The Prodigáis latest Happy Hour single, "Sharkskin Buffalo bw Pussy Footin" is cool as anything and if you didn't know they were a real band, you could swear this red vinyl 45 was a long lost piece of 1 960' s garage band history from a band of teens overeóme by the power of The Ventures, Link Ray and cheap Italian western film soundtracks. Since The Prodigáis are almost the house band at The Tap Room (more or less) we know this isn't a time capsule memento but the work of a modern day band with these same sources flowing through their veins. The two cuts here show the instrumental side of a band that is way more complex in their live gigs, with a lot more blues, pop and other bits and pieces of modem American music up their sleeves. But, with the dangerously sailing guitar of Chris Casello and a rhythrn section that won' t stop, this single is a great record, a snapshot of how fired up the boys can get during their live shows and a celebration of the rootshistory of instrumental rock. All on blood red vinyl too. Good as this is, the live band is probably the best hoppin' bar band in town and shouldn't be overlooked just becauseThe Prodigáis haven' t gotten the press of other, less deserving rockers. Do both- buy this single and keep an eye on the Tap Room schedule. If there is any music that will survive us after the collapse of civilization, when wild bands of post-nuclear winter-tribes will roam theearth, it would have to be, assuming solar power cassette tape players still exist, the complex, intense, other-centuries-to-come creations of Ann Arbor geniuslegendartist Larynx Zillion's Novelty Shop. Fortunately for us in 1996, Mr. Z has just released a four-tune tape remix of some of the most multi-layered, twistedly complex rock and roll to ever spring from this city. The recording, "Queen Of Queens" is like nothing you' re going to hear. Simple as that. Whether it's the Jesus Christ Superstar opera meets Frank Zappa and Chuck Berry of the anthem-Uke title track, the Steve Reichian time signatures and stereo headphone freakout of the instrumental funnybone or the science fiction psycho ward confession of a religious visión with tons of vocal reverb and a band that crashes the wall at 180 MPH, on the ironie "I Feel Fine," Zillion is a master of bizarre timing, maniac ravings and guitar solos from all-night radio stations, blasting from the boomboxes of heil. Whether this is your cup of cappuccino, who knows? But in a world where most "rock and roll" bands are more concemed about THE BIG RECORD DEAL, Larynx Zillion's Novelty Shop is a cause for celebration. I had mixed emotions when I gave the new Jim Akans' CD, "Ja Makin Me Crazy," (cute titles give me a pain . . . ) a listen. This is pretty tame, laid-back, easy listening folksy stuff that doesn' t ruffle any feathers. Akans has a unique, one-of-a-kind voice that is one part smooth-assilk easy listening with enough of an edge (very gentle edge) that kind of pulls you in while you're not paying attention. The guitars and chords all seem upbeat and smooth as well, with not a note out of place. And the lyrics are mostly about lost loves or new loves or unios t old loves or loves about to be lost or ... la la la. Akans can write NICE songs. And he has a NICE voice. But, the lyrical depth isn't very, unfortunately. There' s no real passion, no real hunger in any of the goings on here and while the CD sounds average on the first listen, on repeated plays these weaknesses become more obvious. Sadly, the lyrics and the laid-back take-no-chancesauracompletely bury the coolness of Jim Akans as a singer. Only on the CD's closing tune, 'DistantFire Lullaby' that brings to mind Cat Stevens of all people, does Akans really seem to feel and believe what he's singing. That having been said ... I opened the press kit. With stuff about being "hailed by Billboard magazine as one of America' s best new singer-songwriters," how the collection was produced by Jade Scott, "who has produced both Stephen Stills and David Crosby" (it doesn ' t say or post-liver transplant . . . ) and stuff like "His musical narratives reflect basic values of family, friendship and enduring positive memories." No further questions from this witness, your honor . . . Since this is a column about LOC AL music, I suppose I can stretch this term and this universe to include a perfectly amazing CD by an ex-Ann Arborite, from a Vermont label run by another ex-townie. Gadfly Records (PO Box 5231, Burlington, VT 05402) is the label master-minded by Mitch Cantor and its latest offering is "Just Luck" by singersongwriter Jeff Wilkinson who left these parts for the wilds of Woodstock, New York sometime ago. A2's loss is NY'sgain. This 12-song collection is low-key folkistic rock by a songwriter with a cool voice. But unlike Jim Akans, who sounds like he's reh' ving and fourth-hand experiences, Wilkinson is as real as true life. With a voice that recalls John Hiatt and John Prine, it doesn't matter if Wilkinson is singing a baby's lullaby on "Cat Tongue Blues," or about the healing, addicting and maddening power of love on "Martha's Room," or putting the words of Oscar Wilde to music on "Bailad Of Reading Gaol." Every note, every lyric, every vocal inflection is the work of someone with their soul on their sleeve. But, this isn't Angst 101 either. There's an undercurrent of life and humor in these songs too that only makes them more real. If you like Hiatt or Prine or have been thinking lately about packing it all in for a move to Austin, Texas to take in the wealth of hipster songwriters that grow on trees down there, then put "JustLuck" by Jeff Wilkinson on your list of must buys. One final note. There is someone you really need to check out. Just listen to me for once, ok? Singersongwriter Audrey Becker has three gigs in the month of June and you should be able to catch at least ONE (come on now, your life isn't that busy ... ). Ms. Becker is at the Tap Room on June 6th, part of The Ark's "Best of Open Stage" on June 13th and for free at PJ's Used Records and CD's on June 21. I think you' 11 be pleasantly surprised. The View FromNowhere, AGENDA, 220 S. Main, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48104 or email to: ALANNARBOR@AOL.COM.
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