Sunday, July 24, 2016

Veterans return with superb releases

A new two-disc audio title celebrates blues great Walter Trout while the latest disc from alternative rockers Biffy Clyro finds that trio mining new territory. Elsewhere a new soundtrack and an essential reissue provide great listens sure to please discerning fans of an eclectic range of styles

Artist: Walter Trout
Title: Alive In Amsterdam (Provogue)
You might like if you enjoy: Joe Bonamassa, Buddy Guy
Tell me more: Blues-rock fans who have seen singer-songwriter-guitar great Walter Trout know how powerful he is in concert. Now they can pick up Alive In Amsterdam, a full-length performance captured at Amsterdam's Royal Theatre Carre on Nov. 28, 2015. It is thrilling when Trout opens the song "I'm Back" and is greeted by thousands of cheers (Trout was near death before receiving a life-saving liver transplant in May 2014). Trout delivers one mighty and potent performance after another on "Alive In Amsterdam," with his awe-inspiring electric guitar work a wonder at every turn. In fact, he opens the set with "Play the Guitar," a impressive quick instrumental before launching his band (bassist Johnny Griparic, keyboardist Sammy Avila and drummer Michael Leasure) into "Help Me," a song loaded with searing guitar work and his emotive vocals. Other standouts include the Chicago blues-flavored "Say Goodbye to the Blues" (dedicated to his friend B.B. King) and confessional "Tomorrow Seems So Far Away" and "Haunted by the Night." Information:

Artist: Biffy Clyro
Title: Ellipsis (Warner Bros.)
You might like if you enjoy: Foals, The Kills
Tell me more: Biffy Clyro's singer-guitarist Simon Neil and brothers James (bass) and Ben (drums) Johnston have delivered another album filled with challenging and articulate alt-meets-experimental rock. Ellipsis is a 11-track disc that finds the Scottish band delving into personal issues with songs that span from the tender (the lovely "Re-arrange" and acoustic-flavored "Medicine") to rage ("Wolves of Winter," "On a Bang") and hopeful anthems (especially the spirited "Flammable" and vibrant "Howl"). The tight riffs and melodic choruses always play out in the service of interesting and strong songcraft. Information:

Artists: Vince Giordano & the Nighthawks, Count Basie, Benny Goodman, more
Title: Cafe Society - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (Sony Music)
You might like if you enjoy: Benny Goodman, Count Basie
Tell me more: Music from the 1930s and penned by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart is at the heart of the original motion picture soundtrack for the new Woody Allen film Cafe Society. Wonderful instrumentals of "The Lady Is A Tramp," "Jeepers Creepers" and "Have You Met Miss Jones? (the latter filled with sweet guitar work from Chris Flory) are performed by Vince Giordano & The Nighthawks, while a wistful version of "Mountain Greenery" features singer Kat Edmonson. Classic recordings from the titans of the era include a Benny Goodman & His Orchestra performance of "I Didn't Know What Time It Was" and Count Basie & His Orchestra's "Taxi War Dance." Information:

Artist: Velvet Crush
Title: Pre-Teen Symphonies (Omnivore Recordings)
You might like if you enjoy: Game Theory, Big Star, Three O'Clock
Tell me more: Velvet Crush's Pre-Teen Symphonies is filled with previously unissued tracks that are as infectious as they are authentic, and highlights abound. The 16-track disc opener, a demo of "Hold Me Up," crackles with unbridled indie rock perfection. The melodic "Time Wraps Around You" is heard twice on the disc (via a demo and live performance); both sound terrific and showcase the trio's skills.  The driving power-pop nugget "Not Standing Down" highlights how the Rhode Island-based threesome was able to fuse '60s and early '70s song craft with '80s college rock (think R.E.M. and Let's Active) to carve out its own distinctive style of rock. The last half of "Pre-Teen Symphonies" features eight songs captured live at Cabaret Metro, in Chicago in November 1994 and further celebrates the legacy of Paul Chastain, Jeffrey Underhill and Ric Menck. Information:

Robert Kinsler

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Deep Purple 'Live at the NEC' coming to DVD, digital formats on August 26, 2016

This media release will come as great news for fans of Deep Purple, and especially for fans of the late Jon Lord...Click here to read my review of the band's 2007 concert in Costa Mesa.


