Joni Mitchell misses the mark

Daily Staff Writer

‘Both Sides Now’

Joni Mitchell

Sometimes an album of classic singles refashioned by a popular vocalist becomes your favorite piece of work by that performer. It can show off the many sides to the complex artist’s soul.

Then there are those times when an album of popular croons by your favorite artist becomes that one CD you would be willing to sell cheap.

“Both Sides Now” is a self-described collection of classic love songs. It is a sleepy album at best. At its worst, it is a boring, lingering collection of standards performed at the slowest speed possible for the purpose of putting insomniacs to sleep, perhaps permanently.

Joni Mitchell is much better than this collection of tortured old tunes, and some of these tortured old tunes could have gone another 50 years without having been brutally done over by Mitchell.

It isn’t that she butchers these songs, it is that she does nothing new with them beside sing them all in the same slow, soft, mournful way that is tiresome tedium personified. Mix it up a little! Would that be so wrong?

“At Last” is a magnificent song, and when Etta James did it, you could feel every word as if each one were a volume of Edna St. Vincent Millay poems about love and death served with a heaping helping of heartache and longing.

When Mitchell sings “At Last,” the only thing you will be longing for is the sweet release of death. No one can feel emotions at a Perry Como pace; it just isn’t possible. A couple of miles per hour faster, and she might have sold it, but as it is — forget about it.

Imagine yourself with the one you care for most in the world. The fair is in town and you decide to try out the tunnel of love. You get situated in the big swan boat and prepare for a special moment. Only halfway through the tunnel, the electricity goes out and you are stuck in the middle of what you realize is just a foul, stanky carnival ride with putrid water. It isn’t romantic at all, just a painful pantomime of romance.

On the plus side, if your baby has colic, your vacuum cleaner is broken and you can’t afford a doctor, this album just might do the trick.

2 Stars

— Greg Jerrett

‘The American’

Angie Aparo

Angie Aparo’s story is the stuff that dreams are made of.

Looking like a cross between Billy Corgan and Garth Brooks as Chris Gaines, it seems Aparo’s sound would be one of nascent quality — a new musical form coming into existence.

Upon further inspection, Aparo’s major-label debut, “The American,” offers even more than a fresh vision, stretching from earth-bound issues of ethics to tales of cosmic woe in one unique strand of originality.

Starting out as a solo neo-folk artist in his early days in Atlanta with only an acoustic guitar and a groovebox, Aparo made a name for himself as someone worth giving a listen to. When producer Matt Serletic (Matchbox 20, Collective Soul) got ahold of Aparo’s material, he knew he’d struck gold.

The two combined their talents to put together a highly compelling album. Leaving behind his solo-acoustic world, Aparo ventured into the layered and processed realm of modern rock heaven at Arista Records.

Opening with “Green Into Gold,” the album starts off with an eclectic cavalcade of sound bound together by Aparo’s infectious voice. At times he sounds like R.E.M.’s Michael Stipe; at others he touches surprisingly on James Taylor.

On “Spaceship,” the first single off the album, Aparo keeps the momentum of the album aloft with his view of technology’s impact on spirituality. His voice just floats above the music resonating with a magnetic pull.

The album continues with an adept musicianship and lyrical depth that strikes a chord within the deepest, darkest parts of the soul. Songs like “Hush,” the waltzing “Cry,” or the thought-provoking “Memphis City Rain” can attest to this.

Aparo even shows off his musical prowess by featuring a live track in the form of “Wonderland.” The intense energy Aparo throws into his singing combined with the lamenting violins and cellos in the background make for one beautiful song.

While not every song may be radio material, this album, taken as a whole, offers a simply compelling view at humanity. “The American” is a grand display of Angie Aparo’s artistry, but leaves one rhetorical question remaining.

Did he sell out?

4 Stars

— Kevin Hosbond

‘Time To Discover’

Robert Bradley’s

Blackwater Surprise

When Detroit blues legend Robert Bradley hooked up with three fresh, alternative guys to form the Blackwater Surprise back in 1996, few knew what the formation would bring.

But with the release of 1996’s debut “Blackwater Surprise” and the latest “Time To Discover,” Bradley and company have proved they can put a new face on blues and open it up to a wider audience.

“Time To Discover” features upbeat blues music with Bradley’s classic bluesy voice as a guide. Michael Nehra’s genius guitar work thrown in makes it a musical masterpiece.

Perhaps the best and most creative element of the album is guest Detroit-rocker Kid Rock, who lends his raps behind the Blackwater sound on “Higher” and adds guitar and vocals on “Tramp 2,” which molds perfectly to give this blues music a more modern feel.

The more upbeat tracks, such as “Uncle John” and “Gambler,” demonstrate how much this band enjoys playing music.

The unmistakable gospel feel they provide makes you want to jump up and clap along while swaying back and forth and aiming your head at the sky.

These faster tracks give way to such slow songs as “Take Love and Receive It” and “Ultimate Sacrifice,” which fit themselves perfectly into the already present blues feel of the record.

Though Bradley’s voice is redundant at times, and it’s almost the only voice heard through all 11 tracks, the band’s music separates “Time To Discover” from records plagued with the “everything sounds the same” syndrome.

The laid-back and experienced vocals Bradley belts out leave behind a sincere feeling of what the blues is, and when paired with a jolt of youthful music, it couldn’t be more creative.

4 Stars

— Kyle Moss

Ratings based on a 5 Star scale.