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Tootsie Music

Small Circle of

7 tracks

Except for a few occasional
shows and guest spots with friends, we haven’t heard much from the
ultra-lovely and talented Ramona Silver during the past five years since
her last CD release, Intermission. Though she’s been professionally
disinclined, her personal life has been center stage—living with a
hardworking travelin’ hubby, bringing up her teenage sons, and coming
to grips with her aging parents. These responsibilities have been her
reward and her challenges. These also seem to be the topics of this
stunning new album.

Working with her terrific small combo of John Sands (drums), Kimon Kirk
or Jim Haggerty (bass), and Thomas Juliano (guitar), Ramona has created
some of the best music of her career. Four of the tunes are assuredly
masterstrokes—“Small Circle of Light” (a gorgeous overview of
her folks’ sixty year relationship which builds into a compelling
dramatic coda a la Brian Wilson), “State of Being Grey” (middle-agers
moving onwards), “Idiot’s Delight” (a moving rocker about separation),
and “Salt of the Sea” (a perky woe-is-me tale with vocals by her
sons). Other facets to applaud are her keyboard playing and especially
her vocals—delicate, true, and rich in harmonic textures. The entire
album pours down like silver. Totally sublime. (Harry C. Tuniese)


Munster Records

Savage Kings

12 tracks

I cracked a big smile when I found
this CD in the mail with the expectation that it would be one of the
strongest local releases of the year, and I can safely say I was not
disappointed. This record pulls off the wonderful trick of being both
a great listen when you’re in need of a pick-me-up as well as a means
for keeping a good mood going. Whitfield and company crank their trademark
amped-up old school R&B with a ferocious energy that would put most
punk bands to shame. Whitfield’s voice is an elastic instrument, yowling
demonically at some points while crooning soothingly at others. The
band, particularly saxophonist Tom Quartulli, is a marvel, always staying
on the proper side of the tasteful/bland and rambunctious/unfocused
lines. Get out and buy a copy of this now. (Kevin Finn)


Members Of Morphine with Jeremy Lyons

9 tracks

This is a very interesting
CD with a different format and different music. Most of the studio tracks
were recorded at High N Dry Studios and the additional live tracks done
at Atwoods Tavern in Cambridge. The music ranges from psychedelic jazz
compositions like “Know,” “Palestrina,” and “Kitchen Closes
At Midnight” to the four Mark Sandman songs included that are more
pop/jazz in feel. While listening to these you can hear the wit and
wisdom in his lyrics and you can hear his snidely instructive vocals
in your mind too. There is a lot going on within these tunes in the
arrangements, the time- changing drumming of Jerome Deupree, and the
great horns that are always in the background. Dana Colley sounds as
inventive as ever on his electric baritone and tenor saxes. My favorite
cuts are Sandman’s “Pulled Over The Car” and “Let’s Take A
Trip Together” and Lyons’ opening cut “Hurricane” with it’s
trippy Indian feel. Cool introspective stuff. (A.J. Wachtel)


Too Drunk to Truck

16 tracks

The title of this appealing
record gives a pretty fair indication of what is to follow. Sludge appears
to be a man of simple pleasures, as evidenced by his collection of classic
rockabilly and country tunes about booze, hard luck, and hitting the
open road. While this might have devolved into cliché in lesser hands,
Sludge and his band bring more than enough chops, energy and good humor
to put you firmly on their side. Sludge’s deep voice recalls Johnny
Cash, a little laid back and more than making up for in personality
what it lacks in range. The real stars, though, are Duke Levine on guitar
and Kevin Barry on lap steel who collectively coax a far wider range
of sounds from their instruments than most of their peers. While Sludge
comes across as a likeable everyman, it’s the work of these two large
talents that truly gives the music its soul. (Kevin Finn)


