Monday, August 21, 2017

Sights and Sounds: The Rolling Stones, Matthew Sweet, Jason Falkner

Two fantastic live albums featuring the Rolling Stones, an eagerly-anticipated return from power pop hero Matthew Sweet and an under-the-radar instrumental tribute to The Beatles courtesy of Jason Falkner make for an essential mix of releases available now.

Artist: The Rolling Stones
Title: Ladies & Gentlemen… The Rolling Stones (Eagle Rock Entertainment)
You might like if you enjoy: The Rolling Stones, Mick Taylor
Tell me more: Previously available only as a stand-alone DVD release, it is wonderful that Ladies & Gentlemen… The Rolling Stones is finally available on audio CD and digitally (as an MP3 or via streaming). The 16-track performance captured during the band's four-night stint in Texas during the "Exile On Main Street" tour in 1972 stands as one of the British band's best performances. Indeed, many fans of the Rolling Stones consider the band's late '60s and early '70s material their strongest, and this performance is filled with standout tracks from their catalog delivered with passion and firepower. Listen no further than the wild "Brown Sugar," jaunty "Happy" (love Mick Taylor's guitar work on that one), introspective "You Can't Always Get What You Want" and rowdy "Street Fighting Man." Information:

Artists: Muddy Walters and The Rolling Stones
Title: Checkerboard Lounge: Live Chicago 1981 (Eagle Rock Entertainment)
You might like if you enjoy: The Rolling Stones, Buddy Guy, Muddy Waters
Tell me more: While the Rolling Stones' 2016 Blue & Lonesome celebrated the band's blues influences, a unique trek to Buddy Guy's intimate club in Chicago in November 1981 showcased a more immersive commemoration of the Rock and Roll Hall of Famers' links with blues music. In the middle of the band's ambitious American tour that year (which attracted approximately 3 million concertgoers), the Rolling Stones dropped by the Checkerboard Lounge to see one of the group's most influential heroes, Muddy Waters, perform. It wasn't long before Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Ronnie Wood and Ian Stewart were on stage performing with the legend. The quality is excellent, as are the loose and authentic performances. Standouts abound, with Muddy Waters'  leading the charge on "You Don't Have to Go," members of the Stones joining Waters for animated takes on the bona fide blues classics "Baby Please Don't Go" and "Hoochie Coochie Man," and a true all-star ensemble with Waters and members of the Stones joined by Chicago blues greats Buddy Guy and Junior Wells for a frantic "Got My Mojo Workin'." Information:

Artist: Matthew Sweet
Title: Tomorrow Forever (Honeycomb Hideout/RED)
You might like if you enjoy: Marshall Crenshaw, the Bangles, the Raspberries
Tell me more: Prior to the release of Tomorrow Forever, power pop hero Matthew Sweet had not issued a new studio album since 2011. "Tomorrow Forever" finds Sweet back with a welcome vengeance, bolstered by a marathon-length 17-song collection that fits on a single audio CD disc but comes packaged as a double LP if you purchase it on vinyl. Sweet dealt with a number of life-changing events leading up to the release of Tomorrow Forever (including the death of his mother and a move from Los Angeles to Omaha, Nebraska), and there is a definite depth and purpose to the songs this time around. The driving "Trick," swirling psychedelic-edged "Entangled," tender "You Knew Me" (a beautiful tribute to his mother) and the longing rocker "Bittersweet." In addition to his long-time rhythm section (bassist Paul Chastain and drummer Ric Menck), guests on "Tomorrow Forever" include Debbi Peterson (drummer of the Bangles), Jason Victor (Dream Syndicate, Steve Wynn & the Miracle 3), Gary Louris (the Jayhawks), Val McCallum (Jackson Browne) and keyboardist Rod Argent (of The Zombies). Information:

Artist: Jason Falkner
Title: Bedtime With The Beatles: Instrumental Versions of Classic Beatles Songs (Sony Wonder)
You might like if you enjoy: The Beatles, Laurence Juber
Tell me more: Thanks to Jason Falkner's continuing high-profile role as a touring member of Beck's band and his acclaimed collaboration with R. Stevie Moore earlier this year (Make It Be), now is an excellent time to catch up on Falkner's previous releases. I was recently introduced to Falkner's 2001 release Bedtime With The Beatles, which features 11 instrumental versions of Fab Four classics. The Beatles' time-tested tunes are solid enough to have fueled an endless parade of tributes, but it are Falkner's singularly dazzling talents as multi-instrumentalist and arranger that make these artful versions rank alongside Laurence Juber's fingerstyle guitar recordings as the finest instrumental interpretations of Lennon/McCartney compositions I've heard. A lush "Across The Universe," haunting "I'm Only Sleeping," dreamy baroque take of "Here There And Everywhere" and gentle guitar-meets-keyboards dance of "In My Life" are among my favorites. But the truth is every track on the disc is outstanding. Information:

Robert Kinsler

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