Steve Wilson. On music.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Ran Blake - Plays Solo Piano (ESP-disk) - courtesy of

The linked review is of Plays Solo Piano, the 1965 solo debut of the remarkable jazz pianist Ran Blake.

Fred, my editor, gave me the green light. The nice folks at ESP Records sent me the disc. I listened, enjoyed, ruminated, and then wrote. I've long been a fan of Ran Blake, and it gives me great pleasure to promote his music. Here's the link:

The video below is not from Plays Solo Piano, but it gives you a taste of Blake's singular work.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Excavations/Magnetic Fields - Realism (Nonesuch)


Magnetic Fields – Realism (Nonesuch)
By my count, “Realism” is the ninth record from the Magnetic Fields, an ensemble that’s essentially a vehicle for the songwriter Stephin Merritt. Merritt is a busy guy, sitting around in gay bars writing songs all day. Hey, that’s what he says. He sure is prolific. Between Magnetic Fields, The Gothic Archies, the 6ths, and Future Bible Heroes, heck, he barely has time to eat, although he is fond of Scandinavian dairy products. But I digress.

Glad to be unhappy (Rodgers-Hart reference – Merritt would like that), Mr. Merritt lives in a world of melody and wit. And by golly if you relish such qualities Magnetic Fields is for you. Having made his masterpiece, the sprawling “69 Love Songs” in 1999, Merritt amuses himself with varying the sonic textures of his work — he's completely abandoned the synth-pop that established his work. The Magnetic Fields' last record, “Distortion,” lived up to its name, avowedly something of a tribute to the Jesus and Mary Chain (although Merritt is capable of the glibly facetious), the song craft was still pure Merritt. “Realism” dials back the decibels, eschewing electric instrumentation almost entirely and employing diverse instrumentation (how about flugelhorn, Cajon, accordion, banjo, etc.) well beyond the usual folkie palette. Both, the volume dial-back and the acoustic instrumentation are perfect for these hurt, bitter, but oddly blithe songs.

One could spend the day quoting from Merritt’s dour, witty songs. I shan’t. Vaguely comparable: Stuart Murdoch’s writing for Belle & Sebastian and God Help the Girl, although Murdoch is a sad humanist and Merritt is a borderline misanthrope — albeit a lovable one. Neil Hannon’s work with the Divine Comedy has a kinship with Merritt’s, but Hannon is a morally ambivalent European flatterer while Merritt is something of a New England scold for all his love of personal liberty. What else can you call the author of a jolly, but scathing putdown like “You Must Be Out of Your Mind?” It’s hard to imagine any other contemporary songwriter producing a Rudy Valli-like, Twenties homage/parody with the nod and a wink ambivalence of “Seduced and Abandoned” — Randy Newman, maybe?

Finally, Stephin Merritt is a post-rock Stephen Sondheim in search of a new Broadway, perhaps a Broadway for smarter people, indeed smarter people than those who typically support Broadway. Such is his dilemma. He’s too blisteringly direct for polite set. And he’s too literate for ninety-percent of, well, college rockers. The gentleman sure has a way with words and tunes, though, and a lovely, refined recital like “Realism” makes a fine case for his art.

EXCAVATIONS = I've written forever. Well before Reverberations entered the blogosphere. WithEXCAVATIONS, we'll occasionally feature some of my work from the vaults. Some pieces will be dashed off reviews for use at Kief's Downtown Music, others will have been from periodicals like the Kansas City Star, The Tornado, The Kansas City Free Press, or others. The intent? It's simple, to give Reverberations readers a look at some older writings, and to plug some records that still sound fine to these ears.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Excavations/Max Richter - 24 Postcards in Full Colour (Fat Cat)


Max Richter - 24 Postcards in Full Color 
A collection of (mostly) short pieces (the composer jokingly refers to them as 'ringtones'). There are solo piano compositions, compositions for strings, ambient pieces, even the odd guitar thrown in. I first became aware of Richter as the producer of Vashti Bunyan's beautiful 2005 release Lookaftering. Then backtracked to check out Piano Circus who covered the noo-classical canon of work by Arvo Part, Steve Reich, and the like. Postcards is in the same vein. If you enjoy the works of the those guys, or Philip Glass e.g.(although M.R. isn’t sooo repetitive), Richter should please you. The variety of instrumentations, textures and tempi makes for an enjoyable listen. There's something melancholy and autumnal about this record that somehow suits the coming season. Some of these short works give you something to chew on, others are basically thinking man's easy listening, but that's not such a bad thing at all. A perfect record with which to close a busy day.

* EXCAVATIONS = I've written forever. Well before Reverberations entered the blogosphere. With EXCAVATIONS, we'll occasionally feature some of my work from the vaults. Some pieces will be dashed off reviews for use at Kief's Downtown Music, others will have been from periodicals like the Kansas City Star, The Tornado, The Kansas City Free Press, or others. The intent? It's simple, to give Reverberations readers a look at some older writings, and to plug some records that still sound fine to these ears.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Roky Erickson, Black Angels, Winter Psych Storm! - courtesty of

I covered the opening night of the Winter Psych Storm! tour, featuring the Black Angels, Roky Erickson, and the Golden Animals for Blurt. The show took place on Friday, January 31st, at the Granada Theater in Lawrence, Kansas.

The Black Angels were terrific. But it was Roky's performance that seized my attention, and my heart. Besides, I've given the Angels a lot of ink over the last three years.

I think they'll understand.

Roky's set list

Visit the link to read the story:

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Chris Wilson - It's Flamin' Groovy (Twenty Stone Blatt/U.K.) - courtesy of

Welcome to Reverberations, point of entry for all things Steve Wilson, rock writer. The link takes you to my review of It's Flamin' Groovy by long-time Flamin' Groovies singer-guitarist, Chris Wilson.

Since there are no current "videos" for tracks from It's Flamin' Groovy
let's time trip; shall we?

           Back in the day - Chris Wilson with the Flamin' Groovies, performing "Slow Death."

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Liminanas - Costa Blanca (Trouble in Mind Records) - courtesy of

Newly posted at, my review of Costa Blanca by the Liminanas.

Go here: ; won't you?

Previously, I reviewed their Crystal Anis album.

In fact, Crystal Anis was my No. 9 album of 2012.
Okay, let me tell you, Costa Blanca is no less of a record. And no, it didn't make my top 10 this year, because I digested it a bit late for inclusion. But top 10, 20, 50 lists are, you know, an imprecise science, more like a dubious art. Some might say bullshit.

What matters is the music, and the joy it brings.

So (en)joy this while you read the review at

Monday, December 16, 2013

Ezra Furman - Day of the Dog (Bar None Records) - courtesy of Paraphilia Magazine


Freshly posted with Paraphilia (a fantastic read all-around) is this ...

My review of the latest recording from rocker, singer-songwriter Ezra Furman. 

The album is called Day of the Dog, and it's quite good. Mind, a tolerance for shaggy-dog, occasionally pitch-challenged singers is required, but the material is great and I, for one, dig the singing. Terrific band, too. But hey ... read the review. 

And while you're reading, listen to some music by Mr. Furman and company. 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Crossing Boundaries: Those Darlins ... courtesy of Blurt Magazine and

Blurt has published, both online and on paper, my feature/interview with Those Darlins. You can read it here:

Jessi warmed up to this interviewer as soon as I helped her identify some albums she was making reference to, like Patti Smith's "Wave." That's how this game works. Mostly artists talk to the naive or idiotic. Prove you're neither, they warm up some.