From stage to streets

Old favorites, new albums

By Alan Sculley and L. Kent Wolgamott

Photo: The Goddamn Gallows will perform Sept. 24 at Blind Bob’s; photo: Michael Sinapi

Wilco // Star Wars // dBpm


Wilco has gotten into the surprise album release game, dropping, without previous announcement, the 11-song, 34-minute Star Wars. Opening with the 78-second Sonic Youth-like guitar scrawl of “EKG,” Star Wars is raw and rough, eschewing the band’s usual production and perfection for a dense, guitar-thick sound that finds Jeff Tweedy’s ragged voice sneaking up through the mix—often sounding like John Lennon on songs like “The Joke Explained.” “You Satellite” drones and drives with more guitars—not quite Sonic Youth, but heading in that direction—and it’s the longest song on the record at just over five minutes. Then, it’s a switch back to the alt-country, pop of “Taste The Ceiling,” along with the first two-thirds of the ballad “Where Do I Begin,” the most traditionally Wilco-like numbers on Star Wars. Filled with lines like “I kind of like it when I make you cry” from the biting “Random Name Generator” and “why do our disasters creep so slowly into view” from “Taste The Ceiling” and references to relationship power plays in the shifting “Cold Slope,” the words on Star Wars are as engaging as the music, revealing ever more on repeat listens. Star Wars wraps up with the orchestral pop of “Magnetized,” a gorgeous, stately song that’s not like anything else on the album and captivates with its variety and vigor. Star Wars, Wilco’s best album since 2002’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, is available as a free download for a limited time at Get it while you can.

File next to: Sonic Youth, Sparklehorse

Rating: 4 of 5

—L. Kent Wolgamott


Dr. Dre // Compton // (Aftermath/Interscope)


Dr. Dre’s first album in 16 years opens with a string-drenched intro, then an announcer detailing the history of Compton, the L.A. neighborhood from which Andre Young and other members of N.W.A. emerged in the mid ’80s to forever change hip-hop. That’s a fitting way to begin Compton, the album inspired by “Straight Outta Compton,” the movie that tells N.W.A.’s story. There’s some autobiography on Compton, and there’s also plenty of violence across the record, along with references to Snoop’s “Gin and Juice,” Shaq and Tiger Woods in a dense lyrical mix delivered by Dre with urgent power. The sound of Compton isn’t N.W.A. nor is it Dre’s ’90 G funk. Instead the sinewy, relentless production of beats and samples is darker and diverse, spinning around jazz trumpet and heavy metal guitars, snare drums and strings. As always, Dre often steps aside for others, introducing new protégés R&B singer Anderson Paak and rapper King Mez, adding the likes of Jill Scott on the soul-tinged “For The Love of Money,” turning Xzibit loose on the chaotic, chilling “Loose Cannon” and bringing back Snoop Dogg, who turns up twice on the album, including a great flow on “Satisfiction,” and Ice Cube who’s on the hard-edged “Issues.” The show-stealers, however are Eminem, who delivers a blistering, and controversial rap on “Medicine Man” and Kendrick Lamar, who turns up on three tracks, including “Darkside/Gone,” one of the album’s highlights. Dre, who just turned 50, says Compton will be his last album. If that’s the case, he’s leaving with another sure-to-endure shattershot masterwork.

File next to: Ice Cube, Eminem

Rating: 4 of 5

—L. Kent Wolgamott


Barrence Whitfield and the Savages // Under the Savage Sky // Bloodshot


Those familiar with Whitfield and the Savages always expect a raucous set of R&B-fueled garage rock each time the group releases an album. Under the Savage Sky more than delivers on that score. “The Wolf Pack” could stand next to any great ’60s frat party classic with its sassy sax-packed strut. “I’m A Good Man,” “The Claw” and “Rock ‘N’ Roll Baby” are as rowdy as rock gets with driving beats and rhythm guitar lines fueling the songs, while some honking sax work puts the icing on the cake. But what has always made Whitfield and the Savages something more than a party band is songcraft. Beyond the energy and all-out party vibe, songs like “Katy Didn’t,” “Willow” and “Incarceration Casserole” hit you with big hooks—in the riffs, the vocals and in the case of “Incarceration Casserole” and “Katy Didn’t,” in the sharp guitar solos that punctuate those tracks. The only real misstep here is “Angry Hands,” which so closely mimics the guitar riffs of Alice Cooper’s “I’m Eighteen” that Alice may qualify for royalties from the song. Otherwise, Barrence and the Savages show once again why they are America’s premier down and dirty party band.

File next to: James Brown, The BusBoys

Rating: 4 of 5

—Alan Sculley


Sly and the Family Stone // Live at the Fillmore East October 4th & 5th 1968 // Columbia/Legacy


Sly and the Family Stone were still a year away from Stand, the album where the group’s trailblazing blend of rock, funk and soul fully jelled, and with the hit “Everyday People,” became full-fledged stars. But this two-disc set, which chronicles four shows at the legendary San Francisco venue, is a clear signal of what was soon to come. A year later, Sly and the Family Stone would play an electrifying set at Woodstock, and the Fillmore concerts show the band was starting to nail its grooving sound. Meanwhile, the medleys of “Turn Me Loose”/”I Can’t Turn You Loose,” “M’Lady”/“Don’t Burn Baby” and “Dance To The Music”/ “Music Lover” point the way to the epic medley of “Dance To The Music/Music Lover/I Want To Take You Higher” that anchored the Woodstock set and many other 1969 shows. With many songs repeated in the four Fillmore shows, it might seem like this set would be overkill. And yes, there are repetitive moments. But Sylvester Stewart and company jam out on certain songs, resulting in considerably different versions of “Are You Ready,” “Won’t Be Long,” “Color Me True” and “Music Lover.” This set also boasts many songs that would soon fall out of rotation in the band’s live sets, including “Are You Ready,” “Color Me True,” “Life,” “Chicken” and “Love City.” All of this makes for a great document of Sly and the Family Stone just before its peak and a live set any serious fan of the group needs to own.

File next to: Prince, D’Angelo

Rating: 4 of 5

—Alan Sculley


Reach DCP freelance writer Alan Sculley at

Reach DCP freelance writer L. Kent Wolgamott at

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