Wave Mechanics Union – Further To Fly

If it was a vinyl album, I would have worn it out by now. I’m talking about Wave Mechanics Union‘s first disc, Second Season, best described as a jazz take on some of the iconic progressive rock music from thirty or forty years back. I don’t often take reviews to a level beyond a simple recommendation, but I’ve purchased a number of copies, and thrust them into the hands of friends.

“I don’t care what kind of music you like,” I tell them. “You must listen to this.”

Here we go, again.


Wave Mechanics Union – Further to Fly
(HX Music)

Released – November 5, 2012

The group is irregular – a “recording project band” – made up of nearly 30 contributing musicians, mostly from the Indianapolis area, with arrangers (mainly Ryan Fraley and Ralph Johnson) who do a lot of commercial projects for “paying clients.” While all parts of this remarkable unit work breathtakingly well, for me it’s vocalist Lydia McAdams that draws it all together, more than just the cherry on top.

The material for this second recording is a little off the beaten path, even if the names are immediately recognizable. Case in point – the title tune, an obscure track from a forgettable Paul Simon album, if there is such a thing. 1990’s follow to the “Graceland” album, “The Rhythm Of The Saints,” which one reviewer called not so much art as “…an anthropology lesson.”

As I go back and listen to Paul Simon’s version, this one is better, much better.

Jon Anderson from the iconic progressive band “Yes” is involved with his favorite from the band’s repitoire – “It Will Be A Good Day (The River),” which has become one of my favorites from this disc. Thomas Dolby – most famous for the 1983 novelty tune, “She Blinded Me With Science,” also wrote “The Ability To Swing,” covered here – and to my ear, worthy of radio play most anywhere.

If the first album got my attention through the marquee quality of the titles, this one is earning my devotion by making me respect the craftsmanship of the music.

And that brings me to Lydia McAdams. A radiator of sensuality, a vocal trip down the Pacific Coast Highway at sunset, careening through the curves at a hundred miles per hour. This is the soundtrack you hear as the helicopter follows the convertible.  She not only teases the emotion out of this material, much of it emotionless to my ear in its original state – but leaves me yearning for the next track, whatever it is. She’s singing Google searches? I’m in.

Plus, she uses really cool words like “grimoire.” Oh, go look it up.

That voice with which she’s been blessed adds the soul to these lush and finely-honed tracks that spring from the side streets, and it’s that voice that demands that I listen. As good as this material and the orchestra are (and the arrangements rock swing), without Ms. McAdams, it would all be very lush production music, suitable as bumpers on the six o’clock news.

But only the top-rated six o’clock news.

I cannot recommend this recording highly enough. Go. Buy. Listen. Now.

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I make no apologies for neglecting the blog here. I do have a day job, and a kid to put through music school.

And so I work.

For the past three months, it’s been a constant back-and-forth to Asia. I’ve been on the road so long my friend, and if you came along…

Oops. Sorry.

I gambled 30 bucks (!) on a disc in a Surabaya music shop a couple of weeks ago. And while I’m always bummed to discover I could have bought the same thing on iTunes for under ten bucks, I always justify the experience by saying things like, “Well, yeah. But then I wouldn’t have the story to tell about shopping in a Surabaya music shop.”

Is a disc by Chie Ayado worth 30 bucks? Not unless you want the story to go along with it. Is it worth $8.28 at iTunes? You betcha.

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Swing Out Sister – Private View

I could listen to Corinne Drewery all day.  In fact, I’ve been doing a little of that, looping the Swing Out Sister “Private View” (Ais, Soundcloud) tracks all the way to Tokyo – mostly while asleep.

So if there’s such a thing as sleep-learning – well, I got that lesson more than once across the Pacific.

Still one of my favorite bands from the eighties, even though I thought Clare Teal trumped “Breakout” on her 2007 release, “Paradisi Carousel,”  Ms. Drewry and partner Andy Connell still walk that tight line between jazz, pop and dance with aplomb, even 25 years after “Breakout” broke out.

The duo have been a bigger name in Japan than the US, or even perhaps their native UK; this release touches on some new versions of old SoS releases, including Barbara Acklin’s “Am I The Same Girl,” which adds lyrics to the 1968 hit by Young-Holt Unlimited, “Soulful Strut,” and “Notgonnachange,” from the 1992 SoS album, “Get In Touch With Yourself.”