Iddy Biddy Records


4 tracks

This is a teaser EP
intended as a prelude to a full-length release. Drum and bass come from
Rikki Bates and Chandler Travis (Incredible Casuals), with Steve Wood
(the Freeze) on guitar and Dinty Child (Session Americana) on guitar
and mandocello. The first tune sets the tone: it’s a miasmically pounding
and vocally laconic aggressive guitar number. The third song is a bit
of a deliberately sloppy genre spoof, utterly delightful for people
who secretly laugh at showboating bar bands but otherwise of doubtful
utilty. The final song, “I Viborate,” takes the “Great Balls of
Fire” vibe and lards it up with twangy walls of problematic clatter,
almost as if to defy the spirit of the streamlined genre it is attempting
to emulate. What makes this EP thoroughly worthwhile is the second song,
“Stoned,” which has the makings of some kind of bizarro-world hit
ala Arthur Lee’s “7 and 7 Is,” with its spacy guitar overlay and
utterly kickass drums and, best of all, annihilating vocal hooks and
crunchy rhythm guitar. It’s brilliant.Period. (Francis DiMenno)


The Abraxas Tactics – Phase 3: Welcome
To TarTarus

4 tracks

This is the third helping
of Planetoid’s year-long project The Abraxas Tactics. Each
of the phases pushes us through the large world that Planetoid has created.
The title track, “Welcome to Tartarus,” opens up with Locrius
stating he hears “the whisper through the flames of those that remember
when Mars was an ocean” and he has hidden away “the killing machine”
in the frozen lands up north. The third song pushes us even further
into Planetoid’s sole mission, which is to destroy all life throughout
the galaxies. They do this by releasing “the unspeakable, at the behest
of a dying nation” by letting “Slip the Abomination.” Musically
this disc is very guitar heavy, which is great because it showcases
Ovatus’s amazing abilities. I am pleased that they haven’t fallen
into the creative slump that would usually be associated with a massive
project like this. They end with “Epic Space Battle” which has actually
left me waiting eagerly for the next and last phase. (Melvin O)


75orLess Records

All Clowns, No Lions

1 track

Looking for ambient
cosmic relief? You won’t find it here. Baylies Band presents live—from
the mountains of madness—one track of 53:36 duration. A percussive
shotgun blast firing buckshot guitar feedback against a cascading legion
of rock zombie silences, all to quell a fever called living. Maximum
marathon clatter topped off at the end with ten minutes or so of industrial-strength
psychedelic noodle soup and crypto-call-and-response Frippertronics.
Any hardcore smiley-faces in attendance here doubtless stand wreathed
in frowns, as though geriatric Jerry Lewis has suddenly appeared on
stage telling shitty golf jokes while slurping down Dino-sized portions
of speedy alcohol-and-seltzer. I’m also sure that background music
aficionados are finding this magnificent desolation about as welcome
as a school-age mail-order bride at a high society wedding. For them,
it’s like Bullwinkle saying, “Watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat”
and out comes a ghastly shrunken head and then the moose lamely quips
that he doesn’t know his own strength. But. For people with a hankering
for an improvised free-rock bash-athon as sacred and as honorable as
a high holiday black mass this tour de force will seem like a hole in
the infinite that love poured out of, so my advice to all you myriad
geeks in airless basements is simple: submit to the love and come to
the now—this one has everything: it’s a deadly bleak arcadia; a
testosterone salad of infantile machismo, mad pride, joy and woe, garden-variety
portentiousness and heartwarming super-saturation. It makes you feel
as though you are standing on the bleak verge of Kamchatka’s geyser
valley. Your ears are on trial and the prosecution rants and from the
courtroom windows he stands illumined there in the mad rays of a pusillanimous
sun. I swear it makes “Sister Ray” come across like “Frere Jacques.”
It makes “Zyklon B Zombie” sound like “Pussy’s in the Well.”
It makes “Action Woman” seem as cute as baby’s first ice cream
cone. It’s like seeing a winsome, panting Pomeranian wearing a bow
tie and begging for a treat getting smashed in the face with a Key lime
pie. Copy? The mission is bitchin’. Submission is vision
(Francis DiMenno)



8 tracks

With an ear on acoustic
textures featuring the ukulele, and an eye on what some would call traditional
stereotypical hippie fashion, Ben Carr’s Oakleaf does not disappoint.
As I said, the focus here is the ukulele, not solo playing (all the
time) but worked into acoustic arrangements so that you know it’s
the voice Ben is balanced on. This music, which is an original vision
of Ben’s, is moody and withdrawn, open and loving. It takes you places
with a gentle pull. This is a sound that is being heard more around
New England: the sound of a unique artist pursuing, orchestrating and
delivering his or her vision. You can tell other bands are working up
to this standard. Guys like Ben raise the bar. This music is best HEARD,
not as much listened too—one may get picky about the apparent simplicity
and unorthodox rhythmic and melodic figures. It’s a really interesting,
good work. (Mike Loce)


