Group du Jour

Down to the Wire

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The wonderful thing about independent and alternative labels is that you never have any idea what sort of goodies are lying there, waiting for you to stumble across them. This album by Group Du Jour is their (and New Weave's) first CD. It's a good example. The fact that it's on a tiny Oregon independent label indicates anything from industrious folk to screeching thrash; the cover graphics suggest jazz, and the label's logo hints at new age. In every respect, this album was a major surprise. With MIDI tracks pre-produced by keyboardist/vocalist Daniel Crommie, the band recorded the tracks live to digital tape. It's a credit to performers Daniel Crommie (keyboards, vocals, flute, melodica, and beautifully programmed drum machines), Paul Parker (guitar and bass), and Bo Parker (vocals, percussion, bells, rhythm guitar) that the album is gorgeously smooth and flawless. Group Du Jour's stock in trade are songs of a moody bent, built on lyrics that approach poetry, beautifully sung. In terms of sound, they manage to strike their own blend of a lot of influences -- there are moments when they resemble Men Without Hats, Jethro Tull (Crommie is a flutist from the Ian Anderson school of performance), and even Talking Heads on "Great Big Soul." On the other hand, the album opens up with a bang -- a subtle intro that suddenly turns into the impressive "Ride to the Top," a song that takes hold of you with relentlessly attractive rhythm work and runs around you with Crommie's excellent flute playing before the vocal starts. It never gets dull from that point on. What is interesting is the blend of MIDI technology with the almost folk-style vocals of Crommie and Bo Parker, and the amazing variety of guitar tones called up by Paul Parker (ranging from tremolo- drenched twang all the way to nasty distorted chords that roar across the stereo landscape). Bo Parker's voice provides a wonderful feminine counterpoint to Crommie's generally serious voice, adding to songs of love lost and love found ("Shaky House," propelled by a gentle Caribbean rhythm, and "Soft Focus"). There's even an instrumental here: the mysterious "Under a Spell." Overall, this is a terrific album. You may find yourself wanting to hear more from this "extended and expanding family of friends."

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