CD Reviews – December – 2007



The Big C
The DVD, featuring Spyz
5 out of 5
This is one of the most gripping things I’ve watched in I don’t know how long.
Heartwrenchingly sad but amazingly uplifting and inspirational, Boulder musician and cancer survivor Jon Henderson, and his band Spyz, open the next chapter in their ongoing story The Big C.
Last year, Spyz released the CD The Big C, a superb rock album where the theme of each song is, of course, related in one way or another to cancer.
This year we learn that the impetus for that project was to compile songs for this film. Henderson put together 13 cancer patients, family members, friends, doctors and social workers and filmed their thoughts, feelings and advice on cancer, intertwined with the music of The Big C.
The songs stood well on their own with the CD last year, but now coupled with the documentary, the story becomes more real, less metaphorical and ten times more poignant.

The DVD release coincides with the fourth annual Beating Cancer Benefit, which this year ups the ante of the first three years of the event, which benefits the Rocky Mountain Cancer Center Foundation.
Started in years past at Conor O’Neills in  Boulder, this year the event will take on multiple venues around the Pearl Street Mall with a multi-day, multi-staged event.
Beyond Conor’s, this year The Lazy Dog Saloon, The Catacombs, Redfish, The Foundry and Trilogy will all join in, donating their cover charges and a percentage of their day’s sales on the weekend of December 7 and 8.
And, in addition to a host of bands (who are donating a portion of their fees as well), Henderson will perform with Spyz and his band, the Henderson Brothers.
To get a copy of The BIG C DVD documentary, donations to the Rocky Mountain Cancer Center Foundation (RMCCF) in the $15 to $50 range are being collected. Make checks payable to RMCCF and send to: Big C Project, 2890 20th Street, Boulder, CO 80304. And to participate further visit the Pearl Street establishments on the days of the benefit.
— Brian F. Johnson

:: Beating Cancer Benefit ::
:: Various Boulder venues ::
:: December 7 and 8 ::


4 out of 5
Shortly into this DVD documentary on Jay-Z’s legendary album Reasonable Doubt, Jay-Z hits the nail squarely on the head when he explains that Reasonable Doubt isn’t classic because it had a hit (it honestly didn’t, though “Can’t Knock the Hustle” came as close as you can get) but because it penetrated cultures.
Reasonable Doubt was also classic because it was the foundation of Jay-Z’s life as a performer, entreprenuer and eventual keeper of the crown of hip-hop royalty. On Reasonable Doubt, Jigga became the intelligent, articulate voice of the crack generation, and for once showed that “the bad guys” aren’t always really malintentioned, but doing what they need to in order to survive. The real magic on this DVD are the interviews with Jay and his counterparts, talking about the rhymes with the excitement and enthusiasm of undiscovered artists.
— Brian F. Johnson


Across the Road
El Cortez
3 out of 5
Dave Harding, bassist for the critically acclaimed Richmond Fontaine, lost a very dear friend in 1995. Todd Scherer, who had played with Harding in the band Uncle Fester back in Michigan in the early 1990s, died tragically in a fire 12 years ago.
Since then, Harding has been developing a tribute to his friend and Across the Road is the final heartfelt outcome. The CD consists of songs written in honor of Scherer and the title track is actually a song written by Scherer years ago. Additionally, Scherer even makes an appearance on the album in the form of a snippet from an old recording made in his home in the early 1990s.
The album is actually a departure from the melancholy tracks of Richmond Fontaine, with Harding taking a much more fun-loving approach in his themes. But the effort features Fontaine lead singer Willy Vlautin on vocals on one track and performances from other members of the band, as well.
It’s a beautiful tribute, raw in its delivery, but probably even more meaningful because of it.
— Brian F. Johnson

What Are Records?
3 out of 5
As the guitarist for The New Pornographers, Todd Fancey has always had his toes dipped into the indie-pop genre, but for his second release with his own band that bears his name, Fancey opted to follow his mission of making “super pop.”
The music is described as soft rock that rocks, but what it really is, is that bright, uplifting sound and feel that comes with the extreme end of the pop world. Of course, his indie background is not totally lost and despite that brightness, the album doesn’t come across as a trite or contrived piece.
In fact, while that singsongy style is in-your-face, there is a great range of styles and even darker moods than Fancey’s 2004 self-titled debut.
Rolling Stone said of Fancey, “That pop music can be feel-good without being saccharin seems to be a point in need of a reminder,” and while that was written about Fancey’s first album, the point is again reiterated with Schmancey, which combines the heaviness of indie pop with the feel- good vibes of ’70s Top 40, and does so without being schizophrenic.
— Brian F. Johnson


Mac Lethal

4 out of 5
“This world is plastic and fake and I was born a few generations late,” starts Mac Lethal’s, Rhymesayer’s debut 11:11 — an intelligent, fun and important album in the spirit of other “smart rappers” like Sage Francis.
From Kansas City, Mac’s a typical troubled young man growing up in America and each one of his songs points it out with sarcastic, catchy and semi-tortured rhymes that are witty and insightful as well as biting and truthful.
And while he definitely focuses on some of the problems with today’s American culture, the album also has a lot of levity to it and some rhymes actually have some laugh-out-loud qualities, that anyone from the Midwest, or anyone who has grown up in the last few decades, can relate to and appreciate.
— Brian F. Johnson

Soul Merchants
Soul Merchants
Smooch Records
3 out of 5
Soul Merchants’ career lasted two years in the 1980s, but the band produced enough material to warrant another 10 years (at least) in the business.
Bob Ferbrache was neither an original or final member of the “psychedelic death rock” band, but he was present in the line-up for most of the band’s short life. He also recorded everything by the band and this two-disc retrospective is his doing — a great snapshot of what the band put out before they valiantly played their final show at the very first SxSW. — Brian F. Johnson

Quick Spins – By DJ Hippie

Sebastian Bach
Angel Down
Get Off My Bach Records
‘The Baz’ winds up getting his chemically imbalanced friend Axl Rose to sing on three tracks. No small feat. The album is a feast of Judas Priest-style metal. Worth a listen.
2 out of 5 stars

Neil Young
Chrome Dreams II
Reprise Records
The story behind this album’s existence is a bit confusing, as are most things Neil. Musically, the album has more high points than low. The song “Ordinary People” is a true triumph.
3 out of 5 stars

The Autobiography
There is not much good dish about Axl Rose in this book. Just a telling, un-convoluted and truly compelling look at Slash’s rise to guitar hero stature.
4 out of 5 stars

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