Album Releases

MYSTIKAL| <i>Let's Get Ready</i> LILIUM | <i>Transmission of All the Good-Byes </i> VARIOUS ARTISTS | <i>Blue Haze - Songs of Jimi Hendrix </i> DOUG SAHM | <i>Doug Sahm &amp; Friends: The Best of Doug Sahm's Atlantic Sessions </i> ALISON BROWN | <i>Fair Weather </i>
Click to follow
The Independent Culture

MYSTIKAL| Let's Get Ready (Jive) "You ready for war?" barks Louisiana rapper Mystikal on "Ready To Rumble", the brusque declaration of hostilities which opens this follow-up to the multi-platinum Ghetto Fabulous. Having served in the Gulf War, it's unlikely that he'll be too alarmed by anyone's acceptance of his challenge, and even less impressed by the bluster and threats of the more localised turf wars commonplace in gangsta-rap.

MYSTIKAL| Let's Get Ready (Jive) "You ready for war?" barks Louisiana rapper Mystikal on "Ready To Rumble", the brusque declaration of hostilities which opens this follow-up to the multi-platinum Ghetto Fabulous. Having served in the Gulf War, it's unlikely that he'll be too alarmed by anyone's acceptance of his challenge, and even less impressed by the bluster and threats of the more localised turf wars commonplace in gangsta-rap.

Not that Mystikal's a gangsta as such; though Let's Get Ready is replete with its due complement of bad-boy behaviour, boasting and "big-tittied bitches", there's little evidence of any actual criminality going on. The gunshots featured in "Murderer III", for instance, are not so much a proclamation of infamy as expressions of the narrator's vengeful rage at the murder of his sister. Most of the time, Mystikal just seems angry - doubtless, he has "issues" - and in need of solace, be it carnal, narcotic or automotive. Well, who doesn't?

For all the verbal violence of his rapid-fire delivery, in "Ain't Gonna See Tomorrow" Mystikal displays a commendable maturity in his reflections on gang warfare ("Is it really in our nature to be so bad?") and domestic violence ("When I put my hands on you, I was wrong, I don't deserve you"). Indeed, it's hard to bring to mind another rapper who would claim that "When a man uses a weapon to take out his problems, he abuses that weapon/Then that man must recognise this must stop".

Really, all Mystikal wants to do is hang with his homies - namechecked at length in "Family" - smoke a blunt, and cruise in his 4x4, checking out butt. And who are we to object, when the results bear out his enjoyment so infectiously? With his gruff bark riding the staccato twitch of The Neptunes' groove, the single "Shake Ya Ass" - surely the finest booty testimonial since Wreckx-N-Effect's mighty "Rump Shaker" - possesses the irresistible propulsive power of James Brown's "Sex Machine", while both the dope anthem "Smoked Out" and Mystikal's celebration of "Big Truck Boys" recall the lazily expansive funk of late-period Sly Stone.

Small wonder, then, that "U Would If U Could" finds him claiming, not without a grain of truth, that we'd all do his job if we had the chance - "but you cain't, so you ain't".

LILIUM | Transmission of All the Good-Byes (Glitterhouse) Lilium is the nom-de-disque of Pascal Humbert, a guitarist best known, if at all, for his work with alt.country outfit 16 Horsepower, or his collaboration with PJ Harvey sidemen Rob Ellis and John Parish as Spleen. Culled from solo pieces recorded between 1984 and 2000, Transmission Of All The Good-Byes makes a mockery of the notion of musical fashion: it's quite impossible to tell which tracks date from which era, so congruent are their diverse forms. The titles are in some cases bluntly descriptive: the ambient drones of "Swell" loom and recede accordingly, and the guitar harmonics and bowed-strings of "The Film Box" are accompanied by the whirring of a film projector. "Four Basses", meanwhile, is exactly that, the interweaving parts layered in the methodical manner of Tubular Bells (albeit restricted to a more agreeable minute and a half). Others are less prosaic. "Loveless Road" is a delightful union of guitar arpeggios and wistful contrails of melodica driven along by a lazily martial snare, while the gorgeous "Sleeping Inside" employs yawning bowed bass and mournful clarinet to shade a multi-tracked guitar instrumental with a melody reminiscent of Leonard Cohen's "Famous Blue Raincoat". Performed entirely by Humbert, save for three drum parts, one clarinet and one vocal, the album makes an evocative addition to the south-western sadcore-soundtrack genre. Particularly recommended to fans of Calexico and Rainer.

