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Mobtown Moon -- 'Mobtown Moon' (self-released)( Handout )
RATING: ** out of 4
DOWNLOAD: Mobtown Moon, 'Mobtown Moon'
Tribute albums are often awkward affairs. For one, the original source material remains a constant presence, looming over the proceedings like an adored mythical creature. And then the inevitable questions: Are we supposed to compare the two? Are these reinterpretations achieving something new through old songs? What, exactly, is the point?
"Mobtown Moon," a tribute to Pink Floyd's "The Dark Side of the Moon" conceived by Baltimore musicians Sandy Asirvatham and ellen cherry which culminates with a Sept. 28 concert at Goucher College, shows its appreciation for the landmark prog-rock album while unifying a sizable, diverse group of the city's artists. As is often the case with tribute albums, the intentions are good, but the results are uneven.
The most obvious example is "Money," which features vocals from Cris Jacobs, formerly of the Bridge and current lead singer of the Cris Jacobs Band. Covering one of Pink Floyd's most recognizable songs could tempt a singer to deliver a hammy performance, but Jacobs is smarter than that. His restrained, bluesy vocals match the track's re-imagined dive bar band vibe, and the result is the album's best track.
But right after "Money" comes "Dream/Counterfeit," an upbeat, hip-hop-meets-jazz song that features local spoken word group the 5th L rapping about greed. The song is meant to be a modern coda to "Money," but it feels uncomfortably shoe-horned onto the tracklist. It's thoughtful that Asirvatham and cherry wanted to incorporate members of Baltimore's hip-hop scene, but a Pink Floyd tribute album does not set them up for success.
"Mobtown Moon" has promising moments, including Asirvatham's wordless vocals on "The Great Gig in the Sky" and Lea Gilmore's molasses-like singing on "Brain Damage." But more often than not, "Mobtown Moon" suffers from a lack of urgency. Some songs ("Breathe," "Time") are given the lounge treatment, which might work for a listener with a bassline fetish, but not for those wishing the songs carried a stronger punch.
The lasting beauty of "The Dark Side of the Moon," which turned 40 in March, is how it wonderfully floats in the ether. "Mobtown Moon" strips the work of its surreal reverie, which remains the album's most mesmerizing aspect. The result is a love letter -- to Pink Floyd and Baltimore -- that is more endearing for its purpose than its sound. -- Wesley Case