Sunday, August 26, 2007

The Len Price 3 - Rentacrowd (Wicked Cool, 2007)

The Len Price 3 (guitarist and vocalist Glenn Page, bassist Steve Higgins and drummer Neil Fromow... nope, no Len Price) has been lost in the shuffle a bit amongst the big hype of the British music scene being lavished on the likes of Franz Ferdinand and The Arctic Monkeys. This group's unapologetically retro sound recalls the glory days of Happy Jack era Who and Arthur era Kinks, and may not seem quite "edgy" enough for today's PR driven pop scene. It's a shame because they are really quite good, as their lead-off song, the title track "Rentacrowd" demonstrates. It is a cheeky broadside to fly by night pop bands that are based on flash over substance. "Doctor Gee" and "Australia" are as close as they come to making direct homages to British Invasion bands, the harmonies of the former are right out of The Who Sell Out and the latter could be a long lost Ray Davies rarity. These are not criticism mind you, the group knows it's history well and mines it accordingly. "Julia Jones" and "Mesmer" allow the group to meld pop and rock in their own way, keeping the guitars garage-rock crunchy, but allowing the sweet center of sugary pop to remain intact. It's no mean feat, but the band is able to display its influences proudly while carving out its own niche in a very competitive and shallow scene. Anyone who misses classic British Invasion rock 'n' roll will enjoy this disc.

Champion Jack Dupree - Junker's Blues (Catfish, 2000)

This compilation of the venerable boxer turned piano pounder and singer has some excellent performances of unknown vintage (probably early 1950's) where Jack considers the virtues of "Bad Whiskey and Bad Women" and other imponderables of live. Actually, Jack Dupree is one of my favorite bluesmen, his deeply rhythmic piano and strong tenor voice are irresistible, particularly when in service of some of his original songs like the drug anthems "Junker's Blues" and "Weed Head Woman" (why isn't this the theme song for the TV show Weeds?) Old Jack knew his way around a standard as well, strutting through "Mean Ol' Frisco" and "How Long Blues" like he owned them, with some excellent electric guitar support in tow. "Big Time Mama" where he extols the pleasure of a rotund woman and "Dupree Shake Dance" keep the party at full swing, but slower numbers like the poignant "Angola Blues" make sure things don't get out of hand. Champion Jack Dupree had a long and successful career, and thins quickie comp gives a taste of his powers - but to hear him really fly, check out the classic Blues From the Gutter, or his great album from Montreux, co-led with tenor saxophonist King Curtis.

Send comments to: Tim