CD reviews: Flaming Lips, Fall Out Boy, Kenny Blake, Bill Horvitz
‘Go Where the Road Leads'
Kenny Blake and Maria Shaheen (Summit)
Saxophonist Kenny Blake calls “Go Where the Road Leads” a collection of duets by him and singer Maria Shaheen. Don't let that fool you. While the songs have a strong duet fashion, the album is filled with other players from drummers Roger Humphries and James Johnson III to keyboardist Jeff Lashway. The material is mostly from pop-jazz composer Peter Morley, but also features Antonio Carlos Jobim's “Waters of March,” Cole Porter's “Begin the Beguine” and Curtis Ousley's “Soul Serenade,” which gives Blake a different run at the rhythm-and-blues classic. Whatever the song, though, Blake and Shaheen are a good pair, with clear sounds and a good understanding of the material. Blake is well known in this area for his ability to do most any kind of music. That variety shows on this album, too, but his work with the singer also demands a little restraint — which he also masters. It is a tasteful and tasty outing.
— Bob Karlovits
‘The Long Walk'
The Bill Horvitz Expanded Band (Big Door Prize)
The title track of “The Long Walk,” which is in the final spot of this eight-piece suite, finally suggests why it was written. The suite by Bill Horvitz is a tribute to his brother, a theater professional who died unexpectedly at 44. The final piece is somber, sorrowful at the loss and makes good use of the colorful instrumentation of this 17-piece group. Besides two trumpets and three saxophones, it a has a cello, violin, French horn, bassoon, clarinet, oboe and tuba as well as an expected rhythm section, allowing for a rich, small-orchestra sound. The work hints at something Maria Schneider would write, with a broad variety of pieces. “Where Did the Monkey Go” is a melodious work with an optimistic brightness. “Do You Want to Dance” is a look at the brother's work as a choreographer and “Funk Side Story” deals with his theater work, hence the suggestion of the great musical. There are fairly brief solos throughout the piece, but this is more of a jazz-ensemble work, and succeeds in that job.
— Bob Karlovits
The Flaming Lips (Warner Bros)
Wayne Coyne is at a sensational point in his career. With or without his Lips, Coyne has become a professional weirdo, exploiting oddity (releasing albums in gummy-worm skulls, crowdsurfing in clear plastic bubbles) in airing commercials and collaborations (e.g., Ke$ha). No matter what brand of experimentalism his neopsychedelic ensemble executes, Coyne & Co. must struggle to top itself. Thankfully, recent albums such as “Embryonic” have been buoyantly bizarre, resistant to any move toward pop-ularity. Enter “The Terror.” With its nine songs unfurling in just under an hour, the Lips take their time though densely ruminative melodies and foggy noise-synth arrangements as never before. Through this muzzy, rapt haze, Coyne mulls the grim realities of a society's toxic future (“Look ... The Sun is Rising”) and the destruction of interpersonal relationships (“You Are Alone”) in a small, broken falsetto. He sounds like he's gasping for air through the clutter of “Butterfly, How Long It Takes to Die” with a Draculian sing-speak Frank Langella would envy. Yet, through the busted balladry of “Try to Explain,” Coyne musters what seems like his final gasp of emotion after having spent his Flaming past stuck out in the cold. This is the Flaming Lips at its most bracing.
— The Philadelphia Inquirer
‘Save Rock and Roll'
Fall Out Boy (Decaydance/Island)
Fall Out Boy really might just save rock 'n' roll with this. For “Save Rock and Roll,” the band's first album since 2008's underappreciated “Folie a Deux,” the band comes out swinging. “Put on your war paint!” commands singer Patrick Stump in “The Phoenix,” a stunning combination of sweeping synths and thunderous production that raises the intensity and the beats per minute. It's only one of several songs where the band confronts its concerns with fleeting time head-on. In “Rat a Tat,” which includes wacky bits from Courtney Love, Stump sings, “We're all fighting growing old.” For the title track, they team with Elton John for a stadium-ready manifesto where they pledge their allegiance to rock 'n' roll and declare, “I will defend the faith, going down swinging — I will save the song that we can't stop singing.” Fall Out Boy backs this quest with actions as well as words. For “Young Volcanoes,” they turn a Train-like cheesiness into something poetic, while “Just One Yesterday,” featuring Foxes, feels like a twist on Adele's “Rolling in the Deep.” Fall Out Boy, it turns out, is willing to pull any number of genres into their music in order to save rock 'n' roll — from the hip-hop of “The Mighty Fall” to the new wave of “Miss Missing You.” And it all works — building one of the year's best albums.
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