Weekly Wire
Tucson Weekly Rhythm & Views

JANUARY 5, 1998: 


Highland Productions

THE BEST JAZZ balances tradition with new direction, as this Tucson bunch knows. None of that nostalgic, jive-ass pizza parlor music for these guys--they mix New Orleans marching band sounds with their own writing style, sounding a bit like The Dirty Dozen Brass Band here, a bit like Lester Bowie there, and no one else the rest of the time. It's all party music, as you might guess from song titles like "Cactus Profilactus" and "Marco's Got A Brand New Bag," the latter sounding like a bagpipe quartet. ("Green Grass" is a mix of the Mickey Mouse theme with "Yakety Sax"). Even your folks will like this CD (but don't hold that against them). If they get a little further out next time around, they could stir up some major label attention for themselves.

--Dave McElfresh


The Fells EP
Estrus Records

YOU NO LONGER have to pity Norman Fell, the character actor who'll be remembered by a generation only for his work as Mr. Roper for a few seasons' worth of the satanic sitcom Three's Company. (More discerning oldsters instead recall the sour but infinitely patient Fell for his fine appearances in such classic movies as Bullitt, Catch-22, and C.H.U.D. II.) Tucson's own The Fells, a high-octane quartet, splatter the air in spirited homage to the man who, by leaving Three's Company, single-handedly reversed Don Knotts' flagging fortunes--a long story, that, and scarcely fit for family consumption. Borrowing merrily from '60s garage, early Britpunk, and The Ramones, guitarist-songwriters Heath Heemsbergen and Jeff Glave, anchored by Rob Alper's drumming and Rob Yazzie's bass, churn up raving little ditties like "Do the Dance," "Get Uptight," "It's Not Alright," and the anthemic "You're Making Me Sick," which at 3:16 seems like a rock opera when measured against the disc's other tunes, most of which clock in at a couple of minutes. It's all good stuff, full of angst and repudiation, true to the band's namesake. Give it a listen.

--Gregory McNamee


Bargain Town
Crash Landing Recordings

GOD BLESS CHRIS Morrison. Tucson's resident troubadour has never been afraid to wear his influences on his sleeve or lay bare his soul for all to hear. Bargain Town collects 30 songs and instrumental snippets with Morrison writing, playing and singing everything. Combining candid, unabashedly romantic lyrics with a strong Brit-Pop sensibility, Morrison turns in a selection of engaging tunes backed by either aggressive acoustic strumming or Bob Mould- like symphonies of guitar distortion. Throughout Bargain Town the spirit of England is always evident, Morrison's obviously an anglophile and strands of British pop weave through the disc, bringing to mind the psychedelic hooks of the Kinks, the eccentric musings of Syd Barrett and the town caller proclamations of Billy Bragg. Lyrically, Morrison's at his best when he avoids literal descriptions of his own experiences and instead turns his skewed gaze on other subjects. He has a flair for creating a mood and telling a story with a canny eye for detail and a wry sense of humor. Bargain Town succeeds most when he turns the humor on; we hope future releases continue in this vein.

--Sean Murphy

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