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CD REVIEW: Lane Thaw - Tokyo Belle
By Chip Withrow - 11/19/2007 - 09:00 PM EST

Artist: Lane Thaw
Album: Tokyo Belle
Genre: Folk/Jazz/Soul
Sounds Like: Dixieland jazz, '80s soul, Cajun country, bossa nova
Production/Musicianship Grade: 10/10
Overall Talent Level: 9/10
Songwriting Skills: 9/10
Performance Skill: 10/10
Best Songs: I'll Do All the Rest, Fiddy Dollar Bill, Blush Wine
CD Review: Lane Thaw’s effervescent take on music of years gone by, Tokyo Belle, is a big hit with the journalism classes at Ida Baker High School in Cape Coral, Florida. And their teacher (that’s me) digs it an awful lot, too.

Often, I play the CDs that I am considering for review as my students are working. To their credit, they have broad-ranging tastes. I’ve been bopping to Lane Thaw’s latest for about a week at work, and today I played it for my wife. She loved it, too.

The first two tracks swing like a stroll down Bourbon Street, and the crisp production makes them leap right off the disc. “I’ll Do All the Rest” is buoyed by saloon-style piano and hilariously chipper female backing vocals. The title track is a great tale of a house of ill repute, with an infectious chorus and boisterous horns. The lyrics to both songs are clever in a Tin Pan Alley way, and Lane’s smooth vocal delivery is witty and expressive.

“Old School Funk” strikes a thumping, hypnotic groove and immortalizes a club whose owner’s “personal take on music is that it stopped in ’85.” Tower of Power vocalist Brent Carter is slick in his delivery, and the fun call-and-response at the end is a fitting tribute to great soul acts. Carter also contributes a Bill Withers-style performance to the smooth soul masterpiece “Blush Wine;” Thaw’s arrangement is lush and textured and the lyrics to “Blush” fit perfectly.

“Honeymoon Song” and “Fiddy Dollar Bill” are giddy, breakneck fun. Lane’s vocal on “Honeymoon” sounds like he’s going to bust out laughing anytime. (How could you not, rhyming “Viagra” and “Niagara”?) “Fiddy” smokes Cajun-style, a wacky tale of over-ordering in a restaurant punctuated by fiddle and speedy accordion. 

The bossa “Far Away From This Room” is a memorable closer. Vocalist Randie Paul smolders, and the hip-shaking vibe is soulful and sexy.

Lane Thaw has enlisted over 30 musicians to make his great songs (eight tunes, and I wish he had a couple more here) come to life. Together, they craft an album that is stylish, ambitious, and just plain fun.

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