Joseph Baldassare / The Living Theater

Living Theater - Act Three - Modern Music for Modern Minds

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The first two volumes in Joseph Baldassare's Living Theater series were presented by Buddha-Bar, the lucrative franchise of new agey, chillout-ish, faux-trance, vaguely world music-esque recordings that have sold gazillions of copies by slapping together innocuous, quasi-exotic recordings devoid of rough edges -- or any other edges, for that matter. This third volume comes minus the Buddha-Bar brand name, but its contents come no closer to offering music of noticeable substance than its predecessors. There's nothing inherently wrong with the dozen tracks on Act Three -- which, for no apparent reason, shares both cover art and several of its tracks with Baldassare's similarly titled Living Theater Vol. 3: Metamorphosis -- but neither is there anything to recommend. This is music meant to be played under the din of a Starbuck's or in particularly soulless yoga studios, but not for dedicated listening. What you get, mostly, is pleasant background music, sung by vocalists and played by musicians who know how to soothe but not to connect with any emotional content or personal vision. All but one of the tracks were written by Baldassare, who utilizes a battery of vocalists singing both in English and other languages. In "Brazil," for example, we are informed repeatedly in a hushed voice by performer Lemon Lime that "everyone chills in "Brazil," while trumpeter John Sneider blows tentatively over a rhythm that only tangentially considers familiar Brazilian sounds. The album's opening number, the only one not penned by Baldassare, is a pointless cover, sung by Erica Jennings, of Sonny Bono's "The Beat Goes On," perhaps the most ill-informed interpretation of that song since Vanilla Fudge's album-length treatment in 1968. The Living Theater series' logo claims to offer "Modern Music for Modern Minds," but there's little here to suggest that Baldassare has been paying attention.

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