Album reviews: Crooked Ghost and Marva Whitney
New Album: Skeleton House
Artist: Crooked Ghost
Label: Crooked Ghost Records
Hailing from the beautiful chunk of Earth that is Asheville, NC, Crooked Ghost are a post-punk/dream pop outfit that weaves many musical styles into a unique hybrid on their new album Skeleton House.
Although the album title and accompanying artwork may lead you to believe otherwise, the songs on this collection are eerily upbeat at times. Ray Clark's vocals call to mind the early years of Bryan Ferry or David Sylvian, and his ability to spin melancholy into an inert emotion - falling somewhere between sadness and beauty - is no small trick.
If you want to find out what this band is all about in a hurry, visit their Bandcamp page and play "Sleepwalker." The guitars of Charles Reed and Clark clang together beautifully, and when Alex Cannon's lush keyboards kick in on a soaring chorus, it's frisson-time of the Badalamenti variety.
Another intriguing track is the summer-love elegy "Catch Fire", with bassist Chris Saldin and drummer Jon Wyatt propelling the proceedings with Sonic Youth flair. "Witch Heart" also summons the Sonic Youth garage-orchestra clatter, and "Black Cat" is the creepy type of ballad you hope to hear in a David Lynch movie...if he ever makes another good one, anyway.
Crooked Ghost has created a great mood piece in Skeleton House. Hopefully this great record will find the audience it deserves.
Classic album: It's My Thing
Artist: Marva Whitney
Label: Soul Brother
Marva Whitney was a singer in James Brown’s band in the late 1960s. In 1969, she released “It’s My Thing,” which was produced by Brown and featured his band.
Between producing, writing credits and singing on the album’s bonus track, “Sunny,” this could almost be regarded as a lost/rare James Brown album, but Whitney is too strong a talent for that to be the case. Her bold vocals on the title track alone prove she was an artist with charisma to burn.
Heaven knows how Brown found his musicians, but every one of them, including Whitney, seem almost untouchable in their field of endeavor. Whitney tackles the blistering funk of “Unwind Yourself” with the same fervor as Brown himself. She also carried the ballad “If You Love Me” as well as Aretha Franklin, and her duet with Brown on “Sunny” shows she was no stranger to jazz either.
Besides being a lost soul classic, “It’s My Thing” has been massively influential on modern music as well. The song has been sampled by Public Enemy, N.W.A, Ice Cube and Wu-Tang Clan, to name a few.
It’s criminal that Whitney never became a superstar, but “It’s My Thing” is proof positive that she had the pipes and the chutzpah to hang with the best of them.