Archive for critic’s picks

critic’s pick 319: andrew bird, ‘are you serious’

andrew bird are you serious“You may not know me but you feel my stare,” sings Andrew Bird near the onset of Are You Serious, his first album (minus assorted EPs, cover tune projects and instrumental musings) since 2012’s Break It Yourself. It’s an uneasy line in an equally agitated song called Roma Fade that breezes along with an effortless pop sway. Until that line arrives. Then the mood blacks out for a beat or two before resuming. It’s like getting shunted briefly through a tunnel during a summer drive.

The various stylistic guises of Bird don’t always flock together. He is part indie-pop star, part chamber-style vaudevillian (what with the whistling and pizzicato violin bits) and part cerebral instrumentalist. Are You Serious largely opts for Bird No. 1. It’s a far more raucous, loose and downright fun session than anything he has issued in a decade. But there is still that warble of unease – an almost playful paranoia – that bubbles under the surface.

You hear it in spades during Left Handed Kisses, the queasy duet with Fiona Apple (duel is more like it) that is offered as a total rethink on presumptive romantic connections by way of what the latter artist terms a “back handed love song.”

Valleys of the Young, on the other hand, ponders the youth (“you’re going on 64 driving down 65”) of colliding generations with a portrait of pop fancy that rages outside the song’s swirling psychedelic core with squalls of Sonic Youth-level guitar. It’s a tale of love and death with “hearts constantly breaking” and the guitar onslaught finally overtaking and puncturing the pop bliss. For a stylist of Bird’s usually reserved fortitude, the song is an all out rampage.

Slightly less intrusive is The New St. Jude, a more Dylan-esque escapade that bounces about like Graceland-era Paul Simon before settling into the solemnity of latter day Grateful Dead. Compared to the more extreme moments of Are You Serious, the tune is like a Sunday morning mimosa after an especially cagey Saturday night.

Initial reviews remark that Are Your Serious is a reflection and affirmation of Bird’s family life. Maybe so. The acoustic warmth and hope of Chemical Switches suggest as such with its stripped down make up of guitar and whistling. But the tune is essentially the eye in a hurricane of a record, one that doesn’t relent until the album closing Bellevue. There, the music melts into a looping melody spurred on by violin and fortified by a bright, free flowing groove before coming to rest on the words “I think I’ve found someone.”

Then again, concluding this turbulent session in a sea of seeming contentment and quiet with a song that shares its name with a famous New York public hospital suggests this love story comes with a bit of baggage – or at least some artillery to weather the storm with.

critic’s pick 318: various artists, ‘southern family’

Dave-Cobb-Southern-FamilyThe most telling credit on Southern Family is purposely downplayed. On the back cover – under a banner of all-star country and Americana artists that includes Jason Isbell, Miranda Lambert and Brandy Clark – reads, in significantly smaller type, these words – “Produced by Dave Cobb.”

Casual listeners often show little concern over the role a producer plays in shaping whatever modern music they may embrace. But Cobb is, undeniably, the producer of the moment, the stylist whose introduction of Americana and roots-savvy sounds into the world of contemporary country stands practically as anarchy to a corporate Nashville sound so steadfast and insular in design.

Southern Family is a collection of 12 songs by 13 different artists that address such conflict by not addressing it. This is, in essence, a Cobb solo album patterned after the 1978 Civil War concept record White Mansions that similarly teamed a pack of country outlaws and traditionalists (Levon Helm, Emmylou Harris, Waylon Jennings). On Southern Family, the theme is exactly that – fervent, heartfelt and, at times, sentimental portraits of familial love and culture. Nearly all the artists sing their own songs with Cobb as producer at Nashville’s RCA Studio A, the historic facility that is now his recording home.

Most of the artists rise to the theme of Southern Family without overstating it. Isbell’s God is a Working Man speaks crisply to his prideful roots, a blend of Southern storytelling and reverential country. But the women largely set the pace of the album. Lambert noticeably downshifts on Sweet By and By, adopting a quietly intense and vastly more contained country tone one seriously hopes will carry over into her future work. Morgane Stapleton gets top billing over one of Cobb’s star clients, husband Chris Stapleton, for a duet update of You Are My Sunshine that swaps the song’s innocence for a darker, swampy electricity. Topping them all is the brilliant Brandy Clark, whose I Cried is elegant, honest and un-coerced country heartbreak.

