May 27, 2004  
Volume 98, Issue 02  

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ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT

ON DISC


The Heavy Blinkers
The Night and I Are Still So Young
Endearing Records

On the surface, the Beach Boys-esque pop of the Heavy Blinkers’ fourth record is a sunny gem, yet The Night I Are Still So Young is made for what happens when the sun goes down.

Airy harmonies coo and sigh to a lush symphony of timpani, trumpets, and majestic strings that aid the Nova Scotia five-piece band. The combination leads to lazy lullabies like the opening number, “Filtered Light.” This segues into full-on, technicolour dreams like “In the Morning,” which contains melodic verses that would make The Mamas and the Papas proud.

On “Gentle Strength,” co-vocalist Ruth Minniken takes the lead and delivers a sweetly somber performance. It’s a song of hope and the central theme of this record. Whether you’re a stargazer from the East Coast or a dreamer from the West, the Blinkers remind you that you still have one thing to look forward to: the night.

-—Brian Wong


Loretta Lynn
Van Lear Rose
Interscope Records

Despite the fact that she’s closing in on 70 years of age, Loretta Lynn’s voice is still as strong and sweet as it was when she released her first single over 40 years ago. On Van Lear Rose, Lynn displays that she is her own best muse.

Lynn wrote all 13 tracks, and while she sticks to the usual country music themes of God, lost love and rural life, she incorporates some of her trademark feminism to songs such as “Women’s Prison” and “Mrs. Leroy Brown.”

The backing band is led by Jack White of The White Stripes, a huge Lynn fan who also produced the album. The two duet on “Portland Oregon,” and White’s atmospheric guitar counts as a third voice.

Van Lear Rose is notable not only for being an example of White’s ever-expanding musical prowess, but also for being a good old-fashioned country record from a Nashville legend.

—Mark Polishuk


George Michael

Patience
Aegan/Epic

It’s an obvious joke, but you need to be patient to be a George Michael fan. Patience is only Michael’s second original album in 14 years, and his first since 1996’s Older.

Michael covers no new ground, as the song selection includes a standard soulful ballad (“My Mother Had a Brother”), an up-tempo dance/rock track (“Freeek! ‘04”), and an interminably long techno song meant for the clubs (“Precious Box,” which hopefully isn’t a reference to Michael’s favourite stall in the men’s washroom).

Michael claims that Patience will be his last studio album, as his future songs will be released over the Internet. Perhaps he’s hoping if people hear his music one song at a time, they won’t realize how much he’s slipped since his mid-’80s songwriting peak.

—Mark Polishuk


The Zutons

Who Killed the Zutons?
Sony/Deltasonic Records

On “Zuton Fever,” singer David McCabe complains that he’s “got the Zuton fever in [his] head.” One wonders if this is as curable as gonorrhea, but nevertheless, the Zutons’ music contains such an infectious pop/funk grooves that you too will catch the fever, for which the only prescription is more cowb... er, Zutons records.

Every song on Who Killed the Zutons? is a catchy and flat-out fun piece of horn-filled zaniness. The false climaxes during the chorus of “Pressure Point” toy with being one of those epiphanic moments of rock music and even though the song doesn’t fully bust out it is still satisfying.

Only a few less masterful tracks, such as “Dirty Dancehall”, keep this record from being a masterpiece.

—Mark Polishuk


Randy Bachman

Jazz Thing
Ranbach Music

Randy Bachman should probably give Burton Cummings a call and stick to rock ‘n’ roll.

Bachman’s newest album, Jazz Thing, is a compilation of original and cover songs not reflecting his classic rock roots but rather — you guessed it — jazz.

You’ll get lost if you look to hear the familiar guitar riffs from his days with The Guess Who and Bachman-Turner Overdrive. Bachman’s awesome guitar talent isn’t put on display at all and his voice, which was always second to his guitar playing, is front and centre.

Most of the songs are originals, but there is a very unique cover of the late great Johnny Cash’s “I Walk the Line,” as well as a George Gershwin cover.

Jazz Thing is a decent album but for Bachman fans who want to hear nothing but “American Woman,” it isn’t for you.

—Ian Denomme


Scissor Sisters

S/T
Polydor Records

There’s no other way to put it: the self-titled debut from Scissor Sisters is a pretty gay album.

This isn’t meant in any derogatory fashion — far from it. There’s just no other way to describe music that sounds like Elton John, George Michael’s dance grooves, and Prince’s vocals got together and had a kid.

It would be derivative if it wasn’t so well done. Scissor Sisters seem to be equally adept as the house band for an all-night disco as they would in a straight-up (pardon the pun) rock concert.

Singers Jake Shears and Ana Matronic are able to meld their voices into a range of octaves that can go low, as in the piano ballad “Mary,” or all the way up to Bee Gees-esque falsettos. Another highlight is the techno cover of “Comfortably Numb” that puts the “pink” in Pink Floyd.

—Mark Polishuk


Jamie Cullum

Twentysomething
Verve/Universal

Jamie Cullum is a 24-year-old jazz pianist from England who is unmistakably talented at both singing and piano-playing. Unfortunately, he has yet to master the art of not being boring.

His debut album is a combination of original songs by himself and his brother Ben, classic standards like “I Get A Kick Out Of You” and jazz-ercised covers of offbeat-yet-mainstream tracks, including Pharrell Williams’ “Frontin’” and Radiohead’s “High and Dry.”

The problem comes from taking these songs and turning them into covers that almost bury the electricity of the original recordings. You wouldn’t think it possible to perform a dull version of “Singin’ In The Rain,” one of the most exuberant songs ever written, but Cullum somehow pulls it off.

The title track is a witty examination of post-college life that will no doubt make many soon-to-be convocating students shed a tear in rueful recognition. The classic songs are generally well done, showing that at Cullum at least has the fundamentals of his genre down pat. There is little else, however, to show that Cullum is anything more than a poor man’s Harry Connick Jr.

—Mark Polishuk

 

 

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