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KCRW's Sounds Eclectic 3
By David Demarest

There’s a public radio station out of Asheville, North Carolina that I tune into for the hour or so that I can catch as I pass through the area.  It’s a hit or miss kind of thing.  Depending on the time of day, there’s a good chance they’ll be broadcasting a solid block of Gaelic Folk tunes, which is fine for some, but bad news for me.  It’s the other times that I tune in for: the times when each song I hear could very well be my new favorite, and is almost certainly something I’ve never heard before and may never hear again.  

There’s a sense of privilege in catching something that others may have missed, when you know you’ve stepped outside of the mainstream or even your own listening habits and heard a quality sound played true.  That feeling, the same I get when I catch good programming on my drive through the mountains, is what I got when I sat down to listen to KCRW's Sounds Eclectic 3.  And it’s no wonder- KCRW's Sounds Eclectic is indeed a public radio program broadcast daily out of Santa Monica, California, and weekly through public radio subscribers across the country.  What they have in Sounds Eclectic 3 is a collection of some well known (The Flaming Lips, Radiohead, Franz Ferdinand, Sarah McLachlan) and some lesser known artists (Iron & Wine, Damien Rice, Kinky, and others) playing studio live recordings.  By “studio live,” I mean that these tracks were recorded in a once through take, sometimes for a live broadcast, inside of various broadcast studios.  So even if you are familiar with both the artist and the song they play on this album, the live versions vary just enough to make them new and interesting.

A good example of this is the second song on the album, “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots” by The Flaming Lips. This stripped down and solemn performance featured on Sounds Eclectic 3 relies almost solely on piano and voice.  It quickly became a new favorite of mine, along with the upbeat and immediately accessible performance of “One Big Holiday” by My Morning Jacket.  In fact, there are no true weak links on this album- any fan of music will find something to like from at least a couple of its tracks. 

But the true merit of this album doesn’t end with the performance or songwriting ability of the featured artists.  The creator of Sounds Eclectic 3, Nic Harcourt, has done an excellent job choosing and ordering the album’s songs to weave an almost seamless flow from one song to the next.  The only real misstep in song  transitions happens when the album follows Franz Ferdinand’s “Take Me Out” with  Sarah McLachlan’s “Answer.”  (Yikes.)  However, despite the wide range of artists and styles featured on the album, a listener gets the sensation that the album itself is telling a story- one that builds to an ultimately pleasant journey.

I get the feeling that Nic Harcourt would identify strongly with John Cusack’s character from “High Fidelity” when he says “The making of a great compilation tape is hard to do, and takes ages longer than it might seem.  …There are a lot of rules.”  In Sounds Eclectic 3, Harcourt’s hard work has paid off in a solid collection of carefully chosen songs that explore a range of emotion and experience, ultimately ending with Steve Earle’s hopeful and folksy “Jerusalem.”  It may not be the perfect album, and for sure isn’t an appropriate substitute for Jock Jams, if that’s your thing, but it is an album that you can walk away from feeling good- and there’s a great deal to be said for that.

CD Info 

KCRW's Sounds Eclectic 3
Label: Palm Pictures
It's The Sun - The Polyphonic Spree
Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots Pt. 1 - The Flaming Lips
Blower's Daughter, The - Damien Rice
Flying High - Jem
Amongst Butterflies - Paul Weller
Go To Sleep - Radiohead
One Big Holiday - My Morning Jacket
Mirando De Lado - Kinky
Untitled - Interpol
Take Me Out - Franz Ferdinand
Answer - Sarah McLachlan
Waitin' For A Superman - Iron & Wine
Jerusalem - Steve Earle
Listen to samples and Purchase this CD online

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