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Musical Maunderings in Sunni's Salon

January 2007

'Tis the time to hold both old and new close to the heart. And oddly enough, one of the new experiences I'm featuring this month led me back to some old, great music. But I'm getting ahead of myself already ...

Wise, Young, and King is a Canadian band that I fervently hope to hear more from this year. I discovered their music via a justifiably proud papa's blog entry, and like several of the commenters there, am hungering for more. Yeah, just seven songs for your downloading pleasure, but don't let that fool you: there's a very pleasing range of music represented. I dare you to try to keep your toes from tapping or your head from bopping along to Plastecina or Bompf Bompf. And these, we're told, are low-res MP3s ... As the father comments, the lead vocalist could use a bit of polish, but not that much in my opinion: his versatility, ranging from Morrisonesque to the throaty, growling delivery popular in some circles today, is part of the band's appeal for me. While the lyrics aren't consistently high quality—yet—flashes of insight make stumbles easy to overlook. Delectable rhythm and bass guitar along with very capable drum work support the vocals, keyboard, and lead guitar very nicely. If you aren't willing to give all seven selections a chance, don't pass on Federales, Bompf Bompf, and Under Mischeif [sic]. If you find yourself wanting more, I know of two places to watch for news— drummer Alex Scott's blog, Bompf Bompf Baby!, and maybe the cleanest Myspace site around, Wise, Young & King. Go get 'em, gents!

While you'd reasonably think after reading that, that Wise, Young, and King led me to crank up The Best of the Doors, you'd be wrong. No, for some reason they took me to ... Steppenwolf. Having several aunts and uncles within a decade of me in age, I was exposed to a wide range of sixties rock, and bits of musical memory bubble up at the oddest times. I was laughing and nearly crying with delight when I queued up Steppenwolf's eponymous debut and heard Sookie Sookie. So many stories —too embarrassing to recount here—of how I danced to that song ... and practically everybody knows the anthem Born to be Wild. Listening again, other songs are familiar, including Your Wall's Too High and from a later release, At Your Birthday Party, Chicken Wolf and of course, Rock Me, so it's safe to say I heard those albums regularly way back when. And while the inevitable argument over which greatest hits compilation really is, between All Time Greatest Hits and 20th Century Masters: The Best of Steppenwolf, one should have all the bases covered. There's a lot more to this band than heavy metal thunder and magic carpet rides, and I'm very glad to have rediscovered Steppenwolf.

And now for something completely different: the smooth and mellow sound of Jack Johnson. I discovered this band through luck, just queuing up In Between Dreams on a lark. This may sound strange, but his sound reminds me of a very mellow Steve Miller, especially on Good People. Light and sweet without being cloying, this disc is great for a lazy romantic afternoon or dinner, or for relaxed cruising. To my ear, his sound here is light alternative, and if one wants a smooth, pleasant listening experience, the spare arrangements of In Between Dreams should satisfy. Among my favorites are Better Together, Do You Remember, and the funky Staple It Together. Yum!

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