Modern Tan

13 tracks

Summer may be over
and the cooler months threateningly looming overhead, but St. Helena’s
latest effort will keep the sun shining brightly and the weather ever
so perfect, even as we are about to dig out our sweaters and boots.
A heartfelt reminder of better times, it is the band’s “keep your
chin up” mantra that allows their music to qualify under the category
of “escapism.” It is an indulgence carried out through the
pattern of introspec-tion, a venture into world of daydreams and ethereal
matters. While all of the songs are not necessarily “happy,”
Modern Tan is a celebration of life, its triumphs and tribulations,
its ups and downs. The haunting “California” may be emotive
and heartbreaking, but one gets the impression of an overarching gratefulness
for having experienced such a wonder in the first place, while “Five
Pillars” brings more of an enthusiastic, straight-up rock feel.
It goes without saying that the members of St. Helena are not wearing
rose-colored sunglasses. Instead, they are trying to make the
best of things through simplistic, no-frills compositions and meaningful
lyricism. Even as the years continue to pass and their discography
expands, the words from St. Helena’s one-sheet still ring true: “The
band shines a light onto your forgotten toys, your old wins and losses,
and reminds you that you still have a chance. We’ve all got
to dig to find some glory.” (Julia R. DeStefano)


Whatevermore: Live
from the Raven

14 tracks

This disc was recorded
at the Pay what You Can festival, and shows what a true collaboration
between bands is. Shane is known for his versatility, jumping through
genres on a whim. The Thought Criminals are a hip hop group with a full
live backing band. They’ve know each other for several years but didn’t
get the chance to work together until earlier this year at SxSW. Putting
these two creative forces together has created one of the best live
hip hop CDs that I’ve heard in a very long time. In fact the last
live hip hop I was this impressed with was The Roots Come Alive
CD. The band stays in a tight jazz groove the whole performance, the
lyrics float effortlessly. I was upset that I missed this show, but
thanks to modern technology a great performance is caught forever in
digital form. If you love intelligent lyrics with a nerdy flare, fused
with a solid live band, then I highly recommend you rush out and pick
this up.
(Melvin O)


A Merrimack Valley

8 tracks

There was a time in
my reviewing… ahem… career that I would have taken issue with a
handwritten CD sleeve and accompanying lined-paper hand-scribbled letter
but whether they did it on purpose or not, it just seems to go with
the delightful quirkiness of Action Park. Hey, at least they included
their contact info. But I digress. Action Park’s letter explained
that the Noise gave their “good buds’” band Radio Control
a good review recently, so they hoped we’d think they were pretty
good, too, considering the members of Radio Control contributed to Action
Park’s eight-track CD recording and background vocals. (Though they
didn’t ask for it, coincidentally I was the one that reviewed Radio
Control.) I tend to like quirkiness when it’s done well and Action
Park does do it well. They’re fun, light, and don’t take themselves
seriously yet care about their music. Is it something I’d run out
tomorrow and purchase? Probably not but I appreciate their poppy indie
punk style, how they arrange and put their songs together, and their
cool energy. Good stuff! (Debbie Catalano)


Candles Glow

10 tracks

Originally released
in 1979 as a dedication to his late wife who died in a car accident
shortly before they were to celebrate their first anniversary, Candles
is a beautiful and memorable debut effort. Upon first
glance at the album’s appearance and knowledge of Hakansson’s loss,
one would understandably expect his compositions to be fused with an
overtly melancholy tone. While the album does carry with it a
weight and sadness, it is, at heart, a melodic and cohesive showcase
of talent that was predominantly recorded in the attic of an old northern
New Hampshire farmhouse. A Neil Young influence is present throughout
“Living in the Sunlight” and “Morning Bird” while the remaining
tracks range from light jazz to country to rock fusion full of catchy
hooks. There remains an inimitable intensity in Hakansson’s
voice throughout. Somber at times and joyous at others, Candles
is both exquisite and a fine tribute. (Julia R. DeStefano)


