What our critics are listening to

04:04 PM, Apr 01, 2013


HOUSES OF THE HOLY. I’m stunned that this landmark album turned 40 years old last week, and I celebrated appropriately: by digging out the old vinyl record and blasting it as loud as I did in my teenage days. Houses of the Holy reminds me of why an album used to be a complete package: a really cool cover (weird naked elfin children crawling on a barren landscape) and a mystical sensibility that comes from sitting down and listening to the entire thing rather than cherry-picking through a handful of downloaded singles. Every song is worth your time on this record, just for picking up on the new ideas that Zeppelin was bringing: The funk of “The Crunge,” the doo-wop of “The Ocean,” the harpsichord of “Over the Hills and Far Away.” It’s a mistake to confuse Zeppelin with earlier blues-influenced Brits, because while Zeppelin’s fusion of metal and folk showed its influences, the band used jazz, classical and Mellotrons in the most imaginative ways. — Jeff Spevak


MORE THAN WORDS. I’ve been estranged from Brian McKnight’s music for awhile. It had become too pabulum to me. Thankfully, he’s added a little soulful seasoning to his music, making this CD a more tasty to my ears. The music and vocals in “Sweeter” combine for a funky tune as he sings “the sun shines so much brighter now, since you opened up my eyes.” It makes me chuckle when social media makes its way into lyrics, but “The Front The Back The Side” is art mirroring life. It’s also a simple but a seductive tune as he sings “Got your retweet, on your timeline saw your rhethoric and your profile pic.” A McKnight CD would not be complete without a signature love song and “Livewithoutyou,” with its lyrics about one lover’s need for the other, is it. — Sheila Rayam


FROM BAMAKO TO CARENCRO. Beausoleil has been labeled the Chieftains of Louisiana music. That’s perfect, for this fiddle-guitar-accordion acoustic band keeps alive the great tradition of the Cajun music of the Louisiana swamps and New Orleans. And the language is Cajun French (Beausoleil means “beautiful sun”). But this is no dusty academic exercise. No, over its 38 remarkable years, this ensemble aptly demonstrates the versatility of its music by blending in blues, jazz, New Orleans R&B, and more. The result is a bona fide gumbo. Heck, on this new album, you’ll hear a French Cajun take on the James Brown classic, “I’ll Go Crazy.” How funky is that? This band is high on my list of artists on the roster for the 2013 Rochester jazz fest. — Jack Garner