Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Album reviews: Walter Trout, Neil Finn + Paul Kelly, Flying Colors, Pat Boone, Matt Reagan

Late 2015 has seen no shortage of new studio albums and must-have concert recordings out now. 

Artist: Walter Trout
Title: Battle Scars (Mascot Label Group)
You might like if you enjoy: Joe Bonamassa, Rory Gallagher
Tell me more: Acclaimed singer-songwriter-guitarist Walter Trout's amazing fight for survival that included a life-saving liver transplant in May 2014 and arduous-but-full recovery is chronicled on the bluesman's latest album Battle Scars. From the blistering "Almost Gone" where Trout sings of how his body is ravaged to the beautiful ballad "Please Take Me Home" and triumphant "Gonna Live Again," Trout's lyrically honest and musically gallant disc is almost a conceptual follow-up to his previous 2014 release The Blues Came Callin'  carved out as the artist feared he might be dying. One of the best blues rock guitarists of all time, Trout's distinguished and virtuoso guitar works shines across all dozen tracks, including on the hard rocking "Playin' Hideaway," the soaring "Fly Away" and survival-themed British blues-styled
 rocker "Move On." Information:

Artist: Neil Finn + Paul Kelly
Title: Goin' Your Way (Omnivore Recordings)
You might like if you enjoy: Crowded House, Split Enz, the Finn Brothers, Paul Kelly
Tell me more: As two of the world's greatest-ever singer-songwriters, Neil Finn and Paul Kelly have achieved considerable acclaim for respective careers dating back to the mid-1970s. The two legendary artists teamed up in 2013 to tour Australia, with a concert recorded at Sydney Opera House issued commercially that ultimately proved to be a Top 5 album Down Under. Now, more than two years after its release in Australia and New Zealand, Goin' Your Way is finally available in the U.S. Fans of the artists will be thrilled at the selection of 29 songs and the inspired power exhibited across the two-disc recording. In addition to revisiting some of their greatest songs (Finn's "Don't Dream It's Over," "Distant Sun" and "Fall At Your Feet"; Kelly's "To Her Door," "Winter Coat" and "Before Too Long"), they faithfully cover Buddy Holly's "Words of Love" and rework the Henry Mancini-Johnny Mercer classic "Moon River" to close out the delightful collaboration. Information:

Artist: Flying Colors
Title: Second Flight: Live at the Z7 (Mascot Label Group)
You might like if you enjoy: Steve Morse, Yes, Asia, Rush
Tell me more: Prog-rock's full-on resurgence is personified by Flying Colors' multi-format Second Flight: Live at the Z7 (available as a 2-CD/1 DVD combo or 2-CD/1 Blu-ray package). The latest supergroup of musical heroes, Flying Colors features former/current members of Deep Purple (guitarist Steve Morse), Dream Theater (drummer/backing singer Mike Portnoy), Spock's Beard (keyboardist/backing singer Neal Morse), Alpha Rev (lead singer/rhythm guitarist Casey McPherson) and Dixie Dregs (bassist Dave LaRue). Like Asia, Flying Colors has somehow been able to artfully fuse complex and dazzling musicianship with accessible songwriting - a feat far more difficult than the casual listener would know; just listen to the magical "Bombs Away" with its heavy rock riff laced with rich harmonies and symphonic sections that appear out of thin air and segue into jaw-dropping solos. Flying Colors brings just about everything into its amazing sonic brew including baroque textures (the lovely "Kayla"), classic metal ("Shoulda Coulda Woulda," "Forever In a Daze"), time-honored progressive rock forays ("A Place In Your World," "The Storm") and even Americana ("One Love Forever," "Colder Months"). Essential for lovers of prog-rock. Information:

Artist: Pat Boone
Title: R&B Duet Hits (Goldenland Records / Cleopatra Records)
You might like if you enjoy: Pat Boone, James Brown, Sam Moore
Tell me more: A collection few likely saw coming, Pat Boone's latest album R&B Duet Hits finds the 81-year-old singer teaming with a number of groundbreaking R&B artists to revisit that genre with a fun-filled approach. "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag" (with the late James Brown), "Get Down Tonight" (with KC & The Sunshine Band) and ""Tears of a Clown" (with Smokey Robinson) are all dance floor-worthy. Boone's 1997 album In a Metal Mood: No More Mr. Nice Guy found the singer using his baritone to cover heavy metal songs in a jazz/big band style that returned the artist to the Billboard charts but alienated some of Boone's long-time fans; his new album is a fun-filled collection that will likely please fans of his 2006 collection "Pat Boone R&B Classics." Information:

Artist: Matt Reagan
Title: Leavenworth (independent)
You might like if you enjoy: The Weeknd, Derek Webb, Hozier
Tell me more: Although Matt Reagan's Leavenworth only features three songs, the EP (released Dec. 1, 2015) provides a pretty good showcase for the upcoming San Francisco-based singer-songwriter/multi-instrumentalist's alternative pop style. The lush "Tell Me," romantic "With You All The Way" and driving "Lights" will appeal to fans of The Weeknd and Derek Webb's "I Was Wrong, I'm Sorry & I Love You" 2013 album. Information:

Robert Kinsler

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