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Annoying talk show host and wannabe jazz vocalist Regis Philbin has finally made a disc worth buying. Seemingly influenced by Paul Anka's return to the top with Rock Swings, Regis decided to tackle more eclectic and obscure works. After having the gall to release two Rat Pack-influenced vocal recordsone in 1968 and another in 2004and a Christmas disc, My Darker Moods makes up for it again and again.
First, Philbin rids himself of Steve Tyrell's jazz-pop polished sheen. Instead he enlists free big band arranger/composer/conductor Butch Morris and his genius "comprovisation technique. He uses a band of unknowns, but their skill is impressive to say the least. Players on hand to help make up a who's who of avant-garde geniuses from New York's Downtown scene. The disc opens up with Sonic Youth's Charles Manson-inspired "Death Valley 69, featuring Thurston Moore and Lee Ranaldo twisting in gnarls of feedback while David Murray rips all over the damn place. While intensity builds, Philbin drops in purposely (?) out-of-sync vocals while Morris keeps the band's jarring pulse alive in the back.
Another real stunner is an elaborate arrangement of Naked City's "Perfume of a Critic's Burning Flesh, by composer John Zorn. The piece's original length of mere seconds is fleshed out to over ten minutes, showcasing Philbin's talents as a scat master. If that is not enough of a reason to seek this disc out, the track features none other than Zorn himself, along with fellow Naked City members Bill Frisell and Yamatsuka Eye.
Another Zorn collaborator and resident sound sculptor, Bill Laswell, makes an appearance. Though Laswell only does a dub remix here, it's the disc's grand finale: Lou Reed's "Metal Machine Music Part I. Which version is better is a matter of personal taste, but this take rivals the Reed original. Mountains of feedback, squealing horns and an orchestra of over three hundred participantsnot to mention Philbin's stirring vocalsmakes this one of the finest avant-garde tracks in the last six months.
In the liner notes Philbin says that while he still considers Dean Martin his idol, his love of noise far surpasses his love of Dino. My Darker Moods is a record of irresponsible ego that only a man of love or ill thought can make. Yet that is sometimes how a true masterpiece is born.
Track Listing: Death Valley '69; Nuclear War; Perfume of a Critic's Burning Flesh; Contort Yourself; Beautiful
People; Metal Machine Music Part I; Metal Machine Music Part I (Bill Laswell dub mix).
Personnel: Regis Philbin: vocal; Thurston Moore: guitar; Lee Ranaldo: guitar; David Murray: sax; John
Zorn: alto sax; Bill Frisell: guitar; Yamatsuska Eye: vocal; John Lurie: keyboards; James
Chance: sax; Dirk Studley: bass; LeRoy Roy: percussion.
Years ago now--in Rhodesia--listening to Voice of America with Willis Conover I heard Bunk Johnson play When The Saints Go Marching In, and Billie Holiday sing Don't Explain. I knew then there was no other life for me than jazz.