Beyond Playlist: Lee Burridge and More

Lee Burridge Balance, Issue N. 12 (EQ Records) Yeah, yeah: Music that’s energizing and exciting on the dance floor often sounds beyond dull on an iHome. Still, the best mixers (and Britisher Lee Burridge, who's slated to headline at Vinyl on Saturday, October 6, certainly qualifies) are able to find a middle ground between hyperkinetic BPMs and sonic variety that’s perfectly described by the name of this three-CD set. Each disc flows logically from one mood to another, and Burridge adds elements with taste and restraint, resisting the urge to spasmodically press each button on the control panel every few seconds. Paris’ “Spider & Bird,” on disc two, is a case in point: The echo effects, electronic splats and occasional voice samples are used sparingly enough that when they surface, they generate a jolt instead of contributing to clutter. For this reason, the collection works on an ambient level when played at low or moderate volume but becomes an instant party-starter when the dial is cranked. That’s a perfect Balance.-- Michael Roberts

Yung Joc Hustlenomics (Bad Boy South) These days, it’s trendy for critics to lash out against so-called ring-tone hip-hop -- ultra-simple tracks with ultra-simple hooks that sound better squeaking out of someone’s Razr for fifteen seconds than playing in their entirety on a state-of-the-art stereo. In truth, the style is a throwback to the sort of nursery-rhyme rap that has popped up intermittently throughout hip-hop history, and Yung Joc’s latest makes the connection clear. Numbers like “Coffee Shop,” with its Jay-Z-samples-Annie vibe, and “Pak Man,” replete with a synthesized vocal that sounds like a character from the Wayans family’s Thugaboo kid-vids, are the most obvious examples. But even the likes of "Chevy Smile," featuring cameos by Trick Daddy, Block and Jazze Pha, has a sing-songy quality straight from a double-dutch contest (or a Nelly CD). Although Yung Joc likes to play the thug, he’s got plenty in common with Raffi.-- Roberts

Various artists Classic Bluegrass Collection (Time Life) Various artists Sound of the City: New York Area Doo-Wop (1958-1966) (Time Life) Once upon a time, Time Life sets were as obvious as obvious could be -- the better to peddle them to dopes watching infomercials on late-night TV. In recent years, however, their quality has improved measurably, and while they still can’t measure up to the best collections put out by Rhino, the top domestic compiler, or Euro companies such as Bear Family, they’re typically credible introductions to assorted styles. That’s certainly true of these two recent samplers. Classic Bluegrass Collection sports comparatively skimpy liner notes, with only a handful of photos, and the sequencing of the songs leaves a lot to be desired: On disc one, for example, the first seventeen tunes date from the ‘40s, ‘50s and ‘60s, after which the programmers inexplicably toss on an ‘80s Ricky Skaggs ditty and a Patty Loveless recording from 2001. Still, the music itself, which is split between classic performers such as Bill Monroe and the Louvin Brothers and worthy contemporaries like Del McCoury and Rhonda Vincent, is consistently first-rate, and that’s what matters most. Sound of the City makes a bit more sense thanks to the narrowness of the span it covers. The three CDs hang together well, giving listeners an opportunity to re-experience still-familiar doo-wop faves such as the 4 Seasons’ “Sherry” and Dion and the Belmonts’ “A Teenager in Love” alongside more obscure offerings by the Four Evers, the Impacts and Ernie Maresca, whose “Shout! Shout! (Knock Yourself Out)” exudes infectious frat-boy stupidity 45 years after the fact.-- Roberts

Small Sins Mood Swings (Astralwerks) There are times when Thomas D’Arcy, the Canuck behind Small Sins, is too clever for his own good -- and an equal number of moments when he’s just clever enough. Tunes on the debit side include “What Your Baby’s Been Doing,” which D’Arcy unwisely delivers in a goofy falsetto that loses its charm by the second verse, and “Prove Me Wrong,” a dead ringer for filler on an old Cars album that fans routinely skipped to get to the good stuff -- like, for instance, “We Will Break Our Own Hearts,” replete with a tick-tocking beat and harmonizing vocals that hit the sweet spot between satirical and sincere, and “On the Line,” a smart-alecky melody-fest that follows the couplet “You know I’d shoot you/If I only had a gun” with “Someday I’ll get in a real fight/And get the shit kicked out of me by someone.” Once D’Arcy is able to tell the difference between his witty ideas and his weak ones, his Sins will be even smaller.-- Roberts

David Ari Leon Rockabye Baby! Lullaby Renditions of the Rolling Stones (Baby Rock Records) I’m losing my sense of humor about this shit. Back in August, after writing a snotty mini-review of a collection of tot-designed Metallica tunes released under the Rockabye Baby! banner, I thought the series was out of my life forever. But no: Every three or four weeks since then, I’ve received more discs that puree the music of bands ranging from the Beatles and Led Zeppelin to Nine Inch Nails and No Doubt into toothless pap. The Rolling Stones edition is neither better nor worse than any of the rest -- meaning it’s terrible in every way. So stop sending them already. I’m not kidding. Stop. Sending. Them.-- Roberts

KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
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