75orLess Records

75orLess Presents:

Failed Tribute Bands
39 tracks

To claim that these
tributes are “failed” of, of course, to slyly ensure against any
perception of their utter failure, since “just kidding” therefore
becomes the operative default aesthetic. For openers, on disc one, The
Brothers Kendall ham it up on VU’s “I Found a Reason,” with a
country-rock arrangement and blowsy horns and—it’s just got to get
better from there, right? Umm, maybe. Coltrane Motion obnoxiously travesties
Springsteen and his already ludicrous “I’m On Fire”; the Groundhawgs
perform a Pontiac ad jingle as though channeling Heart; Von Doom presents
a questionably retro version of “Freedom of Choice,” Hope Anchor
coughs up a tedious and sullen travesty of “Stand By Me,” and Two
Guys and Another Guy cover “Moonage Daydream”—with spit. There
are, however, some bright spots: Mark Cutler, singing though what sounds
like a taxicab microphone, performs a spot-on but nuanced impression
of VU’s “I’m Waiting for My Man”; the Blood Moons deliver a
young, loud and snotty version of “Mother’s Little Helper”; a
cover of the Feelies’ “Slow Down” is handled with commensurate
restraint by the ’Mericans, and Backwash does a tolerably good version
of “In Betweens.”

disc two, Earthworm performs a low-key version of Agent Orange’s “Bloodstains”;
The Wolverton Bro-thers serve up an over-the-top hysterical but outstanding
live version of Pere Ubu’s “Life Stinks’: Six Star General musters
an appropriately spacy version of Grandaddy’s “Jed’s Other Poem”;
Bob Kendall brings forth a strangely evincing rendition of “My Sex”
by Ultravox, and Sanity Assassins live up to their name with a truly
twisted, manic version of “These Hands,” which deserves to be enshrined
somewhere (though I’m not sure where). BetaMax spews forth a coruscating
cover of “I’m a Bug” by the Urinals; Found Dead in Trunk does
their commendably concise version of Black Flag’s “Wasted,” and
then there’s a bit of a trailing off, redeemed by a truly damnable
live deconstruction of “The Man” by Hula Hoop, as well as a faithful
but somewhat ponderous live version of “Cortez the Killer” by Killing
Pablo. To top it all off, there’s a weedy joke version—or let’s
hope it is—of Journey’s “Faithfully” by Hank Sinatra Jr. Download
the whole thing here (if you dare). (Francis DiMenno)


Curve of the Earth

Grey Valley Ghost

9 tracks

Grey Valley Ghost seems
to be building up quite the buzz lately (Google the name and see), and
it’s easy enough to understand why. The music is rocking, but melodic;
not wimpy, but not reeking of sweat, adrenaline, and spunk either. It’s
right smack in the middle of it all. Nothing unique or original here,
but who is these days? Their press release describes their sound as
“evil pop”—while I can agree on the pop, it lacks evil. Like I
said, the music is melodic, and after a few listens, you’ll be wanting
to sing along with singer/leader Madison Taylor and his sometimes Ben
Gibbard-esque vox stylings. Trouble is, the lyrics, which feature words
that may suggest the “evil” tag, don’t make a hell of a lot of
sense—it’s like he employed the Burroughs cut-up technique and obscured
any message, story, or lucid thought. So what could have been evil comes
off instead as vague dream-talk. But hey, it’s sung pretty well, so
why analyze it? All in all, a decent listen, but not mind-blowing. (Tony


Closed Doors and
Weird Situations

17 tracks

Straddling the line
between punk and chaotic strategy metal, humorless thrash and funny
self-observation, Flatout Jones delivers an album of appropriate raunch.
Appropriate, that is, if you crave the sonic equivalent of having an
anal fissure (really, some folks like them). Part of my mind
likes the mayhem on this album, in fact, deems it necessary. Other parts
of my mind would say that this is best as a background soundtrack to
a ripping high school house party. Parents are away, booze and weed
are everywhere, and tattoo bragging is the prime form of one-upsmanship.
It really rocks that hard. It also defies real analysis; which is a
good thing… the band already did their job with working out song form,
chord progressions, breaks, and lyric intensity. The point is that
no one
knows what goes on behind closed doors, and life is full
of weird situations.
(Mike Loce)


