The Gaff Is Back

And he's brought his Cold Hard Facts, too

What was up when I saw these guys live? Did they have a real stinky night, and I caught them at their worst? Or is it that they still actually suck live even though their new album is cooler than Gene Vincent's teeth? I dunno, but I plan to find out: El Baile is one of the most well-rounded roots albums I've heard in years and a sure signal that these guys are real comers. No, not that way. Check 'em out on Thursday, March 25 at 13th Floor and on Friday at the Foothill.

Van Morrison's new album, Back on Top, is something of an artistic comeback. Not that the prolific and consistent Morrison has ever actually released a bad album in his entire career, which dates back to the '60s and Them. But recent efforts have been a bit too blues-obsessed and rote where Morrison is at his best performing oddly spiritual, stream-of-consciousness soul. The aptly titled Back on Topfinds Morrison in excellent voice, singing a set of all-original new tunes with compelling lyrics and more hooks than a bait shop. He sounds re-energized about it all. In short, this is his best album since the 1991 magnum opus Hymns to the Silence, and only a real weenie would fail to pick up a copy.

Chris Gaffney and the Cold Hard Facts perform at the Swallows Inn, 31786 Camino Capistrano, San Juan Capistrano, (949) 493-3188. Fri.-Sat., 8:30 p.m.; Sun., 4:30 p.m. Free. 21+; Cigar Store Indians play at 13th Floor, 17208 Pacific Coast Hwy., Huntington Beach, (562) 592-5833. Thurs., March 25, 10 p.m. Free. 21+; and at the Foothill, 1922 Cherry Ave., Signal Hill, (562) 494-5196. Fri., 9 p.m. $10. 18+.

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