Monday, June 12, 2017

Enduring legends shine on new releases

Some of the most important and beloved music heroes of the late 20th century are featured on crucial new releases.

Artist: Simple Minds
Title: Acoustic In Concert (Eagle Rock Entertainment)
You might like if you enjoy: Simple Minds, U2, Coldplay
Tell me more: Although it has been 40 years since Simple Minds formed in Glasgow, Scotland, the troupe's music resonates with as much power as ever as on the DVD+CD release Acoustic In Concert. Captured at London's legendary Hackey Empire on Nov. 10, 2016, Simple Minds' performance as part of BBC Radio 2's "In Concert" series is a revelation for those who love textured and artful melodic alt rock. While the band members use acoustic instruments this is definitely no easy listening affair. Singer Jim Kerr leads the ensemble through a potent and impassioned concert that includes well-known hits such as "Promised You a Miracle," "Don't You (Forget About Me)" and "Sanctify Yourself," as well as tributes to some of the group's own heroes (David Bowie's "Andy Warhol" and Patti Smith's "Dancing Barefoot"). The concert ends with Simple Minds being joined on stage by groundbreaking English singer-songwriter Steve Harley to perform a joyous "Make Me Smile (Come Up and See Me)." Information:

Artist: Glen Campbell
Title: Adiós (Ume)
You might like if you enjoy: Glen Campbell, Jimmy Webb, Willie Nelson
Tell me more: The process of recording Glen Campbell's Adiós was understandably difficult. After all, the legendary country and pop singer was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease in 2011 and retired from live performing in November 2012. After his final tour, Campbell was able to work with his wife Kim and producer/musician Carl Jackson to record a number of songs he had talked about over the years for what would be his final studio LP. Across Adiós Campbell still displays a stunning tenor voice and the album sounds polished despite the challenges of his debilitating disease. Among the highlights on the album are Campbell's interpretations of four Jimmy Webb's songs. Among the crop of Webb contributions are the lovely "Just Like Always," the wistful "It Won't Bring Her Back" and "Postcard From Paris," the latter especially touching with three of Campbell's children singing the bittersweet line "I wish you were here" throughout the song. There is also a magical pairing of Campbell and Willie Nelson on "Funny How Time Slips Away," with the two icons swapping verses. Information:

Artist: Chuck Berry
Title: CHUCK (Dualtone Music)
You might like if you enjoy: Chuck Berry
Tell me more: Chuck Berry's final gift to the world ranks with one of the late icon's best-ever recordings. Berry, who died at age 90 in March 2017, had not released a new studio album since 1979 before CHUCK was issued earlier this month. The rock 'n' roll founding father is joined by a collection of guests and family members that joyfully join forces to capture Berry's exuberant blend of rock, blues, hillbilly and R&B that has influenced everyone from the Beatles and Rolling Stones to ELO and Gary Clark Jr. Rock's first-ever guitar hero, Berry was also a master storyteller and his lyrics doubled as pure poetry. All those remarkable gifts are on display here; the infectious "Wonderful Woman" features Berry as well as his son, grandson and Texas bluesman Gary Clark Jr. The album's first single "Big Boys" is a buoyant and cheerful track that captures the energy of Berry's beloved early singles with a driving rhythm and high-spirited lead guitar work. Other songs explore his love of blues (particularly an enticing cover of "You Go To My Head"), old styled country music (the tender ballad "Darlin', a duet he sings with daughter Ingrid Berry) and Caribbean vibes (the reggae-styled "Jamaica Moon"). Information:

Artist: Ray Davies
Title: Americana (Sony Legacy)
You might like if you enjoy: The Jayhawks, The Kinks
Tell me more: Ray Davies has long been rightly recognized as having a creative voice able to fully capture the English experience. But on the aptly-titled Americana, the long-time Kinks frontman has masterfully tapped into the American landscape to create a number of lovely songs that chronicle tales set on this side of The Pond. Backed by one of America's best and most enduring Americana groups, The Jayhawks, Davies' 15-track disc is a mix of his memorable songs and intelligent arrangements. It are the big and little things that work across the album; on "The Deal" there is the straightforward satire-laced tale of scoring success in the entertainment industry but the use of spoken word and lush musical textures makes sure the song works on multiple fronts. Everywhere there are eloquent forays, with the beautifully sparse "Message From The Road" (featuring Davies sharing lead vocals with Jayhawks singer-keyboardist Karen Grotberg), the bluesy politically-charged "Change For Change," infectious roots rocker "The Great Highway" and probing "Wings Of Fantasy" among the diverse songs that tackle the American experience with artistic candor. Information:

Artist: Ride
Title: Weather Diaries (Wichita Recordings)
You might like if you enjoy: The Smiths, Blur, Oasis
Tell me more: Weather Diaries is Ride's first new album in 21 years and the great news is the album is every bit as great as the English quartet's remarkable return witnessed at Coachella in April 2015. The group's original lineup (guitarist-singer Andy Bell, lead singer-guitarist Mark Gardener, drummer Laurence "Los" Colbert and bassist Steve Queralt) is back together for Weather Diaries, which kicks off with the haunting and hypnotic rocker "Lannoy Point." That powerful musical statement is no fluke; every cut on the album thrives on the power of mood, clever song craft, and skilled musicianship. The electronica-styled "All I Want," lush "Home Is A Feeling," sweeping and swirling "Cali," and zestful "Lateral Alice" are among the terrific tracks on this welcome return. Information:

Robert Kinsler

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