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CD Reviews Drive-By Truckers
Brighter Than Creation's Dark
(New West)

After a detour into a more polished sound on its previous record, the Drive-By Truckers new release, Brighter Than Creation's Dark, gets the band back toward the more raw rock sound of previous albums. Pedal-steel player John Neff replaced guitarist/songwriter Jason Isbell, and his contributions are reflected in the slower, more balladlike songs such as 'Daddy Needs a Drink" and 'The Purgatory Line." The tunes 'Home Field Advantage" and 'The Purgatory Line" also feature the vocals and songwriting skills of bassist Shonna Tucker, who seems finally to have jelled into the band. The subjects of her songs, whether the fading friend in 'I'm Sorry Huston" or the indecisive lover in 'The Purgatory Line," fit well into the lineup of characters in Truckers' songs. Main songwriters Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley supply most of the tracks here, and their ability to capture people's lives and actions with well-placed details and chords is evident in both quieter and louder moments. There's Cooley's lament about getting a call from Lisa on her birthday, 'whose car's not where she parked it / It's with her wallet and her phone," or Hood's anti-war rocker 'The Man I Shot" with its distorted guitar over the lyrics, 'The man I shot ... was walking down his street / Maybe I was in his yard." As on most of the Truckers' work, the characters here are fighting against small and large forces beyond their control, and even though the songs achieve the depth and maturity of previous albums, Brighter Than Creation's Dark still rocks out with wild abandon. — David Kunian

 

 

Sun Ra and His Intergalactic Infinity Arkestra
The Night of the Purple Moon
Some Blues But Not the Kind That's Blue
(Atavistic)

Volumes have been written about the life and music of bandleader and keyboardist Sun Ra, but it suffices to say he had a mystical and otherworldly vision of jazz music. He gained fame with his Arkestra, which played all kinds of music from total energy avant garde to blues to swing jazz. These two reissues from the Atavistic Unheard Music Series are some of the more accessible works by Ra. The Night of the Purple Moon features a rarely recorded quartet with Ra playing an assortment of electric keyboards. There are slightly skewed solo ballads with typical Ra titles such as 'The All Of Everything," but they are balanced by fairly straightforward marches like 'Impromptu Festival" and groovier numbers like 'Sun-Earth Rock" and 'Dance of the Living Image." Longtime tenor man John Gilmore makes an appearance, but most solos are performed by the unsung Ra sideman, alto player Danny Davis. Of course, in the midst of some of the relaxed numbers come saxophone runs that attempt to pierce the veil of the universe. No matter how accessible, it's still Sun Ra. Some Blues But Not the Kind That's Blues features a larger band that is a little more abstract, but the CD is still filled with tunes that uninitiated jazz fans can love. After the title track's trip through the wilderness, the band takes apart and puts back together standards such as 'That Old Black Magic" and 'Nature Boy." There also is a take on the tune 'My Favorite Things" that shows another way of interpreting the song besides John Coltrane's beautiful but ubiquitous version. Both these records, recorded in the early and mid-'70s, make Sun Ra's work more palatable for the general public without taking away the essential elements that are found throughout much of his music. — Kunian

Chick Corea and Bela Fleck
The Enchantment
(Concord)

Bela Fleck is probably the mightiest performer to ever pluck a banjo, and he has exposed Americans to more fine music than 20 of the top jambands put together. Chick Corea has, of course, been a force in jazz (mainly) since the '60s. As sublime as these fellows are, they have put out so much material over the years that one can't necessarily get roused by yet another release. So it's good to know that The Enchantment is indeed special. Fleck and Corea are virtuosi, but this album for the most part eschews histrionics in favor of creating new sounds, for instance Corea's bluegrass piano on 'Mountain." Ten of the 11 cuts are Chick or Fleck originals " they also cover 'Brazil." I would give Corea a slight edge in having the stronger voice here. — Tom McDermott

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