Thursday, December 31, 2015

My Favorite 25 Albums and top 15 Reissues of 2015

The titles featured on my end-of-the-year column don't necessarily mean these were the best or most important or commercially significant titles of 2015. They were "My Favorite" releases of this year to be sure...(Robert Kinsler)

Favorite studio album releases:

AC/DC, Rock or Bust (Columbia)  AC/DC fans may never get another Back in Black from Angus Young and Brian Johnson, but the hard rockers' 2015 entry Rock or Bust is pretty damn good. Just listening to the bone-crunching riff-rock discharged on the album's best tracks ("Play Ball," "Dogs of War," "Rock or Bust") is to be transported back to a time when rock 'n' roll was somehow larger than life. 

Courtney Barnett, Sometimes I Sit and Think, Sometimes I Just Sit (Mom & Pop Music)  Courtney Barnett is one of the most interesting and exciting young singer-songwriters to come along in memory. And her new album Sometimes I Sit and Think, Sometimes I Just Sit delivers on the promise she displayed on 2014's A Sea of Split Peas.

Blur, The Magic Whip (Warner Bros./Parlophone)  Blur’s highly-anticipated full-length return The Magic Whip was one of the best and most important albums 2015, and time may well confirm this was my single favorite disc of the year. Whether performing an instantly-catchy pop tune like “Lonesome Street” or an unsettling art rocker like “There Are Too Many Of Us,” Blur (singer-guitarist Damon Albarn, lead guitarist Graham Coxon, bassist Alex James, drummer Dave Rowntree) reveal there is always more to the band’s songs than meets the ear. Elsewhere the music is experimental (“New World Towers,” “Ice Cream Man”), comes draped with shades of world music (Ghost Ship”) or is downright glorious (“Ong Ong,” “Mirrorball”). An amazing return.

Dawes, All Your Favorite Bands (HUB Records)  Music rarely gets more authentic and descriptive than what is shared on Los Angeles quartet Dawes' 2015 effort All Your Favorite BandsBlending Laurel Canyon rootsy rock with folk rock and amazing songcraft, the disc has the magical ability to sound like a lost classic from the early '70s whose sound is timeless (just listen to the rocker "Right On Time" or the warm acoustic rocker "Somewhere Along the Way").

Florence + The Machine, How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful (Republic)   It’s no easy task for a groundbreaking artist to exceed the lofty expectations of an adoring following when they release a highly-anticipated new album. Florence + the Machine has somehow outdistanced their own brilliant 2011 sophomore effort Ceremonials with this year's How Big, How Blue, How BeautifulSinger-songwriter Florence Welch has a soprano that is both alluring and multi-octave spanning, but it is the songstress’ nuanced and artistic approach that draws comparisons with Kate Bush that makes Florence + the Machine one of today’s most impactful artists. On How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful, the driving “Ship to Wreck,” cutting “What Kind of Man” and experimental electronica-tinged “Long & Lost” all have an immediate effect while revealing additional sonic layers with each listen. The symphonic title track and propulsive “Queen of Peace” boast the kind power that only a few modern-day greats (Radiohead, Sigur Rós, U2) have achieved on disc. 

Dave Gahan & Soulsavers, Angels & Ghosts (Columbia)  Rather than immerse his rich baritone amidst the electronica of Depeche Mode, Dave Gahan & SoulsaversAngels & Ghosts is more rooted in blues, gospel and Americana, with the the spirited mix of nine songs recalling recent recordings from the far-flung likes of Other Lives, Florence + the Machine, the Doors and Blur’s 2015 gem The Magic Whip. The blues guitar-drenched “Shine”  and ambitious “You Owe Me” are as melodic as they are forceful. “One Thing” is a beautiful ballad adorned by keyboards and a symphonic soundscape; “My Sun” is a sparse foray in its opening section with the song gradually building to a sweeping symphonic finale. 