VARIOUS ARTISTS | Blue Haze - Songs of Jimi Hendrix (Ruf) Call me an old hippie if you like, but I can't help feeling that the anniversary of an artist's death - the curtailment of their gift, rather than its blossoming - is an odd thing to commemorate, especially three months late. Still, c'est la mort, I suppose. Something of a poor cousin to 1993's star-studded Stone Free tribute, Blue Haze concentrates on the blues origins of Hendrix's music, with mostly workmanlike versions of songs such as "The Wind Cries Mary", "Voodoo Chile" and "Red House" by the likes of Buddy Miles, Eric Gales and Vernon Reid. Some, like the light, funky "Little Wing" performed by the latest Stevie Ray-in-waiting, Aynsley Lister, sound too like guitar-shop demonstrations. But there are a few shafts of originality piercing the gloom here and there: tracks such as Taj Mahal's bizarre reggae-rhythm transposition of "All Along The Watchtower" for massed ukeleles and soprano sax; and Michelle Shocked's beautifully understated, acoustic "House Burning Down", which manages to return the song to its blues roots without lapsing into obtrusive guitar-wankery. Most impressive of all, though, is the climactic eight-minute "Third Stone From The Sun/The Story of Life", in which Eric Burdon recites lines allegedly written by Jimi on the night of his death over a punchy New Orleans-flavoured version of Hendrix's most ambitious early number. But you have to wade through an awful lot of dross to find the diamonds.

DOUG SAHM | Doug Sahm & Friends: The Best of Doug Sahm's Atlantic Sessions (Rhino) If you're in search of something really worth commemorating, the birth of Doug Sahm in November 1941 is surely better than anyone's death. Doug's death robbed the world of a walking encyclopaedia of American roots music, a man Atlantic A&R legend Jerry Wexler considered "the Rosetta Stone of Southern music". A Texan steel-guitar prodigy, the young Sahm had played with both Hank Williams and T-Bone Walker in his teens, and growing up in the tri-racial city of San Antonio gave him a first-hand grounding in the various strains of country, blues, polka, R&B and Tex-Mex music that would inform his later records. His biggest hit was the Sir Douglas Quintet's 1965 garage-cajun romp "She's About A Mover", though his best records were made in the early Seventies, notably 1973's near-perfect Texas Tornado, included in virtually its entirety on this summary of the Atlantic sessions at which Wexler surrounded him with a top-notch session crew that included Dr John, David "Fathead" Newman and even a passing Bob Dylan. It's a tremendous collection, running the full gamut of Southern styles, with Sahm classics such as "Nitty Gritty" and "Blue Horizon" augmented by songs from other people called things like Elmer, Deadric and Garlon, their compositions as evocative as their names. A fine testament to one of rock's great musical repositories - a more genial, less studious Ry Cooder, if you like.

ALISON BROWN | Fair Weather (Compass) The banjo has struggled to assert itself even in the country music marketplace - I blame Deliverance myself for indelibly linking it with backwoods violation - though things have begun to change recently thanks to the work of such as Bela Fleck and Alison Brown. Fair Weather is the sixth album by the former Alison Krauss sidewoman (the second on her own label), and may be her best, its selection of home-grown instrumentals spiced with cover versions featuring guest vocalists such as Vince Gill and Tim O'Brien. The nippy bluegrass piece "Late on Arrival" leads off the album in fine style, Brown's knuckle-knotting banjo lines matched by equally dextrous mandolin and fiddle parts from Sam Bush and Stuart Duncan. Another Brown original, "Poe's Pickin' Party", underscores the links between bluegrass and Celtic traditional forms as licks are passed from player to player, culminating in a startling bout of unison mandolin-picking from Bush and Mike Marshall. At the other extreme, "The Devil Went Down to Berkeley" conveys an urbane, rural-metropolitan feel, with Darol Anger's jazzy fiddle conjuring up Stephane Grapelli. The songs are well handled, with Claire Lynch's Dolly Parton-sized vocal on Boo Hewerdine's "Hummingbird" particularly impressive. But it's Brown's picking that shines brightest, culminating in a two-handed joust with Bela Fleck on "Leaving Cottondale" that almost redeems the idea of duelling banjos.

Comments