VARIOUS ARTISTS, Take Me Home— A Tribute to John Denver (Badman) What's this? A tribute album that required thought and effort? Hard to believe, but

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John Denver tribute, Third Eye Foundation

VARIOUS ARTISTS, Take Me Home— A Tribute to John Denver (Badman) What's this? A tribute album that required thought and effort? Hard to believe, but it's true. Bay Area gloom merchant Mark Kozelek concocted this serious-minded tip-o'-the-hat to dearly departed Country Boy John Denver, and the Red House Painters' main man has enlisted like-minded artists who help lift this above the usually pallid tribute format. The mood ranges from soft and reflective to carefree and folky, while the song choices avoid the obvious, mostly. This makes Take Me Home a shaky commercial proposition—there's no Blink 182 -like monstrosity butchering "Sunshine on My Shoulders"—but a rewarding artistic one. As for the well-known material, an obscure San Francisco band, Sunshine Club, handles "Annie's Song," treating the somber classic respectfully, while Tarnation turns "Leaving on a Jet Plane" into a minimalist meditation that's similar to what Yo La Tengo would have done with it. Like many tracks here, the task of interpreting Denver's quaver falls on women, which makes sense; the mop-topped singer always struck more of a chord with the fairer sex. The Innocence Mission's "Follow Me" proves that this gender switch does a tremendous service to the material, and the others ain't bad. That dog's Rachel Haden sings "Poems, Prayers, and Promises"; Mojave 3's Rachel Goswell duets with Kozelek on the magnificent "Around and Around"; and Mimi Parker sings lead on Low's typically methodical "Back Home Again." As with everything Kozelek has done, this compilation favors rainy-day listening, but he deserves a round of applause. Instead of treating Denver with predictable irony, he and his cohorts embrace the music and let Denver's sunny disposition shine even in death.—Richard A. Martin

THIRD EYE FOUNDATION, Little Lost Soul (Merge) Calling this "intelligent dance music" only hints at the lushly eclectic stew simmering in Little Lost Soul. Based on sped-up and sputtering dub-inflected rhythms, drum-and-bass can easily become mindless mush, but Third Eye Foundation's Matt Elliot uses the genre's bristling rhythms to accentuate his marvelous textures. The gauzy synthesizers coupled with the grainy vocals on "I've Lost That Lovin' Feline" recall 1980s-era David Sylvian, but without the lyrics, as most of the vocals are wordless and either sped up or slowed down. The album is rife with aural treats, but particularly ravishing are the vinyl fuzz at the beginning of "Goddamned You've Got To Be Kind" and its rubbery, flutelike calliope coda. Also, the buzzing baseball-card-in-a-bicycle-spoke percussion at the end of "What Is It With You?" is a delight. Although the Bristol fixture doesn't follow standard song structures, Little Lost Soul is not difficult listening. True, instruments can make a brief appearance then vanish, and warped, wordless voices can enter unexpectedly. But the music is seamless even while it slithers in an entirely different direction.—Christopher DeLaurenti

MICHAEL DOG, Summer Night Sessions (Planet Dog) This album would win points simply for being a collection of quasi-psychedelic downtempo grooves and ethereal jungle that isn't appallingly stupid. For sure there's dross: But Summer Night Sessions' status as a mere sampler for artists whose full-length "statements" are doubtlessly more "artistic" affords it the rare luxury of being low on filler. And nearly every misstep is mitigated elsewhere, sometimes within the track, as with Metamorph VI's "Wormhold" (dumb beer-commercial sax used sparingly, overshadowed by deep grooves surrounding it), other times circumstantially. After all, even if the "jazzy," "soulful" vocals of ZKT's "Forever Changes" make you nauseated, at least it's the disc's shortest track—at five and a half minutes, but still. Mostly, though, we get beats that aren't afraid to get next to you, textures you can reach out and touch, and fun little oscillating noises that can happily be mistaken for melodies. Even the coagulated synth-strings and come-with-me-into-my-garden-of-earthly-delights femme vox play along real friendly, and you barely notice that the 10-minute ones are really that long. Shere Khan & Flytronix's gently weeping drum-and-bass even gets up and rolls. Plus: all the Banco De Gaia you will ever need.—Michaelangelo Matos

 
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