Colin HayNext Year People (Compass Records)  Listeners who only know singer-songwriter Colin Hay for his role fronting ’80s Australian outfit Men at Work have been missing out. The deluxe edition of 2015's Next Year People includes a dozen must-hear tracks including the upbeat “Trying to Get to You,” the confessional folk-rocker “If I Had Been a Better Man” and reflective “Are We There Yet?” The haunting title track looking at the lives of Depression-era farmers, delivered by Hay’s wonderful voice against a sparse backdrop of his acoustic guitar and Jeff Babko’s harmonium and accordion until a Celtic-styled chorus of voices come in, is the jewel on the disc.

Chris IsaakFirst Comes the Night (Vanguard)  An artist who recalls some of rock music's earliest greats (Elvis Presley, Roy Orbison), Chris Isaak also somehow occupies a unique place in the musical universe. His 2015 collection First Comes the Night  is bolstered by a slew of great originals including the wistful "First Comes the Night," rollicking "Please Don't Call" and tender "Kiss Me Like a Stranger."

Jeff Lynne's ELO, Alone in the Universe (Columbia)  With 2015 being a year chalk full of amazing returns (AC/DCBlur, the Zombies, Squeeze), an amazing full-length disc from Jeff Lynne’s ELO has to be heard to be believed. An acclaimed producer, singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, Lynne displays his myriad of amazing talents across Alone in the Universe, a disc where he masterfully handles the majority of music making duties on his own. Lynne can still unleash shimmering symphonic epics (including the album’s first single “When I Was a Boy” and swirling “The Sun Will Shine On You”), but some of the most exceptional songs here include the confessional ballad “All My Life,” yearning “I’m Leaving You” and reflective title track.

Tommy Keene, Laugh in the Dark (Second Motion)   There isn’t a clunker anywhere to be found on rocker Tommy Keene’s Laugh in the Dark, the latest in a long line of strong discs from the Maryland native. Kicking things off with the driving “Out Of My Mind” and continuing with the romantic “Dear Heloise,” Keene’s songs cast their spell with a single listen.

Sonny LandrethBound By The Blues (Provogue Records– Singer-songwriter/virtuoso slide guitarist Sonny Landreth has come home with his latest album Bound By The Blues. One of the world’s most celebrated slide guitar players, the Mississippi native’s new 10-song release is rich with probing songs bolstered by Landreth’s emotive baritone vocals and wide-ranging guitar craft. Leading things off is the catchy Delta-mining “Walkin’ Blues,” one of the first blues tracks Landreth recalls learning to play; the emotive title track boasts some of Landreth’s most textured slide guitar work on the disc. 

Los Lobos, Gates of Gold (429 Records)   Whether performing rootsy rock, folk, blues or Tex-Mex rock, legendary outfit Los Lobos displays a creative wide-ranging spirit across the aptly-titled album Gates Of Gold. Things lead off with the infectious roots rocker “Made To Break Your Heart,” but the band turns things around with a wistful track (“When We Were Free”) that blends rock and free-form jazz. No matter whether playing blistering blues rock, traditional Mexican music, Americana or acoustic blues, long-time members/songwriters David Hidalgo, Louie Perez and Cesar Rosas have an otherworldly ability to ensure all the sonic elements fit together perfectly. 

The MavericksMono (Valory)  In an age of over-produced, mass-marketed and auto-tune enhanced recordings, it’s fortunate The Mavericks know it’s all about the music. Since reforming after an eight-year break in 2012, the Florida-spawned outfit has been thrilling audiences at concert dates and with the February 2013 release In Time. Now the quartet (singer Raul Malo, guitarist Eddie Perez, drummer Paul Deakin and keyboardist Jerry Dale McFadden) have defied modern-day trends to record an album in mono (the aptly-titled Mono). The result is a disc that blends the sounds of Tex-Mex, neotraditional country, tender ballads, ska and rock ‘n’ roll in the service of a dozen infectious and captivating songs.

Kacey MusgravesPageant Material (Mercury Nashville) - One of the few successful artists among the current crop of young country singers who connect with the genre’s richest traditions free of cliche, Kacey Musgraves’ outstanding sophomore effort Pageant Material is at once contemporary and classic. From the tuneful high-kicking “High Time” and “Late to the Party” to the likes of the infectious banjo- and fiddle-adorned “Biscuits,” the two-time Grammy winner’s album is fortified by her role co-writing all 13 tracks on the disc.

