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The Listening Room: Bootsy Collins, Emmylou Harris and more...
“Tha Funk Capitol of the World”
It’s been five years since we last hear from Bootsy Collins -- on record, at least -- and it’s evident from “Tha Funk Capitol of the World” the seminal bassist and bandleader has spent time pondering some heavy issues. That can happen, of course, when you lose your brother (guitarist Phelps “Catfish” Collins) and a revered boss (James Brown) during the interim. So the guest-laden, epic-minded “Funk Capitol” is something of a salute to departed friends and relatives, with Catfish playing alongside Bobby Womack on “Don’t Take My Funk,” and the Rev. Al Sharpton testifying over “JB -- Still the Man’s” modified take on Brown’s “Say It Loud -- I’m Black and I’m Proud.” Samuel L. Jackson, meanwhile, gives a shout-out to Funkadelic’s “Give Up the Funk (Tear the Roof Off the Sucker)” on “After These Messages,” while funkmeister George Clinton himself pops up on “Garry Shider Tribute” to the late Funkadelic guitarist. And a sample from Jimi Hendrix’s vault drives “Mirror Tells Lies.” This is a celebration rather than a wake, though, and over “Funk Capitol’s” 16 tracks Bootsy and his guests provide plenty of phat, booty-shaking groovery, even on slow jams such as “Chocolate Caramel Angel” (with Faith Daniels) and “Yummy, I Got the Munchies” (with Musiq Soulchild and Tom Joyner). Bootsy wants to educate too, though, so “Hip Hop @ Funk You” traces rap’s origins in funk with the help of Snoop Dogg, Ice Cube and Public Enemy’s “Chuck D,” while Dr. Cornel West offers philosophical commentary in “Freedumb” and banjo virtuoso Bela Fleck adds some outside flavoring on “If Looks Could Kill.” On paper, “Funk Capitol” looks like a mess -- or a stroke of genius. Fortunately it hews more towards the latter.
Emmylou Harris, “Hard Bargain” (Nonesuch) ★★★ 1/2
Emmylou Harris is amazing. There’s no other way to put it. At 64 she’s on top of not only her game but the entire Americana genre as a singer, songwriter and song interpreter. With producer Jay Joyce providing rich but unobtrusive sonic settings for these 13 songs, Harris -- who wrote or co-write 11 of them, including three with Will Jennings -- delivers sweeping and ambitious looks at solitary life (“Lonely Girl,” “Nobody”), pre-Civil Rights era America (“My Name is Emmett Till”) and wartime separation (“The Ship on His Arm”), and she also pays moving tribute to absent friends Gram Parsons (“The Road”) and Kate McGarrigle (“Darlin’ Kate”). She sings in the Ron Sexsmith-penned title track that “I’m a bit run-down but I’m OK,” but “Hard Bargain” shows she’s in pretty fine shape.
New & Noteworthy
Airborne Toxic Event, “All At Once” (Island Def Jam): The L.A. group switched labels for it second album, which gives props to the Cure’s “Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me” in one song lyric.
Augustana, “Augustana” (Epic): The Southern California group recorded its fourth album in Los Angeles with producer Jacquire King, who won a Grammy Award for his work with Kings of Leon.
Tab Benoit, “Medicine” (Telarc International): The Louisiana guitarist co-wrote seven of these 11 songs with Anders Osbourne, who played one of B.B. King’s Lucille guitars during the sessions.
Bowling For Soup, “Fishin’ For Woos” (Brando): The veteran punk rock group’s 11th album sports guest appearances by the Rescues’ Gabriel Mann and Kay Hanley from Letters To Cleo.
Dirty Vegas, “Electric Love” (Om): The British dance music trio reunites for its third album after a six-year hiatus.
Steve Earle, “I’ll Never Get Out of This World Alive” (New West): The singer-songwriter and “Treme” star recorded his latest album -- which shares a title with his first novel -- in Los Angeles with Grammy Award-winning producer T-Bone Burnett.
Eastern Conference Champions, “Speak-aah” (RockHampton): The Philadelphia rock trio recorded a pair of EPs during the four-year interim between its two albums.
Bill Frisell, “Sign of Life, Music For 858 Quartet” (Savoy Jazz): The multi-faceted guitarist and composer returns to his 858 string ensemble for a second full-length album.
Dave Grusin, “An Evening With Dave Grusin” (Heads Up International): The pianist’s latest live album is available on a variety of platforms, from CD to iPad app -- and all that jazz.
KMFDM, “WTF?!” (KMFDM/Metropolis): The German industrial rockers have stirred a bit of controversy with the track “Rebels in Kontrol,” a tribute of sorts to Wikileaks’ Julian Assange.
Of Montreal, “Thecontrollersphere” (Polyvinyl): This five song EP from the Athens, Ga., art rockers comes seven months after its latest album, “False Priest.”
Oh Darling, “Brave the Sound” (Primary Wave): The indie pop trio recorded its third album at its home studio in Los Angeles’ Echo Park section.
Otep, “Atavist” (Victory): The Los Angeles headbangers’ fifth album includes a cover of the Doors’ “Not to Touch the Earth.”
Joshua Redman, et al, “James Farm” (Nonesuch): Saxophonist Joshua Redman teams with Aaron Parks, Matt Penman and Eric Harland for their first group album after guesting on each others’ records and debuting the quartet at the 2009 Montreal Jazz Festival.
Rumer, “Seasons of My Soul” (Atlantic): The debut set from the British-based singer-songwriter who was born in Pakistan and raised in the Australian outback and South Africa.
Todd Rundgren, “Todd Rundgren`s Johnson” (Hi Fi): Rundgren stretches out to full-length after introducing the “Johnson” concept (we can only imagine) on an EP in March.
Silverstein, “Rescue” (Hopeless): The Canadian hard rockers are joined by members of Bayside and Counterparts on their fifth studio album.
Texas In July, “One REality” (Equal Vision): Two members of the youthful heavy metal band from Pennsylvania graduated high school while making the group’s sophomore album.
Thao & Mirah, “Thao & Mirah” (Kill Rock Stars): The San Francisco singer-songwriters join forces for their first collaboration as a duo after reputation-making solo careers.
Thousands, “The Sound of Everything” (Bella Union): The debut release from the experimental but melodic Seattle duo of Kristian Garrard and Luke Berman.
Younger Brother, “Vaccine” (SCI Fidelity): The third album by the electronica collective led by British DJ Simon Posford and featuring members of Furthur, the Disco Bisquits and Brothers Past.
The Waifs, “Temptation” (Jarrah): The fifth studio album, and first in four years, by the Australian folk-rock band.
The Wombats, “The Wombats Proudly Present...This Modern Glitch” (Bright Antenna/ILG/Warner Bros.): The Liverpool trio tapped iconic album artist Storm Thorgerson (Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin) to create the cover and booklet for its sophomore album.
From The Vaults:
Big Trouble, “20 Years and a Million Beers Ago” (Retrospect); Derek & the Dominos, “Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs” (Polydor/UME); Ella Fitzgerald, “Ella in Japan” (Decca/UME); Robert Johnson, “The Centennial Collection”; Mindless Self Indulgence, “Tighter” (The End); Roy Orbison, “The Monument Singles Collection” (Monument/Legacy); The Rolling Stones, “The Complete Singles (1971-2006)” (ABKCO/UME)
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