Skip Heller 

Career Suicide: The Skip Heller Anthology 1994-2001

In today's world of rigid radio playlists, demographically driven media conglomerates, and musical one-trick ponies, this Skip Heller fellow is a genuine rarity, a true eclectic who can play a diverse variety of styles and genres. The Philly-born, LA-based musician -- who sings, writes songs, and plays guitar and keys -- has composed music for cartoons, played in jazz organ combos and rockabilly bands, and has worked with a dizzying cast of musicians including Rosie Flores, Big Sandy, Les Baxter, Yma Sumac, Dave Alvin, and NRBQ. He's a sharp and imaginative guitarist, and when he sings he has a wry-yet-comfy-as-a-pillow croon á la Hoagy Carmichael.

This compilation presents Heller in a variety of contexts, with songs drawn from his own albums and those he produced for others as well as film and cartoon soundtracks and previously unreleased goodies. "The Sound of Decreasing Property Values" (from the film A Man Is Mostly Water) is a swell piece of sly 'n' swingin' mood music that mixes bluesy, strip-joint sax; echoes-of-Ellington brass; touches of tango; and a Mike Hammer prelude-to-a-murder waltz. You can practically see the pasties twirling on the stripper and hear the clinking of ice cubes in drinks glasses.

The cinematic "Couch" juxtaposes snazzy surf music, swaggering Cary Grant-cool jazz, and pointed, twisty horn passages that recall Frank Zappa (whose "Take Off Your Clothes When You Dance" is also covered). Bill Monroe's bluegrass tune "True Life Blues" gets a loose-limbed treatment, a mix of rockabilly and honky-tonk that'll get dancers on the floor.

Best of all is this set's closer, the Allman Brothers' "Whipping Post," with Heller and company breathing new life into the Bros' masochistic churner. The group plays like a slimmed-down version of Ray Charles' big band with jazz horn arrangements, while alt.country siren Katy Moffatt belts out a raspy, blues-soaked vocal. Heller himself offers one hell of a slow-burn: a complex and heartfelt guitar solo that would impress any Carlos Santana fan.

If you're seeking consistency, you won't find that here -- but if you like your mix tapes and CDs all over the map, pick up Career Suicide and listen to the kind of musician and composer the big record labels like to pretend doesn't exist.

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Anonymous and pseudonymous comments will be removed.

Latest in CD Reviews

Author Archives

Most Popular Stories

Special Reports

Holiday Guide 2016

A guide to this holiday season's gifts, outings, eats, and more.

Taste, Fall 2016

Everything you need to know about dining in and out in the East Bay.

Best of the East Bay

© 2017 East Bay Express    All Rights Reserved
Powered by Foundation