The only serious misfire go to the Zac Brown Band, whose Grandmas’s Garden overdoses on its own sentimental forwardness the way much of radio-tooled country does. Frankly, Cobb’s atypically heavyhanded production doesn’t help. Also, Anderson East’s Learning starts with an appealing Randall Brambett-style soulfulness but reaches for Otis Redding-level intensity and winds up sounding forced and falsely imitative.

But then there is Jamey Johnson, the ultra-stoic country stylist whose deep but never austere sense of familial solace on Mama’s House is as rustic and real as an oak tree. It is a lesson in devotion, but one told with a homegrown solemnity that isn’t being hawked like someone selling insurance, as so much of today country music is. The song underscores how Cobb keeps this music direct, reflective and very much in the family.

critic’s pick 317: avishai cohen, ‘into the silence’

avashai cohenIt’s a perhaps an inevitability for a versed jazz trumpet player to draw comparisons to Miles Davis. You try to avoid the parallels, and yet there they are. So when Avishai Cohen opens his sublime new Into the Silence album with a slow, plaintive serenade on the muted horn over a hushed, brushed backdrop of after hours blues, the reference that emerges full blown is Miles at the height of his Kind of Blue period.

But Cohen is no jazz imitation. The tune in question, Into the Silence’s opening Life and Death opens out into a meditation. The lusciously understated and gloriously unhurried tone will recall Miles time and time again. But as the tune opens up, revealing a subtle yet robust spaciousness, the sound that initially seemed so familiar takes on almost prayer-like qualities, especially in the way it interacts with pianist Yonathan Avishai, a friend and musical colleague of Cohen’s for decades. The dissonance of his piano colors prove an invaluable foil throughout Into the Silence, creating contemplative chatter that adheres to the kind of relaxed, reflective spirit that sits at the heart of the album, but also upholds the striking ambience that defines the sound of ECM Records, the longstanding European label that now serves as Cohen’s recording home.

Into the Silence marks his first recording for the label under his own name, having debuted with ECM on saxophonist’s Mark Turner’s fine quartet record Lathe of Heaven in 2014.

The alliance of trumpet and piano gently drives the meditative fabric of Into the Silence. The record boasts a beautifully flexible rhythm section of bassist Eric Revis and drummer Nasheet Waits (whose joint playing behind saxophonist Peter Brotzmann here at The Red Mile in 2009 remains one of the highlights in the Outside the Spotlight Series) and often enchanting soloing from tenor saxophonist Bill McHenry (especially during the free exchanges within Into the Silence’s wonderfully disassembled title composition). But the album ultimately comes down to a piano-trumpet affair.

For Behind the Broken Glass, Avashai’s piano introduction sets a pastoral framework that moves almost glacially behind Cohen’s spacious trumpet lead. McHenry eventually (and briefly) fleshes out the tune late in its run. But for its eight luxurious minutes, Broken Glass is very much a dual conversation.

Ditto for Dream Like a Child, a tune double the length of Broken Glass, but with the same arresting dynamics – piano rolls of open, unforced beauty and trumpet colors that both challenge and compliment the keys. Cohen and McHenry politely duke it out (and accelerate the tune’s plaintive thrust in the process) before the former wins out. But it’s that same piano/trumpet dialogue that closes the piece out, making Into the Silence an absorbing portrait of the ECM sound past and present.

critic’s pick 315: loretta lynn, ‘full circle’

loretta-lynn-full-circle-album-cover“Oh, Lord,” chuckles Loretta Lynn at the onset of Full Circle, topping off of a minute of studio banter that serves as an obvious set up for what it is to follow – specifically, a blast of living country history the Kentucky native, at age 83, ignites with a command that serves as a figurative snap of the fingers.

“Let it rip, boys.”

With that, Lynn spins back the years to revisit the first song he ever composed, the startling Whispering Sea. The inspiration for the tune, as culled from her album-opening chat, wasn’t her Butcher Holler upbringing or her ribald story-songs of marital misconduct. It is something more succinct and exact yet notably less dramatic: fishing. But once the song’s regal, waltz-like melody unfolds, Lynn lets loose with a voice that is clear, endearing and remarkably free from any real ravages of age.

