Known Johnson

November 1, 2006

Overlooked Alternatives: The Who, Isis, Willie Nelson, Joe Satriani

Filed under: Music,Overlooked Alternatives — Tom @ 8:47 am

The Who – Endless Wire: I could go on and on about this, but I’m just going to save that for a formal review to be coming shortly. In the meantime, just know two things: I’m fully aware this isn’t remotely overlooked (and I don’t care – I love the Who) and Best Buy has your best deal: $9.99 gets you the album, the 5-song live DVD and an exclusive 7-song live CD (two songs overlap the DVD’s content, both of which are sourced from the same concert in Lyon, France.)

Isis – In The Absence Of Truth: I like to think of Isis as the band that Tool wishes it could be. Call me jaded, but Tool has become entangled in plots created to baffle and obfuscate rather than intrigue and draw listeners in, being what they think is clever but what really winds up being just tiring and boring after a few listens. Isis instead has wisely held back the throttle at all times, always letting things churn just a little longer than might be comfortable, but giving listeners something extra to chew on, and that’s what’s made their music so rewarding – it’s worth going back to over and over again. It’s not easy listening, but it’s also just not made difficult to keep you guessing forever. There’s no game here as there always seems to be with Tool lately – the music speaks enough for itself that the band doesn’t need to hide clues to keep listeners interested and that speaks volumes as to who their music is aimed at. We’re all adults here, they’re saying, do we really need to give you riddles? How about we just give you great music that will last you a lifetime?

Isis is heavier, harder, and more demanding – this is not casual music by any means. While vocalist Aaron Turner has usually spent most of his time in a yell, here he has added more sung vocals. Don’t take that as a sign that the band is softening. It’s simply a new dynamic that adds texture. In The Absence Of Truth shows the band growing by leaps and bounds and easily becomes a contender for metal album of the year.

Willie Nelson – Songbird: “It’s a good thing I had a bag of marijuana instead of a bag of spinach or I’d be dead by now,” Nelson said after being arrested recently for possession. And it’s a good thing he was arrested now rather than before the sessions for this album or it might not have happened. Here Nelson put himself in the hands of alt-country hero Ryan Adams, who backed Willie with his own Cardinals backing band for this outing, and the results sound to be very, very promising. I look to be putting this up there with Teatro as a favorite.

Joe Satriani – Satriani Live! CD and DVD: Good ol’ Satch, always putting something out. He’s been consistently releasing new albums of material every two years or so for nearly twenty years, believe it or not, so why am I a little confused by this release? Because this live set comes a mere 6 months after the release of his previous studio album. I don’t know about any other Satriani fans, but I’m just not hungry enough yet – I haven’t really fully devoured Super Colossal yet. While that was certainaly not a bad album, it’s certainly nothing new and hasn’t demanded a lot of my attention. It may seem petty to complain about releases so close together, but, really, at least a year between releases is a good schedule to keep. But, as I’ve noted quite a few times in recent weeks, it is the Christmas season . . . what better time to put this stuff out?

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