Sunday, July 03, 2016

Genre-spanning titles that rock

Several live albums, a slew of welcome reissues and an impressive debut are among the large field of highly-recommended titles that will satisfy music lovers from across the spectrum.

Artist: Neil Young + Promise of the Real
Title: Earth (Reprise)
You might like if you enjoy: Neil Young and Crazy Horse
Tell me more: Neil Young is truly rock's most enduring explorer, challenging himself and his audience with songs bolstered by socially-minded lyrics and expansive rock that incorporates folk, alt-country, blues and other styles. On his latest album Earth, Young + Promise of the Real (a group headed by Lucas Nelson and Micah Nelson, Willie Nelson's sons) utilize 2015 concert recordings and studio  overdubs adorned with sounds both tranquil and jarring (mostly animal cries, but also sonics captured in the city) that add up to something that is never less than captivating. The 13-track recording fills two CDs, and includes an ambitious 26-minute take on "Love and Only Love." Other standouts include the beautiful harmonica- and organ-anchored "Mother Earth," melodic country rocker "My Country Home," and lush "Western Hero." Information:

Purchase 'Earth' (2CD) here today

Artist: Asia
Title: British Live Performance Series (Rainman)
You might like if you enjoy: Yes, John Wetton, Carl Palmer, Geoff Downes
Tell me more: Recorded at Central Television Nottingham studios in 1990, Asia's British Live Performance Series concert release is a wonder. Capturing the supergroup as they performed highlights from their first decade together, the 13-track set includes virtuoso prog-rock ("Wildest Dreams," "Time Again"), tuneful anthems ("Voice of America," "Days Like These") and energetic takes on their biggest hits ("Sole Survivor," "Don't Cry," "Only Time Will Tell," "Heat of the Moment"). British Live Performance Series is a must-have for fans of Asia. Information:

Get Asia's 'British Live Performance Series' here

Artist: Charlie Faye & the Fayettes
Title: Charlie Faye & the Fayettes (independent)
You might like if you enjoy: She & Him, the Shirelles, the Ronettes
Tell me more: Some of today's most exciting artists are those who have tapped into a retro vein and made it their own. Indeed, She & Him, Gary Clark Jr. and St. Paul & the Broken Bones are among the '00s breakout acts who have artistically balanced old and new. Now comes Austin's Charlie Faye & the Fayettes (Faye is lead vocalist, and is joined by backup singers BettySoo and Akina Adderley). The glorious "Green Light," haunting "Loving Names," Burt Bacharach-styled "Carelessly," and rock 'n' soul romp "Eastside" are among this writer's faves. Information:

Purchase 'Charlie Faye & The Fayettes' on audio CD

Artist: The Record Company
Title: Give It Back to You (Concord Music Group)
You might like if you enjoy: Moreland & Arbuckle, 7Horse
Tell me more: Los Angeles trio The Record Company has been doing for blues-rock what Vintage Trouble has done for rock 'n soul. The Record Company (singer-guitarist-harmonica player Chris Vos, bassist-vocalist Alex Stiff and drummer-vocalist-piano player Marc Cazorla released a debut, Give It Back to You, that not only harkens back to some of the group's influences (John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters, the Rolling Stones), but equally establishes the threesome as a contemporary and fully contemporary voice. The performances are energetic and the songs are explosive. The blistering "Off the Ground," heavy bass-filled hypnotic rocker "On the Move" and gospel-infused "Hard Day Coming Down" are undeniably catchy, and everywhere the sparse but intoxicating arrangements are a delight. Information:

Get 'Give It Back To You' here

Artist: The Traveling Wilburys
Title: The Traveling Wilburys Collection (Concord Bicycle Music)
You might like if you enjoy: George Harrison, Jeff Lynne, Roy Orbison, Bob Dylan
Tell me more: The Traveling Wilburys' brief but brilliant career is fully chronicled on the newly-released The Traveling Wilburys Collection. Featuring the group's wonderful 1988 debut Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1 and sterling sophomore disc, 1990's Traveling Wilburys Vol. 3, the new collection offers each of those albums with bonus tracks. In addition, a DVD disc includes the documentary "The True History of the Traveling Wilburys," and five great music videos for classics including "Handle With Care," "End of the Line" and "She's My Baby." As time has flown by it almost defies belief that George Harrison, Jeff Lynne, Roy Orbison, Tom Petty and Bob Dylan took time out from their A-list solo careers to join forces in one of rock 'n' roll's greatest-ever supergroups; The Traveling Wilburys Collection is the lasting document of that joyous union. Information:

Buy 'Traveling Wilburys Collection' [2CD/DVD Combo][Deluxe Edition] version here

Artist: The Bangles
Title: Ladies and Gentlemen…the Bangles! (Omnivore)
You might like if you enjoy: The Bangles, Susanna Hoffs
Tell me more: Some of the Bangles' earliest recordings are gathered together on the delightful Ladies and Gentlemen...the Bangles! The wonderful 16-track disc offers up standout studio takes, demos and live recordings chronicling the group's formative years (the ensemble was originally known as the Bangs before adopting the permanent moniker the Bangles). The mix of propulsive instrumentals and melodic power pop is infectious and the songs really shine across the re-mastered set. My faves include the surf-minded instrumental "Bitchen Summer/Speedway," harmonies-rich "The Real World," Beatles-worthy "I'm In Line" and garage rocker "Want You." Information:

