By Brian Turk
By Drew AIles
By Taylor Boylston
By Bree Davies
By Emerald O'Brien
By Gina Tron
By Jon Solomon
At this point, Jackson doesn't have a domestic record contract, but he remains popular in Europe: He recently performed at a festival in Warsaw, Poland, alongside previous collaborators such as Bill Laswell. He's looking forward to touring the Old Country during the first half of next year and may visit a number of U.S. cities as well--and Brown is hoping that Denver will be among them. Until then, he's keeping busy doing studio work and praising any and all higher powers for helping him to find his feet again. "When I got to New York, I was still very much in the healing process because of what had happened with Opie," he says. "And it was a hard seven or eight months after that. But I've grown, and the playing experiences I've had here have been fabulous."
Mind if I kick a few pebbles out of my mountain of local releases awaiting review?
Iron Feather's Choonz and Warez, issued under the auspices of Steven Prothero (the indefatigable publisher of Iron Feather Journal, a noteworthy Boulder 'zine), is an impressive and nicely varied double-CD compilation of electronic music and assorted oddities, much of it made by Coloradans. Denver DJ John Chamie is associated with "Liquid Loops," by Agent Babylon, and "Nickleplated," by the Vandal; the city's 69 Valentine offers up the enticing "Circular Rationale"; DJ Hendy, another area resident, excels on "Bhong" and "Moose Juice"; and Deadly Buda, Feral, Multicast, Lorien and past Westword profile subjects pH-10 and Hell's Half Acre make strong contributions. Add in tracks by dance-world heavyweights like the Black Dog and you've got a lot of interesting music in one convenient package (Iron Feather Label, P.O. Box 1905, Boulder, CO 80306). Although Worm Trouble's self-titled CD isn't a consistently enchanting effort, it features quite a few interesting flashes. "Turtle Song," an attempt at a dark nursery rhyme, missed the mark by a wide margin for me, and several tunes (such as "My Own Face") are pleasant without quite making it all the way to memorable. But "Winner" is one--and there are other victors as well. Michael Trenhaile, formerly of Body of Souls, croons like Utopia-era Todd Rundgren on "Run," and his harmony singing with Kathryn Ellinger and Carrie Beeder on "Commerce" suggests a folkier Alice in Chains. Not there yet, but on the right track (Slug Records, P.O. Box 9290, Denver, CO 80209).
Specimen is a jazz band in the Fat Mama mold--meaning that its members know that "fusion" isn't always a dirty word. The group's self-titled demo includes "Intro," a multi-hued effort highlighted by Mark Hanson's saxophone; "Happy Dance," accented by a scarifying guitar duel involving Hanson and Adam Levine; and "Abgba," which touches on don't-bogart-that-joint jamming without being defined by it. Some promise here (Plug Publicity, 303-543-8447). Amanda's Waiting is a New York band that features longtime Denverite Wendy Flitter on cello. The group's CD, Amanda's Waiting, finds the musicians at the intersection of modern rock and Scandal. Honestly, lead vocalist Minx sounds more like Patty Smyth on guitar rockers such as "Pretty Good for a Good Girl" and "Sparrow" ("She couldn't wait any longer/ Sparrow must fly!") than Patty Smyth might. Time seems to have passed by the combo's approach, but that could change: After all, even disco made a comeback. But I think I'll wait for another bus, thank you (Amanda's Waiting, P.O. Box 2419, New York, NY 10108).
Birth, credited to Melissa Michaels and Friends, is advertised as "a moving journey from the longing of the spirit to the ecstasy of the ordinary." If that sounds snooty as all get-out, well, it is: For instance, the nearly 24 minutes' worth of "Conception: Embracing New Life" is broken into six segments titled (I swear) "Egg," "Egging," "Sperm," "Union," "Rejoice" and "Spirit." But Michaels's fine team of collaborators--Mark Fuller, Mark McCoin, Mike Vargas and Beth Quist are among them--manage for the most part to translate Michaels's high-flown notions into a likably percussive Thirld World soundscape. "Welcoming Life," the celebratory conclusion, is more than a bit trite, but a majority of other tracks provide pleasant background music that skirts the edges of the new age without toppling into it entirely (Wild Life Productions, 2888 Bluff Street #252, Boulder 80301). On Midnight Sun, Katz Romero and several noteworthies on the Denver jazz scene (such as Eric Gunnison, Billy Tolles and Ron Miles) tackle a selection of standards from the pens of the usual suspects: Cole Porter, George Gershwin, and so on. Romero has a full-bodied voice that strains for neither high notes nor low, and the playing is impeccable; I particularly enjoyed Tolles's sax workout on "Your Mother's Son-in-Law." But there's little to differentiate these versions from thousands of others that have been heard for decades in jazz lounges coast to coast. Solid but familiar (Paris Kitten Productions, P.O. Box 18788, Denver, CO 80218).
The Dogs in the Yard disc Sunday Afternoon spends most of its time in the middle of the rock road. "Wasted Time," "Hurricane" and "Gravity" feature clean guitar lines of the sort youngsters associate with Toad the Wet Sprocket and their elders remember from Sniff 'n' the Tears, while "Stop Wishing" contains sweet crooning and overtly sincere lyrics ("I had to show you what was in my heart/And let you see inside my head/Iopened up the window, let the warm sun come in") that aren't that far removed from Loggins & Messina. KBCO listeners are apt to salivate at the combination. As for me, I'd probably change the station (Dogs in the Yard, P.O. Box 1795, Idaho Springs 80452). The full-length cassette Between Here & Nowhere finds its maker, Keith Hanson, delivering Seventies-style power-pop like a one-man Raspberries (the guitarist/ bassist/keyboardist/drummer is the only performer on the tape). His cover of the Buddy Holly favorite "Oh, Boy!" is not terribly inspired, but the wide-eyed raveups "Politician Man" and "High School Camelot" are infectious, and the ballad "Eternally" makes an impact by virtue of its unimpeachable sincerity and Hanson's multi-tracked (and nicely nasal) vocals. The production is a little raw, but it doesn't mask this guy's charms (Keith Hanson, 7565 Zuni Street, #B211, Denver 80221).