Tuesday, June 27, 2017

New Music: Studio Returns, Live Sets and Retrospectives

Eagerly-awaited returns from Styx, Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow, Robert Lamm and Richard X. Heyman add additional depth to the career of each of the legendary artists.

Artist: Styx
Title: The Mission (UMe)
You might like if you enjoy: Styx, Rush, Queen
Tell me more: Just half way through 2017, the year has already been marked by a number of long-awaited returns including Fastball, Little Steven, Chuck Berry and Ride. Count Styx as the latest rock artist to return with a powerful new album that equals some of the band's best work. Recorded over the last three years, The Mission is the first new Styx studio album since 2003; the new LP is a compelling concept album centered around the technological challenges and human costs of an ambitious interplanetary journey. Several of the songs equal standouts on the band's best albums (Crystal Ball, The Grand Illusion, Pieces of Eight). The gorgeous "Locomotive" explores the complex relationship between father and son; the progressive rock-styled "The Greater Good" is an eloquently-detailed exchange between two astronauts as they hope their actions will advance their mission even if their lives are lost. The songs may be built around a trip into the cosmos, but the emotions and marvelous music making will connect firmly with listeners here on Terra Firma. Styx will perform at Agua Caliente in Rancho Mirage, CA at 9 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 15. Information: StyxWorld.com.

Artist: Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow
Title: Live In Birmingham 2016 (Eagle Rock)
You might like if you enjoy: Rainbow, Deep Purple
Tell me more: Ritchie Blackmore's exceptional guitar work during his years with Deep Purple and Rainbow has long established him as one of the best and most influential lead guitarists in the history of rock. Since the late 1990s, Blackmore has focused mostly on performing traditional British folk music. However, in June 2016, Blackmore revisited his illustrious past when he teamed with singer Ronnie Romero, keyboardist Jens Johansson, drummer David Keith and bassist Bob Nouveau for a trio of live showcases; the two German shows at Loreley and Bietigheim were used to compile the concert film Memories In Rock released by Eagle Vision in November 2016. Now, the full audio recording from Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow's Live In Birmingham 2016 performance in Great Britain is out on on a two-CD set. The performance delivers bona fide live versions of Blackmore's best known rock material including classics from Deep Purple ("Highway Star," Perfect Strangers," "Soldier of Fortune," "Smoke on the Water") and Rainbow ("Man on the Silver Mountain," Since You Been Gone") that fully deliver on the power of the original studio versions. Information: Eagle-Rock.com.

Artist: Robert Lamm
Title: Time Chill: A Retrospective (Omnivore Recordings)
You might like if you enjoy: Chicago, Bill Champlin
Tell me more: Even casual fans of Rock and Roll Hall of Fame artist Chicago's '70s work will enjoy immersing themselves in Robert Lamm's Time Chill: A Retrospective. Lamm is a founding member of Chicago and songwriter of "Saturday in the Park," "Beginnings" and "25 or 6 to 4." Collecting highlights from his solo career spanning 1999 to 2012 (including four previously-unreleased tracks), "Time Chill: A Retrospective" highlights the jazz, pop, chill and other styles Lamm has explored over the past two decades. The breezy "Angels Fly," which recalls the Euro pop of the 1960s, the Bossa nova-flavored "Sing To Me Lady" and techno-funk "Sleeping In the Middle of the Bed" are early nuggets on the 15-song collection, while the jazzy "Send Rain," potent 9/11-inspired jazz-meets-blues "Everyday, It's Always Something" and affecting ballad "Standing At Your Door" impress later. Additionally, Chicago fans will likely appreciate the chill-styled JVE remix of "Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?" Information: OmnivoreRecordings.com.

Artist: Richard X. Heyman
Title: Incognito (Turn-Up Records)
You might like if you enjoy: Matthew Sweet, Todd Rundgren, the Jayhawks
Tell me more: Master singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Richard X. Heyman is back with his 12th album, this one featuring an outstanding batch of 14 must-hear original songs. Incognito is an album that grabs the listener on first listen, with literate tales that are melodic, adorned with shimmering harmonies and infectious guitar-anchored hooks that outdistance the majority of his power pop contemporaries. In a better world, the title track "Incognito," "A Fool's Errand" and "Her Garden Path" would be all over the radio. Heyman can conjure up firepower to spare, as evidenced by the driving "Chalk It Up" and soulful "Terry Two Timer." And Heyman's skills to create and craft wistful songs bolstered by melodic rock are as strong as any artist in memory (just listen to the yearning Americana-tinged "And Then" and "Gleam"). A masterwork from start to finish. Information: richardxheyman.com.

Robert Kinsler

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