Produced by John R. Cash (son of Johnny Cash) and Patsy Lynn Russell (Lynn’s daughter), Full Circle spends much of its time reviewing the past, whether in re-cutting songs Lynn recorded decades ago (Everybody Wants to Go to Heaven) or approaching roots music staples from the singer’s childhood (two A.P. Carter nuggets, Black Jack David and I Never Will Marry). A pair of splendid new works then close out her first full studio album since 2004’s Grammy winning Van Lear Rose.

Of the oldies, Fist City is the unavoidable highpoint. Originally a hit for Lynn in 1968, the song has lost none of its catfighting spirit, choosing to target the forwardness of an intruding female over the waywardness of a philandering husband (“The man I love, when he picks up trash, he puts it in the garbage can”). But it is the assertiveness of the present day Cash’s elder stance and the sheer strength of her vocals that sell this new version.

Curiously, Everything It Takes, a new work Lynn wrote with Todd Snider, follows a similar but vulnerable path, where marital encroachment becomes a more pronounced, pathos-laden threat (“She’s got everything it takes to take everything you got”). Elvis Costello harmonizes on the song, but he’s a largely invisible presence. Lynn’s regal wail rules this little aria.

Best of all, Full Circle promises to be the first of many albums slated to be pulled from the nearly 100 songs Lynn and Cash have cut since 2007. Such a legacy-oriented project could well rival Johnny Cash’s American Recordings series, which stands as one of the great career victory laps by an iconic Americana artist. Judging by Full Circle, though, Lynn still has plenty of performance fuel left in the tank before her race is run.

critic’s pick 314: vandaveer, ‘the wild mercury’

Vandaveer_TheWildMercury_1500x1500-_web-1024x1024“Like Bonaparte, I was bona fide,” sings Mark Charles Heidinger – aka folk-pop soldier Vandaveer – on one of the more arresting tunes from The Wild Mercury. This particular episode, The Final Word, reaches back to Napoleonic times for a rather unsettling bit of imagery to encapsulate love’s last chorus – the slice of a guillotine blade.

Yep, that’s pretty much the final word, alright.

Such a snapshot suggests The Wild Mercury is an altogether brutal affair, which it really isn’t. Lexington expatriate-turned-Louisville neighbor Heidinger, along with longtime cohort Rose Guerin, have come up with an inviting platter of relationship raconteur-ing, familial reflecting and worldly conversing. If anything The Wild Mercury, for all its flights of melodic fancy and occasionally dark sidesteps, is a very cordial affair, as well as Vandaveer’s most seamlessly constructed pop portfolio yet.

Vandaveer may be a Louisville attraction these days but The Wild Mercury bears a distinctively Lexington signature. Duane Lundy is again handling co-production chores, providing a lean but spacious sound to songs that bloom from the moment But Enough On That For Now opens the record in a psychedelic haze. The tune quickly dovetails into Heidinger’s luminous folk sensibility, his typically blissful harmonizing with Guerin and the deep melodic hooks that propel this parental rumination of a life “cruel and beautiful.” The chorus is pure pop pride, a catalyst that sets The Wild Mercury into a spin that seldom subsides.

That’s not to say there aren’t a few pensive moments. Holding Patterns embraces a more outwardly (and literally) autumnal feel with a tumbling melody colored by the pedal steel guitar echoes of another localite, J. Tom Hnatow, that reel around the sterling harmonies. Two more proven Lexington hands – drummer Robby Cosenza and multi-instrumentalist Justin Craig – further guide the song’s subtle drive.

Absolutely Over the Moon flips the music on its side with a boozy meditation that sounds like Bob Dylan singing a sea shanty. But the resulting confession, as well as the wandering soul delivering it (“a drifter and shapeshifter… mostly a boy without a clue”) is set beautifully adrift within an ethereal hum that sounds a vintage Daniel Lanois record unfolding.

There are loads of other delights, as well, including the plaintive folk-country contemplation A Pretty Thin Line (again with Hnatow’s pedal steel work nicely underscoring the plaintive singing) and the comparatively efficient and sunny reverie Love Is Melancholy, But It’s All We’ve Got.

