Sonic Reducer: Social Distortion, Ray Davies, Andy Farber and His Orchestra
 Alibi V.20 No.11 • March 17-23, 2011 

Sonic Reducer

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Here Mike Ness demonstrates the art of presenting a reflective, resigned sadness tempered with a knowing, "I lived to tell it all" tough-guy schtick that reminds me of “Dog” the bounty hunter backed by a second-rate Black Crowes. By some accounts, if you've heard any of Social Distortion’s post-addiction albums, you've heard this one—although Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes isn't as catchy as previous releases. Overproduced Gibsons with overdrive pedals; AA anthems with simple, rhyming lyrics. The press release drops Springsteen's name twice. Twice. (GP)

(Decca Records)

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This record is awesome. Davies, best known as frontman for The Kinks, took 14 of his band’s old tracks and revamped them with a menagerie of amazing musicians. The album starts with “Better Things,” a perfectly balanced duet between Davies and Bruce Springsteen. Following tracks feature Bon Jovi, Lucinda Williams, Black Francis and other heavy hitters. Familiar Kinks classics are cleverly refreshed: “You Really Got Me,” displays the heavy metal drumming and growling of Metallica. The finale, with Billy Corgan, is an epic mashup of “Destroyer” and “All Day and All of the Night.” (SO)

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Saxophonist/composer Andy Farber paints arrangements for his ultra-tight big band using brash, bold brushstrokes and vivid colors, yet the level of detail in the section writing is extremely subtle. Somehow these guys pull it all off. Entire sections shape their lines with a breathtakingly precise command of nuance that you’d expect to find only in a solo performance. Suave, swanky and swinging like an em-ef, this band can do gritty or lyrical as needed, and Farber smoothly blends the hip warmth of a ’40s sound with an edgy modernity. Vocalist Jon Hendricks guests on two tracks. (MM)

GP (Geoff Plant), SO (Summer Olsson), MM (Mel Minter)