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GARTH HUDSON
see also: The Band

The Sea to the North
Rating: 5
   The other night I had a dream about Mark Prindle. He lived in the basement of an abandoned beer garden carved from the side of a mountain in Pennsylvania, spoke in a Boston accent, and his father-in-law tried to swindle me with bogus plane tickets. Just goes to show you canít trust the relatives of complete strangers who appear in your dreams.
   Garth Hudsonís first solo CD is a lot like the soundtrack to a dream. Odd sounds keep cropping up, disjointed images appear in the lyrics, and in the cold light of day, nothing really makes sense. Hudson has had a long career as the best accompanist in the history of rock, with his skills on a number of keyboard and wind instruments lending an incredible backdrop to the work of the Band and lots of sessions. For one example, consider the mysterious organ playing behind ďI Shall Be ReleasedĒ — itís ethereal, orchestral and harmonic all at once. His fans, then, eagerly awaited his first solo CD, to see what kind of magic he could conjure as a composer.
   Iím sorry to report, not much. All his familiar trademarks are present, and the sound of this CD is quite impressive. There are dense textures, rippling licks, and lush backdrops. But itís all accompaniment and not much tune.
   Hudsonís genius comes in small bursts, not lengthy pieces. So you get a nice riff that doesnít lead anywhere, snatches of raunchy sax, even a couple neat cameos from his wife, Maud, whose voice is a cross between Macy Gray and Mrs. Krabappel. As mood music, itís fine for a dark and stormy night. But when you try to find a strong theme to hum along with, theyíre mostly absent.
   I admire Hudson for creating such a vibrant production, and lots of his fans are raving about this disk, but I just canít sink my teeth into it. Back to the beer garden, I guess.

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