By Noah Hubbell
By Leslie Simon
By Brad Lopez
By Tom Murphy
By Noah Hubbell
By Inkoo Kang
By Dave Herrerra
By Josiah M. Hesse
So how come I watch the clock every other song? Because hearing Kirchen's vocals for the first time ever is like hearing Eric Clapton for the hundredth time today. Farrell's "Cold Country Blues" catches Kirchen at his saddest and sweetest, and he goes suitably crazy while barking out the words of Johnson's "Sometimes I Think" and twisting his tongue around "Swing Fever." But in a song-oriented live CD, that's a piddling amount of sharp singing. Fortunately, though, Kirchen's pipes don't prevent Lincoln from eventually reaching its destination.
(In Joy Music)
A decade or so ago, a new-age artist named Paul Winter was regularly taking his soprano saxophone into the great outdoors, turning on the tape recorder and letting the music flow. The result, at the time, was inspiring and frequently breathtaking, but as the years went by, memories of Winter's work slipped my mind--until I heard Sedona, that is. Illenberger obviously uses nature as his inspiration (titles include "Secret Canyon," "Frogs" and "Full Moon"), and he even throws in natural sounds, like a roll of thunder and barking coyotes heard outside the studio window (as opposed to Illenberger being outside). Illenberger writes that these instrumentals were inspired by the "vibrant energy" and "spectacular landscape" of Sedona, Arizona, and the first two tracks are quite dynamic thanks to their crisp, elegant guitar work. They recall the simplicity of the Paul Winter recordings, and they left me wanting more. But not for long: Sedona quickly devolves into a thick, over-textured, syrupy lite-jazz work that, believe it or not, is worse than anything even Yanni has ever produced. If this is vibrant energy, I suggest putting it to good use--in the recycling bin.
In "Kids Do the Darnedest Things," an article that ran in our July 16 issue, I praised recent releases by Sean Lennon, Jeff Buckley and Rufus Wainwright, three pop-star offspring who used the advantages bestowed upon them by their last names in order to take more artistic chances, not fewer. Unfortunately, quite a few second-generation artists choose to take the conventional tack. Case in point: Adam Cohen. The son of Leonard Cohen, a craggy Canuck whose brainy poem-songs and existential-ladies'-man persona has made him a favorite of bookish dudes who are lucky if they date semi-annually, Adam has a voice that's far more flexible than his father's; he's capable of moving from a lover's purr to a petulant bellow in the span of a few words. But whereas Leonard's monotone is limited but indelible, Adam's is utterly generic, a weightless David Wilcox croon that makes everything he sings feel even less substantial than it might seem otherwise.
Sensing this, the big wheels at Columbia spared no expense when it came to collaborators: Tunesmiths Tonio K and Dillon O'Brien are among those who were imported to co-write material with Adam, and sidemen on the CD include old-schoolers Larry Klein, who until earlier this decade was married to Joni Mitchell, and David Baerwald. But despite these efforts, Adam Cohen is painfully immature--the work of an artist trying desperately to seem more wise than he actually is. When he attempts to express his sensitivity, the younger Cohen is far too on-the-nose: "We're all so fragile/We're all so scared," from "Cry Ophelia," is typical. But far more agonizing are those moments when he reaches for the depths of romantic despair that Leonard makes his home. The nadir is "Quarterback," a teeth-grinding catalogue of teen angst that opens with a clumsy allusion to pedophilia ("Your Underoos past your thighs/A little chubby but cute, so cute") before degenerating into an orgy of whining that might give even Billy Corgan pause. "Why can't your cheers be for me/Instead of the quarterback?" he simpers, sounding like the kind of brat who might have benefited from a few years in military school.
Cohen's disc is certainly professional, and Columbia has big plans for him; the firm has set up a personalized Adam Web site (at www.adamcohen.com) that's filled with the type of hype that practically shouts, "He's the next Jakob Dylan!" Given the vigorousness of the campaign, he might turn out to be just that. And that's precisely the problem.