Last week, I compiled my list of favorite national releases from the past year ("The Prize Patrol," December 26). This week, peruse my alphabetical roster of 1996's best Colorado releases: ten fine recordings by a variety of local artists whose work rivals (and, in many cases, surpasses) the efforts of their better-known peers.
On the inside jacket of this CD, Denver's Boss 302 gives thanks to Ray Davies, Keith Moon and Budweiser--and the music bears out these inspirations. Lead vocalist Rich 302 barks his way through gloriously trashy efforts like "Poo!," "Give It In to Me" and "Mind on a Tart" as the other Bosses shovel out riffs that are built to last. Sure, there's a throwback quality to Rock Songs, but that's part of the point--and a lot of the pleasure. (Available in area record stores.)
This disc's name provides an apt description of guitarist Buckham's approach; the music (recorded in real time without the use of multi-tracking, sampling or other computer gewgaws) moves effortlessly from one region of the avant-garde to another, with captivating results. "Holy Metronomy" touches upon the minimalism of Steve Reich and the repetitive attack of Robert Fripp without aping either--a neat trick--while "Congestion" suggests the mathematical exorcisms of Anthony Braxton transposed to a six-string. Superior and thrilling throughout. (Homemade Hurricane, 2320 Leyden Street, Denver 80207.)
Changes in the Heart
(Red Gecko Records)
Although Dean receives able assistance from talents such as Sonny Landreth, Tim and Mollie O'Brien, Celeste Krenz and John Macy, his sweet, light tenor and his lovely, country-flavored songwriting are the elements that truly make Changes work. The title track displays perhaps too much commercial savvy for its own good, but "Angelos," on which Landreth plays slide guitar, the bluegrassy "Nobody Home in the House of the Lord" and the charming "Everything I Touch (Turns to the Blues)," co-written by Bob Tyler, are bright and alluring. A man who deserves more attention than he's getting. (Red Gecko Records, 6625 Old Ranch Trail, Littleton 80125.)
Starbent but Superfreaked
In which Diggie Diamond and his studiously bent associates discover the band they've always wanted to be. Most of these numbers exist at the point where heavy metal, funk, disco, camp and lasciviousness intersect--a location that no previous act has found. Add to this accomplishment a sound mix (courtesy of Mark the 3 Kord Scissor King) that's scary, horny and funny in equal measure, and you've got a record that will provide you with more fun than three naked people in a room filled with whipped cream. Well, maybe not, but close. (Available in area record stores.)
Lord of Word and the Disciples of Bass
Positive represents a shift for this outfit. More so than on previous efforts, the sound is jazzy, funky, laid-back and (to borrow a term from a selection here) "smooth." Fortunately, the Lord is in extremely good voice, the horn playing by Matt Planet, Rick DeMey and Jeff Lipton is exceptional and the production, credited to the band as a whole, is warm and inviting. The players take the album's moniker seriously: When the Lord jokingly asks a paramour if she would kiss his ass on "If I Was," he immediately follows with the line "I'm kidding." That may be true, but given the extreme listenability of Positive, folks everywhere may soon be puckering up. (Available in area record stores.)
Blues by the Bushel
Mayfield's debut on the Oakland-based OPM imprint sticks to blues verities: The deliberate "Since I Fell for You," a propulsive cover of Solomon Burke's "Happy Birthday Song" and the nine other songs here serve as reminders why the top examples of this genre seldom sound dated. Mayfield's voice is convincing no matter the style he's surveying, and the background music provided by a long list of Denver players is top-notch. Bushel is no revelation--it sticks to the tried and true--but it's a nice introduction to Mayfield's world. (Available in area record stores.)
My Cruel Heart
The material that makes up this exciting and consistently enjoyable Gramavision bow was recorded by Miles, co-producer Mark Fuller and a great collection of Denver jazzers (Eric Moon, Fred Hess, Rudy Royston and Artie Moore among them) a couple of years prior to their appearance in music stores from coast to coast. But "Finger Palace," "Howard Beach" and "Erase Yourself" feel as fresh as tomorrow, and the remainder of My Cruel Heart isn't far behind. While he hasn't gotten as much ink as other young lions on the contemporary scene, Miles is every bit their equal. The first chapter in what should be many wonderful volumes of forward-looking jazz. (Available in area record stores.)
Why beat around the bush? Succinctly put, nGomA's Collage Mindstate is as fine a Denver hip-hop CD as I've heard in ages. Rather than aping the gangsta style, as do so many others in these parts, rappers Dap and Reese (who will be profiled in an upcoming issue of Westword) move in a more challenging and rewarding direction exemplified by A Tribe Called Quest and De La Soul. At this point in its development, nGomA lacks a single style to call its own, but the skill with which its members flow through jazzy/soulful tracks like "Gitongone," "Unrational" and "Stimulation" bodes well for the future. No stereotypes; just pure musical pleasure. (Black and Black Management, 770-2521.)
Vikings of the Sunrise
Scott, a Colorado Springs-based composer and performer, operates in a realm that most observers would dub "classical," but the rare beauty that suffuses Vikings demonstrates just how limited such a definition is. The manner in which this music is made (Scott and a team of helpers manipulate the strings of a piano from the inside of the instrument) is intriguing in and of itself. But these three multi-part compositions ("Tangaroa," "Vikings of the Sunrise" and "Vikings of the Sunset") would be worthy of note had they been played on kazoos. That they are presented in so sumptuous, plaintive and indelible a manner is an incalculable bonus. To call Vikings remarkable is to understate considerably its attributes. (Available in area record stores.)
Songs From the Hamster Theatre
Multi-instrumentalist Willey is best known for his past work in Baldo Rex and Thinking Plague, as well as his current role as accordionist and guitarist for the Denver Gentlemen. But Hamster reveals him to be more than a background musician. Rather, he's a sonic conceptualist of uncommon skill. Some of the pieces here are mere fragments (both "Nursery Rhyme" and "Pookypoo" clock in at less than one minute), but despite their brevity, Willey makes them stick. But on others, such as "Litost" and "Ester," he uses the various noisemakers at his command to create rewarding aural environments unlike any you've heard before. (Prolific Records, P.O. Box 482113, Denver 80248.)
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