Five-Minute Record Reviews: Muddy Waters and the Rolling Stones, Mission Of Burma, Brendan James and Dirty Projectors!



Muddy Waters & The Rolling Stones - Live At The Checkerboard Lounge, Chicago 1981

There are few off-the-cuff blues jams as downright essential as this one and thank the music gods above that someone had the wherewithal to both film and record this impromptu joining of the minds between Muddy Waters and members of the Rolling Stones on that fateful night in 1981 when the Rolling Stones took time out from their arena tour to promote "Tattoo You" to jam with one of their heroes in a small, smoky blues club in Chicago.

Sure, you have gathered on one stage Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Ronnie Wood, Ian Stewart, Muddy Waters, Buddy Guy, and Junior Wells, but how's the sound quality, you ask?  The best answer is to simply inform you that the songs were mixed by Bob Clearmountain.  In other words, the sound is fucking stellar.


Mission Of Burma - Unsound

Considering that this band essentially recorded only one full-length, on the local Boston indie label Ace Of Hearts in the 80s before calling it a day, it's very possible that the band's legacy may have taken place entirely within the Boston city limits, but that's where the sheer beauty of Mission Of Burma comes in.  Like Velvet Underground before them, their music seemed to gain more respect and influence in the years after the band had broken up, leading Rykodisk to re-issue their catalog in 1997.  The band soon reformed and picked up exactly where they'd left off and, to this day, continue to make absolutely riveting records that blister with intensity and jagged power.

Unsound, if anything, is the most consistent record the band has ever put their name on and, while it might not have a singular track as powerful as "Dead Pool" (from "Vs."), the whole record adds up to one muscular punch in the proverbial throat and proves that bands from the '80s do have the ability to continue making the best music of their careers some three decades after they formed.

"Semi-Pseudo-Sort-Of-Plan", with its superb use of wah-wah guitar, creates a swirling headswim of rock that is as eccessible as anything they've done without sacrificing any of the lacerating power for which they are known.  The rest of the album benefits from a varied sonic palette that makes each new song a complete departure from the one before it.  As a result, this is a record that will bring pure joy to fans of the band and sway many newcomers into jumping on the bandwagon.


Brendan James - Hope In Transition

East coast singer/songwriter Brendan James' songs bristle with a sort of majesty you don't hear much these days and you find yourself wondering "How am I just now hearing about this guy?"  Never mind such questions, as what's truly important is that you did eventually hear of him.  Those that go a step further and check out his new album will get a real treat.  The question you'll be asking yourself after hearing should-be hits like "None of Them Are You" or "Carriers of The Light" is "Why is this guy not hugely popular?"  Let's hope the time is right for James' music to finally get the recognition it deserves.


Dirty Projectors - Swing Lo Megellan

The Flaming Lips get all the accolades for being weirdly listenable, marching to their own drum, but "Swing Lo Magellan" is the sort of album even Lips singer Wayne Coyne would have to begrudgingly admit is the record his band has been trying to make for ages.

In the span of one song ("Offspring Are Blank"), much less the whole album, Projectors' mastermind Dave Longstreth goes from lo-fi angst to Queen-like multi-track extravagance, creating a sound that truly is the best of both worlds.  The rest of the album is a freewheeling assemblage of well-constructed songs that are adorned with an ever-changing array of colors and shades, making each one its own singular moment.  Presented together as the album "Swing Lo Megallan", the listener feels as if they've just listening to a gathering of essays that somehow unify to create a sort of conceptual explosion of sound and melody that is sorely lacking in hipster circles.

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