Hearsay 

Patsy Montana; Jeff Buckley; Masta Ace; Ferrante & Teicher

Patsy Montana
The Best Of
(Collector's Choice)

Fans of the Hot Club of Cowtown owe it to themselves to check out this collection of frolicsome Depression-era oldies by the greatest of the "cowgirl" singers. This is a long-overdue collection of her best work from the 1930s and '40s, capturing Montana in peak form, yodeling away on dozens of delightfully antiquated sentimental tunes, music that's as irresistible now as it was sixty years ago. Although she paid the bills recording countless corny, old-fashioned Western tunes, Montana also had some serious jazz chops. Montana's band, the Prairie Ramblers, let loose with dazzling swing licks, as fiddle whiz Shelby Atchison accompanied her adorable little-girl vocals. Recording alone, the Ramblers specialized in saucy double-entendre blues tunes, though the closest the wholesome cowgirl crooner herself comes is a mild bout of leather fetishism when she sings about donning her chaps and spurs. One highlight here is a song Montana penned herself, "Cowboy Rhythm," which explains how strange musical fads such as opera and jazz can't hold a candle to a coyote's howl and a lonesome guitar as the desert moon starts to rise... Modern-day acoustic swing fans take heed: this is the real deal, red-hot hillbilly swing from one of the foremothers of modern country.
--Lawrence Kay

Jeff Buckley
Live at L'Olympia
(Sony)

The morbid fascinations, myths, and legends that spring up around untimely deaths of rock stars were phenomena that Jeff Buckley vehemently detested. In the wake of Buckley's own demise, his mother (Mary Guibert), his former band, and his fans have tirelessly worked to downplay the hyperbolic press the man and his music have endured. Not surprisingly, the most successful decision Guibert & co. made was to release a pair of incendiary live records, 2000's Mystery White Boy, and this year's release Live at L'Olympia. Recorded over two nights in July of 1995, L'Olympia is, by his own self-deprecating estimate, Buckley's finest display of his talents as a performer. His concerts were blistering, overwhelming, and ecstatic. He could also croon tender love songs and was often hilarious. On this disc he lovingly mimics Edith Piaf (to a French audience!) and convincingly speeds through a truncated cover of Zeppelin's "Kashmir" as a simulated 45rpm. Though the album was mastered from a soundboard cassette, the sound quality is excellent; whatever questionable moments do exist are entirely irrelevant when considering the performance itself. Buckley and his band revel in the wild adoration of their audience (something they hadn't experienced prior to the Olympia gigs), and eventually reduce them to a hushed, awe-inspired mass. Lest you balk at the import price tag the album carries, know that Buckley's live shows were the lifeblood of his music. On Live at L'Olympia, songs from his sole studio LP, Grace, as well as unreleased and cover tunes, became entirely different entities. In the end, L'Olympia is the best proof that Jeff Buckley's lust for life, dynamic personality -- and above all, his music -- are his greatest legacy. As he sings from the stage at the Olympia, "Remember me/ Forget my fate."
--Bryan Carroll

Masta Ace
Disposable Arts
(Yosumi/JCOR)

A top-notch emcee out of Brooklyn, Masta Ace first appeared in 1988 on the certified classic "The Symphony" with the Juice Crew. He went on to release three excellent albums between '90 and '95. Despite an abundance of skills, several successful singles, and props for days, Ace grew frustrated with the notoriously shady industry and got out of the business. He's since reemerged, putting out independent singles, throwing down on compilations, and touring abroad. On his first LP in six years, he vents his frustration with the rap game, and also proves that he can still get nice on the mike.

"Enuff" rides an addictive piano loop, neck-bending beats, and deep bass tones as he laments about the cheesiness of rap marketing. "Nowadays Ranges ain't big enough/ Mossino ain't jig enough/ I'm kinda iced-out/ but my chain ain't thick enough/ album ain't hot enough/ label said it's not enough/ singing in the hook/ I need to change my look." The ridiculously fresh "Don't Understand" has "hit single" written all over it, with Greg Nice (the world's best hype man) going nuts on the chorus over a super-catchy, chopped up instrumental. Look for this to blow up shortly.

Ace gets into battle mode on "Acknowledge," verbally shredding High & Mighty and Boogieman over weepy string loops, swift cuts, and strong snares. Other winners include the crime-as-football narrative "Unfriendly Game," the scandalous sex-rhymes of "I Like Dat" (with Punch and Words), and the ragga-fied groove of "Every Other Day."

While many so-called "comeback" albums wallow in mediocrity, Masta Ace makes all naysayers eat their words. His writing is as sharp as ever, the production (by Ayatollah, Paul Nice, Domingo, and others) is ill, and the album bumps all the way through 24 tracks. One of the most consistent LPs of the year, from one of hip-hop's best emcees.
--Brolin Winning

Ferrante & Teicher
Denizens of the Deep
(Varese Sarabande)

Though famous for their romantic piano duets of '60s and '70s film themes (and infamous for the resulting albums that populate thrift stores and garage sales), Art Ferrante and Louis Teicher began their collaboration as Juilliard graduates and fellow-travelers of John Cage. Their early albums were filled with space-age bachelor-pad music created with tricked-out twin Steinways. Wedging bits of paper, wood, and rubber between the strings and employing picks, mallets, and other gadgets, the duo created unusual percussion sounds to accompany their traditional keyboard playing. The rediscovery of their first-ever recording, languishing unreleased since its creation in 1950, recently enticed the duo out of a decade-long retirement. The original 14-minute tape has been expanded into a 26-minute instrumental, an underwater fantasy written, arranged and performed solely by Ferrante & Teicher. "Whiptailed Stingrays" and "Barracudas on the Chase" are filled with tense, discordant strumming and hand-plucked threats. "Floating Manatees" and "Manatees and Dolphins" glide playfully along the keys, while "Underwater Reflections" glimmers with stereo imagery. Shorter tracks, such as "Electric Eels" and "Spinning Steelheads," provide sound sketches as introductions and transitions between longer pieces. Ferrante & Teicher refined and expanded the techniques pioneered here, but these all-original compositions (something no other F&T release can boast) provide the purest-ever statement of the duo's experimental, pre-Hollywood music.
--Eli Messinger

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