Album Reviews: Unrequited Love, a Japanese bed romp, and one Cali Agent

and Michael John Hancock

The Forever Changes Concert

Recorded live at the Royal Festival Hall on January 15, here is Arthur Lee’s triumphant return to one of the cities that appreciated his music the most. Backed by a new and younger version of Love, the first disc has the group performing what is considered to be one of the finest pieces of vinyl released during the ’60s, Forever Changes. It established Love as one of the most important bands in a younger experimental rock crowd. In fact, there’s a sinking realization that resonates when listening when listening to this fiery concert recording of the inspired original: many renowned and occasionally less talented artists stole a good deal of Lee’s thunder.

The hoity-toity sound of California psychedelia is overshadowed by the raucous energy Lee and his band bring to the stage, and his voice on “Alone Again Or,” originally sung by guitarist Bryan Maclean, gives it a new life that not even Wes Anderson could have wished for. The second disc has four extras from the concert including a version of “Seven And Seven Is” that is the kinetic highlight in this collection, with its precocious punk-meets-hippie call and response.

Unfortunately, a few songs that were performed are not included here, one of which had ex-Blur virtuoso Graham Coxon on guitar. And with the second disc clocking in at a mere sixteen minutes, it’s a shame that producer Gene Kraut did not include the whole show, as is, in the actual order performed live.

Editing aside, there’s no denying that the album holds up incredibly well next to the mass respect Arthur Lee is currently receiving. In between songs, a woman is heard yelling, “Arthur, you don’t know how long we’ve waited!” to which the ex-convict Lee replies, “But you know how long I’ve waited.” Right on.
– MJ

Escape from Alcatraz

Amidst the fraudulent operations of the music biz, rappers struggle to overcome the shadiness perpetrated by their record execs. After severing ties with his former indie-house, Copasetik, Bay Area MC and Cali Agent member Rasco uses his third solo effort, Escape From Alcatraz, to vehemently state his autonomy. He spits his most vicious threat to his former owners on “Get Free:” “I’m through with the jokes…Take two to your throat/Then take two to your coat/A young Saddam/Laced up, heavily armed.”

Gruff-voiced and still equipped with his battleaxe rhymes, Rasco has matured and touches on more philosophical matters on this album-from his strivings to survive on “My Life” to his commitment to being a good father on “All I Wanna Be.” While he still keeps it gully with party anthems like the Far East-themed “Making U Move,” skillfully produced by Virginia Beach newcomer Kleph Dollaz, Rasco is determined to establish his independence throughout the record. Atop an old-school rhythm by NY legends Da Beatminerz on “Real Hot,” he spits, “Somebody must have sprayed the game with black plague/I try to stay immune and rock to this tune,” and he encourages young black men to hold a strong backbone on Kleph’s ’70s soul-infused “U Got the Time.”

Guest cameos also help the MC to weaken his foe’s iron grip: on “The Sweet Science,” Chali2na of Jurassic 5 offers an unassailable flow upon a threatening, bass-heavy beat and Planet Asia and Rasco showcase their innate synchronicity on “Endless,” a track imbued with a majestic violin melody, reminiscent of their former Cali Agents collaborations. But even if Rasco is a ferocious MC who probably never lost a battle around his way, several beats here are redundantly looped and some tracks give off only a lackluster retrospection. He may have escaped the dubious Alcatraz dominion, but, truth be told, he hasn’t left any remarkable trace when he got out.
– OS


I’m starting to appreciate pop music as an art form more these days than I thought possible. From the slick flavor of older jams like Lionel Richie’s “All Night Long,” to the down in the dirt stomp of Chingy’s trendy “Right Thurr,” it’s all very inspiring really. Not all pop music is fare for the music lover though.

Much like the embarrassing hip pop Puffy, this female duo from Japan offers nothing to be inspired by other than goofy album artwork. If this is a tongue-in-cheek take on pop, they got it all wrong, and if these girls are actually serious about what they’ve just released to the world, than that is…just really sad and lame. “Tokyo Nights” is literally “Video Killed The Radio Star” cut-up so as to not have to pay royalties and every other song is comparable to the Matrix producing karaoke-backed tracks of Avril Lavigne hits for Japanese dinner parties.

Both Ami and Yumi are very attractive women, which is rather important in making pop music, and they appear in bed together on the album sleeve which sells records, so they deserve kudos for their business-savvy I suppose.

The point is, record labels, independent one’s not omitted, release hundreds and hundreds of albums every quarter, and you really only hear of 50 or so. The rest end up in the bargain bins for pocket change.
Puffy AmiYumi’s NICE. is on its way to Specs, which is nice.
– MJ

Omar Sommereyns and Michael John Hancock can be reached at and respectively.