Album Reviews

Various Artists
No Rights Reserved
[Green Street Records]

By Rosalind Walters

Get pumped and get rowdy, U of I! Green Street Records has released their newest compilation CD, No Rights Reserved.

This is a downright catchy CD. You don’t have to be into the local music scene to appreciate the home team’s collaboration. The label’s musical preferences vary enough to keep things exciting, but the solid rock genre doesn’t change between songs. Indie, alternative and classic hard rock are only a few of the flavors. Odd balls like Weapons of Mass DisFunktion’s “Wicked Cool” might remind you of airport music, but even with a strange song here and there, the CD flows together seamlessly, rather than schizophrenic. (Who is familiar with the NOW collection?) No Rights Reserved‘s encore-worthy sound is a great introduction to Champaign-Urbana’s local bands with a great variety of high-quality sounds for new listeners. Santa puts it best in their song “Poles” when they say, ” … A thousand black pearls searching for dry land.” Check it out.
Grade: B+

The Nightwatchman
One Man Revolution

By Bonnie Stiernberg

A protest song is a delicate thing. It takes a true artist to inspire change while maintaining their musical credibility; to preach without sounding preachy. But the times, they are a-changin’, and as the war in Iraq rages on, now more than ever, we need a musician to step forward and vocalize our dissent.

Enter The Nightwatchman. The alter ego of Rage Against The Machine guitarist Tom Morello packs his new album One Man Revolution with protest songs and union anthems galore. Most importantly, he does so while staying true to an acoustic musicality that perfectly supplements his angry lyrics.

In “House Gone Up In Flames,” one of the album’s best tracks, he growls, “It’s in the child’s first sin/It’s in the Constitution/Written in very small print/It’s in Colin Powell’s lies/It’s in the shaman’s trance/It’s in the cellar waiting/And it’s in the best laid plans.”

For the most part, Morello is able to produce songs that are both socially relevant and pleasant to listen to. Although the album features a few dirge-like tracks such as, “The Garden of Gethsemane” and “No One Left,” the majority of the songs are a great showcase for Morello’s impassioned baritone vocals.

“Flesh Shapes The Day,” one of Morello’s many odes to social justice, declares, “Now you might have heard different/But I know it’s a fact/That Jesus, Mary, Joseph/And the Apostle Paul were black/Ten letters I am writing/Each one reads the same/Nine circles I am drawing/One around your name.” The song is one of Morello’s best vocal performances on the album, along with “The Road I Must Travel” and “Union Song,” a tribute to the labor movement.

Because the album consists entirely of acoustic protest songs, the Bob Dylan comparisons are inevitable, but it’s too early to tell whether The Nightwatchman will ever attain such cultural significance. However, as our generation gets more and more criticism for sitting passively and not taking a stand, it will be interesting to see if The Nightwatchman can turn his “one man revolution” into a multi-person uprising.
Grade: B+

Page McConnell

By Steve Plock

Since the breakup of Phish in August of 2004, pianist, vocalist and overall charmer Page McConnell has possibly been the least active member in the post-Phish world. While the other members of Phish have remained musically active, it seemed as though McConnell had taken some time off after his 20-plus years on the road. After having gone through the splitting of his band and a recent divorce, it’s understandable that McConnell needed some time to reflect, but like any good musician, he has taken those issues and turned them into inspiration for his first self-titled solo album. While most of the lyrical content on the album seems to focus around McConnell’s hard times, the music is by no means a melancholic venture. With his previous band members frequently contributing on the album, the music is well-jammed and sometimes has the feel of fusion era Herbie Hancock.

Although, Phish fans, beware: this is not a Phish album. While McConnell’s style has remained funky as ever, the jams on this album are not the typical tension-release jams we have come to know from Phish. Instead, these songs are all about McConnell and his ability to capture us with his heartfelt lyrics and his modest voice, and then take us for a ride with his synth-laden, jazzy piano excursions. With every song featuring at least one other member of Phish, it’s those with bassist Mike Gordon that stand out the most. McConnell and Gordon’s tones and styles have always complemented each other well, and it’s still evident in songs like “Heavy Rotation,” in which McConnell’s heavy piano solo is grounded in Gordon’s thick bass groove, a sound that will have any fan reminiscing about the days of Phish. While they may never get back together, Phish’s sound hasn’t entirely died. With Anastasio’s last album being a major flub, it’s a good thing we have Page to remind us of what we loved about Phish.
Grade: B+

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