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Local CD Reviews

| November 30, 2007 | 0 Comments

“Around Hear” is a monthly feature where a stable of IE writers review albums sent to us by local musicians. If you are interested in having your CD (must have a minimum of three songs) reviewed and are Illinois-based, mail it and any other media materials to 657 A W. Lake St., Chicago IL, 60661. Everything that meets the aforementioned guidelines will be reviewed in the order received. This may take several months.

Four of the six cuts on Athens‘ debut, The Philosopher, are so reminiscent of The Smiths one doesn’t even focus on the lyrics or the songs themselves because one is so captivated by the way that singular sound has been channeled. It’s when the two non-Smiths-sounding cuts interrupt the reverie that the listener (and hopefully, the band) pause to wonder (to play fast and loose with Gertrude Stein) where the there there is ultimately to be. (
– David C. Eldredge

On his sophomore set, Battle Plans, The Bizczar Sinista is almost exclusively concerned with evicting crack-dealing/gangsta-leaning rappers from the ‘hood. This self-described “underground” MC no doubt has good intentions, and he respectably tries to smash ongoing stereotypes. Though after handing out so many verbal lashings atop sparse, unsurprising midtempo beats, the preaching becomes redundant. (
– Max Herman

Attempting to fall somewhere between the menacing bone crunches of Fugazi and At The Drive-In is a lofty ambition to say the least. As much as The Coma Collective try on Topics, the growling guitar grinders suffer from low-quality production (like the annoyingly tinny “Shipmates”) plus a lack of insistence, despite the bellowing screams throughout “Break” and “Something To Wake Up To.” (
– Andy Argyrakis

On its full-length Angels Of Refraction, the James Davis Quintet switches between old-school and smooth jazz, with occasional drum and bass rumblings. It best succeeds in retro contexts, most noticeably the extended free-form jam “Cotton” and the equally lengthy sax-smacked “None Of The Above.” But when contemporary leanings settle in, the band sounds generic at best, like the elevator worthy “For Another Time (1)” and the lazy saunter of “Fair Enough.” (
– Andy Argyrakis

Dynamite Blu, a duo comprising brothers Chris and Paul Castelli, generates a full-bodied sound on its self-titled debut. Chris is the frontman, singing as well as playing guitar, bass, and keyboards on energetic funk rock tunes like “4 Days” while Paul backs him on drums. Chris swaps his electric guitar for a woodentop and Paul cuts loose with some lively Latin percussion on the exotic “Midnight.” (
– Terrence Flamm


Lead vocalist Stefanie Berecz separates seven-piece funk/soul outfit Eli Jones from others with her sultry, throaty delivery. Part Joss Stone, part Whitney Houston, Berecz brings both longing and sexual chemistry to the band’s debut full-length, Make It Right. The horn-infused “Finally Did For Me” could show Kelly Clarkson and the like a thing or two about the art of the kiss-off, while guitarist and vocalist Brendan O’Connell channels “Are You Gonna Go My Way”-era Lenny Kravitz on “Mekong.” (
– Janine Schaults

Evil Beaver‘s newest CD, Enlightening Without Dazzling, is a two for one: a five-song and an eight-track live show recorded last year in Switzerland. Either way, the bass-drums twosome, led by gritty bassist/singer Evie Evil, delivers raw rock with convincing attitude and rhythm-driven poundings. A higher mix of vocals (whether full-on with “M.O.V.O.M.” or melodic and dreamy on “Numb”) would’ve improved some EP tracks, but the live show material bristles with energy. (
– Jason Scales

Exit 269 plays classic-influenced original hard rock that aims to create a modern rock style with old-school touches. The band can be up and rocking as well as mellow and melodic, and the four tracks on their latest CD, Just Rolled In, show both sides very well. The tunes are decent and the production is good, but the big hook they are looking for isn’t here. The CD is a great start, though, and the band should forge ahead. (
– Mike O’Cull

The Fire Horns Totally Live! DVD showcases Bill McFarland & The Chicago Horns performing at The Jazz Kitchen in Indianapolis and on a sun-drenched stage at a New York jazz festival. Drawing from their Fire Horns debut, trombonist McFarland, saxophonist Hank Ford, and trumpeteer Kenny Anderson play traditional jazz with superb backing from a variety of musicians. The fluid camera work provides a close look at these classy Chicago jazz veterans. (
– Terrence Flamm

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Category: Around Hear, Columns, Monthly

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