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MUSIC: Ventura County | LOCAL ANGLE

Making Music

CDs feature fresh reggae, stale rock and 'The Whole Enchilada.'

November 05, 1998|BILL LOCEY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Here are capsule reviews of releases by acts that play in the area:

Euphoria, "Melting Pot Society" (Pi r squared)

Euphoria is a damn fine rock band, also a damn fine jazz band and a damn fine reggae band. These four youngsters have been playing for five years and they effortlessly mold their favorite genres into a dance-friendly party. Imagine Black Uhuru meets Phish on the dance floor. If the number "Destiny" doesn't move you, you either have Van Gogh's ear for music or you're dead.

GRADE: A

Next gig: Tonight at Calypso's Bar & Grill in Ojai. CD release party Nov. 13 at Nicholby's in Ventura.

Eleanor Academia, "Oracle of the Black Swan," (Black Swan Records)

Academia has the rock-star looks and the rock-star voice, but unfortunately, not the rock-star songs. Her tunes barely rise above the mundane, and the lyrics are predictable. She comes off as a classic rock poser 20 years too late--imagine Heart with a broken clock and after a bypass.

GRADE: C-

Next gig: Friday at Nicholby's in Ventura.

Teresa James, "The Whole Enchilada"

This transplanted Texan does the bluesy rock thing with a tight backup band and a booming raspy voice that'll impair the life expectancy of your speakers. The real deal.

GRADE: A-

Next gig: Saturday at Cafe Voltaire in Ventura.

Studebaker John and the Hawks, "Time Will Tell" (Blind Pig)

Studebaker John is a lot better than Studebaker the car, since he's doing fine and the cars have justifiably been history for a long time. John is a solid Chicago blues man, slide guitar and harmonica player, plus he's way better than the Cubs.

GRADE: A-

Next gig: Saturday at Victoria Hall in Santa Barbara.

Screamin' Cheetah Wheelies, "Big Wheel" (Capricorn)

They sound like one of those hippie-trippy bands from those silly '60s, like Strawberry Alarm Clock or Moby Grape, but the Screamin' Cheetah Wheelies are in fact a five-piece Southern Rock band out of Nashville. If you think "Free Bird" isn't long enough and there's a Black Crowes poster on your wall, this band is for you. Not for me, however--I've heard these licks way too many times before.

GRADE: C+

Next gig: Tuesday at the Coach House in Santa Barbara.

The Kinsey Report, "Smoke and Steel" (Alligator)

They got those generic blues again, which in itself is blues-inducing, but that's probably not the intent here.

GRADE: C

Next gig: Wednesday at Matty's in Santa Barbara.

Better Than Ezra, "How Does Your Garden Grow?" (Elektra)

Not your typical New Orleans band, BTE has no zydeco, Cajun, Creole or blues influences whatsoever. This band sounds more like U2, Oasis or Echo & the Bunnymen on these stylish, lavishly produced pop rock numbers. For three guys, they make a lot of noise. It's BritPop, y'all.

GRADE: A-

Next gig: Nov. 19 at the Ventura Theatre.

Judy Kreuger, "After All" (OffWorld Records)

This folkie mother of two sons does the low-budget girl and a guitar thing on songs of interest to distaff thirtysomethings--songs about love, love lost, love lousy. "Giving It Up for Love" is perhaps autobiographical and makes a convincing case that love does not conquer all.

GRADE: B

Wooden Circus, "Lemon Drop" (Mercury)

This Simi Valley quartet strikes a note for perseverance--it's been around forever (well, four years) and now has a big-label record deal. The band members deserve it too, and hopefully they'll have more fun than did April's Motel Room. There are all sorts of original rock and college radio-friendly tunes on this one, but the ballads "Gardens of Despair" and "Umbrella" are first-rate. Paul Kenny has a cool voice, too, and that never hurts.

GRADE: A-

Michael Veitch, "NY Journal" (Silverwolf)

Now anyone who has ever seen "Midnight Cowboy," "Barney Miller" or sat by a Mets fan at Dodger Stadium would know not to visit the Big Apple ever; but Veitch, a Vermont folkie, actually moved there on purpose. This album is the result, and nothing too obnoxious has rubbed off on him--yet. "Rottentown," however, is self-explanatory. Most of Veitch's tunes are introspective love songs, with "Tru-Luv" the best. His pleasing voice is a plus.

GRADE: B+

Daniel Moore, "Riding a Horse & Holding Up the World" (DJM Records)

Moore is a very successful songwriter with a lengthy resume who is now chilling out in Santa Paula. "My Maria" and "Shambala" are a couple of his zillion-sellers included here. To yuppies, Moore is like a god, and they'll soon be naming SUVs after him.

GRADE: B

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