The Texas native playfully revisits her meteoric rise on “Dimestore Cowboy” (name dropping ‘Austin City Limits,’ Willie Nelson and the ghost of Gram Parsons along the way) while skillfully tackling life’s big questions effortlessly in the contemplative “Somebody to Love” and poignant “Die Fun.” 
New Order, Music Complete (Mute)  Not many synthpop and dance rock bands to emerge in the 1980s have soldiered on without their sound becoming dated. New Order has outdistanced the competition for sure and remained more than relevant; listening to the best tracks on the British outfit’s 9th proper studio album (Music Complete) is to hear songs that would have lit up dance clubs 30 years ago and likely will today too. Highlights include the longing “Restless,” ambitious “Plastic” and sweeping “Academic.”

Lindi Ortega, Faded Gloryville (Last Gang Records)  When Lindi Ortega sings the title track on her most recent album Faded Gloryville, the songstress is recounting her own path while also singing for the countless other great artists who have created an amazing body of work while working mostly under the radar. A singer and songwriter of incredible depth, the Canadian native now based in Nashville had released a trio of albums before Faded Gloryville that earned uniformly-strong critical acclaim but failed to bring her much-deserved commercial success.

Pugwash, Play This Intimately (As If Among Friends) (Omnivore Recordings)  Memorable  and wide-ranging songcraft, incredible vocal harmonies, top-tier musicianship and artful arrangements only begin to illustrate what makes Dublin-based Pugwash so amazing. The talented quintet’s new studio album Play This Intimately (as if among friends) has plenty of far-flung material showcasing everything from power pop (“Kicking and Screaming,” “Hung Myself Out to Dry”) and sunshine pop (“Clouds”) to neo-psychedelia (“The Fool I Had Become,” “We Are Everywhere”) and baroque pop (“Feed His Heart With Coal,” “Lucky in Every Way”).

ScorpionsReturn To Forever (Legacy)  AC/DC isn’t the only classic hard rock band to have silenced the naysayers in 2015. Germany’s Scorpions  who remarkably have been together for 50 years  have issued one of their best-ever discs. Return to Forever features the blend of strong riffs, melodic heavy metal and striking power ballads that marked the group’s wave of top-selling albums issued throughout the 1980s and early ’90s. 

Squeeze, Cradle to the Grave (Caroline)  Squeeze’s first new album of new material since 1998, Cradle To The Grave finds Chris Difford, Glenn Tilbrook and company forging ahead even while celebrating their storied melodic and literate style that yielded a slew of classics in the 1970s and ’80s. The songs here blend power pop and melodic rock, all adorned with lovely harmonies and creative arrangements that enhance each song’s core power (many of the tales here masterfully chronicle middle age).

“Happy Days” is as exhilarating as its title; the ambitious Beatles-styled “Sunny” and Americana-tinged “Haywire” are the creative equal of Squeeze classics such as “Tempted,” “Black Coffee in Bed” and “Cool For Cats.” A thrilling return to be sure. 
Les Stroud and the Campfire KingsBarn Sessions III  Off the Grid (Stroud Publishing)  The heartfelt love song “Far Away Gone,” fiery environmental-minded rocker “One Giant Farm” (a plea to save dolphins, whales, and the world’s disappearing natural places is especially poignant) and the probing “Wasted” were among the stirring originals recorded by “Survivorman” Les Stroud and a group of musicians and singers inside his Canadian barn.
SupersuckersHoldin' The Bag (Acetate Records)  Irreverent and honest, Supersuckers are an American treasure. Having released more than 20 albums over the past 25 years, singer Eddie Spaghetti and company are on the top of their game on the newly-released Holdin’ The Bag. The band’s characteristic freewheeling approach works wonder on a batch of songs that are as melodic as they are lyrically sharp. The delightful country-styled “High and Outside,” cow punk “Man On A Mission” and a lovely reworked sing-along cover of Hank Williams Jr. cover “All My Rowdy Friends (Have Settled Down)” are among the standouts here.

