Are Good-Natured Artists Extinct?
R. L. MILLER | FT LAUDERDALE FL USA | 01/05/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Since Pop and Rock have been running music for the last half-century, it sure seems that way, doesn't it? The late Harry Chapin comes to mind as an example of the folk-rock version of what you'll be getting here. Nowadays either an artist has to have a lot of hatred and anger or nobody'll sign him. It's gotten worse with each succeeding generation until today it's not all that unusual for a music celebrity to wind up in the joint for violent crime. Either that, or six feet under as someone else's victim. There's an alternate way, of course. Being so sexy that the audience desires your bod more than your sound. So here's Ben Sidran, Steve Miller's keyboardist, in his side gig of jazz. His bossman is here too as Sidran's guitarist. He comes onto stage seemingly dressed for the office rather than grunge or glitz. And runs through a set of material based on life's simple plus factors. All in an affable baritone that makes up for not the widest range of pitch in music. Remember, Sidran is a sideman for a better-known artist in his day job: he's just having fun here. This disc derives its title from the song "Keep It On the Cool Side", and it's easy to call the selection of this track as the title track an obvious cliche. But that only goes to show how cynical we've all become. Another standout is "Mitsubishi Boy", despite its being a weak title as titles go. The Japanese industrial experience takes a hit here in the closest Sidran comes to pointed social comment. Another song that sticks with me is the song Sidran co-wrote with Miller: "Space Cowboy". First off, don't confuse it with Miller's better-known "Gangster Of Love". Sidran's arrangement is laid-back, the back beat dialed back to rim shots and ride cymbals, stretched out to half again the original length with an easygoing jam. I'm not surprised this isn't in stock, it's a total 180 from the edgy thing that's trendy to the point of compulsary today. If you can find this disc, it isn't an attitude-reinforcer. It isn't for parties. You just put it in the player and put your feet up. It's that simple."