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Throughout his career, Chris Whitley has been a restless explorer, constantly shifting the settings for his bluesy National Steel guitar work and for his songs of desire and transgression. Now comes Perfect Day, an album of covers recorded with bassist Chris Wood and drummer Billy Martin of the jazz-funk trio Medeski, Martin & Wood. Rather than focus on his guitar playing -- sufficiently highlighted on Live at Martyr's, released just two months earlier -- Perfect Day is a singer's album. Whitley explores the upper ranges of his voice, slipping into a whispery falsetto for Jimi Hendrix's "Drifting" and sighing through a slow, pause-ridden version of Lou Reed's title track. Howlin' Wolf's "Smokestack Lightning," a loud, pounding accusation in its original, becomes a lonesome, haunted meditation, and Whitley emphasizes Bob Dylan's blues roots in his phrasing on "Spanish Harlem Incident" and "4th Time Around." The arrangements have an improvisational casualness, with spacious interplay among the instruments, and slow, abstract rhythms that create an atmosphere of late nights alone, of desire unfulfilled. Producer Craig Street honed his ability to blend jazz, blues, and rock idioms into seamless new creations working with Cassandra Wilson, and he flexes that muscle here, as Whitley, like Wilson, works magic with Robert Johnson. Whitley has internalized Johnson's harrowing passion better than most other acolytes, and his "Stones in My Passway" emphasizes the song's lyricism with a guitar line that echoes but doesn't imitate the original. Perfect Day explores love's frightening edges and constantly reveals new emotional depths to old songs.
Performance CreditsChris Whitley Primary Artist,Guitar,Vocals
Billy Martin Percussion,Drums
Chris Wood Upright Bass
Technical CreditsChris Whitley Liner Notes
Ray Manzarek Composer
John Densmore Composer
Craig Street Producer
Danny Koppelson Engineer
Robby Krieger Composer
Chester Burnett Composer
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Though an album of cover songs, ''Perfect Day'' is in no way unoriginal. Chris Whitley together with Billy Martin and Chris Wood from Medeski Martin & Wood, set a precendent for veracity from the first desire filled Dylan song ''Spanish Harlem Incident'', through the last ''4th Time Around''. This album is not about athletics. It's not about singing, or guitar playing,or bass playing, or drums (though I don't think it's always ''drums'' as we know it). If you are looking for MUSIC, for music that feels, music that translates what is nearly impossible, then you cannot let this one pass. The title track ''Perfect Day''(Lou Reed) is possibly the most telling song on the album. A translating album, ''Perfect Day'' reminds us all what it is to touch the sky