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White Hot Peach
Primitive Radio Gods

Columbia Records

It's been a while. Four years and nine months to be exact. But Primitive Radio Gods are back. And White Hot Peach, the much-anticipated follow-up to their gold debut CD, Rocket, is packed with Primitive Radio Gods' signature trance-like European-style rock.

At the end of the liner notes, a single line reads, "To be played at maximum volume." It's not entirely facetious. There are so many subtle musical nuances, interwoven melodies and mingling sounds and samples throughout most of the tracks, that the louder the volume, the clearer the musical complexities. The music itself provides many hypnotic images. Accompanied by elegant and poetic lyrics, the CD is mesmerizing. It encompasses you, sucks you in and before you know it, takes you on a journey.

The dreamy opening track, "Slyly Steven," sets the tone for the journey. Layered with emotion and combinations of acoustic instruments, some feedback and loops, it smoothly transitions into "Ghost of a Chance," the eerie but melodic second track. The entire CD flows in this manner, sweetly transitioning from one song to the next.The big hit off of their debut CD was "Standing Outside a Broken Phone Booth with Money in My Hand." That song was our first glimpse of the forward-thinking nature of Primitive Radio Gods' music. They continue to embrace that mode of thought with White Hot Peach, embracing the technology that complements that forward-thinking nature.

It is hard to say whether any of the songs off of this CD will ever have the heck promoted out of it like "Broken Phone Booth" did. And that's all the more reason to grab a copy while you can.

-- Suzanne Becker


Whole New You
Shawn Colvin

Columbia Records

There seem to be two Shawn Colvins at work on her new CD, Whole New You --the poppy Colvin who wants to build on the breakthrough success of her hit single "Sunny Came Home" and the folkier, incisive and more understated Colvin who made an impact on the folk scene with the 1989 album Steady On.

Fortunately, both sides of Colvin get considerable play on Whole New You. With songs like "Bound To You," "Anywhere You Go," and "Whole New You," Colvin gives radio programmers -- and a good number of her fans -- what they want: immediately likable, easy-going melodies and arrangements that are tastefully fleshed out with drums, keyboards and electric guitar.

The other half of the CD seems less concerned with reaching the masses, easing back on the poppiness and letting Colvin's weighty, smartly crafted lyrics and the understated charm of her melodies do the work. "Another Plane Went Down," for instance, uses plane crashes as a backdrop for remembering the more carefree times of youth, while "One Small Year" finds Colvin reflecting on the challenges and joys of her new life as a wife and mother.

At times, Colvin strike a happy medium between the musical extremes of the CD. "Bonefields" places a pretty chorus within a song whose lyrics and quiet melody evoke a sense of distance and loneliness. The graceful solo piano melody of "I Say I'm Sorry Now" provides an ideal backdrop for the regret and sweetness that fill the lyrics of this breakup song.

Interestingly enough, Whole New You manages to avoid sounding schizophrenic. With this finely crafted CD, Colvin shows she can have her music both ways and succeed quite nicely.

-- Alan Sculley


the company you keep
John Gorka

Red House Records

New Folk master John Gorka has long been loved for his intimate musical approach to the small but significant details of everyday life. In his new CD, the company you keep, loyal listeners are treated to an inside glimpse of the new Gorka, settled-down husband and father, who maintains a keen sense of humor while waxing lyrical on a slightly more narrow human spectrum than in previous albums.

Nothing is lost in the translation. Gorka's songwriting licks are still compelling, his smooth bass voice is in prime form (think Van Morrison minus the growl), and, oh, the company he keeps! Mary Chapin Carpenter, Ani DiFranco, Patty Larkin and Lucy Kapalansky add guitar and vocal harmonies on eight of the 14 cuts, providing a mature spit-and-polish and lush vocal texture to the recording.

But true Gorka devotees stretch their ears toward his muscular, simple lyrics which, here, reflect top form. In "A Saint's Complaint," a lovely contemplation of moving and settling down, Gorka muses: I've got a place here/ I've got a family/ More to love, more to feel, more to do and more to lose.

Perhaps the strongest cut on the company you keep is Gorka's collaboration with Mary Chapin Carpenter, "When You Walk In," a bittersweet ode to the end of a relationship that encapsulates all the accompanying emotions -- sadness, anger, regret and liberation -- in a spare, haunting tune, ending on an upbeat: It might be the worst place you've ever been/ Still you light up a room when you walk in.

Gorka's been around for a long time, but I'd venture he's never been in a better place than the place he's in right now, both personally and professionally.

-- Kathryn Eastburn

  • Reviews of new releases from Primitive Radio Gods, Shawn Colvin and John Gorka

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