Thursday, November 03, 2016

Far-flung heroes highlighted on new releases

A new album from Barry Gibb, a fitting tribute to the late Jerry Garcia, a unique collaboration celebrating loss, stoner rock from Sweden and a legendary live collection are among the far-flung sounds to be discovered via a number of exciting new releases.

Artist: Barry Gibb
Title: In The Now (Columbia Records)
You might like if you enjoy: The Bee Gees, Barry Gibb
Tell me more: Barry Gibb's first album in 32 years, In The Now showcases the former Bee Gee's fantastic voice, sterling songwriting and his uncanny gift for creating intoxicating soundscapes that demand repeated listening.  Time has been kind to Gibb's 50-year legacy as a songwriter, with "I Started a Joke," "Run to Me," "Jive Talkin'," "To Love Somebody" and "Stayin' Alive" recognized as enduring pop masterworks. On "In The Now," Gibb joins forces with his children (sons Ashley Gibb and Stephen Gibb, the latter who performs guitar on the collection) to create striking confessionals in the 21st century. The driving power pop gem "Blowin' A Fuse," affecting "Home Truth Song" and impactful "Meaning of the Word" are early standouts. Gibb celebrates the legacy of his family (his brother Andy died in 1988, while Maurice died in 2003 and Robin died in 2012) on "End of the Rainbow," written as Robin was dying; it is a lovely song that builds from a quiet ode with Gibb's voice and piano to a more swelling symphonic fanfare before the song artfully segues back to a solemn and hushed finale. Information:

Artists: Phil Lesh, Bob Weir, Mickey Hart, Peter Frampton, more
Title: Dear Jerry: Celebrating the Music of Jerry Garcia (Rounder Records)
You might like if you enjoy: the Grateful Dead, Peter Frampton, Trampled by Turtles
Tell me more: It takes an army of talented players to bring justice to Jerry Garcia's stellar musical legacy, and fortunately that is how the stars align on the aptly-named Dear Jerry: Celebrating the Music of Jerry Garcia. Released by Rounder Records in multiple formats (Blu-ray, DVD, CD and digital download), the collection shimmers with the same magic that drew legions to follow the late Garcia and the Grateful Dead during the 30 years he led the band (1965-1995). The first track (a mini-medley of "The Wheel" and "Uncle John's Band") features Grateful Dead bassist Phil Lesh & Communion and stretches more than 16 minutes, and not a second is wasted. It's honestly tough to highlight any of the tracks without criminally ignoring others just as deserving. That being said, a bluegrass take on "Shady Grove" featuring David Grisman, a rocking "(I'm a) Road Runner" with Peter Frampton on vocals and lead guitar, a wistful "Loser" courtesy of jam rockers moe and an Appalachian version of "Brown-Eyed Woman" from Trampled By Turtles scratches the surface of the power of the two & a half hour concert event staged on May 14, 2015 that is one of the finest tributes to a modern musical hero ever captured on film and audio (with true Dolby 5.1 surround stereo). Information:

Artists: Paul Kelly & Charlie Owen
Title: Death's Dateless Night (Cooking Vinyl)
You might like if you enjoy: Paul Kelly, Charlie Owen, John Paul White
Tell me more: Singer-songwriter Paul Kelly and multi-instrumentalist Charlie Owen mine the deepest corners of death and loss on their stunning collaboration Death's Dateless Night. The duo have recorded a mix of melancholic and contemplative covers, as well as two Kelly originals in an exploration that blends blues, folk and Americana with subtlety and expertise. Conceived by the two long-time friends at the end of a funeral in 2015, the force of the album is clear across its full length. The pensive "Pretty Bird Tree," country blues classic "Pallet on Your Floor," traditional Celtic ballad "The Parting Glass," as well as a brilliant reworking of Leonard Cohen's "Bird On The Wire"  and a stirring version of the Hank Williams hymn "Angel of Death" are among the artful arrangements on "Death's Dateless Night." Information:

Artist: Siena Root
Title: Pioneers (Cleopatra Records)
You might like if you enjoy: Deep Purple, Fu Manchu, Iron Butterfly
Tell me more: Swedish stone rockers Siena Root don't necessarily set out to explore any new ground on their new album Pioneers, but fans of classic Deep Purple, Iron Butterfly and Uriah Heep would be advised to get the disc specifically because of the strength and authenticity of the Stockholm quintet's retro approach. Widely recognized as one of the nation's best hard rock outfits, Siena Root's virtuoso chops, undeniable riffs and keen sense of melody shine across the nine-track album. The head-banging "7 Years," the British blues-flavored "Root Rock Pioneers" and Blue Cheer-flavored/slide guitar-adorned "The Way You Turn" are epic to be sure. Strong lead vocals from Jonas "Joe Nash" Ahlen, terrific keyboards from Erik "Erika" Petersson, and blazing lead guitar work from Matte Gustafsson provide dynamics that make this more than a paint-by-numbers affair. And the rhythm section of bassist Sam Riffer and drummer Love "Billy" Forsberg impresses, notably on the Ten Years After-styled "Spiral Trip." The audio CD version of the release includes a heavy metal take on Led Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love" as a welcome bonus track. Information:

Artist: Mark Collie & His Reckless Companions
Title: Alive at Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary (Eagle Rock Entertainment)
You might like if you enjoy: John Mellencamp, Johnny Cash, Kelly Willis
Tell me more: In 2001, country-meets-rockabilly artist Mark Collie led a group of top-flight musicians into Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary in his home state of Tennessee to give several full-length performances. Collie hoped his appearance at one of the nation's most infamous prisons might help spread a message of hope and redemption, but shuffles at his record label left a commercial release of the project in limbo - until now. Now that 15-year-old concert recording has been released, and the good news is that Mark Collie & His Reckless Companions: Alive At Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary packs a punch far beyond the walls of the penitentiary that closed in 2009. The hard-rocking Collie original "One More Second Chance," a shimmering "Heaven Bound" (featuring songstress Kelly Willis on lead vocals), inspired "On The Day I Die," anthemic "Reckless Companions" and an apt take on the Johnny Cash jewel "Folsom Prison Blues" make the wait for this fine live set more than worth the wait.  Information:

Artist: Radio California
Title: Pioneer's of Change (independent)
You might like if you enjoy: Violent Femmes, the B-52's, Frank Zappa, Youth Gone Mad
Tell me more: On the band's Pioneer's of Change, Radio California has captured the fierce and authentic sounds of 1980s college rock, art damage and post-punk via a captivating 10-track collection. This is rock that challenges the listener to be sure. While both the title track and "Gossip Hounds" are lilting and tuneful, the spoken word-anchored "Alligator Teeth & Coffee Grounds" and ferocious Pencils and Pistols" recall alt rock's adventuresome origins. The hypnotic "Woman" is built on a simple repeating chord change and singer-songwriter Jesseo's distinctive baritone wielded into a potent brew. "Close My Eyes" blends punk rock and spoken lyrics before a more textured and melodic chorus emerges. "Wall" is another great song, the mix of tunefulness, synthpop and lyrical repetition adding up to something riveting and original. Information:

Robert Kinsler

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