Archive for “Real Animal”

Chuck Prophet’s “Temple Beautiful” Takes Early Lead In 2012 Best Album Sweeps

Posted in Music with tags , , , , on February 11, 2012 by johnbuckley100

 Okay, it’s way early even to be thinking this way, but you know how sometimes in the downhill, one of the early skiers gets a line that is so fast, they serve notice on everyone up the mountain that they’re going to have to go all out to beat them, or else just vie for second place?  Chuck Prophet’s finest release yet, Temple Beautiful, lays down a gauntlet, and come November, we’ll replay it for the whole gang at Tulip Frenzy World HQ, and remind them how much excitement it created in the winter months.  We doubt too many other artists this year are going to take such risks, and such a clean line, as this ‘un does.

The songwriting bears such a resemblance to what Prophet did with Alejandro Escovedo on Real Animal that whether via Pandora’s algorithms or Songza’s human curation, songs from these two albums are going to be like Noah’s matched pairs.  Temple Beautiful is Prophet’s homage to his adopted San Francisco, while Real Animal was a tour through Al’s rock’n’roll career, both thick with memory and myth without tipping into nostalgia.  Okay, maybe a song about Willie Mays is tipping into nostalgia.  But Prophet’s band is so tight, the guitar work by both Prophet and his ace sidekick James Deprato so razor sharp, and the songs so strong, it’s easy to forgive the occasional self-indulgent dip.

Like Real Animal,  Temple Beautiful is as much an homage to earlier bands and the music Prophet loves — from the same Mott the Hoople antecedents to the Plimsouls, from “Hey Joe” to the Flamin’ Groovies (Roy Loney guests!) — as it is to his city.  Over a long career, whether with Green On Red or on his own, Prophet has always played real rock’n’roll, but his spoken-word singing has never quite grabbed us as it does here. Add taking the bus Prophet’s hired to haul fans around San Francisco on March 30th as just one more reason you’d want to live in the Bay Area.  For us, we’re just glad that Alejandro’s close collaborator of the last few years has released an album that is every bit as good as anything Al’s put out on his remarkable recent run.

Alejandro Escovedo’s “Real Animal” Was Born In The Wild

Posted in Music with tags , , , , , , on June 24, 2008 by johnbuckley100

If you did not know how long the road has been for Alejandro Escovedo to be able to release a radio-ready disk as commercially viable and excellent as “Real Animal,” you might think it was easy.  Yet it was just three years ago that we wondered whether Al would live long enough to ever play music again.  That he’s now produced not simply a career restropective, but the album of his career is a testament to persistence, magic, kismet.  You don’t need to be a cynic to doubt such happy endings.  This one’s true.

“Real Animal” is the hardest rocking album Alejandro’s been involved in since that Buick McKane project in the late ’90s.  It actually wallops as hard as that second, inferior True Believers album back in the late ’80s.  Tony Visconti quotes liberally from his past work for David Bowie, and cribs from some of Bowie’s other, lesser producers, to give Alejandro a sheen that serves him well.  It’s the songs, though, and how strong Al’s voice is, that makes the record a career highlight.

“Always A Friend” is a transparent attempt at an FM hit, if there is such a thing these days, and kicks off the album with an homage to Alejandro’s new friend Bruce Springsteen.  I don’t hold this against anyone involved.  Interestingly, “Chelsea Hotel,” which shows him reminiscing for the days of ’78 when Neon Leon stalked West 23rd Street, sounds more like a John Cale song than anything on 2006’s “The Boxing Mirror,” which Cale produced.  

“Sister Lost Soul” is prime Alejandro: melodic, beautiful, a marriage of classic ’70s rock with Austin grit. The sheer improbability of an American artist who combines Rolling Stones riffs with Bowie glam, Detroit guitar rock with Southwestern roots rock, and fills it all out with a small chamber orchestra on top of two-guitars and kicking drums can partly explain why the boy’s defied the easy categorization the music biz demands.

“Smoke,” like “Nuns Song,” is one of the greatest hard rockers from any of Alejandro’s bands or periods — and this is a guy who was in a San Francisco punk band (The Nuns), a Texas hard rock project (True Believers), and the seminal roots rockers Rank and File.  In fact, “Nuns Song,” with its farfisa organ garage undertow, and choogling cellos in the rhythm section, is such a great song he repeats it as an acoustic duo with Dave Pulkingham, and damn if it’s not just as good.

“Sensitive Boys” makes you think of Bowie’s “Young Americans” album and “Golden Bear” takes its production cues from The Thin White Duke — cleverly, without being derivative; it’s a quotation more than an appropriation.

The album has some misses.  The title track’s not great, and some of the softer songs are poor reminders of how poignant Alejandro is at his best.

But did the guy rise to the moment?  Yes, and then some.  His partnership with Chuck Prophet here is remarkably successful, and Visconti was both an inspired choice and a great medium to invoke the spirit of Alejandro’s past.

Rare is the artist who by merely quoting from himself can create an album as diverse and deep as “Real Animal.”  But of course our most important American songwriter of the past fifteen years would come through when it matters.  He’s a real animal.

Will Alejandro Escovedo’s “Real Animal” Make Him A Star, Finally?

Posted in Music with tags , , , , , on June 1, 2008 by johnbuckley100

Alejandro Escovedo is about to release a new album, “Real Animal,” and I note that he’s to perform on the set of the “Today Show” on June 24th, the date of release.  That stage is usually reserved for reunions by New Kids on the Block, right? He was interviewed by the great Kid Leo on Little Steven’s Underground Garage. He’s on the road opening for Dave Mathews.  He’s just been signed by a new manager, Jon Landau, who’s other notable client is some guy from New Jersey named Bruce.  Could this, at long bloody last, be it?  Are the portents for the success so cruelly denied one of our greatest songwriters and performers at last showing up, like a comet in the evening sky?  

Consider this: if you go to Alejandro and play the new “Nuns Song” which previews on it, you’ll get a taste of Al at his hard rock best — Hector walloping the drums, Brian’s cello chugging like a freight train, with this underlying “96 Tears” farfisa reminding us of Al’s garage roots.  It’s about his late ’70s San Francisco band, The Nuns, and it’s a rockin’ gem.  “Sister Lost Soul” is Alejandro at his most melodically beautiful. “Always A Friend” showcases the Tony Visconti production.  Yeah, it could be on a Mott The Hoople album, if Mott the Hoople was the finest band in Austin.  (It actually sounds — and in this context, it’s a compliment — a little like that guy name of Bruce.)

I was disappointed by what John Cale did with Alejandro’s sound on “The Boxing Mirror,” the might-not-have-ever-happened album heralding his return to health and sobriety following a nasty interlude with Interferon in the goal of recovery from Hep C.  But these songs, co-written by Chuck Prophet, are superb.

Is the American musical artist most worthy of success finally about to taste some? Oh man.  Fingers crossed.



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