~AUGUST 26, 2016~

On September 14, 2002, hard rock pioneers Deep Purple took the stage for a landmark concert at the NEC in Birmingham, England to bid farewell to founding member and keyboard legend Jon Lord.
On August 26, Eagle Rock Entertainment will deliver this very concert with the release of Live At The NEC on DVD and Digital formats [MSRP $14.99]. Previously only available as part of the Around The World Live boxed set, this film is being made available for the first time as a standalone DVD.
One of the most emotional concerts in Deep Purple’s long career, Live At The NEC is a unique experience in that it features both their keyboard players on stage – Jon Lord and Don AireyLord had announced his retirement earlier that year, and Airey was subsequently brought on board. Airey serves as the principal keyboardist throughout the show, culminating in a solo before the lights drop, and Jon Lord appears for a storming version of “Perfect Strangers.” The two share keyboard duties for the rest of the night, in a fitting passing-of-the-torch moment.
At 109 minutes total, Deep Purple (Ian Gillan, Roger GloverSteve Morse, Ian Paice, Lord and Airey) kick out all the classics: “Smoke On The Water,” “Woman From Tokyo,” “Space Truckin’,” “Highway Star,” “Speed King,” “Lazy,” “Hush,” and more. In addition to this fantastic set, Live At The NEC includes bonus interviews with Ian Gillan and Roger Glover.
In addition to Live At The NECEagle Rock Entertainment will also release two more concert films -- Total Abandon and Bombay Calling – on digital formats on August 26.
Amazon purchase link:
Eagle Rock Entertainment is the world’s largest producer and distributor of music programming for TV, DVD, Blu-Ray and Digital Media. Eagle produces quality HD programs, both concerts and documentaries, directly alongside artists including Imagine Dragons, Paul McCartney, Katy Perry, The Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, The Who, Queen, and Peter Gabriel. Eagle is a multiple Grammy® Award winner and has received numerous multi-platinum sales awards around the world.  Eagle Vision is headquartered in London, and is a Universal Music Group company. 
Follow Eagle Rock Entertainment at:
1) Fireball  
2) Woman From Tokyo  
3) Mary Long  
4) Ted The Mechanic  
5) Lazy  
6) The Well Dressed Guitar  
7) When A Blind Man Cries  
8) Space Truckin’  
9) Keyboard Solo  
10) Perfect Strangers  
11) Speed King  
12) Guitar Solo  
13) Smoke On The Water  
14) Hush  
15) Black Night  
16) Highway Star

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

'Styx: Live At The Orleans Arena Las Vegas' coming to DVD, Blu-ray and digital in September

I was impressed and had a great time at the full-length Styx concert that came to Costa Mesa on Friday, July 15. Now fans of the band can pick up a new title coming to DVD, Blu-ray and digital on September 2, 2016.

Eagle Rock Entertainment set to release DVD, Blu-ray and digital versions of  

Internationally renowned multi-million selling rock band Styx will be on full display this summer, when Eagle Rock Entertainment releases Styx: Live At The Orleans Arena Las Vegas via DVD [MSRP 14.98], Blu-ray [MSRP 19.98], and Digital Formats on September 2.
Filmed in high definition, Styx: Live At The Orleans Arena captures the band performing in July 2014, showering the crowd with a set list of hits and fan favorites: “Too Much Time On My Hands,” “Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man),” “Renegade,” and more. Originally released on CD in June 2015, this incredible live concert will now be available on DVD and Blu-ray.
"Damn, we had a good time on that tour!” says vocalist/guitarist Tommy Shaw. “Night after night following Don Felder's legendary set, we couldn't wait to hit the stage for our turn at bat. Unforgettable."
Formed in Chicago in 1972, Styx played a key role in defining the AOR genre, and established themselves as one of America’s greatest rock bands. Their blend of soaring melodies, hard rock guitar, musical theatricality, and prog-rock elements earned them millions of global record sales and numerous platinum and multi-platinum albums. Styx: Live At The Orleans Arena proves exactly how they earned that legacy.
The set highlights the musical dexterity of Tommy Shaw, James “JY” Young (vocals, guitar, keyboards), Todd Sucherman (drums), Lawrence Gowan (vocals/keyboards), Ricky Phillips (bass, backing vocals), and Chuck Panozzo, which is further boosted by a special surprise visit from a former Eagles guitarist -- Don Felder -- for a rousing performance of “Blue Collar Man (Long Nights).”
To heighten the live Styx experience, Live At The Orleans Arena is punctuated with band / crew member interviews, detailing life on the road. Bonus features include the entire concert sans the interview footage, bonus interview footage, and a photo gallery.
Eagle Rock Entertainment is the world’s largest producer and distributor of music programming for TV, DVD, Blu-Ray and Digital Media. Eagle produces quality HD programs, both concerts and documentaries, directly alongside artists including Imagine Dragons, Paul McCartney, Katy Perry, The Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, The Who, Queen, and Peter Gabriel. Eagle is a multiple Grammy® Award winner and has received numerous multi-platinum sales awards around the world.  Eagle Vision is headquartered in London, and is a Universal Music Group company. 
Follow Eagle Rock Entertainment at:

