Flea - Helen Burns LP
With a sorrowful title track that features Patti Smith singing alongside Flea on piano, Helen Burns is an unexpected departure for the usually raging slap-bass virtuoso and full-time Red Hot Chili Pepper. Recorded just after the Stadium Arcadium tour, the project started as a way for his touring keyboardist Chris Warren to learn the ins and outs of recording, but after Flea's music started taking shape, he decided to complete it and make it available as a free download through the Silverlake Conservatory of Music website. Like John Frusciante's solo outings, the music is artistic, daring, and a little far out, but decidedly better than one might expect. Jazz and electronic music play an influence, with "333" soaring through psychedelic territory like a Flying Lotus cut, and "Pedestal of Infamy" grooving along as nicely as a track by Broadcast. An underrated, technically accomplished musician, Flea's abilities are surprising on whatever instrument he chooses to play -- from keyboards, to trumpet, to percussion, to double bass -- but the real achievement is in the songwriting.