Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Stellar releases showcase extraordinary artists

Several reissues as well as a terrific greatest hit and a previously-unreleased compilation of live performances make for a special crop of new highly-recommended collections available now.

Artist: Michael Ubaldini
Title: Acoustic Rumble: 20th Anniversary Legacy Edition (bLACKWATER rECORDS)
You might like if you enjoy: Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Bruce Springsteen
Tell me more: Although Michael Ubaldini's aptly-titled masterwork Acoustic Rumble was released back in 1999, the album's enduring exploration of social injustice, political corruption and the modern world's uncertain future ring as true now as they did two decades ago. So it's little surprise that the 20th Anniversary Legacy Edition of Acoustic Rumble is one of 2019's best and most important reissues. Bolstered by the inclusion of two new bonus tracks (the Americana-flavored "All in God's Name" and countrified "Armageddon Blues"), "Acoustic Rumble" continues to be a revelation with its well-aimed and insightful lyrics along with Ubaldini's powerful voice; the only accompaniment is that of his fiery acoustic guitar and blasting harmonica (the exception is Julie Harris providing some background vocals on "Armageddon Blues"). From the literate fire of "The 7th Trumpet" and inspirational anthem "Badge of Freedom" to the nuanced grace of "Shadows & Ghosts" and the articulate expose of lust on "World Comes Crashin' Down," every song here hits its mark. While Ubaldini certainly takes aim at the modern world's pitfalls and challenges, there is simultaneously a strong undercurrent of hope that calls out for every living soul to celebrate this short run we all get at life. "Acoustic Rumble" delivers on the late Los Angeles Times music writer Mike Boehm's 1999 review of the original release that declared: "Better than Bruce Springsteen at probing the national soul; his 'Acoustic Rumble' album goes one better then The Ghost of Tom Joad'.  This writer couldn't agree more. Information: rocknrollpoet.com.

Artist: Anny Celsi
Title: Kaleidoscope Heart: 12 Golden Hits (Ragazza Music)
You might like if you enjoy: Aimee Mann, the Bangles, psychedelic-styled power pop
Tell me more: Songstress Anny Celsi's knack for writing and recording memorable songs is showcased across Kaleidoscope Heart: 12 Golden Hits, a fantastic collection that includes remixed and remastered tracks from her three previous albums; a newly-recorded gem is included as well. The dozen stellar songs recall Aimee Mann's ability to effortlessly spin inviting nuggets that resonate amidst swirling timeless song craft. There are songs that soar in the tradition of the best of power pop, notably the 12-string Rickenbacker guitar-enriched "Sideways Rain," Paisley Underground-mining "Tangle-Free World" and crunchier "Little Big Dress." Celsi is just as effective singing more probing tunes (the wonderful baroque pop of "Own Sweet Time," affecting "Oh Baby, Is The Circus Back in Town?" and harmonies-filled "Kaleidoscope Heart"). Other standouts on the disc include the euphoric '60s-styled "Au Revoir, My Darling," shining folk rocker "The Night She Learned To Drive" and soulful "Now You Can Hurt Me." Information: annycelsi.com.

Artist: Uncle Walt's Band
Title: An American in Texas (Omnivore Recordings)
You might like if you enjoy: Dawes, the Jayhawks
Tell me more: Omnivore Recordings continues to reintroduce under-the-radar and forgotten gems to modern-day audiences. Listen no further than the glorious second album from Uncle Walt's Band. "An American in Texas" was originally released back in 1980, and the mix of early Americana and groundbreaking three-part vocal harmonies sounds amazing  on the new reissue, which includes the original 12-track release as well as 13 bonus cuts. One of the most popular acoustic bands in Austin, Texas during the late 1970s and early '80s, the "An American in Texas" reissue goes a long way to help lovers of roots music get a proper introduction to the talents of Walter Hyatt, Champ Hood and David Ball. "Too Far To Fall" is a particularly gorgeous song, and the bonus track "Hard to Bear" features some decidedly amazing vocal harmonies. There are so many infectious and luxurious songs positioned across the album, ranking from the breezy "As the Crow Flies" and jazz-tinged "You Keep Me Holding On" to Appalachia-rooted "Green Tree" and Tex-Mex beauty of "For The First Time." The expanded edition of "An American in Texas" is available on LP, audio CD and digital formats. 
Information: OmnivoreRecordings.com.

Artist: Neil Young
Title: Songs For Judy (Shakey Pictures Records)
You might like if you enjoy: Neil Young's "Harvest" and "Harvest Moon" albums
Tell me more: Songs For Judy is not only the debut release on Neil Young's own Shakey Pictures Records label, it's also a terrific must-hear album featuring cuts from the artist's 1976 solo tour. Twenty-two songs recorded at various tour dates, the disc is sonic nirvana for fans of Young's original gems written and recorded in the early part of his career. Favorites abound; he delves into Buffalo Springfield's "Mr. Soul," the reflective "Heart of Gold," as well as the soul-stirring "After the Gold Rush" and "A Man Needs a Maid." Later there are stunning takes on "The Needle and the Damage Done," "Pocahontas" and "Sugar Mountain." As if all of that wasn't enough paydirt, the disc also features "No One Seems To Know," which is a song not officially released on any album by Young until now. Information: NeilYoung.com.

Robert Kinsler

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