8 1/2 Souvenirs Twisted Desire (RCA/BMG)

Texas Platters

Record Reviews

8 1/2 Souvenirs

Twisted Desire (RCA/BMG)

Changes -- that's the history of Austin's 8 1/2 Souvenirs. Founded five years ago by Olivier Giraud, the local swing band has undergone so many lineup changes that the wünderguitarist is now the only original member. Twisted Desire, the band's latest, retains the Souvenirs' founding cinematic-dramatic-eclectic spirit, but given the group's fluctuating membership, it's no surprise the album plays somewhat more schizophrenically than any or the three of four (??) versions of the first album, Happy Feet, or their second release, Souvonica. The singing of Chrysta Bell swims in a lower register than the band's previous female vocalists, which throws things off a bit, and combines poorly with the marked absence of poppin' instrumentals. Still, the energetic "Dancin'" would populate the parquet floor of the sleepiest Western saloon, plus a cover of ZZ Top's "Sharp Dressed Man" and the bowed saw intro to "Spider Lady," demonstrate that Giraud's talent continues to expand, everything coming together and humming on "L'Amour Toujours." To their credit, the band enlists the talent of some of the best musicians in Austin, including Christine Albert on backing vocals, Freddie Mendoza on trombone and horn arrangements, Brannen Temple and J.J. Johnson on drums, and Will Taylor on viola and string arrangements. With the recent departure of bassist Kevin Smith, 8 1/2 Souvenirs will once again have to deal with, yes, more changes, and one only hopes they keep their happy feet going in the same direction.

**

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