Get 'Ladies And Gentlemen... The Bangles!' here

Artist: Gypsy Soul
Title: True (Off the Beaten Track Recordings)
You might like if you enjoy: Sarah McLachlan, the Civil Wars
Tell me more: Indie music duo Gypsy Soul has a loyal and discerning following that has followed singer Cilette Swann and multi-instrumentalist Roman Morykit as they have carved out an impressive discography filled with material blending Celtic, folk, jazz, rock and other styles with a master's touch. Gypsy Soul's thirteenth album True offers an engaging and eclectic collection of songs sure to thrill fans; the Americana "We Are What We Believe," beautiful acoustic ballad "6,000 Miles," introspective folk rocker "Long, Long Ride" and stripped down soulful exploration of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" all shine here. Information:

Purchase 'True' here

Artist: RAZ
Title: The Best of RAZ (Gonzo Multimedia)
You might like if you enjoy: Early Cheap Trick, Big Star, Joey Molland
Tell me more: The high-octane and infectious songs that fill The Best of RAZ recall the early days of power pop, namely the groundbreaking sounds of Big Star and early Cheap Trick. The rollicking "The Boy," New Wave-styled rocker "Say Ya Love Me," saxophone-adorned riff rocker "Back in the Shadows" and alt country rocker "Sitting On My Bed" (the latter featuring Carla Olson on lead vocals) are simply a blast. In addition to the talents of leader Michael Raz Rescigno (vocals, guitar), the range of recordings featured on the best-of disc includes guest players Joey Molland (Badfinger), Joe Vitale (Joe Walsh, The Eagles), Stu Cook (Creedence Clearwater Revival) and aforementioned Olson. Information:

Purchase 'The Best of Raz' here

Artist: The Rides
Title: Pierced Arrow (429 Records)
You might like if you enjoy: Stephen Stills, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Kim Wilson
Tell me more: Lightening strikes twice for the Rides, the supergroup (featuring singer-guitarist Stephen Stills, singer-guitarist Kenny Wayne Shepherd and keyboardist Barry Goldberg), whose new sophomore effort is a top-notch followup to 2013's "Can't Get Enough." Armed with a collection of soulful originals (the blues-rocker "Kick Out of It," smooth soul rocker "I've Got to Use My Imagination" and bluesy "Game On" among the great tracks) and a cover of Willie Dixon's "My Babe," the trio is rounded out by drummer Chris Layton and bassist Kevin McCormick. One of the most powerful songs on the set is "Virtual World," whose Buffalo Springfield-styled musical palate and right-on lyrics of the emotional cost of living in a technology-immersed society should be required listening. Information:

Artist: Glen Campbell
Title: For the Good Times (Varèse Sarabande Records)
You might like if you enjoy: Glen Campbell, Keith Urban, Alan Jackson
Tell me more: Although Glen Campbell is best known for a string of timeless crossover hits he scored in the 1960s and '70s, the singer-guitarist had a busy decade in the 1980s focusing on country music. Standouts and previously-unreleased material from that decade is featured on the newly-issued For the Good Times, a 16-track collection that includes the theme song from the 1980 hit film "Any Which Way You Can," an affecting previously-unheard version of Dave Loggins' "Please Come To Boston" and a beautiful banjo-anchored take on JD Souther's "Faithless Love," the latter showcasing Campbell's high-soaring tenor vocals. Campbell's talent was always such that he could make songs penned by others his own; listening to a tender version of Jimmy Webb's "Do What You Gotta Do" serves as a painful reminder of Campbell's absence from the music scene. Information:

Artist: The Muffs
Title: Blonder and Blonder (Omnivore Recordings)
You might like if you enjoy: The Pixies, the Pandoras
Tell me more: The deluxe re-release of the Muffs' Blonder and Blonder is a fan's dream come true. Not only does the original 14-track 1995 release sound better than ever, but the disc includes seven bonus tracks (two U.K. B-sides and five previously unissued Kim Shattuck demo recordings). The straight-up post-punk album includes so many great songs, stretching from the opening blast "Agony" and scream-laced "Oh Nina" to the crunchy rocker "Red Eyed Troll" and tuneful "Just a Game." Omnivore Recordings has issued "Blonder and Blonder" on audio CD, and on baby-blue vinyl. The 20-page full-color booklet that comes with the CD is wonderful, providing extensive liner notes, photos and even a song-by-song reflections by Shattuck. Information:

Artist: Band of Horses
Title: Why Are You Ok (Interscope)
You might like if you enjoy: Neil Young and Crazy Horse, Band of Horses' 2010 album "Infinite Arms"
Tell me more: If Neil Young and Crazy Horse had joined forces with members of Oasis and the Shins it might sound something like the dreamy expanse minded so masterfully by Band of Horses. The quintet's new album Why Are You Ok is a beautiful triumph, with the ambitious "Dull Times/The Moon" growing from an ethereal soundscape to a raging rocker. The lush "Solemn Oath," introspective "Hag," country-styled "Throw My Mess" and driving "Casual Party" are among the other masterfully penned and performed songs on the disc. Information:

Artist: Garbage
Title: Strange Little Birds (STUNVOLUME)
You might like if you enjoy: Garbage, the Pretenders
Tell me more: Garbage's sixth album Strange Little Birds finds the rock quintet exploring the better part of its electronica and alt rock personalities with equal zeal. Singer Shirley Manson remains one of modern rock's greatest lead vocalists, and is backed by a quartet of talented musicians able to unleash powerful and affecting songs that are never anything less than original. The ethereal "Blackout," propulsive "Empty" and alluring electronica-tinged "Night Drive Loneliness" provide more than enough reasons to pick up Garbage's brilliant Strange Little Birds. Information:

Robert Kinsler

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