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Sonic Blast

Three CDs to help make it a less than cruel summer.

Are You Ready for an Organ Solo?
(Rhinestone Records)

It's rare for an album's cover alone to be worth its price, and it's a good thing Quintron's Are You Ready for an Organ Solo? makes that cut, because what's on the inside isn't half as interesting without the pomp and puppetry of his rave-like live show. As always, Quintron integrates his sidekick/wife, Ms. Pussycat, into the project, this time as cover girl, wearing a cut-up T-shirt with a keyboard across the chest and Quintron's dirty hand groping it from below.

Ms. Pussycat contributes to the music too, her perfectly un-funky schoolgirl voice getting the party started with lines like, "Put your right leg in/ Put your left leg in/ Put your badass in/ Lay your money down/ Buy your drugs now." This advice is from "Miniature Breakdown," a concept we can all relate to while Quintron's nervous falsetto threatens to whirl out of control. He jocks Prince so shamelessly.

Tracks like "Underwater Dance Club" could work as background music for a weird party, and "I'm Not Busy" has deep grooves, a catchy riff, and lyrics about New Orleans-style courtship (going to the West Bank to hang out while your beat-up vintage car gets fixed). Parts of the album are rockable at home, but not in the car. Too choppy.

It's hard to tell if the final track, "Organ Solo," is a child messing with a Casio keyboard or the sound effects to the '80s video game Galaga, but it's not an organ solo per se. Then again, Quintron isn't such a great organ player, but that's not the point. -- Cristina Diettinger

Jimi Hendrix
Blue Wild Angel
(MCA Records)

This set, the last gig of Jimi Hendrix's too short life, is an essential addition for any Hendrix fan. The music here is nothing short of amazing, especially considering that Hendrix had not slept in 36 hours before he took the stage. It contains live versions of some of his classics such as "Foxy Lady" and "Red House" as well as versions of then-unreleased lesser gems such as "Dolly Dagger" and "Hey Baby (New Rising Sun)."

Hendrix shows his appreciation for his return to England by starting off the set with "God Save the Queen" and "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band." There are a couple moments where he misses some lyrics, but his guitar playing meets the high standards of his previous work. There are rare live versions of "All Along the Watchtower" and "Freedom," and his tour de force protest song, "Machine Gun," makes a 15-minute appearance here, with almost as much bite and violence as the classic version on Band of Gypsys.

His sound and band interplay are raw and less refined than his other 1970 live albums, including Band of Gypsys and Live at the Fillmore East. However, this record is another Hendrix masterpiece that will continue to blow the mind of listeners and fans with its sound and visionary, virtuoso playing. -- David Kunian

Robert Wagner Trio
Walking, Crying, Laughing, Running
(Valid Records)
Multi-reedman Robert Wagner helps discredit notions that New Orleans' musical progress is stilted by unwavering conservatism. A staple at Frenchmen Street's d.b.a., the saxophonist's modus operandi is founded upon a progressive jazz approach. On Walking, Crying, Laughing, Running, his second album, Wagner, bassist James Singleton and drummer James Alsanders often venture into the free-jazz zone, while also paying the utmost attention to composition and form. The band can swing hard, yet is apt to switch tempos on very short notice. Wagner's songbook contains quite a bit of substance; the musicians' thoroughly hip demeanor is conveyed on "Arthur Blythe," a piece named for the great alto saxophonist. Here, Wagner incorporates fluid lines with bluesy statements and tremolo techniques as the trio melds a rapid-fire attack via a sequence of climactic overtures. To that end, the saxophonist merges a full-bodied tone with soul-searching lyricism, while seemingly comfortable performing on both alto and soprano.

The bandmembers abide by a firmly rooted groove theory, to complement a series of linear movements and expandable frameworks. As a result, they are not simply complacent to wear out a tune, yet are more inclined to explore a variety of odd-metered rhythms coupled with precisely organized unison riffs. Occasionally, Wagner's tenor sax articulations might spark memories of John Coltrane's chromatically oriented improvisations. Most importantly, the trio's loose disposition morphs into a tightly coordinated unit, brimming with emotive qualities. -- Glenn Astarita


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