Track Listing:
1.)  Too Much Time On My Hands
2.)  Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man)
3.)  Light Up
4.)  Crystal Ball
5.)  Superstars
6.)  Blue Collar Man (Long Nights) – with Don Felder
7.)  Rockin’ The Paradise
8.)  Renegade

Styx is re-energized at Pacific Amphitheatre

Styx performing at the Pacific Amphitheatre in Costa Mesa on July 15, 2016. From left: James "J.Y." Young, Tommy Shaw, Chuck Panozzo and Ricky Phillips. Photo: Kelly A. Swift
My review of Styx originally ran on the Orange County Register website on Saturday, July 16, 2016. A special "thank you" to Kelly A. Swift for the use of her photos.



Where: Pacific Amphitheatre, Costa Mesa

When: July 15, 2016


Tommy Shaw at Pacific Amphitheatre.
Photo: Kelly A. Swift
Arena rock is cool again. Look no further than Styx’s sold out performance in front of an enthusiastic audience at Pacific Amphitheatre on Friday night (July 15, 2016). Fans (including a number of twentysomethings and younger, many donning the band's retro-styled shirts and hats) cheered as the group performed 90 minutes of mostly radio favorites in an entertaining and high energy performance.
When this writer last caught Styx at the Pac Amp in August 2010, the band appeared before a less-than-capacity crowd delivering the majority of the same Styx favorites; but Friday’s affair was dramatically stronger. Led by the capable talents of singer-guitarist Tommy Shaw, there was an energy to the fast moving 19-song set and artistry to the presentation of material that outdistanced the previous show.
Styx’s high-profile return includes the upcoming release Styx: Live At the Orleans Arena on Blu-ray and DVD later this summer, a follow-up to the winning audio-only live collection of the same name released a year ago.
Original bassist Chuck Panozzo and keyboardist
Lawrence Gowan. Photo: Kelly A. Swift
Opening with the title track off 1977’s The Grand Illusion, Styx set the tone with a potent hard-rocking version of the song that featured both Shaw and guitarist James Young unleashing impressive solos amid Lawrence Gowan’s layered keyboards and tenor vocals.
As the night progressed, it was clear that Styx thrives by reworking its songs to showcase lush harmonies, virtuoso instrumental chops and audience participation to liven up the material. “Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man)” benefitted from the audience’s well-timed singing of iconic lyrics at full voice, an effective counterpoint to Shaw’s graceful vocals and acoustic guitar.
The most powerful part of the concert included a heartfelt tribute to David Bowie, in which Shaw and Gowan performed an acoustic-flavored version of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” that segued into the entire band coming back to stage to perform Syyx’s own “Crystal Ball,” the latter an ambitious song that moved from a plaintive folk ballad to a more explosive rock piece with some of Shaw’s most powerful lead guitar work of the night.
From left: Ricky Phillips, James "J.Y." Young
and Tommy Shaw. Photo: Kelly A. Swift
Other highlights included a hard-edged “Miss America,” the melodic lament “Man in the Wilderness,” extended prog-rock gem “Sweet Madame Blue” and two of Shaw’s best-known rockers – “Blue Collar Man” and the night-ending “Renegade.”
Throughout the set, the members of Styx (including an appearance by original bassist Chuck Panozzo) just seemed to be having a blast, appropriate for a band that called in quit in the early 1980s but has clearly rediscovered the joys of playing music this time around.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Soundtracks, rock and power pop releases prove to be required listening

