Album review: Big Head Todd & the Monsters, Beautiful World (1997)

 

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, APRIL 3, 1997

By Steve Newton

Its previous two albums—1993’s Sister Sweetly and 1995’s Strategem—were sterling examples of well played and wonderfully sung roots-pop, but on Beautiful World, Colorado’s Big Head Todd & the Monsters venture winningly into seriously funky and soulful territory. The title track—featuring former Parliament-Funkadelic keymaster Bernie Worrell—is a deliriously slinky homage to Mother Earth, one of the most entrancing tunes I’ve heard all year. “Crazy Mary” is another hypnotic delight, lit white-hot by the impassioned guitarwork of singer-songwriter Todd Park Mohr (he of the sizeable noggin).

Then there’s the rollicking three-minute ditty “True Lady”. It may have been penned way back in 1989, but, like the equally aged “Heart of Wilderness”, it sounds fresh and vital in its current state.

Beautiful World was produced by ex–Talking Head Jerry Harrison, who seems to be everywhere these days, and, judging by the suitably rich lustre he dealt this disc, deservedly so. Although the band has only released three major-label albums, it has toured incessantly since ’86, and the instrumental bond between Mohr, bassist Rob Squires, and drummer Brian Nevin is a taut one.

The trio’s radar-like rapport is especially evident on the one track not written by Mohr, John Lee Hooker’s “Boom Boom”, which sees the 80-year-old blues legend—who happened to be working down the hall at the same recording studio—sharing lead vocals. BHT&TM used to do the song at early blues jams and frat parties, and by playing fast and loose with it the group creates another highlight of Beautiful World, which looks destined to land on this scribbler’s 1997 Top 10 list.

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