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Ray Charles – Ray: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

His name was Ray Charles and his legacy is that he influenced countless entertainers and will do so for generations to come.

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It was a long arduous day of extraordinary stress, including spending three hours on the freeway in traffic that would render a sardine claustrophobic. When I finally got home, all I wanted was to kick the dog, eat cold pizza and watch reruns of “The Iron Chef”. However, on my porch lay a pristine Fed-Ex package with the words that put a smile on my miserable puss, “Ray Soundtrack”.

Universal Pictures has released a biopic about the life and times of an American musical titan. His name was Ray Charles and his legacy is that he influenced countless entertainers and will do so for generations to come. After watching the trailer at the official website, it appears the storyline takes young Ray from the depths of poverty where he loses his vision at age seven; to the heights of musical achievement built upon a nearly supernatural gift of mental visualization. His abundant musical gifts were fueled this ability to envision and employ his highly evolved sense of hearing, as well understanding “mathematics and its correlation to music”.

In a brilliant soundtrack featuring a collection of the artist’s most famous songs, the listener is offered a glimpse of the musician’s development over a quarter century. “Mess Around” demonstrates a juke joint rhythm and blues approach that Ray developed playing local nightclubs across America; one that was later imitated by the likes of Stevie Wonder, Doctor John and Leon Russell. This sound culminates with “Night Time is the Right Time,” which is perfect snapshot of early sixties soul with screaming honk sax, relentlessly steady groove and edgy backing vocals.

The jazzier sound of Mr. Charles is displayed on a sizzling live version of “What I Say,” not only showcasing his trademark acoustic piano playing but also featuring a funky electric keyboard that sounds like it could have touched by the hands Ramsey Lewis or Joe Zawinul. The jazz approach is also exemplified on one of the finest pop rumbas ever recorded with “Unchain My Heart.” This song defines the coolest work performed by this genius, with superlative delineation of musical textures, prominently mixed female vocals and strategically peppered horn parts. The track separation on this song is simple, masterful and free from the pretension of overblown production.

Early on in his career, Ray apparently did a mean imitation of the great Nat King Cole. This influence is crystal clear upon listening to “Born to Lose,” a song that features a pop melody and lush string arrangement right out of the NKC playbook. This highly produced sixties methodology further evolves with “I Can’t Stop Loving You”, which though highly polished, remains abundantly soulful. By the time he recorded this one, Ray had a style that respectfully incorporated Cole while confidently displaying his own greatness.

Of course, no collection of Ray Charles would be complete without “Hit the Road Jack,” a song conjuring up the image of a woman scorned; one who kicks her man in the pants on the way out the door and then throws all his worldly possessions out the 2nd story window. I have a vivid recollection of me and my best friend pretending to be Brother Ray’s backup vocalists, singing this classic shuffle on the way home from grammar school. Now that’s what I call an influence on popular culture.

This retrospective soundtrack would also be incomplete without the artist’s signature song, “Georgia On My Mind.” While never my favorite, the folks who produced this record thought to include to the original studio version recorded in 1960 as well as an interesting if not slightly gospel version of this tune recorded live in Japan during a 1976 performance.

Today is Saturday and in my infinite laziness, I am paying someone to clean my home. During this time of brief urban exodus, I will spend my precious time attending the cinema. What will be my film of choice? The one I lay down the exorbitant sum of eight dollars to see? Why the answer of course is Team America. However, if this movie about politically incorrect marionettes fighting global terrorism turns out to be (pardon the pun) a bomb, then I might just sneak into another theatre to watch a movie about boy who climbed out of the wreckage of his own personal darkness to fashion the kind of artistic illumination that will forever be imprinted upon our collective consciousness.

(Rhino Records)

Music

A Night with Northlane

Josh Hockey went to go see Northlane in Melbourne and took photographer Albert LaMontagne with him to capture the night.

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Northlane

Settling in to 170 Russell would have been nice, but as we stepped in at the allocated 6:30 door time we were greeted with the start of Void Of Vision’s set. Sprinting down the stairs and into the room, it was clear that moving the door time forward half an hour had definitely affected the crowd.

A decent audience had streamed in, but nowhere big enough considering the year Void Of Vision has had. Releasing their magnum opus album, Hyperdaze, they have been on an absolute tear, and it was clear during this set that they were going to keep going hard.

Opening up by bringing the heavy early, Void had the room shaking from the world go. An impressive light show and an almighty wall of sound filled the room with layers upon layers of adrenaline. Vocalist Jack Bergin led this assault, bringing as much energy as he possibly could, whilst utilising his seemingly endless amounts of stage presence.

New songs like “Babylon” and “Hole In Me” showcased their new sound, while “Kill All Your Friends” got the pit going like it always does. They finished strong with “Ghost In The Machine” and left their stamp on 170 Russell.

International act Silent Planet were up next. A pretty much completely new band to me, I was immediately impressed by the connection they appeared to have with their audience. From the word go, the pit was open, and everyone in the front few row was singing along with all the passion in the world.

Spoken word vocals mixed with harsh screams ensured that vocalist Garrett kept the audience on their toes. The instrumentals kept up this pace as well, with their hard hitting dark tones unrelentingly assaulting the ears of all listeners (in a good way).