Great soundtracks make the films for which they were created infinitely better, and are more than able to stand alone as rich musical works worthy of repeated listens. Such is the case with Nicholas Britell's Free State of Jones, and the Thomas Wander and Harald Kloser score for Independence Day: Resurgence. Other notable new releases include the latest album from Rock and Roll Hall of Famers Heart as well as the debut from Swedish power pop troupe Arvidson and Butterflies

Artist: Nicholas Britell
Title: Free State of Jones (Sony Classical)
You might like if you enjoy: Lucinda Williams, Nicholas Britell's soundtrack for the film "The Big Short," Americana music
Tell me more: The success of artists such as The Civil Wars, Dawes and the Avett Brothers have a kindred spirit in composer Nicholas Britell's extraordinary soundtrack for the film Free State of Jones. The music here ties in perfectly with the film's 19th century Civil War storyline, and the sparse soundscape layered with fiddle, fragmented keyboards, guitar, mandolin, cello and other acoustic instruments has a stirring and evocative arc even when listened to apart from the film. The weight of Newt Knight's armed rebellion against the Confederacy is captured on a majestic soundtrack, with singer-songwriter Lucinda Williams' own "I'm Crying" providing a wonderful finale on the 18-track soundtrack. Information:

Artists: Thomas Wander and Harald Kloser
Title: Independence Day: Resurgence (Sony Classical)
You might like if you enjoy: "The Day After Tomorrow," "10,000 BC" and "The Legend Of Tarzan" soundtracks
Tell me more: The orchestra is used with both force and nuance by Austrian composers Thomas Wander and Harald Kloser in their soundtrack for the science fiction film Independence Day: Resurgence. "Fear" stretches from a sweeping romantic opening to a dark close: "Welcome to the Moon" captures that otherworldly sentiment with a rousing symphonic expanse; the muscular "What Goes Up," tense "The Sphere" and ravishing "Worth Fighting For" also enchant. Information:

Artist: Heart
Title: Beautiful Broken (Concord Records)
You might like if you enjoy: Heart, Led Zeppelin
Tell me more: Classic rock audiences who embraced early Heart releases such as their 1976 debut  Dreamboat Annie and 1977's Little Queen might want to get a listen of the group's superb new album Beautiful Broken. Heart's sixteenth album Beautiful Broken has the feel of a late 1970s' recording blended with the power and maturity of a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame veteran still moving forward 40 years into their stellar career. Not only do sisters Ann and Nancy Wilson still both possess incredible voices undiminished by time, but their spirit of sonic adventure shines through in the newly-penned material (this writer's fave is the symphonic Led Zep-flavored "Heaven"), artful reworkings of older songs (notably the hard-rocking title track featuring guest vocals from Metallica's James Hetfield, and the string section adorned "Sweet Darlin'") and a wonderful version of R&B singer-songwriter Ne-Yo's "Two." The Seattle-spawned rockers are currently on tour with Cheap Trick and Joan Jett; the three artists will perform at The Forum in Los Angeles on Aug. 23. Information:

Artist: Arvidson and Butterflies
Title: Arvidson and Butterflies (Kool Kat Musik)
You might like if you enjoy: Justin Currie, Crowded House, Paul Weller
Tell me more: Sweden-based Arvidson and Butterflies features singer-guitarist Roger Arvidson and a number of fine musicians from that nation's Gothenburg music scene who have their pulse solidly on power pop. The songs on Arvidson and Butterflies explode with melody, while artful arrangements and authentic performances tie the dozen songs together in a cohesive and stylistic mixture. The wistful "Will Follow," cascading "Changing All The Time" and longing "Want What I Can't Have" are among the many rousing tracks on the magnificent disc. Information:

Robert Kinsler

Friday, July 08, 2016

Four titles that feature the best of both old and new

Whether your tastes are rooted in the blues, tuneful power pop, retro rockabilly or more, the latest crop of releases offers plenty to please everyone.

