Album Reviews

Music You Don't Know You Like Yet

AZTEC TWO-STEP

Cause & Effect

2012-03-08

Nick's Picks: 02 Lazarus and Simon; 05 Remembrance Day; 15 John Gary

FCC ALERT: “As pure as the singing on this cd"

Review by Steven "Nick" Nickelson of Aztec Two-StepCause & Effect :

This is a long-time folk duo who have spent many years at the second tier of the business. They have been around since the sixties, and were originally very popular on the college radio circuit. For the past couple decades they have been playing and recording independent of the major labels. As with most folk/protest songs, the messages are timeless – the only thing to change are the names and the issues. Apparently this duo has done just that to some of the songs on this cd (at least according to the media notes). Although the duo play and sing well together, I cannot picture them playing many venues larger than coffee joints and student gathering places. I do like most of their messages (“Lazarus and Simon”, “Remembrance Day”), and the pair take the time to play some tongue in cheek music (“Better Watch Out for the Rastafarians”, “Life In the 80's”). When it comes to serious issues, they are not afraid to articulate some of the horrors and conditions in their songs – much like Joni Mitchell, CSN&Y, Simon & Garfunkel, and Bob Dylan. I find a few that resonate with me, and I like to just sit back and ponder life when I hear these tunes (“Ban Vinai”, “What Would The Indians Say?”). As a band, these two have played together for so long that their riffs and rhythms mesh together so perfectly, I am certain it would be an experience to watch them play in an intimate setting like One Trick Pony. Would I buy their album? Probably not, but I definitely would go to see them play.

And that's my two nickels' worth.......................Nick

ARTIST BIO:

In 1972, Aztec Two-Step, whose name comes from a poem by beat poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti, burst upon the scene with their self-titled debut album on Elektra Records. Since then Rex Fowler and Neal Shulman have spent a lifetime making music together as the folk/rock duo Aztec Two-Step. Their first album, along with their subsequent albums for RCA Records were staples of progressive FM and college radio and helped to bring the folk/rock music of the 1960s into the 70s and beyond. As their recording career continued, so did the critical acclaim. In 1987 Living in America, received the New York Music Award for Best Folk Album and was named in Billboard’s year-end critic’s poll. They have been praised in countless major US newspapers and magazines, including Rolling Stone, and have appeared on numerous TV and radio shows, such as the David Letterman Show, the King Biscuit Flour Hour, and World Café Live. Rex and Neal released their first live album,"Highway Signs" on the PRIME-CD folk label in 1996 in celebration of their 25th anniversary. In 1999 they were the subjects of the documentary “No Hit Wonder, ”which was aired on several PBS stations across America. To commemorate their 30th anniversary in 2001, they released a double CD compellation (sic) entitled, “Live & Rare” and in 2005, released their career-defining “Days of Horses” CD to rave reviews. Of this release, the Boston Globe said, “Fans of the duo’s harmony-driven tunes and easygoing acoustic guitar riffs will recognize their James Taylor-meets-Simon & Garfunkel sound. What’s new is the mood. This album sits back on its haunches as Rex Fowler and Neal Shulman look back wistfully at American pop culture and their own ride through it.” In June 2007, Real Simple, a popular national lifestyle magazine, named Aztec Two-Step’s debut recording one of the top five classic folk albums of all-time, along with works by Bob Dylan, Judy Collins, Tom Rush and Phil Ochs. Rhino Records released Forever Changing-The Golden Age of Elektra Records 1963-1973, a five-CD box set that tells the story of this landmark record label and the music that defined an era. The collection includes Aztec Two-Step’s “The Persecution and Restoration of Dean Moriarty (On The Road).” In 2009, the It’s About Music label issued a 44-song compilation entitled, “The Persecution and Restoration of Aztec Two-Step.” To commemorate their 40th Anniversary year, early 2012 brings the official release of Fowler & Shulman’s studio CD “Cause & Effect” (Red Engine Records). A collection of songs of social significance, it is produced by Paul Guzzone and features long-time bassist Fred Holman. The album is a combination of re-worked previously recorded songs and newly mined material. From John Platt of WFUV in New York, “The secret of Aztec Two Step's longevity isn't just the harmony between Rex and Neal, it's also the quality of the songs. On "Cause and Effect" they revisit a lot of their repertoire with crisp acoustic arrangements. And while the songs were mostly inspired by a specific moment in time (Reaganomics, apartheid, John Lennon's assassination), they resonate anew today.” Headliners in their own right, the duo has appeared in concert with such notable artists as Tim Hardin, Donovan, The Band, Allen Ginsberg, Bruce Springsteen, Talking Heads, Michael Bolton, The Beach Boys, Bon Jovi, Heart, Randy Newman, Judy Collins, Jose Feliciano, Carly Simon, Bonnie Raitt, Roger McGuinn, Bette Midler, Harry Chapin, Jim Croce, Steve Goodman, Laura Nero, Richie Havens, Arlo Guthrie, Don McLean, Suzanne Vega, David Bromberg, Jesse Winchester, Jonathan Edwards, Dave Mason, Phoebe Snow, Shawn Colvin, Michelle Shocked, John Sebastian, Jackson Browne, Warren Zevon, Renaissance, Richard Thompson, Al Stewart, America, Poco, Firefall, Atlanta Rhythm Section, NRBQ, Orleans, John Cafferty, The Strawbs, Seals and Crofts, Loggins and Messina, Brewer and Shipley, Batdorf and Rodney, Peter Frampton, Devonsquare, Joan Jett, Joe Ely, ShaNaNa, Papa John Creach, Atlanta Rhythm Section, The Allman/Betts Band, The Charlie Daniels Band, The Marshall Tucker Band, New Riders of the Purple Sage, Pure Prairie League, John Pousette-Dart, Jimmy Buffet, Eddie Rabbit, Earl Scruggs, Vassar Clemens, Jerry Jeff Walker, David Hardin, Rodney Crowell, Crystal Gayle, The Nelson Brothers, B.J. Thomas, Melissa Manchester, David Clayton Thomas, Neil Sedaka, Kenny Rankin, Larry Coryell, Joan Armatrading, The Persuasions, Bill Cosby, Steve Landesberg, Steven Wright, Richard Belzer, Robert Klein and more.

The Original Aztec Two-Step:

・ Rex Fowler – songwriter, vocals, guitar

・ Neal Shulman – songwriter, guitar, vocals

The Guest Musicians:

・ Fred Holman – bass

The Songs:

1. Falling Down Clowns

2. Lazarus and Simon

3. Black Africa

4. Shantytown

5. Remembrance Day

6. Rabbit In The Moon

7. Olga (Black September)

8. War

9. Better Watch Out (for The Rastafarians)

10. Life In The 80's

11. Johhny's An Angel

12. Just Another Nothing With A Name

13. Ban Vinai

14. What Would The Indians Say:

15. John Gary

16. Living In America

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Compiled by the WYCE Journalism Club

The opinions expressed in these reviews are those of the individual volunteers that submitted the article and do not necessarily reflect the views of WYCE or GRCMC; nor its staff, donors, or affiliates.