And yet another remake of “Breakout,” this time as a ballad.  There must be a half-dozen versions of this song in my library – which might be irritating if it didn’t have such a doggone catchy hook.  I don’t think there can be enough of this song.

Too pop for jazz, too jazz for pop?  Such is the way it goes for this particular sound.  Good thing I stopped listening to the radio for music years ago.  Swing out Sister can always be in heavy rotation on the ‘pod.

Very highly recommended, this one.  Nice to see that Corrine and Andy haven’t lost the touch, as indescribable as it is.

I got mine via Soundcloud, but I’m still unclear exactly how to obtain this album without paying an exorbitant import price.  It’s not at iTunes, nor available as a download at Amazon – at least not in the US store.  Poke around the band’s Facebook page, or at their webpage for a good listen to recent music, including some downloadable tracks from this album, which should be in greater release this next week – some sites point to an October 9 release date.

“Twilight World” is another of my favorites from this group.  But I couldn’t find a clean video, so we’ll settle (!) for this one from Slovakian TV – a performance of “Surrender,” also from that first 1986 CD, “It’s Better To Travel,” which had a 25th anniversary re-release last year.

 

 

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Amanda Brecker – Blossom

Wherever I go, it seems I end up looking for the record store.  New, used – vinyl or CDs.  Doesn’t matter.  Narita is a treat – female vocalists seem to get a lot of love generally in Asia, but especially in Japan.

Talented women, underexposed in North America take up a lot of rack space there.  Canada’s Sophie Milman is one of those – so is Halie Loren, whose albums release in Japan before her native US.

I also roll the dice and pick up artists unfamiliar to me.  Amanda Brecker‘s “Blossom” was released in Japan (Universal Classics and Jazz) last May.  It will be her first US release, but it’s not available (Emarcy/Pgd) until February of next year.

Ms. Brecker is the daughter of Brazilian superstar Eliane Elias and trumpeter Randy Brecker, so musical talent is right there, in the genes.  Featuring the songs of James Taylor and Carole King – it’s billed as a 40th anniversary celebration of Ms. King’s legendary “Tapestry” album.

Two of the musicians – Russ Kunkel on drums and Lee Sklar on bass, played on those original “Tapestry” sessions.  Veteran piano guy Larry Goldings is also in the band for this one, produced by Jesse Harris, who wrote Norah Jones’ “Don’t Know Why.”

From jazz roots, Ms. Brecker’s voice is surprisingly and sweetly folk-sounding, bordering on country, especially on Taylor’s “Something In The Way He Moves.”

This one is recommended, and worth a look when it comes off import prices in the US – in February. (Ms. Brecker’s Website)

Speaking of Halie Loren – Japan gave me a chance to catch up since I first heard her work.  I liked her a lot in 2008.  She’s even better, now.  And she still doesn’t get enough notice in the US.


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Cristina Morrison – I Love

If there are two kinds of people in the world – those who get it, and those who don’t – it’s always a pleasure to interact with people who do.  It’s possible to pursue a passion only for art’s sake.  But unless it gets into the marketplace, you’re only amusing yourself.


Cristina Morrison – I Love (Baronesa)
Released – May, 2012

This is a strong debut from singer-songwriter-actress Cristina Morrison, who has polished a half-dozen original tracks and three classics to a luster, with the help of some excellent New York session players.

“Summer In New York” is one of those originals I swear I’ve heard before – it’s that classic-sounding.  Distinctly Latin lyrics from Ms. Morrison, with lines like “You pierce through my pores,” only add to the heat of this outstanding opener.

The three standards add well to the new material.  They include “What A Difference A Day Makes,” first written in the 30s by María Grever as “Cuando Vuelva A Tu Lado,” along with Brooks Bowman’s “East Of The Sun” and Billie Holiday’s “Fine And Mellow.”

But if it’s Ms. Morrison who is front and center – with a rich and inviting alto – it’s the guys in the band who put the frame around it.  Bonus points for the artwork and packaging for this fine piece of art – from just about any way one looks at it.

I’ll look to hear more from Ms. Morrison.  Hope it’s soon.

This disc is highly recommended.

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