Artist: Ken Sharp
Title: New Mourning (Jet Fighter Records)
You might like if you enjoy: Rick Springfield, Three O'Clock, The Knack
Tell me more: The best albums are often distinguished for pushing an artist and musical style forward while simultaneously conjuring up classic works from the past. Such is the measure that is magically met across singer-songwriter Ken Sharp's wonderful return "New Mourning," a power pop celebration that doubles as a concept confessional of his own jaunt through life's highs and lows over the past few years. Whether exploring Philadelphia soul (the glorious "Solid Ground," a track that would make Hall & Oates proud), the melodic Pugwash-meets-Queen worthy "Burn & Crash" (which also features some memorable lead guitar work from Rick Springfield), or propulsive tuneful rock via "Satellite," Sharp and his collection of star players impress. Everywhere there are masterful musical touches that enhance Sharp's smart song craft: lush harmonies on the beautiful ballad "Haunts Me," Sharp's 12-string electric guitar layers on the baroque rocker "Bad News" and an artfully lush soundscape on "I Should Have Known" are just a few worth mentioning. Information:

Artist: The Kingbees
Title: The Big Rock (Omnivore Recordings)
You might like if you enjoy: Eddie Cochran, the Stray Cats, Lee Rocker
Tell me more: Thirty-five years after the release of the Kingbees' The Big Rock, the album has been reissued as a deluxe edition by Omnivore Recordings that is bolstered by four bonus tracks. The '50s-styled performances featured on the trio's final album for RSO Records sound as fresh and powerful as they did in 1981. Singer-guitarist Jamie James, bassist Michael Rummans and drummer Rex Roberts blended Eddie Cochran-styled rock with the energy of late '70s punk rock on straightforward and infectious James-penned originals including "The Big Rock" and "Burnin' the Town Tonite," as well as a terrific take on the tender Buddy Holly classic "Wishing" and the Charlie Rich rockabilly gem "Right Behind You Baby." Information:

Artist: Jerry Lee Lewis
Title: Rockin' My Life Away (Varese Sarabande)
You might like if you enjoy: Jerry Lee Lewis, Bob Dylan
Tell me more: For lovers of early rock 'n' roll, the new Jerry Lee Lewis collection Rockin' My Life Away is essential. The 14-track disc focuses on The Killer's late '70s and early '80s country music hits. The material will surprise those who only know the Louisiana native for "Whole Lotta Shakin' Going On" and "Great Balls of Fire"  because his baritone vocals and overall approach frequently extend beyond the rock realm. In particular, a lovely performance of the Charlie Rich country blues ballad "Who Will the Next Fool Be," the symphonic tearjerker "When Two Worlds Collide," the aptly-pegged "Honky Tonk Stuff" and accomplished piano-anchored reworking of "Over the Rainbow" showcase this overlooked period of Lewis' career. Fans of Lewis' rock hits will be happy to hear him pounding away on the keys on the '50s-styled rocker "Rockin' My Life Away" and "Don't Let Go." Information:

Artist: Moreland & Arbuckle
Title: Promised Land or Bust (Alligator Records)
You might like if you enjoy: The Record Company, Ben Harper and Charlie Musselwhite's 2013 masterpiece "Get Up!"
Tell me more: The latest album from Moreland & Arbuckle, Promised Land or Bust, reaches far beyond the Kansas-spawned trio's previous efforts to equal the power and emotional depth of their live performances. The rock-meets-blues opener "Take Me With You (When You Go)" conjures up an emotional depth that brings chills, as does the driving "Mean and Evil" and traditional "Long Did I Hide It" that finds Aaron Moreland (electric, acoustic, and cigar box guitars), Dustin Arbuckle (lead vocals, harmonica) and Kendall Newby (drums, backing vocals) locking in with a power that so often alludes studio efforts from top-tier live acts. The themes explored are not new to the blues; however, love gone bad, wrestling with the Devil and the loner down on his luck are explored with authenticity and sway. Information:

Robert Kinsler