Best of August 2011: Reader picks include Sly Stone, Adrian Belew and Zigaboo Modeliste

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Here’s a look back at the Top 10 stories from last month on SomethingElseReviews.com, based on page views from our readers. Click through the titles for complete details …

No. 10 — ONE TRACK MIND: ALEX MACHACEK, ‘VERY SAD’: Alex Machacek, whose thrilling pyrotechnic brilliance we’ve already raved about, peels off layer after layer of his own towering virtuosity on a standout track from the just-out Abstract Logix Live: The New Universe Music Festival 2010. What’s left are these strikingly denuded notes, raw and emotional. At times, Machacek is so contemplative that Neal Fountain’s bass actually takes center stage. Yet Machacek never edges into the pastoral blandness that sometimes wrecks efforts by Jim Hall or Jimmy Raney. Published Aug. 16.

No. 9 — SNEAK PEEK: LINDSEY BUCKINGHAM, ‘SEEDS WE SOW’: A darkly introspective triumph — as mysterious and challenging as anything in Lindsey Buckingham’s often mysterious and challenging career. Recording alone, and sounding very much that way, he offers an introspection as sharp and compulsively fascinating as his signature finger-picking guitar accompaniment — moving from the broader complications of this world’s strife to the dilating personal injuries of lost love with the split-second quickness of a pupil tightening. Published Aug. 7.

No. 8 — AMERICA – BACK PAGES: This is a covers album, and thus there are few surprises, but the main thing about the song selection is that America didn’t just pick songs from their time of youth; a few much fresher selections made it on the album, too, like Fountains of Wayne’s “A Road Song.” Each is convincing, especially if you too admire America’s gently sunny disposition, layers of acoustic guitar strumming, Crosby, Stills and Nash styled vocal arrangements and a touch of country that was always present in their best songs. It’s all there, as if it never left. Published on Aug. 9.

No. 7 — SOMETHING ELSE! INTERVIEW: ZIGABOO MODELISTE, CO-FOUNDER OF THE METERS: Joseph “Zigaboo” Modeliste, a funky furnace that once powered the Meters, has just released a tour-de-force project aptly titled New Life. It reestablishes, perhaps unsurprisingly, Modeliste’s claim to co-ownership of the band’s late 1960s/early 1970s string of R&B and rock hits – from “Cissy Strut” and “Fire on the Bayou,” to supporting gigs with Lee Dorsey, LaBelle and Dr. John. Even more interestingly, New Life also illustrates the broad spectrum of legacy sounds that Modeliste has both mastered and contributed to, above the beyond the head-wagging second-line polyrhythms for which he’s so well known. Published on Aug. 3.

No. 6 — SOMETHING ELSE! INTERVIEW: ADRIAN BELEW, OF KING CRIMSON: Adrian Belew, at work these days a classical reformulation of his well-received 2009 trio project e, admits that he’s unsure when King Crimson will reform. “No word right now,” he says of the group, led since its late 1960s inception by Robert Fripp. Still, it’s not like he’s been sitting idly by. Belew, who’s also worked as a sideman with the Talking Heads, Nine Inch Nails and David Bowie, has just finished mastering ‘e’ for Orchestra — something that he describes as a dream project. Done with the Metropole Orchestra of Amsterdam in February, the album is set for release later this summer. Published on June 15.

No. 5 — STEVE CROPPER – DEDICATED: Tribute records are a tricky things; star-studded tribute projects even more so. It takes a strong unifying voice, some central character beyond the featured composer, to save them from sounding like choppy compilations. Steve Cropper is that voice. Co-founder of Booker T and the MGs, and a key sessions player and producer on a host of seminal soul records for Stax and Atlantic, Cropper had long credited North Carolina’s 5 Royales and their leader Lowman “Pete” Pauling with helping to shape his own sound and on-stage persona. So, the passion for this homage was there. But, more particularly, Cropper learned after a lifetime around big stars just when to assert himself. Published on Aug. 9.

No. 4 — MIKEY WAX – CONSTANT MOTION: The best pop songs are about more than their surface allures — the hook, the voice, maybe the lyric. The best pop songs are bound up both in simplicity and mystery, bringing you over a ridge to these stunning emotional vistas, even as you are still trying to get the seatbelt secured. Mikey Wax’s Constant Motion, a soulful pop-rock effort, is filled with such things. Wax, and this is where the record gets its momentum, dilates into these moments of heartbreaking specificity, those times when everything becomes clear about a failed relationship. Yet, and this is interesting, there are just as many moments redemption, of true embrace. Wax won’t give into the coldness that threatens to blow through every breakup. We loved the music, but we loved its core sensibility even more. Published on Aug. 22.

No. 3 — ONE TRACK MIND: DAVID GOGO, “THE WAY YOU MAKE ME FEEL”: A Michael Jackson hit rejiggered as a blues, by a Canadian. It’s enough to make your head hurt. But in a good way. David Gogo plays this music with a concussive menace. When he sings “just kiss me baby, and tell me twice – that you’re the one for me,” it has all of the scary salaciousness of a last-call bar-stool come on. That’s saying something, when you start thinking about the Michael Jackson part, the rejiggered as a blues part, the Canadian part. It has to be the most dangerous this song has ever sounded, or maybe the only time it has ever sounded dangerous at all. Published on Aug. 1.

No. 2 — ONE TRACK MIND: THOMAS DOLBY, “OCEANEA”: He’s not the guy from the famous video anymore. Nobody’s shouting “Science!” on Thomas Dolby’s latest work, this trickling, crystalline ride through a melancholic memory. Listening, it’s easy to picture Dolby, not in some synth-pop laboratory ala “She Blinded Me With Science,” but on the solar- and wind-powered 1930s lifeboat where he’s writing and recording these days. (Talk about new wave!) There is a concurrent ebb and flow to the record, which features a guest vocal by Eddi Reader. Together on “Oceanea,” they connect on an emotional level that much of Dolby’s work from two decades ago never aspired to. The time away has deepened his voice, but somehow opened up his heart. Published on Aug. 10.

And, finally, at

No. 1 — SLY STONE – I’M BACK: FAMILY AND FRIENDS: The remakes here certainly have their moments – among them, Jeff Beck’s distinctive contribution to “(I Want to Take You) Higher,” the Woodstock anthem; Bootsy Collins’ skyscraper-rattling bass contributions to “Hot Fun”; and those gurgling organ fills from the Doors’ Ray Manzarek on “Dance to the Music.” Perhaps a new generation will uncover these nervy anthems all over again. Still, it’s the opportunity to hear something new from Sly Stone – something perhaps approaching the cataclysmic bass riffs, the transformative lyrical genius, the roiling gumbo of soul and meaning of his best work around 1970 – that draws you in the furthest. Published on Aug. 2.

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Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has written for USA Today, American Songwriter, All About Jazz, and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the U.S. by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso
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