Monday, March 27, 2017

New Music: Aimee Mann, Ruthie Foster, The Creation, Night Ranger

Whether listeners are seeking out artful folk and pop rock, blues and soul, '60s garage rock or '80s-styled hard rock, there are outstanding new titles that will appeal to fans hungry for great new music.

Artist: Aimee Mann
Title: Mental Illness (SuperEgo Records)
You might like if you enjoy: Aimee Mann, The Shins, The Both
Tell me more: Every time singer-songwriter Aimee Mann releases a new album it marks another reason to celebrate her exceptional and rare legacy. On her latest masterwork Mental Illness (the ninth solo album of her distinguished career, not counting her contributions to 1999's "Magnolia" and her role in the duo dubbed The Both co-starring Ted Leo), Mann scales back the more sweeping Beatlesque sonic textures of Bachelor No. 2 and Lost In Space in favor of a more sparse delivery in the service of her bewitching songcraft. Mental Illness finds an expanse where her introspective songs continue to be bolstered by an almost otherworldly touch festooned with melodic lines ensuring that even downcast themes shimmer and charm. On the baroque folk-flavored "Goose Snow Cone," Mann sings "Even birds of a feather find it hard to fly." Later on during the enticing folk rocker "Patient Zero," she sardonically sings "Life is grand / And wouldn't you like to have it go as planned." Even on the relatively straightforward "You Never Loved Me," there is a nuanced touch and emotional weight that fully lures the listener. An outstanding album (Editor's Note: Mental Illness is slated for release on Friday, March 31, 2017).

Artist: Ruthie Foster
Title: Joy Comes Back (Blue Corn Music)
You might like if you enjoy: Bonnie Raitt, Susan Tedeschi
Tell me more: Songstress Ruthie Foster's Joy Comes Back showcases the Austin, Texas-based artist's mighty touch via performances that masterfully blend soul, gospel and blues material. In addition to featuring an original song (the soul-stirring R&B ballad "Open Sky"), Joy Comes Back offers up a diverse mix of songwriters represented across its 10-track run. Gospel choruses are given their welcome due via an uplifting take of Sean Staples' "Joy Comes Back" (featuring some hot slide guitar from Derek Trucks) and a sweet take on Stevie Wonder's "Loving You is Sweeter Than Ever," while a reworked interpretation of Black Sabbath's epic "War Pigs" erupts as a heavy Chicago blues-styled firestorm. Elsewhere there is a seamless mix of soul and blues, notably on a wonderful version of Chris Stapleton's "What Are You Listening To." Foster is one of modern music's greatest singers, in large part, because she thankfully never resorts to overwrought or contrived pop excess. Joy Comes Back is a fantastic showcase of Foster's supernatural powers. Information:

Artist: The Creation
Title: Action Painting (Numero Group)
You might like if you enjoy: Early Who, early Kinks, the Jam, the Zombies
Tell me more: Originally recorded between 1965 and 1968, The Creation's Action Painting collection of amazing songs has been remastered from the original tapes by Shel Talmy and bring the English quartet's complete studio catalog (including four tracks by The Mark Four, a forerunner of The Creation) to audio CD. The recordings here leap across time and explode with youthful energy and garage rock grandeur. Rollicking rockers ("Making Time," "Biff Bang Pow," "How Does It Feel to Feel"), melodic power pop ("Try and Stop Me," "Tom Tom") and psychedelic rock ("Painter Man," "Nightmares," "Through My Eyes") are delivered with stylish perfection. The two-disc set comes in a beautiful package that includes an 80-page hard cover book (CD version) with a slew of unseen photographs, colorful images of original discography artwork and a historical essay penned by Dean Rudland. Information:

Artist: Night Ranger
Title: Don't Let Up (Frontiers Music SRL)
You might like if you enjoy: Damn Yankees, Journey
Tell me more: Fans of melodic hard rock will want to grab a copy of Don't Let Up, the 12th studio album from Night Ranger. The San Francisco-spawned rock quintet unleash plenty of hard-charging rockers in celebration of the band's 35th anniversary. In fact, this writer is certain that every track on the disc will please the faithful. The blend of driving hard rock rhythms, soaring vocal choruses and impressive guitar work featuring the tandem fast-fingered talents of Brad Gillis and Keri Kelli continues to be a surefire formula. Singer-bassist Jack Blades and singer-drummer Kelly Keagy continue to provide a strong rhythm section. The infectious "Somehow Someway," guitar-centered "Running Out of Time" and "Say What You Want," and decidedly melodic title track "Don't Let Up" are among the standouts on the 11-song LP. A deluxe edition of the album includes an additional track and a bonus DVD.  Information:

Robert Kinsler

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