Volume , Number 0
There are no articles.Commentary
There are no articles.Culture
There are no articles.Features
Business As Usual
Jamie K. McCallum
Slippin' & Slidin'
C. stone Brown
Queer As Your Folks
Politics of Consciousness
Z Papers on Strategy & Vision
There are no articles.
NOTE: Z Magazine subscribers and sustainers have access to all Z Magazine articles here and in the archive. The latest Z Magazine articles available to everyone are listed in the Free Articles box at the top of the table of contents, and are starred in the list below. Questions? e-mail Z Magazine Online.
Michael Franti and Spearhead, Stay Human (Six Degrees)
From his days with the Beatnigs and the Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy on up to his current band Spearhead, Oakland-based singer-rapper Michael Franti has been evolving more accessible blends of music and protest. Taking inspiration from Bob Marley, Marvin Gaye, and Gil Scott-Heron, Franti wraps his anti-capitalist, anti-racist, anti- sexist messages in an easy pulsing blend of R&B, hip-hop, and reggae. On Stay Human Spearhead's soulful groove is again in service of social justice, this time Franti's incisive and passionate rants on the moral, racial, and economic implications of the death penalty.
Manu Chao, Proxima Estacion...Esperanza (Virgin)
One of the prime movers of the worldwide rock-en-espanol movement, Manu Chao draws political and musical lessons from the likes of Bob Marley, The Clash, Eduardo Galeano, and subcommandante Marcos. In his band Mano Negra, Chao fused anarchist politics, street tragedies, and rebellion with punk and world sounds appealing to dissident youth. With his 1998 solo debut Clandestino, he translated his rebel stories through an edgy blend of rock, funk, reggae, ska, and salsa that garnered global album sales of over two million. Virtually unknown in the United States, the French-born Chao is now getting a chance to grab an English-language crossover audience. Still, Esperanza offers no major alterations of Chao's message or sound. Singing in English, Spanish, and French, and relying heavily on Latin flavored reggae and ska, Chao is still aiming toward an ambitious synthesis of Catch A Fire and London Calling.
India Arie, Acoustic Soul (Motown)
With Lauryn Hill, Erykah Badu, Macy Gray, and Jill Scott, woman-centered R&B has gradually been carving out some liberated space for sisters turned off by gangster bravado and naughty sex tease. Now joining that camp is a 25-year-old acoustic guitarist India Arie. Taking cues from Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Minnie Riperton, hip-hop, and Lilith Fair, Arie is out to affirm old fashioned values like inner beauty, sexual restraint, and non-violence. A fresh twist of old school and new school and one of the best debuts of the year.
Alejandro Escovedo, A Man Under The Influence (Bloodshot)
After emerging from the punk upsurge of the late 1970s and working his way through respected cult bands such as the Nuns, Rank and File, and True Believers, singer-songwriter Alejandro Escovedo turned toward a more intimate, soul-searching brand of song on a series of solo albums earning wide critical acclaim and a small, but devout club audience. Escovedo's sound pulls from diverse roots—his Mexican heritage, rock, folk, blues, and classical. But it's his poetic and candid writing that makes his voice so distincively haunting. Opening wounds of race, love, and family, Escovedo unfolds life's most tender and painful moments with elegant precision.
Various Artists, Avalon Blues: A Tribute To The Music Of Mississippi John Hurt (Vanguard)
The delicate sound of Mississippi John Hurt doesn't fit popular notions of blues, but for a brief period in the 1960s his intricate, syncopated fingerpicking and sweet, calm singing delivered the music's most essential truths to club and festival audiences around the country. Hurt's blues didn't carry the raucous and haunted perspective of the Delta and Chicago styles. Instead Hurt concentrated on telling funny and sad stories of everyday rural life. Since his death in 1966, his legacy has slowly faded. The Peter Case- produced Avalon Blues means to remedy the situation with 15 performances of Hurt tunes by a stellar array of modern-day folk, blues, and rock performers including Lucinda Williams, Chris Smither, Steve Earle, Beck, Dave Alvin, Victoria Williams, Gillian Welch, John Hiatt, Bruce Cockburn, Ben Harper, Alvin Youngblood Hart, and Taj Mahal. No radical reinterpretations here, just from the heart appreciations of a much loved master.
Olu Dara, Neighborhoods (Atlantic)
At the age of 60, jazz trumpeter Olu Dara is in the process of creating an amazing artistic second life. In the 1970s and 1980s, Dara built a reputation as an avant player in the David Murray Octet and the Henry Threadgill Sextet. But with the release of his 1998 album In The World: From Natchez To New York, Dara reintroduced himself as a chronicler of black musical forms with a “new sound” rooted in rural blues and African folk traditions. Neighborhoods secures that identity with songs and styles spanning nearly a century's worth of multicultural African America. One of the year's best.
