Friday, November 23, 2007

One Note Ahead Live!

One Note Ahead's readership spans the globe. Most of the artists I write about have recordings that are available worldwide, so I usually don't need to worry that my readers won't be able to hear the music I want them to check out. But what about seeing these artists? Many of them are local favorites here in the Philadelphia area and haven't played much (or at all) elsewhere; others play in regions or countries that are foreign to me and therefore I've never seen them in person, which in turn means that many of my readers are in the same boat. So that we may all have a fuller appreciation of these artists, I've scoured YouTube and other sites and posted my favorite live performance clips of some of the artists I've written about. (Sadly, I couldn't find any live videos of Andrew James, Andrew Lipke, or Mindy Rhodes.) The artists' names are hyperlinked to their respective One Note Ahead features. Enjoy.

Downtown Harvest, "Four Hundo" at The Trocadero in Philadelphia:

Laura Cheadle, "Midst Of Your Mystery" at World Cafe Live in Philadelphia (I was there!):

Half of SuperJimenez, "Faye" on Balcony TV:

Lovers Electric, "Is It Over?" on This Month In Music TV:

Ed Rambeau, "You'll Never Find (Another Love Like Mine)" on a Carnival Cruise Ship:

Matt Duke, "Weeping Winds" at The Knitting Factory in New York City:

Stay tuned.....

For more information, see One Note Ahead's Quick Takes and One Note Ahead: One Year Later.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

CD Review: "Rhodes" Scholarship

The scene was set for culture shock: there I was, the proverbial “tortured writer” character with a rock ‘n’ roll spirit and a penchant for dancing wildly to loud, funky music. And there she was, the elegant, sophisticated, classically-trained easy listening singer and pianist associated with The Dilworthtown Inn in West Chester, Pennsylvania—a highly-rated restaurant that I’m nevertheless disinclined to visit for the simple reason that it has a dress code. But this unlikely encounter was no accident. As I sat there in the cozy Kreutz Creek Winery in Media, Pennsylvania, enjoying the sweet sounds of Mindy Rhodes as much as I was enjoying the sweet taste of the Proprietor’s Red, I was doing exactly what I wanted to be doing. Having previously caught a few minutes of Ms. Rhodes—I’ve hardly earned the right to call her “Mindy” in this context—I had made sure to see her again next chance I got. Wanting a souvenir of her beautiful, lucid voice and her sometimes idiosyncratic pronunciation and vocal acrobatics, I sought to obtain a copy of her CD, Blush. Of course, I had to tell her that I’m a music journalist of some stature, so after some discussion she entreated me to review the CD…but only if I like it.

I like it.

On six of the twelve tracks, Rhodes is accompanied by a bassist and a drummer; otherwise, she flies solo. Half of the album is occupied by interpretations of well-known material, and as is the case with her live sets, she covers a variety of genres while always maintaining her own style. Her affecting solo performance of the notorious Charlene hit “I’ve Never Been To Me” achieves the impressive feat of extracting some profundity from the rather bizarre lyrics. “On My Own” is a selection from Les Miserables and Rhodes delivers it subtly without compromising her operatic tendencies or the song’s emotional intensity. Her laid-back, jazzy take on Mary Chapin Carpenter’s ubiquitous “Passionate Kisses” is strikingly beautiful in its simplicity and quietude (yes, “quietude” as opposed to “quietness”). “Someone To Watch Over Me” is without question one of the great American standards, and Rhodes’ powerful reading does not disappoint, with a few vocal and instrumental twists to keep the song fresh. However, there are a couple of curious choices on Blush. On John Denver’s “Annie’s Song,” Rhodes sounds a tad too methodical, and while there is nothing wrong with her piano solo on Debussy’s “Claire De Lune,” it is simply not fitting to end an album of easy listening vocals with a classical instrumental.

Rhodes’ original compositions on Blush are all concerned with the ups and downs (but mostly the downs) of romance. Sometimes her melodic inspirations are obvious: “Don’t Come So Close” contains elements of “Here Comes The Sun” and “Forbidden Fruit” bears more than a passing resemblance to “Autumn Leaves.” But they are both enjoyable all the same, especially “Forbidden Fruit,” a sexy, Latin-tinged jazz romp with particularly vivid lyrical imagery. The starkly confessional “I Want To Let You In” is highlighted by pleasingly transparent euphemisms and metaphors such as, “The iron walls are sturdy where green ivy grows/And within lies a softness few will come to know,” and “There are fields of freshness and intricate lace/Crystal drops of water in my special place.” In “That’s All You Have To Say,” statements are more like questions: “If you ever told me that you’d stay until you died/I would always wonder why.” “Whisper Wind” is a haunting pop song whose arrangement is accentuated by a bowed bass, played to sound as much like a cello as possible. Only “You Move Me” falls flat; well-intentioned though it may be, it tries too hard by relying on name-dropping and the awkward placement of inside references.

Ms. Rhodes—Mindy, if you will—told me that Blush is available at her shows and at the aforementioned Dilworthtown Inn. Maybe this review will drum up enough demand to warrant more widespread distribution. In the meantime, if you’re in the Philadelphia area, please do check out one of her live performances. And be sure to tell her that S.J. sent you.

For more information and venues where Mindy Rhodes performs frequently: - Mindy Rhodes’ website - The Dilworthtown Inn - Kreutz Creek Vineyards’ Media, PA Tasting Room - check the music schedule - Kreutz Creek Vineyards’ West Chester, PA Tasting Room - check the music schedule

Copyright © 2007 S.J. Dibai. All rights reserved.