by Alan Sculley and Mike Corrigan
The obvious current story line on Jonny Lang, the guitarist who exploded onto the scene in 1996 at age 15 with the bluesy Lie To Me, is that he hadn't put out an album in five years until his third outing, Long Time Coming, finally arrived in stores in October.
What hasn't been so widely documented is that Lang (who plays in Spokane at the Opera House this Monday night) nearly released a third CD about three years ago.
Lang says he actually had recorded about 30 songs with David Z, who had also produced his 1998 sophomore effort, Wander This World. Then Interscope bought Lang's label, A & amp;M Records -- and second thoughts from both Lang and the new regime at Interscope/A & amp;M put his third record on a different path.
"I felt satisfied with the album, but something just wasn't right to me," Lang says of the David Z-produced tracks, which he said sounded similar to those on his first two albums. "I felt like this was going to be a really important record for me. It was kind of a crossroads. Do I really do what I really want to do? Or do I just settle stylistically, settle with this?"
Interscope had some doubts as well and suggested that Lang get together with Marti Frederiksen -- who has become one of rock's most in-demand songwriter/producers because of his collaborations with Aerosmith and Ozzy Osbourne -- to write some additional songs.
"They were like, 'This stuff is fine. We don't really have anything that we can take to radio, so why don't you work with Marti and get a couple of songs?'"
This in itself was a major step, considering that Lang had written only a handful of songs on his first two CDs.
Now, some three years later, Lang's promotional team at Interscope/A & amp;M has 14 new songs they can consider for singles, the result of a songwriting collaboration with Frederiksen that blossomed into a full-blown recording project. In the end, Lang and Frederiksen co-wrote 12 of the songs on Long Time Coming, while Frederiksen also produced the CD and played bass and drums on most of the songs.
Thus, Long Time Coming promises to reshape Lang's image as the next great hope for blues-rock, a guitarist who many have predicted would fill the void left by the death in 1990 of Stevie Ray Vaughan.
The tracks on Long Time Coming blend rock, soul and funk, as evidenced by the slamming "Get What You Give," "The One I Got" (a breezy tune with a bit of a Stevie Wonder feel) and "Touch" (a song that tries to incorporate modern R & amp;B and hip-hop into Lang's sound, but which seems forced and somewhat awkward).
A poppier side to Lang's music also emerges on the lead single, "Red Light" (one of only two songs on the CD not co-written by Lang and Frederiksen), and on "Beautiful One" and "Goodbye Letter" (two dramatic ballads that seem tailor-written for radio play).
"Just like everybody, you have your own original style in you," says Lang, noting that he had grown up listening to Motown and soul and didn't discover blues until his early teens when he started playing guitar. "It was just what was in my heart to do."
Velella2? -- Velella Velella is the name of a band -- a duo, really -- consisting of former Rand-Univac members Andrew Means and Michael Burton. On flyers, in e-mails and elsewhere, they typically abbreviate the name of their group like this: V. Velella (though I suppose they could also abbreviate it this way: Velella2). While the name of this experimental instrumental hip-hop/jazz unit is condensed on the page, the sound these guys create will not be so easily hemmed in. It is, in fact, a sound unbound and expansive. See if you can catch it this Friday night at the B-Side as V. Velella takes the stage along with like-minded local acts Mu-Meson and Chinese Sky Candy.
When Rand-Univac hit the skids last May, Means began writing and recording songs on his computer utilizing the rather sizeable array of instruments he acquired while Rand-Univac was together, including vibes, electric piano, bass, guitar, a myriad of synthesizers and organs. Using programmed drums and recording one track at a time, Means constructed beat-driven instrumental songs that drew heavily from jazz and hip-hop. Eventually, Burton began contributing to the songs and in no time at all became the second full-time member.
The uninitiated are frequently a little confused by the group's far-from-standard sound and performance style. The first time I caught a V. Velella show, I spent a few moments early on in a state of mild bewilderment over whether the band had actually started its set or was merely warming up. Soon enough, however, the questions I had were rendered irrelevant as my ears were caressed by waves of electronically begotten sonic washes and beat-propelled deep space melodies.
"The biggest misconception we deal with is people thinking that because we're instrumental, we're somehow background music," says Means. "We did this one show where we were performing in between bands while they were setting up. We would start playing and everyone would leave. It wasn't really our crowd, so it wasn't so bad. But then, one of the bands started sound-checking while we were playing. We were like, 'Wow. That's it.'"
But V. Velella is a visual feast as well, a kinetic mix of technical noodling and more direct instrumental intercourse. Guitar notes are plucked and vibes are struck as potentiometers are manipulated and switches are thrown. And as the mountain of machines hum, buzz and whir, the two flesh and blood components of the group coax new forms of human connection from the emptiness. Order out of chaos.
Supper Club Sounds -- If you haven't yet scoped out the third floor of the CenterStage complex at 1017 W. First Ave., you've not only been depriving yourself of some of the best cuisine in town (courtesy of executive chef Kile Tansy), but of some of the best in live local jazz.
It's that unique combination of refined edibles and sophisticated sounds that makes dining at the UpStage Supper Club on the weekends such a blast. Every Thursday, Friday and Saturday night, this place swings to small jazz groups while the fine food and drinks flow. This weekend, enjoy the vocal and performance stylings of Nancy Sophia Emerson as she leads a trio of fellow local jazz notables -- Danny McCollim, Daniel Cox and Doug Folkins -- through her Latin-influenced repertoire.
The full dinner menu is up for grabs from 5 pm to midnight, there's no cover and the club is smoke-free. Sounds like a night on the town is in the works, doesn't it?
Local Music Issue Time! -- Calling all bands, duos, solos and musical performers of every stripe. Our annual Local Music issue is in the planning stages. Time to let me know who you are and what exactly you are doing out there.
Do you perform live music in the Inland Northwest? If so, I'd very much like to know about it. To those of you who have participated and have been included in the listings in past Local Music issues -- you know the drill. To those we have missed or overlooked or listed erroneously, now is your chance to correct the situation. Flood me with your bios, contact numbers, pix, CDs - anything -- because I want to list you. I want to include your dossier along with those from every other band and performer in the area (or as many as I can gather) so that our readership can pick up the issue and say to themselves, "Wow, I had no idea we had so much cool music in Spokane. I'm gonna have to go check that out."
We're putting this thing together in the next few weeks, so don't wait. Send the crap to me today. Like now. ASAP. Direct it to [email protected]
or to my earthly address: Mike Corrigan, The Inlander, 1020 W. Riverside Ave., 99201. Thanks.
Publication date: 1/015/04