Volume 92, Issue 31
Thursday, October 29, 1998
behind closed doors
|ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT
Swingin' to the light of the moon
JOHNNY FAVORITE SWING ORCHESTRA
When 1998 finally goes into the record books, people will remember some noteworthy events the return of El Nino, the Monica and Bill wrapped cigar event, the "boy band" problem and the long-awaited return of the swing music scene. In Canada, one of this scene's leaders is Halifax's Johnny Favorite Swing Orchestra with their debut release, Holiday Romance.
Holiday Romance's debut single, "Rootbeer & Licorice," is a stylish track that leads the way into a strong album which consists mainly of original material written by guitarist John Wesley Chisholm.
A later track, "Hard 8," bursts out of the blocks with the same energy level as "Rootbeer & Licorice," but begins to falter midstream when the tempo slows and Chisholm appears with a short, tittering, guitar solo. After this brief hiccup, the track picks up again and has a strong finish.
Other tracks like "Bessie Smith," "Postcards from Paris" and "Canadian September" are no less interesting. These tracks provide lead singer Johnny Favorite and his 11-piece orchestra a chance to show their true musicianship. The combination of heavier, guitar-laden tracks and slower ballads result in a richly textured album.
The band also provides a swing cover of Led Zeppelin's "Black Dog" which, though slightly unrecognizable, eventually emerges with all its Zeppelin glory intact. If you were to throw Jimmy Page and Robert Plant in with such swing greats as Cab Calloway and Buddy Rich, this "Black Dog" would likely be the result.
Johnny Favorite Swing Orchestra's Holiday Romance provides both a good starting point for the new swing enthusiast as well as a great replication of the sound and energy of the swing movement in its golden era.
Go on, grab your "chicken ‡ la king" (your steady) because this is Swing 101 and your instructor is Johnny Favorite. They just want you to jump, jive an' wail.
This year has been a breakthrough year in the world of dance music. A number of underground groups have been enjoying considerable commercial success and the market seems ripe for new talent.
The majority of producers are arduously creating innovative new musical hybrids and are the force behind dance music's current metamorphosis. Although much progress is being made, there are still many groups putting out utter trash.
Canadian-based Title (a.k.a. Alan Best & Hugo Bugg) fall into the latter category. Their debut album lacks any original material. Moonfly, simply put, is a chaotic regurgitation of other people's music. Title and their producer, John Punter, have no musical talent and try to fool the listener by producing a retro-collage of tired music. Punter's lack of musical direction results in a torturous long-player that makes Euro-trash Aqua sound like the second coming.
On top of releasing a terribly produced album, Alan Best and Hugo Bugg wrote loads of mindless prattle to accompany Punter's impotent production skills. "La La Land" attempts to convey their music as a form of spiritual release.
However, most listeners will surely substitute heavy doses of Thorazine rather than subject themselves to Title's brand of ethereal therapy. Other tracks like "Delerious" degenerate into fetal, cerebral gibberish.
The end result of this effort is an atrocious and insignificant contribution to the world of dance music. When an album like Moonfly hits the market, it destroys the recognition dance music has earned in recent years. If Euro-cheese Canadian-style is your bag, you'll love Moonfly. If not, beware and avoid it like the plague.
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