CD reviews for Jan. 7 |

CD reviews for Jan. 7

Roger Creager

“Live Across Texas”

Available at All That Jazz for $15.98

I only recently discovered Roger Creager. I was downloading music for a Texas mix CD and ran across “Long Way to Mexico” and “Shreveport to New Orleans.” My wife followed up by giving me “Live Across Texas” for Christmas.

Creager is authentic Texas, with a voice that is more Waylon than Willie. He grew up in Corpus Christi and has been plying his trade in Texas dancehalls for most of the past decade. That’s what “Live Across Texas” is — a collection of 15 songs performed live at places such as the legendary Gruene Hall. The obvious comparison for Creager is fellow Texan Pat Green. It’s clear on “Live Across Texas” that, like Green, Creager has a lot of fun with his live shows. And, like Green, much of Creager’s work — “The Everclear Song,” “Things Look Good Around Here,” “Mother’s a Redneck Too” and “Love” — is always going to play best with the Texas frat boy crowd.

But make no mistake, Creager is a serious singer and songwriter. “I Got the Guns” is a great autobiographical song in which Creager pays homage to his family by telling the story of guns handed down to him. And I can’t help but like “Having Fun All Wrong,” in which Creager gives props to Jerry Jeff Walker by singing “I’ve seen Jerry Jeff umpteen times this year, and he just keeps getting better every day.” And Creager does well with two covers on the CD — Guy Clark’s “LA Freeway” and Jimmy Buffet’s “A Pirate Looks at Forty.”

Creager plays a free concert with Reckless Kelly at 1:30 p.m. Saturday in Gondola Square. Judging from “Live Across Texas,” it’ll be the kind of show where the crowd winds up singing along, whether they’ve heard Creager before.

Rated: This is a good, fun live album, something fans of Texas music will dig.

— Scott Stanford

Brian Wilson

“Brian Wilson presents Smile”

Available at All That Jazz for $19.98

“To all the fans who have waited all these years for me to finish ‘Smile.’ I dedicate this to you,” Brian Wilson writes in the liner notes of an album release that took almost four decades to get from mind to music store. (The most famous album never made.)

I’ve wondered about “Smile” for years, ever since I first heard that line in the Barenaked Ladies song, “Lying in bed, just like Brian Wilson did.”

The story, as I heard it, was that the Beach Boys were riding the wave of their success after “Good Vibrations.” They were competing at the top of the charts with The Beatles, but as they toured, stage-shy 24-year-old Brian Wilson stayed home, wrote music and did a lot of psychedelic drugs.

When his fellow band mates returned home, he played “Smile” for them. It still had the complex harmonies that made up the Beach Boys famous sound, but the music behind the harmonies was dark and bizarre. The band didn’t like it and refused to put their voices on it. “Smile” was ahead of its time and was a career risk.

After that, Wilson gave into the unfulfilled desire of countless depressives. He climbed into bed and didn’t get out for three years. And that was the last everyone thought they would ever hear of “Smile.”

I have to wonder how the years have changed this album from what would have been released in 1966.

“Smile” is the kind of album that you don’t just listen to, you study it. You take notes. You would buy the companion reader (if there was one).

I unwrapped the cellophane and put it in my car stereo. At the time, I had three people with me, and I was trying to find an address. After a few tracks, I had to take it out and listen to another CD. It required too much thought to be put on as background music. It would be like trying to listen to James Joyce’s “Finnegan’s Wake” as a book on tape.

This is lock the door, pour a cocktail and focus kind of music.

Rated: The Beach Boys’ trademark sound acts as a stepping stool into a musical rabbit hole.

— Autumn Phillips


“Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain: LA’s Desert Origins”

Available at All That Jazz for $17.98

This two-disc re-release of Pavement’s popular album is about as close to a box set as you’re likely to get from the band. It comes with a 40-page booklet full of “historical” pictures of the band eating in divey restaurants and drinking beer in dirty hotel rooms mixed with copies of old band posters, scribbled recording studio notes and road trip doodles. Disc one is full of tracks you’ve heard already (if you’re a Pavement fan), and disc two is a pile of B-sides, previously unreleased tracks and a few “never before heard” songs.

Disc one of “Crooked Rain” opens with a guitar chord that sounds as if it is asking a question.

I’m not sure exactly what the guitarist is asking, but, for me, the question is “why?”

Although I enjoyed this album, I’m always suspicious of re-packaging. Maybe Matador records smelled a whiff of newborn appreciation for Pavement and saw a chance for an easy paycheck. Or maybe it was made on the suggestion of band members Scott Kannberg or Steve Malkmus, who need a push for their solo projects.

The first eight tracks on disc two were on the original version of “Crooked Rain” with drummer Gary Young, but were cut and re-recorded when Young was cut and replaced by Steve West. (According to the liner notes, Young found out he was fired when he was the last to arrive at a “band meeting” and walked into the room to see West sitting at the drums and rehearsing with the band.)

Maybe there is something of an apology here in the re-release.

Rated: I don’t know why. Don’t ask me.

— Autumn Phillips

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