Weekly Wire
Memphis Flyer Turn Up That Noise!

By Stephen Grimstead

DECEMBER 15, 1997: 

Victor Wooten What Did He Say? (Compass)

They are among us, and Victor Wooten is one of them. There’s no other explanation; no human could possibly make the bass guitar do what Wooten makes it do.


Victor Wooten and his interstellar ticket-to-ride.
But there is more than incomparable technique to this artist. He attends carefully to the substance of his work. Wooten’s boundless love of music comes across consistently, a love too big and comprehensive to be constrained by a stifling concern for stylistic purity. What Did He Say?, his second solo record, genre-hops with supreme confidence and joy. Along with various types of jazz and funk, the CD is fleshed out with forays into areas of smooth soul, hoedown stomp, Celtic ruminations, and even a moment or two of New Age elegance (check out his luscious treatment of “Norwegian Wood”). Of very special note is Wooten’s take on Ray Noble’s “Cherokee,” ferocious and hard-swinging/bopping.

Wooten (who, incidentally, throws down an occasional vocal on this album) is assisted here by a host of guest musicians, including his brothers, his wife, and fellow Flecktones Bela Fleck and Future Man (who drums a bit here and there, though J.D. Blair handles the great majority of this album’s drumming chores). What Did He Say? is nothing if not a blast, and Wooten absolutely revels in his ability to make his eccentricities accessible and meaningful to others. – Stephen Grimstead



Various Artists Loverly Singles ’97 (Loverly Music)

It’s again time to sort through the annual harvest of singles from the Loverly Music label. It’s thinner than last year’s, five singles rather than last year’s 10, and the pickings are quite a bit slimmer. To recall, last year’s crop of 10 included some pretty hot sides from the Satyrs, Alex Greene, and New Car Smell, just to name a few of the standouts. This time around only two tracks jump out and demand to be noticed.

Lorette Velvette’s cover of David Bowie’s “Boys Keep Swinging” is one of them. Velvette usually does covers for her singles for Loverly – one each by T. Rex and Iggy Pop last time around – but this may be the best yet, a pleasantly twangless foray into spacy power pop. The cacophonous rendition of Roxy Music’s “In Every Dream Home a Heartache” on the flipside isn’t nearly as successful by comparison. The other notable track in the bunch is “Lawnmower Song” by Lamar Sorrento (a.k.a. James Eddie Campbell), which is a bit of a departure itself, falling much closer to Dylan and the Byrds than to Campbell’s beloved Fab Four.

Beyond that, it’s pretty much Loverly high jinks as usual. Greg Hisky pitches in a Hank Williams-inspired version of “Merry Christmas Baby” and the Lynyrd Skynyrd-ish “Run Rudolph Run” to put together a Christmas record. And just so you don’t think Loverly can’t keep up, there’s a little electronica with a remix of a spoken-word single from last year’s batch by local scene-historian Robert Gordon.

All in all, not as good as last year. There’s always next year, of course. In fact, there’s still last year, since The Singles 1995-1996 just hit compact disc for those of you who missed them the first time around or are just plain allergic to vinyl. – Jim Hanas



The Aqua Velvets Guitar Noir (Milan/BMG)

Yeah, that surf revival thing just keeps washing more and more instrumental releases up on the sands. Which is fine by me; most of it’s actually pretty good.

One of the better bands to worship at the foot of Dick Dale these days is San Francisco’s Aqua Velvets. However, Guitar Noir, this year’s offering, features as much spy-guitar and tropica-exotica as it does surf, and to very cool effect. The songs on this CD are laid-back and lazy, not at all similar to the output of most of the rampaging surf rockers out there (contrast these guys with Nashville’s killer Los Straitjackets, for instance). There’s almost a narcotic effect associated with these tracks.

Although the band’s love and respect for the tradition of surf style is obvious, they aren’t afraid to tweak the formula. If they feel that the music calls for a touch of synth keyboard, timpani, or even a cheesy drum-machine sequence (though they have a fully functioning drummer), they go with it. I know…on paper these look like bad decisions, but in fact it all works quite well.

The Aqua Velvets surf a different beach and ride a different wave. – S.G.


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