Whatever, Whenever

Mark Sultan

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Whatever, Whenever Review

by Mark Deming

In the liner notes to Whatever, Whenever, Mark Sultan states, "I am not a clown, nor am I a whore. I am a rock ‘n' roller." Not that anyone who has been listening to Sultan's music would argue that point, but if there's ever been any doubt, he shuts it down for good on this album, which is a bracing, eclectic overview of the many good things he does. Culled from a long series of home recording sessions that spawned a pair of vinyl LPs, Whatever I Want and Whenever I Want, Whatever, Whenever serves up 13 of the 26 songs from those albums and constantly jumps from style to style as Sultan offers his take on first-generation '50s rock ("Axis Abraxas"), doo wop ("Just Like Before"), swaggering '70s hard rock ("Calloused Hands"), moody folk-rock ("In Future Worlds"), '60s-style garage squawk ("Never Coming Home"), old-school punk ("Let Me Freeze"), raunchy psychedelia ("Party Crasher"), and even closes with an eight-minute, free jazz blowing session ("For Those Who Don't Exist"). Anyone who has been following Sultan's music won't be surprised by this album's creative diversity, but Sultan has been growing steadily as a writer and a musician, and even though this material occasionally reveals the rough edges of its homemade genesis, the production is intelligent and serves the songs well. A few guests pop up on these sessions, but Sultan tackles most of the instrumental chores himself, and not only does he avoid the home recordist's usual Achilles Heel (meaning he can play the drums well), he gives this music an open and lively sound that captures like the work of a real band, even when he's the only one playing. Whatever, Whenever is good enough that fans with turntables will probably want to pony up for both LPs, but this sampler offers plenty of quality listening and anyone who hasn't given Sultan's music a listen will find this CD to be an excellent starting place, delivering music that's wild, ambitious, and soul-satisfying all at once.

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