platters (2007-01)

The Variety Show

Act 1: country, Act 2: rock, Act 3: metal (applause)

Waylon Jennings

The legends are juxtaposed in one CD. Hank’s writing and Waylon’s delivery. It almost makes one shiver just to think of it.

It’s not quite a tour de force, however. Waylon seems plagued by uncharacteristic tension, especially through the first couple of cuts, until he gets inspired in “Honky Tonkin’” and begins to loosen up. From then on, it all flows better, and by the time he gets to soliloquizing on growing up on the storm-battered Texas prairie toward the end, he can move you to tears.

Kicked out of music class in high school for “lack of musical ability,” Waylon says, he never doubted that his need was to become a musician and singer. He idolized Hank and thought his “world had ended” when Hank died young. That may explain the air of tension in his reprisal of Hank’s music.

The world of Waylon didn’t end back then, but not because of musical ability. He had an element of timing that took him to the heights of popularity, especially teamed with Willie Nelson, who provided the soaring music in their famous collaborations. Like Louis Armstrong, or Mick Jagger, or Doug Kershaw, the Ragin’ Cajun, Waylon had the timing—on a concert stage or in a recording booth, or in the back of a beer joint—that made him an entertainer beyond his skills.

It shows in his treatment of Hank’s music. It would be better heard if the bass, which provides excessive, dominating syncopation, were turned down. In fact, these stellar songs are at their best when listened to through the single speaker from the tube-type AM radio on the dash of a ’50 Chevy pickup, but that’s a sound that’s increasingly hard to accomplish, even with the help of an equalizer’s technology.

Still, Waylon manages to capture most of the tenor of Hank’s songs, especially on a lesser-known number like “The Blues Come Around.” When he sings of “The Loveless Mansion on the Hill,” he works the magic that the plaintive fiddler lays out for him, and his version of “Cold, Cold Heart” is nonpareil.

On a lyric line like, Unless you have made no mistakes in your life/Be careful the stones that you throw…, the melancholy that marked some of Waylon’s years as a Nashville-spurned outlaw comes through soft and clear.

The whole CD sounds better the second time through, when Waylon has set the stage with his soliloquy, and it’s evident that he’s heard the advice the late Ernest Tubb leveled at every country troubadour: “You got to sang from the hort, son…” And that he does. That he does.

The Beatles

Providing a “soundscape” for a Las Vegas show, producer George Martin (along with his son Giles) revisits classic material he helped make famous, rendering a 90-minute musical tapestry from the fabric of some the group’s most significant compositions.

Creatively a mixed bag, the disc contains three standout cuts. The first, a hybrid of rockers “Get Back” and “Glass Onion,” provides ideal counterpoint that only reinforces how well the styles of their respective composers—Paul McCartney and John Lennon—complimented each other.  The next pairs the psychedelic “Being For The Benefit of Mr. Kite” with the electric-bluesy “I Want You / She’s

Many tracks are left alone to be enjoyed for their re-mastered luster, while fragments of others transition into gems like the avant-garde masterpiece “I Am The Walrus” or the fuzz-tone guitar anthem “Revolution”.

LOVE also represents the first-ever Beatles recording in 5.1 Dolby. If you don’t have one already, this dual-disc is a great reason to pick up a surround sound system.

Isis

A synthesis of prog, doom-metal and industrial music, post-metal adds heavy guitars and, occasionally, growling vocals to the more meditative soundscapes of post-rock. Isis’ previous release Panopticon, also on Ipecac, still had some grit, places where the juxtaposition of aggro distortion and prog-ish ambiance seemed jarring and unwieldy. Truth , by comparison, is a work of seamless brilliance—too seamless, some might argue, as the band’s shimmering, epic song cycles go down so smoothly that it’s easy to forget this is metal.

But let the scenesters quibble over whether Isis is selling out. In the Absence of Truth is a beautiful, compelling record, one that offers a glimpse of what Meddle -era Pink Floyd might have become had Gilmour, Waters, et al. glimpsed the coming millennium in dream.