Combine all this with The Wild Mercury’s place as the inaugural release on the Lexington-based WhiteSpace Records and you have a slice of folk serenity cultivated in our own backyard. Sure, Heidinger now belongs to Louisville. But wherever you spin it, The Wild Mercury is the sound of home.

critic’s pick 311: bill frisell, ‘when you wish upon a star’

BillFrisell-WhenYouWishUponAStar-Cover72How fitting that the first musical voice you hear on When You Wish Upon a Star, Bill Frisell’s sublime new sampler of retooled film and television scores from decades past, doesn’t belong to the celebrated guitarist. What greets us initially is the lone viola of longtime Frisell ally Eyvind Kang as it all blows through the late summery unrest of Elmer Bernstein’s To Kill a Mockingbird theme. Fear not, though. Frissell’s light but ominous guitar lines soon dance along with a rhythm section that, throughout the album, efficiently balances its sense of adventure with loose solidarity. What results is a ballet of sorts – one tempered and elegant that reaffirms Frisell’s status as one of today’s most fearless yet majestically understated guitar stylists.

In some ways, When You Wish Upon a Star can be seen as an extension of Frisell’s love of vintage Americana, an inspiration so wonderfully expressed on such past albums as Nashville and Beautiful Dreamers. That explains the merry clang the guitarist summons during the Bonanza theme, a tune that varies not in its clarion call lyricism and Western-informed joy, but in the stampeding rhythm section of bassist Thomas Morgan and drummer Rudy Royston. The same spirit propels the album-closing Happy Trails, the classic sendoff anthem that, with Petra Haden’s multi-tracked vocals and the wiry slo-poke strut of Frisell’s guitarwork, sounds more like a serenade by Mary Ford or the Andrew Sisters than a saddle chat with Roy Rogers.

By combining the two ensemble settings that pervade the majority of his recordings – jazz combo and progressive string quartet/quintet – and then opening the scope of his repertoire to include the global reach of Hollywood, Frisell has stretched his Americana highway into infinity.

Take for instance, a reimagining of the theme to the 1967 James Bond film You Only Live Twice. With Haden taking over the vocal lead established initially by Nancy Sinatra and Kang modestly establishing the tune’s Asian undercurrent, Frisell creates a portrait of vintage cinematic splendor where he is as much a spectator (in terms of how much room he lends to his bandmates) as a leader.

In perhaps its most masterful strokes, When You Wish Upon a Star juggles extremes. A nine minute medley of themes Nino Rota composed for The Godfather is pure wonder – a mix of gypsy flourishes, jagged guitar torrents, a strong noir undercurrent and a rhythm section whose restlessness beautifully intrudes on the music until it settles under a groove by Frisell and Kang during the closing love theme.

The other extreme is measured by When You Wish Upon a Star’s title song in an arrangement that correctly reveres an inherent innocence enough to ultimately utilize it as a lullaby-like admission to the album’s inward celebration of Hollywood past.

critic’s pick 310: aoife o’donovan, ‘in the magic hour’

aoife o'donovanOn her sophomore solo recording, Aoife O’Donovan ruminates on wonder and loss in a way that their proximity to each other all but vanishes. Some songs breeze with ease, others bear a marked chill. But the demarcation between the spirits and emotions here with us today and those that have seemingly left us are exquisitely blurred. So begins one of the most enchanting releases of the young year.

A veteran of the Americana ensemble Crooked Still, numerous all-star collaborations (most notably, the Goat Rodeo Sessions) and an splendid 2013 solo debut disc called Fossils, O’Donovan designed In the Magic Hour as a requiem of sorts for her 93 year old grandfather, enforcing along the way a connection to an Irish heritage that runs deep in the singer’s roots. But In the Magic Hour isn’t a Celtic session in the least. It’s a set of 10 songs presented as a gallery of portraits with musical strokes as defined and whispery as the lullaby-like tone of O’Donovan’s singing.

In a way, such a deceptively fragile framework brings up the most obvious but misleading comparison facing O’Donovan – namely, Alison Krauss. True, both singers share a delicacy and obviously plaintive appeal. But comparisons largely disappear after that. Since O’Donovan pens her own material (she wrote eight of In the Magic Hour’s 10 songs and co-wrote a ninth, Hornets, with Sarah Jarosz), her voice becomes a more deep seeded component of the album’s musical fabric.

That’s especially apparent on Donal Og, curiously the only traditional tune on In the Magic Hour. It rolls in on a wistful electric/acoustic wash like a night wave at low tide. Amid O’Donovan’s hushed chant of a vocal is the distant, stoic voice of her grandfather. What results is gentle but ghostly séance of a song told with quiet yet powerfully emotive strength. A similarly reserved restlessness pervades The King of All Birds where “family photographs, relics I’ve found” swirl abound in a subtle duststorm of banjo, strings (provided by the always inventive Brooklyn Rider) and O’Donovan’s lightly luscious singing.

