Although the latest titles featuring Austin bluesman Gary Clark Jr., British trio Depeche Mode, and a wonderful reissue teaming Bobby Darin & Johnny Mercer couldn't be more different, all are terrific and showcase stellar music making.
Artist: Gary Clark Jr.
Title: Live / North America 2016 (Warner Bros.)
You might like if you enjoy: Jimi Hendrix, Chuck Berry, Sam Cooke
Tell me more: Seeing Gary Clark Jr. in concert is always a thrilling experience so it's no surprise his new collection Live / North America 2016 is so astonishing. The title features 12 tracks recorded last year, with a wide range of Clark's original material visited across the disc. Heavy guitar-centered acid rock ("Grinder," "When My Train Pulls In"), Chicago blues ("My Baby's Gone," "Shake"), semi-acoustic Americana folk ("Church") and soul ("Our Love," "Down To Ride") are perfect musical mates in Clark's versatile universe. The jewel on the set is "The Healing," a confessional exploration at the power of music where Clark delivers a top-flight R&B vocal performance while unleashing guitar work that alternates from shimmering one-note fills to a fervent Hendrix-like attack that closes out the song. Information: WarnerBrosRecords.com.
Artist: Depeche Mode
Title: Spirit (Columbia)
You might like if you enjoy: Erasure, Color Theory, Depeche Mode
Tell me more: Depeche Mode's newly-released 14th studio album Spirit blends the trio's simmering heavy synthpop sonic territory with original material aimed against right-wing targets ("Going Backwards," "Where's the Revolution," "The Worst Crime") at times or revisiting romance-minded themes elsewhere ("You Move," "Cover Me," "So Much Love"). Depeche Mode is one of the most influential and enduring artists to emerge in the 1980s and it's noteworthy that singer Dave Gahan, singer-keyboardist Martin Gore and keyboardist Andy Fletcher have created an immersive album that will please the faithful with material that is inspired and relevant. Information: depechemode.com.
Artist: Bobby Darin & Johnny Mercer
Title: Two of a Kind (Omnivore Recordings)
You might like if you enjoy: Bobby Darin, Johnny Mercer, Billy May
Tell me more: Some albums sound great in their time, and ultimately for all time. Such is the case with the fantastic deluxe reissue of Two of a Kind, a 1961 album that teamed a young Bobby Darin with famed singer-songwriter/composer Johnny Mercer. The original 13-track collection has been reissued with seven additional selections (including two songs recorded for the album but left off the original release) making for a breathtaking look back at the winning big band sounds and pop vocals that shine across the set. A key ingredient here was the backing of Billy May and his orchestra. There is an obvious chemistry and joy in the delivery of the timeless songs delivered here, including "East of the Rockies," "If I Had My Druthers" and several rousing versions of "Two of a Kind." Information: omnivorerecordings.com.