallow Hill. Bring your own condiments.

--Michael Roberts

Backbeat's e-mail address is: Michael_Roberts@westword.com. While you're online, visit Michael Roberts's Jukebox at www.westword.com.

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