The sense of reflection brightens with the twilight pop of Magic Hour, which opens with chiming keyboard chatter that could have sailed out of Pet Sounds. Perhaps O’Donovan’s most effortlessly effective blend of love and loss, the tune tags imagery of her grandfather’s distant voice (“singing far away like an evening star”) with visions of an even more personal mortality (“death is a lonely bride”).

It all sounds rather morbid, doesn’t it? But it isn’t. In the Magic Hour may delve into meditations that can’t help but seem weighty. What O’Donovan creates, however, is music that truly sounds lighter than air – and that is magic, indeed.

critic’s pick 309: cincinnati pops orchestra with rosanne cash, over the rhine, aoife o’donovan, dom flemons, comet bluegrass allstars and joe henry, ‘american originals’

american originalsImagine being seated in the spacious Cincinnati Music Hall swept up on an Arctic January evening last year by the warmth of the Cincinnati Pops. What would be the first human voice you might expect to serve as accompaniment for a program of music celebrating Stephen Foster? Chances are it wouldn’t be Joe Henry. Yet there he was, producer extraordinaire and composer with a surrealist tenacity that suggests David Lynch more than the cherished 19th century Americana composer. Henry’s elegant yet still slightly dangerous reading of Oh Susannah serves as the lead tune to a 74 minute performance recording called American Originals.

Henry, of course, is a roots music scholar and his inclusion in such a program – along with the participation of such like-mined Americana stylists as Rosanne Cash, Aoife O’Donovan and Carolina Chocolate Drop co-founder Dom Flemons, among others – makes American Originals several tiers above the usual orchestral pops presentation. Pops shows, practically by definition, gear toward accessible sounds and styles removed, often severely so, from an orchestra’s usual classical orbit. Still, striking up a dance card like this raises the bar for pops-oriented programming while enhancing the stylistic theme at hand – in this case, Foster-era works – with leanings to folk, gospel, blues and pre-bluegrass country in ways both credible and complimentary.

The most immediate ringer here is when Cash lets her regally clear but reserved voice wash over My Old Kentucky Home. It’s a moment that lets the lush cohesion of the Cincinnati Pops under the direction of John Morris Russell serve as a stirring, gorgeous backdrop for the clarity of Cash’s vocal work. Sentimental? Absolutely. But by playing to the scholarly strengths of the performers, this rendition yields a quiet authority that underscores everything generations (especially generations of Kentuckians) have embraced about the song.

But there is so much more to American Originals, including the delicate, lullaby like reading of Slumber My Darling by O’Donovan that reaffirms her reputation as heir apparent to the Americana throne seemingly vacated in recent years by Alison Krauss. Flemons also has a field day when the orchestral pageantry of Ring, Ring the Banjo pares down into the rugged intimacy of banjo and bones. A pair of Cincinnati favorites, Over the Rhine (in a warm but brittle reading of Hard Times Come Again No More) and the Comet Bluegrass All-Stars (in a Copeland-like revision of Amazing Grace with O’Donovan), round out the bill along with a suitably militaristic arrangement of The Battle of Freedom the Cincinnati Pops takes on without the guests.

But the show stealer goes to Cash, who transports Beautiful Dreamer straight to the heavens with the sumptuous orchestral support. What results is music both timeless and wondrous, a snapshot of an American ideal that has grown only more lustrous with age.

critic’s pick 308: david bowie, ‘blackstar’

Blackstar_album_coverHalfway through the nine minute, album-opening title tune to Blackstar, David Bowie briefly steps out of a maze. Up to that point, the song is an icy meditation, an alien chant echoing with electronic chatter and neo-Eastern (or simply otherworldly) yearning. But during a brief refrain, Bowie reverses coarse and lets a ray of pop sunshine beam out of the haze. It’s a tease, of course. But experiencing this momentary but beguiling outburst is akin to hearing Frankie Valli erupt out of a Philip Glass composition. It’s that strange and that fascinating.

Much of Blackstar echoes such a similarly darting and quirky mindset. Released last week on Bowie’s 69th birthday, the record differs considerably from the more elemental and rock directed The Next Day, the singer’s 2013 comeback album after a decade long disappearing act. Blackstar is one of the more abstract but ambient albums Bowie has constructed. Amazingly, it’s also one of his most listenable.