On Up the Road

11 tracks

Moving, physically
moving. Time moving. Moving on. Each song on this introspective rootsy
folk collection from Jay Psaros contains elements of the theme of moving.
And like the idea of On Up the Road, the songs smoothly move
and carry this theme while each carrying its own uniqueness. Jay’s
songs are conveyed with soul and heart—and though at times his voice
is a bit flat, it still comes across with passion. Actually, maybe it’s
not flatness but a steadiness reminiscent of James Taylor—even his
style in a few tunes remind me of a modern-day JT. Without over-examining
this singer/songwriter’s voice, let’s just say his songs are filled
with beauty and a genuine spirit. The tracks are arranged and produced
well, and overall are a pleasant and enjoyable listen. And as what tends
to happen with me, I appreciate the album more the second time around.
Favorite tracks: “Learning To Be Free,” “Skyscrapers,” and “Actor.”
(Debbie Catalano)


75orLess Records

Vertical Twin

7 tracks

This EP is a lot like
adolescent sex. It’s hard, fast, and finishes quickly. They call their
style “motoprunk,” which is essentially pop-punk, but played
by guys with dyslexia and a penchant for biker culture. Each track features
breakneck drumming, bouncing basslines, and a growling guitar with a
fistful of blues-rock riffage. The songs are short and to the point.
Not bad. After a while, though, they all start to sound the same. Does
this album seriously have seven tracks? I could have sworn there were
only three. The monotony aside, VT’s music is catchy and energetic.
I just can’t take the lyrics seriously. I’m not even sure if I’m
supposed to. This band doesn’t sound like badass bikers. Now, if I’m
wrong and these guys really are a bunch of rowdy knife-wielding outlaws,
then I take back all the bad things I said about them. All hail Vertical
Twin! Please don’t hurt me. (Will Barry)


75orLess Records

Lloyd’s Llamas

12 tracks

Who would have guessed
that llamas would be such rocking animals? I could picture jaguars or
mountain lions rocking out, but not llamas. Well, at least not until
I heard this disc, which, judging from the liner notes and the press
release, does appear to have been recorded by actual llamas. While no
information is provided about the llamas’ personal lives, going by
the wide range of influences and styles on this record, I imagine they
work at the hippest record store in the plains of South America. At
different points on the record, you will hear traces of blues, punk,
reggae and glam. Fortunately, the band is reasonably proficient at whatever
style they play, which keeps the record fresh while preventing it from
falling victim to musical schizophrenia. If there is a drawback, it’s
that lyrically, the songs are quite offbeat and often intended to be
humorous, but the weird jokiness becomes a bit grating at times.
(Kevin Finn)


Make It Work

15 tracks

If I should ever venture
into advertising, and I have to find a band to record a commercial jingle
for a glass company or something, these guys are so on my speed dial.
This adult-contemporary pop/rock with tinges of soul and a dash of funk
is just ideal for advertising or perhaps incidental music for an NPR
program. It’s destined to be played on WXRV alongside Maroon 5 and
Jason Mraz. (Help me out, cheerleaders: “Can I get an M?” “M!”
“Can I get an O?” “O!” “Can I get an R?” “R!” “ What’s
that spell?” “M.O.R.!!!” Thanks girls…) It appears that we have
two distinct lead singers; one guy sounds like Jack Johnson, the other
sounds kinda like Dr. John. Considering they’re from New Hampshire,
these must be the most affected singing accents since Natalie Merchant!
The hidden track at the end should have just been unreleased, a pedestrian
rap-in-the-middle funk song with such clever lines as: “All I wanna
do is you, girl.” The Welcome To Florida/WTF acronym thing’s clever
too. LOL. (Tony Mellor)


