Sounds Eclectic Too: KCRW (Palm)

In this imperfect (though not unpleasant-sounding) format, you can truly hear how talented these performers are.

I was going to use my space here to chatter on about KCRW. However, this CD, Sounds Eclectic Too, speaks volumes. The Santa Monica Public Radio station offers a diverse and intelligent programming that covers a broad musical spectrum. The heart of this is “Morning Becomes Eclectic,” broadcast weekdays and hosted by Nic Harcourt. MBE features the best in new music and live performances. Harcourt does a brilliant job of attracting many of today’s best new talent from across the world, as well as performances by some of the most talented stars working. This compilation shows what a great job he has done over the last several years. (There is also a series of CDs that predates Nic Harcourt’s tenure at the station entitled Rare on Air, which is also quite good.) Standout tracks include Julieta Venegas performing “Casa Abandonada” and Nick Cave performing the beautiful “Into My Arms.”

The true charm comes from performers being challenged to recreate their songs in-studio, for the most part unrehearsed, and before the noon hour—an odd time for any musician. The process is relatively simple: The songs are recorded as played onto two-track digital audio tape. Nothing is rerecorded, remixed, or overdubbed. In this imperfect (though not unpleasant-sounding) format, you can truly hear how talented these performers are.

It also becomes apparent that the choices Harcourt makes are superb, as well. You may look at the track list and feel that his choices have been safe ones—popular artists like Cousteau, Shelby Lynne, and Norah Jones (not to mention Chris Martin from Coldplay), but many of these people were first introduced to a wider audience through “Morning Become Eclectic.” It seems that Harcourt is the first place that Brit bands like Coldplay come to when hitting the States.

Sounds Eclectic Too is a great collection of in-studio performances. The only thing that outshines it is tuning in to KCRW and “Morning Becomes Eclectic” on your own each day. Imagine yourself out on the coast and fill your ears with some of the best new music.

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