The hubbub surrounding the recording sessions was that the singer had utilized a pack of New York jazz rats, including saxophonist Donny McCaslin (whose credits include Gary Burton, Dave Douglas and Steps Ahead) as his studio band. But Blackstar is no more a jazz record and than it is a rock outing. It echoes the more anti-pop corners of such late ‘70s Bowie classics as Low and Heroes, right down to the guitar whine breezing through the otherwise summery strains of synths, sax and harmonica that close out the album during I Can’t Everything Away that mimics Robert Fripp’s gelatinous ooze on Heroes’ title tune from nearly four decades ago.

In some instances, Blackstar may seem bleak and distant – a scrapbook of sparse soundscapes built around varying rhythms, McCaslin’s myriad sax sounds and Bowie’s often chant-like singing. But the music is continually rhythmic. No matter how spacious, fractured or contained it becomes, a peculiar lyricism remains. You hear it in the slow, desperate arc that hangs over Lazarus and the way McCaslin sounds like a solemn but soulful foil. The rhythm is translated into a more elemental groove during ‘Tis a Pity She Was a Whore, where a sax and drum rampage flesh out a reticent encounter (“she punched me like a dude”) while keyboard orchestration rushes under the frenzy like a cavern river. The purposeful crack and echo in Bowie’s voice during the initial verse of Sue (or in a Season of Crime) sounds like an interplanetary yodel while Dollar Days warms up Blackstar ever so slightly with its piano/sax design and the light resignation of Bowie’s singing.

Still, such peculiar hints of accessibility don’t change the overall wintry spell cast by Blackstar. At once artfully organic but still full of electric abstraction, the music is seemingly icy to the touch but thaws into delicious cool once you invite it in.

(This review was written and filed the day before the announcement of David Bowie’s death on Jan. 10. No revisions were made.)

critic’s pick 307: king crimson, ‘thrak – 40th anniversary edition

thrakThe wheezy melancholy that kicked open Thrak upon its release in 1995 couldn’t have sounded less like King Crimson. It began like a string quartet playing on a cranked up Victrola but with a sort of easy animation that made the serenade sound like the soundtrack to a 1940s radio drama.

Then the avalanche hit. Two guitarists, two drummers and, in effect, two basses roared to life with an accelerated melody than alternated between thunderous, almost danceable rhythm and a chiming refrain that reached to a more ambient level of prog-related bliss. The resulting title of this album-opening detonation tune couldn’t have been more succinctly apt: VROOOM.

A newly remastered Thrak comes to us as one of the first official album releases of 2016. But don’t get too hung up on dates. Though just over 20 years old, the original Thrak brought King Crimson to life again after a decade-long hiatus. This new edition, boasting a wildly crisp stereo mix by Jakko Jakszyk (co-guitarist and vocalist of the current Crimson incarnation) and Robert Fripp (guitarist, founder, chieftain and the only mainstay member of the band’s many lineups) as well as several DVD audio impressions (including a 5.1 Surround Sound mix I got to hear over the holidays that is truly imposing in its clarity), comes with the subtitle of 40th Anniversary Edition. That refers to Crimson’s inception in 1969. The reissue series that began with the milestone anniversary of that event still remains several recordings short of completion.

What is important, though, is getting a chance to hear Thrak again with fresh ears and a several hearty tweaks. It’s an album full of glorious racket that brought together Crimson’s full 1980s lineup – Fripp, drummer Bill Bruford (a holdover from the band’s early ‘70s roster), bassist Tony Levin and Northern Kentucky native Adrian Belew as a second guitar piledriver – with a pair of players Fripp had more recently collaborated with – former Mr. Mister drummer Pat Mastellotto and stick player Trey Gunn.

What resulted was perhaps the most musically diversified record in the Crimson canon. VROOOM and its hot-wired reprise piece VROOOM VROOOM recalled the power chord strut of such earlier Crimson epics as Red while the title tune let Bruford and Mastellotto loose on a furiously exact percussion rumble. Then there was Belew, who offered a pair of gorgeous neo-ballads (One Time and Walking on Air) that blended his flair for Beatle-esque reflection and Fripp’s guitar ambience. Topping it all was Dinosaur, a giddy Belew-led rampage that groved with youthful vitality even as its lyrics mocked Crimson’s weighty legacy (“I’m a dinosaur, somebody is digging my bones”).

Thrak sounded great then and roars with even more beastly clarity in this retooled and ultimately ageless-sounding edition.

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