Volume 76, Number 43 | March 21 - 27, 2007

Frank London, trumpeter of the East Village’s own Klezmatics

In current rotation

Lucinda gets dark, a Klezmatic goes old school, and ’60s It Girls go solo

By Lee Ann Westover

“Mr. Softy”
Independent Release

Although Ethan Lipton’s music generally evokes 1930s blues and jazz, his new CD “Mr. Softy” takes us on a ride all over the musical map. “Bossy Man” is a hilarious bossa nova, advising a soon-to-be ex-girlfriend to go find herself a man who “likes to tango…And understands what power’s for.” Lipton is charming and bewildered in the love-struck “Girl from the Renaissance Fair” (“Her bosom was heaving, her hair smelled like steak”), and you’ll hear Rickie Lee Jones’ album “Pop Pop” on “Flora and Fauna.” At times, Lipton shines sexy and direct, as in the hip-hop tinged “Hit it,” in which he attempts to cut to the chase (and the bedroom) with some lucky lady. The song’s style is an odd mix of Laurence Welk and Usher as he entreaties “All I wanna do is just hit it/ We’re havin’ a relationship” over a gentle salsa beat. Of course there are elements that unify Lipton’s sound: his sepia-toned tenor, a general sweetness of intention he only rarely breaks from and his succinct, truth-telling wit (“Old people don’t whisper/ Cuz old people can’t hear/We’ll just talk louder and louder/Year after year.”) Celebrate the release of “Mr. Softy” with Ethan Lipton and His Orchestra at Joe’s Pub on Wednesday, April 18 at 9:30 p.m. (ethanlipton.com).

Lost Highway Records

The latest record from Grammy-winner Lucinda Williams digs into her dark side like never before. Written around and after her mother’s death, she sifted through the ashes of failed romance and created for us a collection of the saddest midnight thoughts. There is so much pain and loneliness within, the record can be hard to bear. That said, Williams captures her own private anguish so beautifully and simply that we would do ourselves a disservice to look away. “West” is far less overtly country that Williams’ previous recordings. Instead of the usual steel guitar, you’ll hear strings arranged by local violinist Jenny Scheinman, and Williams’ snarling yet vulnerable voice is in top form. Ultimately, “West” is a voyeuristic exploration of the dark things that live deep inside us all. “I’ve written some happy love songs, if you can believe that,” the newlywed recently told Harp Magazine, “but I had to let these last ones out.” Have a good cry with her on March 23rd at Radio City Music Hall.

Nacional Records

The duo Aterciopelados, one of Columbia’s top rock bands, is a little like Sonic Youth and a little like Brazilian Tropicalismo. Their songs are jangling, catchy and radio-friendly while mixing in explorations of Latin rhythms. Their latest disc, “Oye” adds in a few ’60s rock-and-roll girl-group harmonies, Native American chants and strange touches of vocal effects à la Cher’s “Do You Believe.” Aterciopelados means “the velvety ones,” and the album is lush with shimmering guitars, funky bass lines & electronic effects. Over it all hovers the husky vocals of singer Andrea Echeverri (whose own solo albums received two Grammy nominations). For those wishing they could bask in the South American sun around this time, Aterciopelados will satisfy both the rock lover and armchair traveler.

“Dangerous Game”
Norton Records

Mary Weiss’ last record was released when she was barely 18. As the leather-clad lead vocalist of the Shangri-Las, she not only toured the world as a top-of-the-charts phenomenon, she scandalized parents with her defiant attitude and high-heel boots in an age of bobby-soxers. (Imagine: “Leader of the Pack” once seemed so risqué, the BBC banned it.) Shangri-Las fans will no doubt enjoy this new recording, arranged in the familiar, tambourine-punctuated style of her older hits. Many of the songs seem transported directly from 1965, but happily, Weiss departs from that vintage style now and then to show us a voice that is still relevant no matter how long she has been out of the spotlight. “Cry About the Radio,” for instance, is a lament for the sorry state of popular music and the co-opting of radio by big money. “You may wonder whatever happened to the real songs/ You can cry about the radio/ but you know/ music’s got no place to go.”

“A Night at the Old Marketplace”
Soundbrush Records

When I lived in the East Village, I became aware that many of the local rock clubs and movie houses were once busy Yiddish theaters. Around the turn of the last century, a thriving community crowded the area with opening nights that rivaled those of classic Broadway. Though the golden age of Yiddish theater faded a long time ago, trumpeter and composer (and East Villager) Frank London is doing his darnedest to keep it alive. London is perhaps best known for his work in the Klezmatics, a klezmer meets folk amalgam whose album “Wonder Wheel” won this year’s Grammy Award for Best Contemporary World Music Album. This spring, London releases “A Night in the Old Marketplace,” the score to Alexandra Aron’s stage adaptation of I.L. Peretz’s 1907 Yiddish play, “Bay Nakht Af Dem Altn Mark.” London’s eclectic arrangements and a cavalcade of stars breathe new life into the hundred-year-old work. Celtic singer Susan McKeown blows it out of the water with the murderous and mournful opening track “Bottom of the Well,” while Bombay Dreams’ Manu Narayan approaches his tracks with drama and sensitivity. The album as a whole borrows its mood from Kurt Weill while the instrumentation draws from world music, Jewish tradition and the wacky modern pop of They Might Be Giants, who close out the album with their rollicking number, “A Tavern in Pinsk.” The CD release concert will be at the Barrow Street Theater on March 26th at 8 p.m.

“Ever Since”
Engine Company Records

Another 1960s superstar, Lesley Gore, has been performing around New York City (and the rest of the country) as of late. Gore is best known for her biggest hits “You Don’t Own Me” and “It’s My Party (So I Can Cry If I Want To),” but despite a long absence from the stage, she has lost none of her talent or fire in the years between. In Gore’s own words, there is a reason why she has been able to continue to impress as a performer and recording artist: “You know what I’m going to say when people ask me what I’ve been doing for 30 years? ‘Practicing.’” Live at Joe’s Pub this April, you’ll likely hear her perform new versions of the songs that made her famous. But don’t let the old stuff distract you from her new material. “Ever Since,” recorded in 2005, was produced by New York City songwriter Blake Morgan. His songs as interpreted by Gore are modern, moody and gorgeous pop-rock tunes with great hooks, but not lacking in sincerity. They traverse the common subjects of love and loss, with an uncommon voice that has matured since Gore was first discovered as a teenager by Quincy Jones. Buy a ticket early for her show on April 27th at 7:30 p.m.

Lee Ann Westover is the lead singer of The Lascivious Biddies, a cocktail pop quartet that performs regularly in New York. For info on upcoming shows, and to hear their music, visit www.biddies4ever.com.

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