Cd Check

May 03, 2007|By Hartford (Conn.) Courant

The Nightwatchman

One Man Revolution

[Epic] A

Rage Against the Machine lived up to its name, decrying various isms - corporatism, cultural imperialism, capitalism - with virulent left-wing polemics in the form of crushing heavy metal songs.

Guitarist Tom Morello engineered much of that noise, displaying stupefying virtuosity with thunderous riffs and skin-peeling solos. It was powerful stuff, but the once and future Rager (the band has reunited to play live dates this summer) has discovered an even more potent way to communicate: turning down the volume.

Calling himself the Nightwatchman, Morello pours his revolution-minded worldview into bracing acoustic protest songs on what amounts to his solo debut. The Harvard-educated guitarist sings for the first time, spitting out strident, well-considered lyrics in a gritty baritone. He anoints himself on the title track, excoriates Bush-era foreign policy on "House Gone Up in Flames" and sounds almost Springsteenian in the quiet, melodic way he drawls out "No One Left" and punctuates it with harmonica.

Morello's guitar playing here is mostly simple acoustic strumming, which will come as a shock to listeners steeped in his volcanic leads with Rage or Audioslave. This is agitprop the old-fashioned way, though, and an acoustic guitar and the truth were the only machines Woody Guthrie needed to vent his rage.Chuck Brown

We're About the Business

[Raw Venture] A

Guitarist, vocalist and bandleader Chuck Brown is the godfather of go-go. His 1978 single "Bustin' Loose" is one of the few times the music's heavily percussive beats left the clubs of Washington for the national airwaves. That makes Brown's new album, after the better part of a decade of studio inactivity, most welcome; that he has largely returned to go-go, instead of the straight jazz and R&B he's also recorded on occasion, is even better.

Go-go has changed a bit since Brown and his Soul Searchers were in their mid-'80s heyday, of course, and it's possible to wish We're About the Business included more of the live, horn-happy sound of classic go-go, and a little less of the hip-hop influence that now dominates music. Brown also indulges his longtime tradition of mixing some standards, like "Everyday I Have the Blues," among the go-go, which shows off his guitar and vocal prowess, but slows the groove.

All is forgiven when "Party Roll" and "Funky Get Down" cue up, and that familiar, rolling swing and call-and-response vocals bring Brown back to what he does best: starting a party.

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