Under the Influence

12 tracks

Local rockabilly giant
Jimmy Scoppa puts his screaming guitar out front and his band does red-hot
versions of a few Jagger/Richards tunes, a Dylan song, a Tommy Hambridge
composition, and a great Roy Buchanan melody, “Filthy Teddy.” Both
Buchanan and Scoppa favor Telecasters and you can hear Roy’s influence
on Jimmy’s playing several times in this great release. Sometimes you
hear honky-tonk, like in the group’s version of the Stones’ “Hide
Your Love” and the country-pickin’ in “You’re Still On My Mind.”
And sometimes it’s pure country-weeper like in the ballads “Last
Date” and “She Once Lived Here” where the guitars actually seem
to be wailing. Sometimes it’s mellower, like in Dylan’s “Tonight
I’ll Be Staying Here With You” which showcases Scoppa’s nice trebly
guitar tone but when he turns up the volume and rocks, like in Hambridge’s
Southern rock classic “Can’t Turn It Off,” you can really hear
him wail. Some of these songs are instrumental and some have vocals
but it’s his choice of outstanding notes and his guitar’s terrific
tones that really stand out in every cut. Check out his version of the
R&B classic “High Heel Sneakers” or his take on “The Stumble.”
This man can twang and pick with the best of them. A great CD to play
at loud volumes.   (A.J. Wachtel)


All That is Left
is All That Remains

9 tracks

Paul Tait is a straight-shootin’
talented veteran musician. In these recordings the bleeding vocals are
in your face, as is the guitar, drums, and piano. With everything mixed
up front the songs lack warmth and depth in sound, but I can only assume
that is Mr. Tait’s intention. At first I thought “No Friend of Mine”
was kind of a harsh Pink Floyd-like number with melodic vocals and ripping
clean guitar solos. Then in “Nowhere to Go” it became obvious that
the timber of Paul’s voice carried a meaty, half-growl, very similar
to Meatloaf. Mid-disc the band wanders off into rockin’ boogie-woogie
land then offers up a quasi-live track that recreates the end of the
night in a beer-soaked piano bar. The disc leaves us with a suggestion,
in “What Better Way,” that the best way to go out is on fire. The
band should have taken its own advice instead of exiting on a barely
warm note. There’s talent here, but the overall production could use
an outside ear.
(T Max)


Polk Records

Brief Awakening

6 tracks

At first, this mishmashed
demo seems like a letdown, opening with one studio-polished tune followed
clumsily by a handful of rough-hewn live recordings. I couldn’t be
more wrong. By the third track, I’m hooked. It’s piano-driven folksy
pop gilded with clarion female vocal harmonies and anchored down with
the tribal pattering of a djembe. This is some really captivating
stuff. You just hafta get past all the background chatter and stage
banter. I hear hints of Amanda Palmer in here with the sometimes-sassy
lead vocals and melodramatic piano style. However, the West African
flavor and high-pitched vocals—that’s all them. Bravo, ladies. Or
should I say Brava? (Will Barry)



split 7-inch

4 tracks

Two bands you don’t
want to bump into in jail, together on a graveyard-ready 7-inch slab
of gray vinyl. Buried In Leather leads the assault with “Bombs Away,”
a hardcore blast that’ll conjure up violent thoughts even in your
convalescent grandma. “Gunfight” takes it down a notch, but it’s
just switching punching bags. Sleazy bastards, the Tenafly Vipers add
sex and failed drug tests to the violence. The needle ought to be jumping
off the vinyl and looking for someone’s arm. Both “All Style No
Class” and “Way Behind the Sun” ought to make Lemmy proud. This
shit swings. Win. (Tony Mellor)



6 tracks

Giantist in a nutshell. Their MO: starting things off with a pre-storm
calm sure to quiet your raging soul, only to break that serenity by
building towards drum-thundering distortion-drenched crescendos. Each
track is a mini-epic, ebbing and flowing with heart-wrenching melodies
and shoegaze wizardry. The vocals are a constantly raging duet between
the guy’s anguished rasp and the sweet sadness of the gal’s siren-like
singing. The oddball in the group is the saxophonist, who’s completely
out of place in the alt-rock pantheon. Yet his soaring horn lines are
a welcome respite from the onslaught of lead guitar. I could get used
to this. These lo-fi indie lullabies are perfect for all you caffeine-addled
insomniacs out there. Sweet dreams. (Will Barry)


If you are based in New England,
send your CD for review to
T Max/ the
Noise, PO Box 353, Gloucester, MA 01931.

If you’re sending a CD in to
the Noise make sure to use our new address.
And everyone else should
update our contact info too. Thanks.

T Max/ the Noise
PO Box 353
Gloucester, MA 01931

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