Career Suicide: The Essential Skip Heller 1994-2001
acclaimed within jazz circles and scarcely known outside
of them, Skip Heller is a musical enigma whose compositions
and arrangements are not easily pigeonholed. His influences
range from Leonard Bernstein to Frank Zappa to L.L. Cool
J, and he has recorded with everyone from roots rockers
Big Sandy, Ray Campi, Deke Dickerson, Dave Alvin, and
Sammy Masters, to boogie woogie pianist Red Young, exotica
composer Robert Drasnin, X drummer DJ Bonebrake, Chicano
legend Lalo Guererro, and acclaimed singer Katy Moffatt.
The huge scope of Heller's musical influences and accomplishments
is evidenced on Career Suicide, a seven-year retrospective
CD recently released on Dionysus.
The anthology boasts 22 tracks, a near even split of originals
and covers, including ten previously unreleased recordings.
On such an eclectic and universally excellent collection,
it's hard to pick the standouts. "True Life Blue,"
a shufflin' country ditty featuring Sammy Masters on vocals,
will have you two steppin'across the room, while the heartbreaking
"I Love You, Samantha," will leave you weeping
in your whiskey on the very next track. Heller's "Laid
Bare Theme" perfectly captures the lounge sounds
of the '60s, the zany "Couch" mixes bebop and
surf, and "Spy Perfume" is mildly reminiscent
of Mancini. Be sure to mix a dry martini just before track
10, a cover of Zappa's "Take Your Clothes Off When
You Dance," and then pull your sweetheart close for
"I Am Bewildered," featuring the flawless vocals
of Big Sandy.
could easily write just as much about the second half
of this stellar compilation, but I think the point has
been made. (Although I would be doing Heller and Moffatt
a tremendous injustice if I failed to mention the album's
gutsy closer, a true blues rendition of the Allman Brothers'
classic, "Whipping Post.") Despite the cheeky
name, Career Suicide is hardly a shot in the foot.
Rather, it is a phenomenal collection of diverse recordings
by a musical genius who will hopefully achieve mainstream
success very soon.