By Ben Westhoff and Sarah Purkrabek
By Steve Brennan
By Joseph Hess
By Allsion Babka
By Kelsey McClure
By RFT Music
By Christian Schaeffer
By Gabriel San Roman
When we surveyed our headquarters last week, littered with local CDs and CD-Rs, press photos and peevish notes from fucked-over geniuses, we resolved to clean house. No, we decided, we wouldn't just shove everything in a big pile and set fire to it (our usual housekeeping procedure); we'd actually listen to everything and, in the spirit of the new year, clear some space for the new stuff that arrives daily. Yeah, it's impossible, but isn't that what New Year's resolutions are all about? We can't acknowledge all the people who curry our favor, but wouldn't it be pretty to think so, at least for the month of January? Besides, if we don't do something, and quick, those skyrocketing stacks will surely topple and block our path to the wet bar, a turn of events that would radically alter Radar Station's ability to endure the next 12 months.
The Quor, Whatever. The Quor (pronounced "core") are two emcees in their early 20s who go by the handles Potsee and Lu Koole. According to their press kit, they've got that much-sought-after St. Louis sound (no one has ever been able to define it to our satisfaction, so we'll have to take their word for it). Potsee and Lu Koole proudly proclaim in their bio that "we cannot be anybody else from anywhere else because we are St. Louis, 100% St. Louis." Despite the tautology -- or is it some kind of Zen koan? -- we'll accept the statement, along with the title track's lyric "You can tell I'm STL from the country grammar."
Despite the Quor's touching civic pride and a cameo by Murphy Lee, of St. Lunatics fame, we hear more Atlanta than St. Louis, more Outkast than Nelly, more dirty-South bounce than Midwest swang -- and we see absolutely nothing wrong with that. Geography, to paraphrase Emerson, is the hobgoblin of little minds. If Mick Jagger, a middle-class Kentish business student, could model himself after a Mississippi bluesman who'd been dead some 20 years by the time Jagger heard him, there's no reason the Quor can't look to Outkast, arguably the most innovative hip-hop act in the universe, for inspiration. Like the brilliant ATLiens, the Quor are more interested in freaking than in pimping, laying down trippy, often chaotic layers of sounds, thick with P-Funk vocal flourishes, rapid-fire rhymes and spastic samples. We commend the Quor for their good taste and ambition. That said, they still have a ways to go: The beats are mixed too high and often sound tinny and dated, the rhymes aren't always as witty as they ought to be and the arrangements sometimes lose focus, pursuing too many directions at once. But that's what happens when you aim high, and we'd rather listen to the Quor any day than one more Nelly wannabe.
Shaunda Johnston, "Drop It One Time/What You Do to Me." Our favorite contender from the first season of Popstars (the, ahem, "reality"-based show on the WB that brought us one-hit wonders Eden's Crush), East St. Louis native Shaunda Johnston just released her first CD single. We know from the show that Johnston has talent -- we burst into tears when those miserable corporate shills so cruelly dismissed her -- but these two tracks, alas, don't make good on her gigantic potential. The computer-tweaked vocal effects aren't exactly cutting-edge anymore, and, with a powerful, gospel-schooled voice like hers, what's the point? According to her press sheet, Johnston "is prepared to take listeners and viewers to a plateau where only the best can take them." Well, maybe, but first she needs some better songs -- these sound like Janet Jackson outtakes, circa 1993.
Uvee Hayes, There'll Come a Time. Ably supported by a crack team of musicians that includes co-producer Oliver Sain (who plays keyboards and sax) and Stevie Wonder (yes, that Stevie Wonder -- he contributes sprightly harmonica to a Luther Ingram-penned number), Hayes performs songs in the old-school R&B, urban-blues and quiet-storm traditions. Her voice is as gorgeous as it is versatile, all tremulous soul and aching vibrato one minute, all brass and sass the next. Tom "Papa" Ray (of KDHX-FM's The Soul Selector) tipped us off to this gem, which has gotten a very positive response from callers to his radio show. Once we heard the album, we weren't surprised. Hayes is a class act, right up there with Ann Peebles, Denise LaSalle and Fontella Bass; the CD, which was recorded in St. Louis, Cleveland and Memphis, sounds completely professional; and the material (from Willie Dixon to Leiber and Stoller, from Sain to K.T. Oslin) is inspired. Finally, a local release we can wholeheartedly endorse!
Local hardcore stalwart Joe Wyatt recently succumbed to cancer. A promoter, musician and Iron Age Studio fixture, Wyatt was a mentor to many of the young punks in town. Says Lofreq manager and Vintage Vinyl employee Sheri Ford: "Joe worked really hard for the punk/hardcore scene in St. Louis. He was an inspiration to me when I was setting up and promoting shows." Our condolences to his family and many friends.