Sunday, September 13, 2015

New albums roundup: Styx, Tommy Keene, Hollis Brown, Marshall Crenshaw, Pocahontas soundtrack

New music heroes and classic rock icons, as well as one of Disney's greatest-ever soundtracks are showcased via recent releases.

Artist: Styx
Title: Live at The Orleans Arena Las Vegas (Eagle Rock Entertainment)
You might like if you enjoy: Styx, Kansas, Tommy Shaw
Tell me more: Just as Rush, and subsequently Kansas have enjoyed a wide-ranging resurgence over the past few years, Styx has experienced a renewal for songs blending virtuoso musicianship, memorable songwriting and arena-worthy dynamics. Live at The Orleans Arena Las Vegas is the perfect audio showcase of Styx's contemporary powers, with the dozen-song set mixing up hits ("Lady," "Renegade," "Come Sail Away") and choice album cuts ("The Grand Illusion," "Suite Madame Blue"). The most memorable selections here are nuanced version of singer-guitarist Tommy Shaw's masterwork "Crystal Ball," and a rocking take on "Blue Collar Man (Long Nights)" where Styx is joined by former Eagles lead guitarist Don Felder. Information: or

Buy 'Live At The Orleans Arena Las Vegas' here

Artist: Hollis Brown
Title: 3 Shots (Inkind Music)
You might like if you enjoy: Counting Crows, Simon and Garfunkel; Crosby, Stills and Nash
Tell me more: With an artistic spirit that recalls a myriad of roots and folk rock greats, New York-spawned quintet Hollis Brown's 3 Shots rings true via the anthemic "Cathedral," lush "3 Shots," the ambitious "John Wayne" (that grows from an acoustic lament to a roaring rocker over nearly 7-1/2 minutes), Bo Diddley-mining "Rain Dance" and tuneful "Sweet Tooth." The band also joins forces with acclaimed Americana songstress Nikki Lane on the infectious rootsy rocker "Highway 1." Hollis Brown is currently on tour and will open for Counting Crows at Irvine Meadows Amphitheatre in Irvine, CA on Oct. 2 and at Austin City Limits in Texas on Oct. 7; Hollis Brown will also headline at Hotel Cafe in Los Angeles on Oct. 3. Information:

Buy '3 Shots' here

Artist: Tommy Keene
Title: Laugh in the Dark (Second Motion)
You might like if you enjoy: Matthew Sweet, Marshall Crenshaw, The Replacements
Tell me more: There isn't a clunker anywhere to be found on rocker Tommy Keene's Laugh in the Dark, the latest in a long line of strong discs from the Maryland native. Kicking things off with the driving "Out Of My Mind" and continuing with the romantic "Dear Heloise," Keene's songs cast their spell with a single listen. "Last Of The Twilight Girls" and "Alone in These Modern Times" mine that melody-meets-melancholy rock territory once owned strictly by the Smithereens, while the beautiful "All The Lights Are Alive," spirited Replacements-minded "I Belong To You" and genre-blending "All Gone Away" cast further delight on the singer-guitarist's potent original song craft.  Information:

Buy 'Laugh in the Dark' on vinyl here

Artist: Marshall Crenshaw
Title: #392: The EP Collection (Red River Entertainment)
You might like if you enjoy: Elvis Costello, Matthew Sweet, Tommy Keene
Tell me more: Singer-songwriter Marshall Crenshaw isn't afraid to mix things up. Evidence the Detroit, Michigan native's excellent new #392: The EP Collection, a 14-track disc that features a dozen songs drawn from his purposeful series of six 10-inch vinyl EPs that the singer-guitarist released between 2013 and 2015, as well as a pair of never-before-heard tracks specifically included in this new set. Crenshaw's wide-ranging approach is to create lush soundscapes that totally support the songs (both his own, or artful remakes). The original "Red Wine" finds Crenshaw's emotive vocal delivery positioned amidst a lush mix highlighted by shimmering guitars and organ, while "Move Now" works as both a hypnotic rocker and compelling glimpse into the modern world. An involving tale of romantic departure is rendered via the jazz-rock nugget "Stranger and Stranger," this featuring Crenshaw's excellent lead guitar work. Must-hear covers include a sparse version of Jeff Lynne's "No Time," a poignant performance of the Burt Bacharach/Hal David classic "(They Long to Be) Close to You" and faithful take of the Bobby Fuller Four's 1965 classic "Never to be Forgotten." Information:

Get '#392: The Ep Collection' here

Title: The Legacy Collection: Pocahontas (Walt Disney Records)
You might like if you enjoy: Composer Alan Menken, singer Judy Kuhn
Tell me more: Even when separated from the 1995 animated Disney classic that creatively mixed history and fantasy, The Legacy Collection: Pocahontas soundtrack is a joyful listen. Composer Alan Menken's instrumental score, as well as the songs he composed with lyricist Stephen Schwartz, shine bright more than 20 years after their creation on the newly-issued "The Legacy Collection: Pocahontas." The centerpiece "Colors of the Wind" is one of the decade's best film-related songs (far besting "My Heart Will Go On" from 1997's Titanic), and the new deluxe edition features that gem along with a number of other wonderful songs. Singer Judy Kuhn has a beautiful soprano, as heard on the soaring "Just Around the Riverbend" and dramatic "Epiphany/Savages" which features a mix of solo voices and chorus. A second disc includes some early demos (including the sweet duet "In The Middle of the River" which was not included in the final film). "Pocahontas" received two Academy Awards for its music, including Best Original Score and Best Original Song for "Colors of the Wind." Information:

Purchase 'Walt Disney Records The Legacy Collection: Pocahontas [2 CD]' here
Robert Kinsler

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