Johnnie Taylor – I Don’t Wanna Lose You / Hijackin’ Love [1977; Bellaphon, Stax]


Slow crooning with deceptively sparse-sounding backing instrumentation and vocals marks the A-side of this single, with Johnnie Taylor putting in strong emotional vibrancy with his singing.  Slides into thin breaks and building back out give the song an interesting structure, but the simplicity of the lyrics ends up dragging the song down a bit.  The B-side shifts to a funkier and more instrumentally-driven groove, and by moving the vocals to more of a supporting role, the repetitive lyrics don’t make such a negative impression as in the first song.  Outside of the words, the music’s pretty solid on both sides.

Mojo Nixon – Otis [1990; Enigma Records]


Starting off with a call for the extermination of lawyers (”Destroy All Lawyers”) and proceeding through songs about monster trucks, drinking, and the star-spangled banner, the music of this album puts its rockabilly style to use in playful mocking and celebration of scuzzy Americana.  Tracks like “Rabies Baby” and “Perry Mason of Love” feature tongue-in-cheek crooning, while changes to society are called for, beyond the opening track, in tunes like “Put a Sex Mo-Sheen in the White House” and “Don Henley Must Die”.

The traditional guitar/bass/drums and vocals set-up are put to good work, and for all the bluster in attitude and sound, the songs are put together with solid melodic and rhythmic bases.  Hooky riffs flow right into the earworm choruses, and while the whole thing has an undeniable layer of country-fried coating, swings into other styles (like the Caribbean flavoring in “Perry Mason of Love”) help keep the base from being stretched too thin.  At the same time, the refusal to settle into seriousness at any point across the album tints it with a novelty record vibe, but that off-center spin does fit the music’s energy and presented attitude.