Essential tracks: Kate Pierson makes up lost time with 'Guitars'

Randall Roberts
Contact ReporterLos Angeles Times Pop Music Critic
Former B-52s singer Kate Pierson makes up for lost time with her first solo album, 'Guitars and Microphones'

Kate Pierson, "Guitars and Microphones" (Lazy Meadow Music). With an immediately recognizable voice to those who have bellowed along with the B-52s' classic line "Why don't you dance with me? I'm not no Limburger" or along with her cameo during R.E.M.'s "Shiny Happy People," Kate Pierson has long stunned with her soaring tones.


Kate Pierson: The Feb. 22 Essential Tracks column said that B-52's vocalist Kate Pierson sang the line "Why don't you dance with me? I'm not no Limburger" from group's song "Dance This Mess Around." That line was sung on the recording by Pierson's bandmate Cindy Wilson. —

Starting in the late 1970s with her B-52s' bandmates, the singer best known for "Love Shack" and "Rock Lobster" has turned heads with her enviable lung- and cord-power. Mysteriously, what she'd never done until now is release a solo album. "Guitars and Microphones" remedies that and does so in a way that prompts longing for albums never recorded.

This one goes a long way toward making up for lost time, created with the help of the fascinating art-pop superstar Sia, who shares writing credits on much of the record. The singers are friends, and Sia wrote for Pierson while working on her own most recent album, "1000 Forms of Fear." The collaboration also features the Strokes' Nick Valensi, songwriter Dallas Austin, producer Tim Anderson (Ima Robot) and yielded songs that possess a dramatic sweep equal to Pierson's gigantic voice.

Fans of her essential B-52s work will find comfort in these 10 songs, even if during early listens you might expect B-52s barker Fred Schneider to chime in. That doesn't happen here, which allows mod-pop synthetic jams such as "Bottoms Up," "Crush Me with Your Love" and opener "Throw Down the Roses" to fully ascend without Schneider's oddball interjections.

That latter song, in fact, is a classic ode to confident individualism: "I don't need a wrist band/ To tell me who I am," Pierson says. "No need to clap your hands/I don't need a microphone/ To tell you I'm better off/ Being on my own." "Mister Sister" is a fun-loving, compassionate ode to a transgender woman. Each inspired in its own way, the songs combine to create an album rich with guitars and microphones, yes, but also overflowing with spirit and energy.

Glen Campbell, "'I'll Be Me' Original Motion Picture Soundtrack" (Big Machine). To call the soundtrack to "I'll Be Me," the Glen Campbell documentary of the same name, essential to the story is an understatement. It's music that guides the film, which documents the longtime superstar country singer's life with Alzheimer's disease during his extended farewell tour. The song "I'm Not Gonna Miss You," written for the film, is in contention for original song at Sunday's Academy Awards.

The soundtrack features 10 songs: six by Campbell, two by his singing daughter/tour mate, Ashley Campbell, and a cover of the Campbell hit "Gentle on My Mind" delivered two different ways with typical confidence by the Band Perry. (A documentary version opens more plaintively, while a second version dives right in.)

A fitting tribute, the release runs just over half an hour but covers much emotional ground. "Bone for bone we are the same/ Bones get tired and they can't carry all the weight," sings Ashley Campbell in "Remembering," recalling early years spent with her father.

By definition, Campbell's work here is sparse, human, delicate, as if he's singing these lines while dangling from some unimaginable precipice. "One thing I know — this old world's been good to me," he sings on "A Better Place." "A better place awaits, you'll see." One of two recorded at Nashville's Ryman Auditorium, it reveals an artist still able to glide into songs effortlessly. The Oscar-nominated song is a devastating work, one that manages to be equal parts comforting, witty and emotional. The only upside to his gradual decline, he suggests, comes in the title line, a nod to his fading memory: "Best of all, I'm not gonna miss you."

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