Beyond Playlist: Georgie James and More

Georgie James Places (Saddle Creek) Musically speaking, John Davis, best known as the onetime drummer for Q and Not U, and singer-songwriter Laura Burhenn come from a similar place: They both love throwback pop-rock as filtered through a contemporary indie sensibility. But the distinctions in their stylistic choices broaden the scope of Georgie James, their highly enjoyable joint project. Davis-sung efforts such as “Look Me Up,” “Need Your Needs” and “Hard Feelings” are harmonically ornate, with arrangements that belie the relatively simple instrumentation. In contrast, the songs on which Burhenn steps to the forefront are more straight-forward, keyboard-driven affairs – but the charms inherent in “Cake Parade,” “Long Week” and the intoxicating “Cheap Champagne” are abundant and thoroughly rewarding. Georgie James has a split personality that comes together beautifully.-- Michael Roberts

Robert Wyatt Comicopera (Domino) Wyatt attracts admirers like Lindsay Lohan collects DUIs. Paul Weller and Phil Manzanera are among the many prominent sidemen on the latest opus from the Soft Machine leader-turned-idiosyncratic solo artist, and Hot Chip’s Alexis Taylor wanted to be involved so badly that he actually wrote the record-company bio. Why? Because Wyatt is among the most original and admired figures from the original art-rock era, and because he’s made a career out of ignoring commercial realities, he can do anything he damn well pleases – like, for instance, creating a sprawling song cycle broken into sections entitled “Lost in Noise,” “The Here and the Now” and “Away With the Fairies.” At times, the results are merely eccentric, rather than gloriously so: That’s certainly true of “Stay Tuned,” an opening track capable of making some listeners tune out permanently. But those who stick around will be rewarded with the likes of the strangely elegiac “Anachronist,” a jazz-meets-the-steel-drum workout dubbed “On the Town Square,” and wonderfully strange “Out of the Blue,” during which Wyatt plays – no kidding – a synthesized sample of Brian Eno’s voice. Even when it doesn’t work all that well, this Comicopera remains a spectacle worth experiencing. -- Roberts

Ratt Videos From the Cellar: The Atlantic Years (Rhino) Why do you need a collection of cheeseball hair-band videos from a not terribly memorable ‘80s group? Frankly, you don’t – but in case you have a momentary lapse of reason and pick up this sucker, you’ll be rewarded by a few amusing moments. Ratt videos such as “Round and Round” have aged terribly (which is a good thing), and “unreleased” clips such as “Slip of the Lip,” which features a dorky Mission: Impossible theme, are relentlessly dumb (also a positive). The highlight, though, is the inclusion of a commentary track (!) featuring Stephen Pearcy and Warren DeMartini, who babble nonsensically for a long, long time; for instance, “Wanted Man” features discussions about how horses are a bit scary because they can fall unexpectedly. Sort of like Ratt’s career – but all these years later, their coifs still look mahvelous. -- Roberts

Gerald Wilson Orchestra Monterey Moods (Mack Avenue) At age 89, Gerald Wilson is among the last great arrangers of the big-band era who’s still making music, and as Monterey Moods demonstrates, he hasn’t lost his knack. Working with an enormous cast starring a handful of recognizable names (trumpeter Jon Faddis, flutist Hubert Laws, etc.), Wilson uses the seven-section “Monterey Moods Suite” to explore virtually every color in the jazz rainbow. For instance, “Jazz Swing Waltz” features a rich, creamy structure that serves as an ideal backdrop for solos by the likes of saxophonist Antonio Hart, whose passionate honking bridges the gap between traditional stylings and more modern approaches. Wilson may have been born during World War I, but his work is as hip as ever.-- Roberts

Various artists Grey’s Anatomy: Original Soundtrack Volume 3 (Hollywood) Fifteen songs, and not even one by the Fray? McDreamy, you’re a McBastard. -- Roberts

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts