Every other month or so, bulldozers and other earth-moving equipment haul tons of local CDs to Bandwidth's basement bunker. We sift through the rubble and pluck out a handful of platters for review. As a public service, we present our findings to you. Caution: Your results may vary.
Prophets of R.A.G.E.
Realizing All Good & Evil
(R.A.G.E. Music Publishing, 561-642-8975 or 954-733-4528)
Prophets of R.A.G.E., a polished hip-hop trio from Delray Beach, kick off this debut with the excellent "World Wide," coasting on a subtle reggae lilt and a faint Caribbean undercurrent in the toasting vocal line. Crisp harmonies and verse-swapping virtuosity mark "Sunshine State," which examines South Florida's landscape from musical, sexual, and cultural vantage points. Pooh, C-lo, and Rudra come up with a nice approximation of Southern rap à la Goodie Mob, throwing in geographical references such as the speed-demonized I-95 as a lyrical backdrop. "Funny How" glistens with sugary, glamorous female backing vocals, and its easygoing, antithug stance makes for a cool, welcome breeze through the arson smoke of the Trick Daddies of this world. It doesn't hurt to have a jingle-worthy refrain, either. "Hello Hello" again involves an infectious sing-along chorus, more covert Rasta stylings, and a sparkling keyboard loop; adroit rhyming completes the chill-out vibe. Likewise "Haunt You" drops in some scattershot, spray-can rhythms, dubby echoes, and compellingly dark lyrics. Realizing All Good & Evil never descends into cliché, and as a hip-hop record, justifies its existence by that alone.
(New Millennium [sic] Productions, P.O. Box 825, Boyton Beach, FL 33425, www.keep-real.com)
From the paint-peeling squeal and the pass-the-Ricola scream that announces the first tune, "Never," it'd be easy to tag Boynton Beach's Keep as yet another boring SoFla metal act. Hang tough through the remaining seven songs on Overwhelm You, though, and Keep shows a broader palette than its more pedestrian brethren. Singer-keyboardist Wayne Gangitano and brothers Tom Boettcher (drums) and Joe Boettcher (guitars) actually have an ear for nuance and song craft. A ballad like "Everytime" seems to be the work of a completely different band. The harmonies are graceful, and the tune rolls melodically while Gangitano's bourbon-corrupted wail softens for a spell. Joe Boettcher's chicken-fried, twangy lead shows that Keep is willing to take more musical chances than your garden-variety hard-rock outfit. The title track is another good example of the group's range: Here a sweetly distant synth texture takes just enough edge off the spray of razor-sharp guitar licks. As a theme song, "Keep" leaves much to be desired, as the pendulum swings back to predictable cheese-metal, complete with obnoxious squeals and wails. Some aggressive bar chords and Gangitano's Vlad the Impaler battle cry bring the storm cloudcovered "Jordans Lake" into sharp focus, and the wide-screen production maximizes the loud-soft formula that gives many of these songs their punch. The inexplicably titled "Dumpster" seems to include the work of another singer, until Gangitano allows that gravel-road growl to creep back into his voice. The slow-paced, seven-and-a-halfminute closer, "Hazy," opens with a serenade of faux strings and classical piano runs, while Gangitano slips into a gentle croon. It ends with the sound of gulls and crashing waves. Gangitano's ability to modify his coarse grumble, along with the Boettcher brothers' chameleonic qualities, gives Overwhelm You the kind of diversity needed to escape the pack mentality.
Amy Carol Webb
These Are My Own
(Kokebra Music, 305-883-2190,
Listening to local folker Amy Carol Webb preface each tune on her new live album, These Are My Own, with a blow-by-blow outline of each song is akin to watching a subtitled film with the closed-captioning on: We get it already. But these song/story cycles would carry much more weight if there were the slightest hint of an edge to them. As is, they are too plain-spoken, obvious, self-referential, and sorely lacking in mystery or drama. The Miami Springsbased Webb doesn't exactly come right out and say she's a 44-year-old gay mother of two, but she drops hints like big ol' safes with "ACME" written on them. To her credit Webb's voice is bold, forceful, and richly textured. Her guitar-playing is snappy, sharp, and clean. And a couple of tunes show some potential. Teasingly side-stepping around the words boobs, breasts, and tits, the title cut is a much-needed backlash against South Florida's surgically enhanced mammary marauders: "Who wants to snuggle silicone?" she asks. "If I Should Wake" frames sappy lyrics with a preciously pretty guitar melody that never quite crosses the line into cloying. On this cut Webb's soft singing and guitar-playing suggest Holly Near or Janis Ian. "Let Me Sing For the Baby," a tune about the listening habits of a friend's developing embryo, needs no explaining, but Webb feels compelled to explain it anyway. Points must be deducted for the inclusion of a full 30 seconds of applause at the disc's beginning, an embarrassingly self-congratulatory move, especially considering These Are My Own was recorded in a friend's back yard. Did she expect them to boo? Is Webb that insecure? Maybe she should be: Any album for which the packaging features references to a prior release known as Songweaver; a note reading, "This album is yours to share the journey"; and a closeup photo of a crystal pendant is creating some awfully deep potholes on the road to appreciation. But if that kind of stuff cranks your tractor, you could do worse than These Are My Own.
Miami sax master Mo Morgen takes an extremely unchallenging, easy-listening approach to upwardly mobile nightclub jazz. On first listen, this CD immediately evokes Bill Murray's lounge-singer parody from Saturday Night Live. For novice jazz fans, each piece comes with a descriptive label: "swing," "bossa nova," "cha-cha," and so forth. Singin' Saxy is sterile and inoffensive enough to serve as a demo disc at a car-stereo shop, and it looks like one, too. Morgen's serviceable voice is perfectly suited to the rote execution, the only exception being "I Thought About You," on which he descends into some Wonder Breadworthy scat singing. Morgen's accompanists -- stellar local talents Dennis Marks on bass, John Yarling on drums, and Brian Murphy on piano and Hammond B-3 -- give Singin' Saxy the kind of facile professionalism that quickly becomes dull and predictable. Sadly the quartet is content sticking to safe standards (Henderson/Brown's "The Thrill Is Gone," Ellington's "In a Sentimental Mood," a pair of Rodgers and Hammerstein standbys). Who needs another perfectly played rendition of "You and the Night and the Music" or "The Tender Trap"? Probably bland Las Olas thrill-seekers -- and this is just about their speed.
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