Silent Planet sounded incredibly large all the way through, and definitely would have made themselves some new fans on the night. Their music appeared to be full of themes of mental illness, and political issues, which is absolutely super important in today’s societal climate.

Counterparts were up next. Definitely a well known band, the heavy Canadians immediately made clear the tone of the set announcing themselves with a call of, “Counterparts Schoolies Week Motherfucker.” They launched into their first song and it was immediately clear why they are as acclaimed as they are. Ridiculously tight and sounding stupidly massive, they had fans moving from the second they started playing.

The shit talking between sets would have been the highlight, but the songs themselves made it hard to top. Playing the old classics as well as the new heavy-hitters, there was as much two stepping as there was singing along. Also this was perhaps the first time in history I heard a pitcall of “schoolies 2019 motherfucker open it up,” which was an experience that I’m glad I had.

Dedicating a song to Australia’s very own Trophy Eyes, their massive sound continued unrelentingly. Coming towards the end, the set closed with a wave of crowdsurfers all diving and climbing towards the microphone, trying to get ahold of vocalist Brendan so they could scream his words right back at him. This set was great, and I’m quite sad I personally am not a Counterparts super fan so I couldn’t join in the fun. Next time boys. Next time.

Finally it was time for the big dogs, Northlane. The lights went down and hands went up, ready to go and awaiting the bands arrival impatiently, the audiences cravings would soon be met. Northlane charged onto stage and belted into “Talking Heads.” The movement was huge from the start, and the audience was off their feet and jumping non-stop all the way through.

“Details Matter” was a definite highlight of the set, with the ridiculously massive sound of one of the better songs of 2019 running rampant through 170 Russell. Headbangers were aplenty and moshers were in surplus. This continued even into one of their softer songs, “Rot.” The first song released by the band with vocalist Marcus Bridge, “Rot” went down an absolute treat as always.

Northlane are a ludicrously tight live band, and this became ever more clear as they smashed through “Citizen, “Obelisk”, and “4D.” New party song “Eclipse” had the room shaking as everyone refused to stop bouncing. The set began to come to a close as massive Alien single “Bloodline” was the definite highlight of the show. It has been one of my favourite songs of the year, and this rendition locked that in even more. Cannons and lights were ablaze and firing everywhere, and made this even more of a spectacle.

Leaving stage momentarily, Northlane returned as Marcus came back wearing a big sparkly coat. “Sleepless”, the closing track of the album was incredibly effective and touching live. And was a nice sombre end to the show, right before they launched into the timeless heavy classic, “Quantum Flux.” And goddamn was it massive.

Northlane are one of the best bands out there, and this show only locked that in.

Check out the images from the Northlane show:

All photos by Albert LaMontagne. Copyright 2019 Albert LaMontagne / Sound the Sirens Magazine. Please do not use or distribute these images without the permission of Albert LaMontagne. If you use these images without permission, you are a terrible person.

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Reviews

Crossed Keys – Saviors

Saviors shows the work of well-seasoned musicians finding new energy in old sounds

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Crossed Keys Saviors

Philadelphia’s Crossed Keys are an interesting intersection between melodic hardcore and punk, taking an earnest approach to the sound that made its way from the underground in the late 90s and early 2000s. This relatively new outfit is the result of Kid Dynamite and Samiam in a blender- in the best way possible. The Kid Dynamite influence may be a given since Crossed Eyes features KD’s drummer Dave Wagenschutz, but the band’s pedigree also includes members of bands like Zolof the Rock & Roll Destroyer and The Curse, all backing the melancholic vocal work of frontman Joshua Alvarez (Halo of Snakes). So while Crossed Keys are somewhat new, its members have been cutting their teeth within their respective circles for years, and their new EP Saviors shows the work of well-seasoned musicians finding new energy in old sounds.

Saviors is backboned by the furious urgency and energy that Kid Dynamite showed through their history, but while Jason Shevchuk’s vocals were beautifully abrasive, Alvarez takes a more restrained, wistful approach to singing. Songs like the opening “Times of Grace” are musically up-tempo percussions and razor-sharp guitars, but are buoyed by Alvarez’s more melodic vocals. His vocals rest at a good place between Samiam’s Jason Beebout and that NYHC tone exhibited by bands like Token Entry and Grey Area. In songs like “R.J.A” and the closing title track, Crossed Keys find more success with their brand of blistering speed meets harmony- slowing down only for the kind of melancholic punk that made Samiam a noted name. While much of Saviors is built on pace, it wasn’t always this way for the band. In fact, their 2017 EP, I’m Just Happy That You’re Here, leans closer to Samiam than it does to Kid Dynamite (the song “Jeff Pelly vs. The Empire” is particularly fantastic), so there’s been an uptick of urgency with Saviors.

For fans of any of the aforementioned bands here, there is plenty to like with Crossed Keys and plenty to like in Saviors. It’s succinct, to the point, but filled with ample reflection and exploration that gives the EP depth and resonance. Any band that has found influence from Kid Dynamite is most certainly OK by us (this site is named after a KD song after all), but Crossed Keys does more than just tip their cap. This one’s a really good one, and worth your time.

(Hellminded Records)

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