Gillian Welch, Time (The Revelator) (Acony Records)
On her first two albums, Revival (1996) and Hell Among The Yearlings (1998), Gillian Welch staked out a sound and vision based in old-time Depression-era country traditions. From this space, she connected listeners to stark emotional and economic realities most entertainment prefers to ignore. While the newly released Time (The Revelator) retains the same roots, Welch is stretching toward a looser, more personalized expression of themes and values that once seemed historical or second hand. With her partner singer-guitarist-writer David Rawlings producing, Welch now seems fully relaxed in her adopted tradition, singing woes and yearnings as if they were her own. The real news, however, is in the writing. Over the course of three albums, Welch and Rawlings have come to craft old-time imagery and narrative that sets comfortably alongside the work of revered originators.
Phelps, Sky Like A
Broken Clock (Ryko)
Like Welch, singer-songwriter- guitarist Kelly Jo Phelps seems bonded to an ancient muse, but in this case rural blues. On previous albums, Lead me On (1994), Roll Away The Stone (1997), and Shine Eyed Mister Zen (1999), Phelps has employed his smoky voice and virtuoso slidework to pursue questions of meaning, mortality, love, and loss. Accordingly, the reference points for Phelps quest have been the deep blues of Skip James, Robert Pete Williams, Roscoe Holcomb, and Dock Boggs. On his new live album Sky Like A Broken Clock, Phelps continues to extend his meditative approach to the blues, but this time with instrumental support from bassist Larry Taylor and ex-Morphine drummer Billy Conway. With these sensitive, veteran players complementing his words and moods, Phelps lays aside his slide in favor of deft and subtle fingerpicking. As always, a trip through dark, painful emotions to hard won, comforting release.
Stripes, White Blood Cells (Sympathy For The
Detroit's Jack (guitar and vocals) and Meg White (drums) make up the very back-to-basics rock duo known as The White Stripes. Like other garage punks before them, the Whites (a brother and sister act) favor no frills noise, brash attitude, and blunt words. The difference with The White Stripes is a connection to rock's most primitive roots. Lovers of folk, blues, and country, the Whites keep their eye on the surface rudimentary sound rooted in imagery, melodies, and riffs springing from Appalachia and the Mississippi Delta. Mix that up with a little Kinks, Cole Porter, and punk and you've got a messy originality that fits no current corporate formula.
Tricky, Blowback (Hollywood)
Since his 1995 breakthrough, Maxinquaye, the trip-hop innovator known as Tricky has been on a critical and commercial downslide. Music fans originally mesmerized by his scary urban soundscapes bristling with economic and racial tensions have slowly turned off to a dense and pessimistic ride to nowhere. Blowback may turn the tide a bit as Tricky makes moves toward songs, melodies, and hope. The air of foreboding has not entirely evaporated, but with a little help from the Chili Peppers and Cyndi Lauper, Tricky is finding ways to throw light on a path forward.
Caetano Veloso, Noites do Norte (Northern Lights) (Nonsuch)
Since the early 1960s when he emerged as a leader of the radical tropicalista movement, singer-songwriter Caetano Veloso has reflected the heart and soul of Brazilian politics and culture. As a result, Veloso is now regarded as a national hero and poet of the people. Released earlier this year, Noites do Norte (Northern Lights) is another of his landmark works showing the power of socially conscious art. The album offers an intoxicating blend of the nation's rich musical traditions including samba, bossa nova, 19th century classical music, African folk, and indigenous variations of American rock and hip-hop. This extraordinary soundtrack, however, carries along a critical examination of the Brazilian legacy of racism and slavery. In songs such as “Zumbi,” “Zera a Reza,” and “13 de Maio,” Veloso conveys facts and personal histories tracing the horrors of social dislocation, slave rebellions, and enduring inequality. A sad, provocative, and angry work meant to provoke argument and change.
On their debut outing of 1998 the loose knit group convened as Los Super Seven introduced Tejano and traditional Mexican music to listeners just waking up to the glories of indigenous Latin music. On Canto the mission is broader in scope. With Ruben Ramos, Rick Trevino and Los Lobos members Cesar Rosas, David Hidalgo, and Steve Berlin staying on from the first group, and a host of new singers and players including Raul Malo of the Mavericks, pianist Alberto Salas, Peruvian vocalist Susana Baca, and Brazil's Caetano Veloso, Los Super Seven display a stunning multifaceted panorama of Latin sound. Another gorgeous and essential record owing nothing to calculations of crossover. Z