West Of Memphis, Voices For Justice: Soundtrack (Sony)
This soundtrack album for the documentary film makes for an engaging if not an essential listening experience but first, some background.
The doc was written, directed and produced by notables Amy Berg and Peter Jackson while high profile advocates such as Johnny Depp, Henry Rollins and Eddy Vedder were supporters of the three wrongfully convicted ‘murderers’ for an extended period while the lads were jailed for almost 20 years.
The West Memphis Three became cause celebres, and later simply known as WM3, after it became evident that they were innocent through DNA testing and newly discovered evidence.
The case involved the killing of three eight-year-old cub scouts and the three teens accused of the murders with a bizarre, fabricated backdrop of satanic rituals and heavy metal music.
After two decades of legal wrangling where one of the convicted was on death row, the WM3 were released after they agreed to plead guilty with the understanding they were deemed innocent so that the government could not be sued and state official’s careers would remain spotless.
Musically there are 15 tracks on this album where Marilyn Manson covers Carly Simon’s You’re So Vain while Natalie Maines of The Dixie Chicks mournfully sings the Pink Floyd ballad Mother from The Wall.
Lucinda Williams reinterprets her own song Joy, while the ‘supergroup’ Camp Freddy (Dave Navarro, Scott Weiland, Steve Stevens) covers David Bowie’s The Jean Genie.
Depp fans may be interested for his two contributions with the band Tonto’s Giant Nuts where Depp reads from one of the victim’s diary while Bob Dylan and Patti Smith offer some vintage material.
A grab bag of tracks that promises in no way to be even remotely as interesting as the documentary, while some of the proceeds will go to help restore the lives of the WM3.
And, if you enjoy this film you should check out the superb, like-minded and equally chilling 1988 award winning documentary The Thin Blue Line.
Stevie Ray Vaughn: Texas Flood
This is the 30-year two-CD Anniversary Legacy Edition of blues guitarist and writer Stevie Ray Vaughn’s excellent debut album.
At the time Texas Flood crossed over big time to the rock charts and revitalized the blues which was then considered a dormant and dead end musical genre that the major labels had next to no interest in.
The odd thing is, Stevie Ray Vaughn (aka SRV to his hard core fans) was never a blues purist but so desperate was the blues scene that he was soon hailed as a saviour and dozens of SRV imitation bar bands were suddenly starting to practise their 12-bar chops.
The lead off song Love Struck Baby is one of Vaughn’s best self-penned songs and it is as much raucous rockabilly as it is blues while the fleet fingered Rude Mood is more of aboogie rave up (as written by the Isley Brothers) but both blues and roots rock fans simply couldn’t get enough.
Vaughn also channelled a bit of jazz via Santo & Johnny (their No.1 1959 instrumental hit Sleepwalk) on the mellow and lyrical instrumental to his wife Lenny.
Vaughn also dazzled the guitar world with his galvanizing and flashy style which was somewhat the opposite of that of his brother Jimmie Vaughn (of The Fabulous Thunderbirds) who relied more on feel and the guitar as an augmentation rather than the whole show.
The big payoff for old fans is the nine-track concert CD ‚Äúrecorded live at Ripley’s Music Hall, Philadelphia October 20 1983‚Äù where SRV lets his Jimi Hendrix freak flag fly with a 7:40 minute version of Voodoo Child (Slight Return) and a 12:18 minute medley of Little Wing/Third Stone From The Sun.
Meanwhile you can hear a tad more of Chuck Berry’s influence on the live version of Love Struck Baby that isn’t quite so evident on the studio recordings.
Unfortunately, at the height of his career and freshly sober after a stint in rehab Vaughn was killed in a helicopter crash leaving a myriad of fans to mourn what might have been.
Destiny’s Child: Love Songs (Columbia)
Beyonce Knowles has recently been, and very soon will be again, extremely prominent on the main stages of things that are mightily American. She sang at President Obama’s recent inauguration and ball while this weekend she will be on stage for the half time show at Super Bowl.
Those are huge multi-million and maybe even billion viewer events and, career wise, it would be a travesty not to have some sort of ‘product’ on the market to cash in on the massive spotlights.
At the NFL half time show she will be reuniting the trio version of Destiny’s Child with Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams to sing a few old time hits as well as the new ballad Nuclear found on Love Songs, which also serves as a romantic bonbon for Valentines.
Destiny’s Child enjoyed plenty of hits in their day but their catalogue was not large with only four studio albums before Beyonce split. Furthermore, there’s been more than a dozen Best Of, Greatest Hits, box sets and Remix releases. So, Love Songs merely takes album tracks that were not hits and dresses them up for this titular collection of love tunes.
New fans will be left wondering what all the fuss was about.
There is a brief essay that tries to legitimize this anthology but to my ears it’s mostly a money grab.