Album reviews: Boat Burning and Sarah Vaughan

Album reviews: Boat Burning and Sarah Vaughan

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New album: Boat Burning
Artist: Boat Burning
Label: Bandcamp

Boat Burning is a band/consortium/mobile art installation that produces driving, hypnotic instrumental music that's orchestral in scope with garage rock execution.

This debut release was co-produced by Mission Of Burma's Roger Miller, who should be commended for helping Boat Burning wrangle their massive sound into the confines of a record. The band has built a reputation over the years as an improvisatory unit with a penchant for diverse guitar tunings, and their self-titled debut sheds a light on the band's laudable compositional skills.

Spidery, interlocked guitars introduce "Duet", which soon kicks into a krautrock groove that would make Can's Jaki Liebezeit proud. Sounding deceptively simple, there's an awful lot going on here. Featuring five guitarists (Andras Fekete, Geordie Grindle, Jonathan Matis, Norm Veenstra, Robin Diamond) and one drummer (Mark Sherman), the music churns with the drive of a rock band while boasting the nuance of a classical ensemble.

"Drunken Slip" rides on a soaring, unrelenting riff that begs for a movie in need of a climactic scene, while "Ascension" builds a pummeling tension like no rock song since King Crimson's "Red" or "Level Five". Boat Burning's patented maximum minimalism is on full display during album-closer "Trenches", which begins with pre-historic sounding notes before exploding into a majestic coda.

Any rock fan looking for something different need look no further.

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Classic album: In The Land of Hi-Fi
Artist: Sarah Vaughan
Label: EmArcy/Mercury

Jazz vocalist Sarah Vaughan had an incredible streak of classic albums in the 1950s, with In The Land of Hi-Fi possibly being the cream of the crop.

Backed by a stellar group of musicians including Cannonball Adderly (saxophone) and Roy Haynes (drums), Vaughan is at the top of her powers on standards such as "How High The Moon" and "Over The Rainbow", not so much singing with the band as taming it. Her rendering of Duke Ellington's "It Shouldn't Happen To A Dream" may be the gold standard version of this classic song. 

While The Land of Hi-Fi isn't a greatest hits album, it certainly plays like one. The musicianship is top notch, but there is no vamping or improvising. The arrangements are tight and filler free, shining a well-deserved spotlight on Vaughan's vocal prowess. The songs present Vaughan in a confident light, easily conveying happiness, sorry, love and confusion with the greatest of ease.

There are numerous Sarah Vaughan compilations available, but In The Land of Hi-Fi is proof that jazz artists turned the album into an art from a solid decade before rock bands from England began selling American r&b back to the United States. This music is timeless and habit-forming.

If all you know about jazz is Miles Davis, give Sarah Vaughan a try.

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