Curlew North America

Curlew was the epitome of the downtown New York no wave scene in the late '70s and early '80s. They evolved to become a quirkier and more song-oriented band, not unlike NRBQ, but this disc is a different story. North America was their second album, originally recorded in 1984, and features a still aggressive band broadening their sound. The first cut, "Ray," is hot-club harmolodia that showcases leader George Cartwright's sax at its most mellow and squawking at the same time. Butch Morris puts is a cameo trumpet solo over the pulsing "Knee Songs 2." Cartwright's knack for Ornette-isms in his writing and playing is sometimes uncanny. Although his tone is raunchier, he still is playing with a strong blues base. Contributors such as the amazing cellist Tom Cora and Fred Frith (on bass!) provide different dimensions to this version of the band. Even better are the bonus live tracks at the end of the disc, recorded a year earlier. It features a curious line-up of future Material guitarist Nicky Skopelitis and drummer Anton Fier, whose Golden Palominos is a good point of reference. Fier's slamming rock sensibility drives the tunes into funky anarchy. This level of energy would have been amazing to witness in a club. (Cuneiform)