Sunday, November 29, 2015

Celebrated artists make eagerly-awaited returns

Fall 2015 has revealed a number of exciting returns for classic artists, including long-awaited returns by Jeff Lynne's ELO and British pop-rock outfit Squeeze, as well as high-profile releases from Canadian rocker Bryan Adams, German hard rock outfit Scorpions and a solo album from ZZ Top guitarist Billy Gibbons.

Artist: Jeff Lynne's ELO
Title: Alone in the Universe (Columbia)
You might like if you enjoy: Traveling Wilburys, ELO
Tell me more: For the better part of the 1970s and '80s, the Electric Light Orchestra  better known as ELO  thrilled rock fans with dozens of spectacular hits including "Evil Woman," "Turn to Stone," "Don't Bring Me Down," "All Over the World" and "Mr. Blue Sky." When the band folded in 1986, lead singer/guitarist/songwriter Jeff Lynne became busy working as a producer for the likes of George Harrison and Roy Orbison, and a key member of supergroup of the Traveling Wilburys seemingly put an end to ELO. With 2015 being a year chalk full of amazing returns (Blur, the Zombies, Squeeze, Duran Duran), an amazing full-length disc from Jeff Lynne's ELO has to be heard to be believed. An acclaimed producer, singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, Lynne displays his myriad of talents across Alone in the Universe, a disc where he masterfully handles the majority of duties on his own. Lynne can still unleash shimmering symphonic epics (including the wonderful single "When I Was a Boy" and swirling "The Sun Will Shine On You"), but some of the most sterling songs here include the confessional ballad "All My Life," yearning "I'm Leaving You" and reflective title track. Here in the U.S., there is a deluxe edition of Alone in the Universe that includes two bonus tracks. Information:

Get 'Jeff Lynne's ELO - Alone In The Universe' (Amazon U.S. Deluxe Exclusive) here

Artist: Squeeze
Title: Cradle To The Grave (Caroline)
You might like if you enjoy: Crowded House, Squeeze
Tell me more: Featuring Squeeze's first new album of new material since 1998, the newly-released Cradle To The Grave finds Chris Difford and Glenn Tilbrook and company forging ahead even while celebrating their storied melodic and literate style that yielded a slew of classics in the 1970s and '80s. The songs here blend power pop and melodic rock, adorned with lovely harmonies and creative arrangements that enhance each song's core power (many of the tales here honest chronicle middle age). "Happy Days" is as exhilarating as its title; the ambitious Beatles-styled "Sunny" and Americana-tinged "Haywire" are the creative equal of Squeeze classics such as "Tempted," "Black Coffee in Bed" and "Cool For Cats." A thrilling return to be sure. Information:

Buy 'Cradle To The Grave' here

Artist: Bryan Adams
Title: Get Up (UMe)
You might like if you enjoy: Jeff Lynne, Bryan Adams
Tell me more: Singer-songwriter Bryan Adams' latest album Get Up was produced by legendary Jeff Lynne (Roy Orbison, Tom Petty, George Harrison), and the project is something that ultimately stretches the reach of Adams' sincere style of rock 'n' roll. Some of the songs here incorporate elements of classic rock stretching back to the genre's roots (particularly the 50s-flavored "You Belong To Me" and Beatles-mining "Don't Even Try"), while "Go Down Rockin'" captures the spirit of the Ontario, Canada native's classic '80s works. The lovely "Yesterday Was Just a Dream" is a wonderful track that is as contemporary and affecting as anything Adams has ever recorded. Information:

Get 'Get Up' here

Artist: Scorpions
Title: Return To Forever (Legacy)
You might like if you enjoy: Scorpions, AC/DC
Tell me more: AC/DC isn't the only classic hard rock band to have silenced the naysayers in 2015. Germany's Scorpions - who remarkably have been together for 50 years - have issued one of their best-ever discs. Return to Forever features the blend of strong riffs, melodic heavy metal and power ballads that marked the band's wave of top-selling albums issued throughout the 1980s and early '90s. Singer Klaus Meines remains a wonder, his voice able to convey youthful abandon as well as more mature emotions. "House of Cards" is the band's most compelling ballad since 1990's classic "Wind of Change." Rockers need not worry; the pumping "All For One," "Going Out With a Bang" and "House of Cards" are among the bona fide hard rockers on the album. The straight-forward and aptly-titled "Rock 'n' Roll Band" sums up the 5 decade career of one of the globe's most enduring hard rocking outfits. Information:

Purchase 'Return To Forever' here

Artist: Billy Gibbons and the BFG's
Title: Perfectamundo (Concord Records)
You might like if you enjoy: ZZ Top, Los Lobos
Tell me more: While ZZ Top front man Billy Gibbons' distinctive vocal growl and blistering lead guitar work will quickly be recognized on Perfectamundo, the first-ever solo album from Gibbons stands apart in style from his role in his Rock and Roll Hall of Fame band. Here Gibbons' musical stamp is mixed with a decidedly Cuban flair courtesy of his musical collaborator Martine "G.G." GuiGui. The festive, dance-minded affair blends blues, Latin rhythms, rap, Carribeano and other exotic elements. Infectious and authentic, highlights include the Mexicano-blues rocker "Got Love If You Want It" and percussion-anchored "Sal Y Pimiento." Information:

Get 'Perfectamundo' here

Robert Kinsler

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