This long-awaited album from one of rock 'n' roll's most legendary acid casualties begins and ends with lo-fi recordings he made while incarcerated in a Texas hospital for the criminally insane during the 1970s. The first implores the help of Jesus; the last is called "God Is Everywhere." In between, Erickson visits (and in some cases revisits) material he accumulated in the ensuing decades during periods of relative lucidity. Nowhere in sight: the B-movie horror-fantasies that dominate his 2005 anthology. In their place: white-knuckled sanity set to country-rock grandeur.
The album title refers not to the alphabet but, as the band says on its website, to the "seven-note do-re-mi of possibilities" with which it has wrought its "weird, funny, eccentric, and challenging" music. Maybe because music is the one subject that these British anarchists know better than British anarchy, they come across even smarter and more euphonious (vocally, instrumentally, melodiously) than usual-so smart and euphonious, in fact, that unsuspecting listeners might mistake the anti-Guantanamo "Torturing James Hetfield" and the anti-anti-rock "The Devil's Interval" for jokes.
At seven songs totaling 27-plus minutes, this EP feels less like a follow-up to Willoughby's full-length Do You Have Something to Say? (where this disc's fifth track, "Dead End Town," appears in a longer version) than a stop-gap reminder that there's more in the way of that album's thoughtful, layered, singer-songwriter pop in the pipeline. Proof of Willoughby's progress: Two years ago "Dead End Town" was a highlight; now it has serious competition from at least three others, the gateway-drug warning "Giving It Away Free" chief among them.
Not since Social Studies in 1999 has Wainwright put so many topical songs in one place, and, like Social Studies, these reactions to the present economy will probably sound like ancient history in a decade. Some of them are pretty funny at the moment, though. "Who's at fault? Who gets the blame?" he asks. "Let's string up Bernie Whatshisname." As for what our debt-saddled children's children will make of the ones praising Barack Obama for being FDR and Paul Krugman for being Paul Krugman, only time will tell.
The Bird and the Bee are Inara George and Greg Kurstin, respectively, and Interpreting the Masters Volume One: A Tribute to Daryl Hall and John Oates (Blue Note) is their latest album. In keeping with the title, eight of the nine songs were top 10 hits by the blue-eyed soul duo Hall & Oates between 1976 and 1983 and thus inescapable on the radio when George and Kurstin were growing up. Out of keeping with the reputation of the record company that has released the album, George and Kurstin's versions are not jazz-tinged re-imaginings but almost exact duplications of the originals.
The main differences are the instrumentation (skeletal electronica replaces Hall & Oates' hard, shiny slickness) and the singing, all of which is done by the downy-voiced George. Her decision not to switch the genders of the objects of affection to whom she's singing (her husband is the director Jake Kasdan) results in a vibe that's refreshingly sisterly in these all-too-homoerotic times.