Sunday, August 30, 2015

Eclectic sonic stew: The Textones, Black Veil Brides, The Boomtown Rats, Robert Cray, von Grey

Terrific reissues of the Textones' first two albums, the first-ever DVD release from Black Veil Brides, an early 1978 concert featuring Boomtown Rats, a 40th anniversary collection celebrating Robert Cray, as well as the latest EP from von Grey are all worth exploring.

Artist: The Textones
Titles: Midnight Mission, Cedar Creek (Omnivore Recordings)
You might like if you enjoy: Lone Justice, Carla Olson, Tom Petty
Tell me more: The Textones' 1984 debut "Midnight Mission" and 1987 follow-up "Cedar Creek" were not only terrific albums, but showcased the talents of a band that was a generation ahead of its time via a mix of guitar-anchored New Wave and what would someday be known as Americana. 
Recalling most closely the rollicking sound of early Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, the Textones featured lead singer/guitarist Carla Olson, guitarist George Callins, bassist Joe Read, multi-instrumentalist  Tom Junior Morgan and drummer Phil Seymour (later replaced by Rick Hemmert). "Midnight Mission" features a number of excellent songs, including the high-energy "Hands of the Working Man" and "No Love In You," along with the lovely countrified "Number One Is to Survive." "Cedar Creek" is an equal joy. The spirited lead-off track "Not Afraid," rousing "Gotta Get You Back" and Rolling Stones-styled "You Can Run" are balanced by tracks such as the mid tempo "Another Soul Searcher" (bolstered by Olson's slide guitar work), piano-anchored ballad "Austin" and textured "We Can Laugh About It" fully displaying the richness of the band's rootsy rock approach. The reissue of "Midnight Mission" includes five bonus tracks, while "Cedar Creek" boasts an 8-song live set recorded in Santa Cruz, CA in November 1987. Information:

Purchase "Midnight Mission" here

Buy 'Cedar Creek' here

Artist: Black Veil Brides
Title: Alive and Burning (Eagle Rock Entertainment)
You might like if you enjoy: Pierce the Veil, Motionless in White, Rise Against
Tell me more: While there is little subtle about Black Veil Brides' hard rock approach, the quintet uses its first-ever live concert DVD ("Alive and Burning") recorded in late 2014 to deliver the goods to a solidly-engaged capacity crowd at the Wiltern Theater in its hometown of Hollywood, CA in connection with the band's "Black Mass" tour. The 17-track "Alive and Burning" features well-known tracks plucked from across Black Veil Brides' career. Standouts include the hard-hitting melodic opener "Heart of Fire," '80s-styled "Last Rites," the crowd-pleasing "Wretched & Divine" and anthemic closer "In The End." The bonus feature provides an intense and interesting look at the band's relationship with its hardcore fan base. Information:

Purchase "Alive and Burning [DVD]" here

Artist: The Boomtown Rats
Title: Live Germany '78 (Gonzo Multimedia)
You might like if you enjoy: The Boomtown Rats, '70s-era Rolling Stones
Tell me more: Far better known in their native Ireland and neighboring U.K. than here in the U.S., the Boomtown Rats' groundbreaking mix of Sticky Fingers-era Rolling Stones, early punk rock and reggae is fully celebrated on Live Germany '78, a two-disc collection featuring a concert film with bonus tracks on the DVD and an audio CD of the 1978 performance. Singer Bob Geldof leads the band through more than a dozen originals including the old school punk rocker "Never Bite the Hand That Feeds You," the New Wave-minded "Neon Heart" and loose rocker "(It Feels) So Strange." 


Artist: The Robert Cray Band
Title: 4 Nights of 40 Years Live (Provogue / Mascot Label Group)
You might like if you enjoy: Robert Cray, Kim Wilson, Eric Clapton
Tell me more: Long celebrated for his nuanced and precise guitar playing, Robert Cray's talents have long extended to his top-flight vocals and wonderful songwriting. The five-time Grammy Award winner has just released the aptly-titled "4 Nights of 40 Years Live," an ambitious multi-format commemoration of the Georgia native's career. The audio CD portion of the title (disc 1 is reviewed here) features 13 tracks collecting live recordings captured across four nights in four different venues. Every performance is a winner; my favorites include the leadoff track "Shiver" highlighting both Cray's soulful vocals and artful guitar work, the infectious "Bad Influence," the guitar-anchored "These Things" and a freewheeling version of the Fabulous Thunderbirds' "Wrap It Up" where Kim Wilson joins in the fun. "4 Nights of 40 Years Live" is available on Blu-ray + CD, DVD + CD or on vinyl. Information:

Get "4 Nights of 40 Years Live (2LP)" on vinyl here 

Artist: von Grey
Title: Panophobia (VG Records)
You might like if you enjoy: Lindsey Stirling, Pentatonix, Della Mae
Tell me more: The Beach Boys, Bee Gees, Sparks and Dawes are among the far-flung musical ensembles that have created a unique and compelling sound with a line-up comprised from all (or mostly) siblings. Atlanta's indie-alt group von Grey may be making a case to join its illustrious ancestors based on the strength of the EP "Panophobia." Sisters Annika (vocals, violin, guitar, keys), Fiona (vocals, guitar, violin, percussion), Petra (keys, electronic percussion, backing vocals) and Kathryn (cello, bass pedals, keys, backing vocals) have followed up 2014's "Awakening" with their best release to date, one that fully showcases their artistry. Everywhere the songs, performances and arrangements are involving and dynamic. Blending acoustic instincts, lovely voices, and electronica and world music touches with a consistently deft touch, the infectious "Katie" (a song magically capturing the spirit of unrequited romantic longing) and "Say My Name" (with its hypnotic rhythm) are among the wonderful works here.  Information:

Purchase "Panophobia" here 

Robert Kinsler, August 2015

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