Usually the mix tape columns have been limited to a handful of discs, but this month there's been so many CDs spinning that I feel like an acrobat or, at the very least, like someone who needs a multi-CD changer.
At the top of the rotation is "Meds," the new disc from Placebo, whose smart, sassy, edgy punk, pop, prog cocktail is laced with sly lyrics full of references to chemicals and sex. But the melodies are always irresistible and one can't help but feel like singer Brian Molko's tongue is lodged firmly in cheek while singing some of these tunes. The Kills' Alison Mosshart guests on the title track and Michael Stipe appears on another, but you'd never know he was there if he wasn't credited.
From the moody midnight sound of "Follow the Cops Back Home" to the dance-y "Infra-Red" and the paean to what seems like a childhood friend/hero, "Drag," Placebo remains at the top of its game.
While everyone else is raving about Maximo Park, we're digging their pals Field Music, whose self-titled disc on Memphis Industries has the same post-punk herky-jerkiness with intelligent lyrics and engaging musical ideas, often featuring quirky keyboard sounds.
Calexico's "Garden Ruin" feels like the band's most commercial effort yet, but we're still swooning at the songs, which (gasp!) now sound more like '70s California rock than tumbleweed alt.country. Could he opener "Cruel," sound any more like Don McLean backed by the Mekons? We think not.
"At War With The Mystics," the new disc from The Flaming Lips has got us hooked, too, mostly because it's the first one in a while that sounds completely different; from the almost Prince-like "Free Radicals" to the "Give Peace a Chance" vibe of the single "Yeah Yeah Yeah Song" and the cluttered breeziness of "The Sound of Failure/Is It Always This Dark?" In fact, it's not until track four, "My Cosmic Autumn Rebellion," that the familiar F-Lips sound crops up.
Josh Rouse's "Subtitulo," recorded in Spain, heralds the arrival of spring and its uplifting vibe and wind-in-your-hair sound reminds us that summer isn't far off. Heck, he's even got a tune called "Summertime" here. With his instantly-recognizable voice flitting in and out of falsetto and the stunning melodies, "Subtitulo" marks at least three great successes in a row for Rouse ("1972" and "Nashville" being the other two).
Blue Note has reissues Rudy Van Gelder editions of Jimmy Smith's "Softly as a Summer Breeze" and Dexter Gordon's "A Swingin' Affair." Smith's disc, recorded in 1958 is fueled by Smith's organ interplay with guitarists Kenny Burrell and Eddie McFadden and the disc is bolstered with a quartet of tunes with singer Bill Henderson that appeared on 45s. Gordon's disc was recorded just days after his classic "Go!" and with the same rhythm section of pianist Sonny Clark, bassist Butch Warren and drummer Billy Higgins. If this one doesn't seem to reach the heights of its predecessor, the support team simmers nicely beneath the majestic tone of Gordon's tenor sax.
While the rest of the world is glomming on to Cassandra Wilson's "Thunderbird" (which is undoubtedly a worthy record), we've latched on to another new Blue Note. Namely, trombonist Gianluca Petrella's vibrant "Indigo 4," which laces fairly traditional hard bop tunes with loops, electronics and a thoroughly modern, experimental vibe.
Meanwhile, Prestige has also tapped Rudy Van Gelder to remaster some of his classic sessions for a series that bears his name and the first 10 discs are stunning. Each is an undisputed jazz classic and these versions have new liner notes from the same folks who wrote the original liner notes, offering their perspective on how these discs have aged over the past 40 or 50 years.
In the first batch are saxophonist Eric Dolphy's "Out There," Gene Ammons' "Boss Tenor," John Coltrane's "Lush Life," "Relaxin' with the Miles Davis Quintet," Sonny Rollins' "Saxophone Colossus," Coleman Hawkins' "The Hawk Relaxes," "Kenny Burrell & John Coltrane," trumpeter Kenny Dorham's "Quiet Kenny," "Red Garland's Piano" and the Modern Jazz Quartet's "Django."
It just might be time to replace those cracklin' old LPs.
Collision Records has issued a double disc retrospective of The Dub Syndicate that reminds us of the greatness of this roots reggae collective led by Roots Radics drummer Style Scott. Disc one of "The Rasta Far I" has a 74-minute mega mix by Rob Smith (of Smith & Mighty) and disc two is all remixes and demos. Fabulous.
Heartbeat has also reissued a quartet of classic Studio One compilations, all with extra tracks. "The Best of Studio One," which has by far the best selection, gets an extended mix of the Wailing Souls' "Row Fisherman Row" and replaces the rerecording of The Gladiators' "Roots Natty" with the original version. "Full Up: More Hits from Studio One" and "Downbeat the Ruler: Killer Instrumentals from Studio One" each get a handful of bonus tunes. The double disc reissue of "Bob Marley and the Wailers: One Love at Studio One" has only one extra track -- "Tell Them Lord" -- but also new artwork.
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.
He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.
With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.
He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.
In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.
He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.