Otis TaylorHey Joe Opus Red Meat (Trance Blues Festival) – Of blues’ many modern-day proponents, none is as original as Otis Taylor. As evidenced on his outstanding studio album Hey Joe Opus Red Meat, the Colorado-based bluesman’s so-called “Trance Blues” style provides the perfect sonic backdrop for a concept album that looks at the “decisions that we make and how they effect us.” With two versions of songwriter Billy Roberts’ “Hey Joe” (popularized by Jimi Hendrix) as a supporting the overall theme, the other original songs and instrumentals work just as powerfully.

Walter Trout, Battle Scars (Mascot Label Group) - Acclaimed singer-songwriter-guitarist Walter Trout’s amazing fight for survival that included a life-saving liver transplant in May 2014 and arduous-but-full recovery is chronicled on the bluesman’s latest album Battle Scars. From the blistering “Almost Gone” where Trout sings of how his body is ravaged to the beautiful ballad “Please Take Me Home” and triumphant “Gonna Live Again,” Trout’s lyrically honest and musically gallant disc is almost a conceptual follow-up to his previous 2014 release The Blues Came Callin' carved out as the artist feared he might be dying.

Michael UbaldiniSongster  The Acoustic Reels (Blackwater Records)  Discerning fans of the burgeoning Americana movement have been rightfully encouraged by the success of a slew of talented newcomers but worry about the parade of unceasing acts whose slick approach threaten the movement’s delightfully-authentic rough edges that are at odds with modern country’s cliche-heavy approach. Leave it to alternative Americana hero Michael Ubaldini to strip things down to their acoustic underpinnings, using nothing more than an acoustic guitar, harmonica and his emotive baritone to set free a mix of new originals, as well as reworked  standouts from his own rich discography and revisited traditional songs (the Celtic “Handsome Molly” and biting folk nugget “The Cuckoo”) on the ambitious 21-track Songster  The Acoustic Reels.

The Zombies, Still Got That Hunger (The End Records)   It makes perfect sense that a band named the Zombies would outlive and artistically thrive beyond every single one of its 1960s-spawned contemporaries. The Zombies impress with the same power the quintet displayed when they burst on the rock scene 50+ years ago. On the band’s aptly-named collection Still Got That Hunger, singer Colin Blunstone and keyboardist Rod Argent lead an ensemble that masterfully blends the jazz-tinged psychedelic rock they pioneered in the early ’60s with blues and contemporary styles. Across Still Got That Hunger, Blunstone sings with power, range and emotion; the full band (including the aforementioned Argent, drummer Steve Rodford, lead guitarist Tom Toomey and bassist Jim Rodford) play with nuanced emotion and authority. The top-flight musicianship and vocals wouldn’t mean a thing without brilliant songwriting and that’s where the Zombies reconnect with the spirit of their ’60s beginnings. 

Top Reissues & live collections

Asia, Axis  Live in San Francisco (Frontiers Music)

The Beatles, +1 (Capitol)

Bad Company, Bad Company and Straight Shooter (Atlantic)

Continental Drifters, Drifted: In the Beginning & Beyond (Omnivore Recordings)

The Dream Syndicate, The Days of Wine and Roses (Omnivore Recordings)

Garbage, Garbage  20th Anniversary Edition (Almo Sounds)

Neil Finn + Paul Kelly, Goin' Your Way (Omnivore Recordings)

Peter Frampton, Now (Omnivore Recordings)

The Knack, Live From the Rock 'n' Roll Fun House (Omnivore Recordings)

Denny Lile, Hear the Bang: The Life and Music of Denny Lile (Big Legal Mess Records)

The Rolling StonesFrom The Vault: The Marquee  Live in 1971 (Eagle Rock Entertainment) 

Sneakers, Sneakers (Omnivore Recordings)

Spoon, Gimme Fiction (Merge)

The Textones, Midnight Mission and Cedar Creek (Omnivore Recordings)

Various artists, The Legacy Collection: Pocahontas (Walt Disney Records)

Robert Kinsler

Monday, December 21, 2015

Gary Hoey brings 20th anniversary 'Ho Ho Hoey' tour to San Juan Capistrano

Gary Hoey donned his Santa hat during the encore of his
'Ho Ho Hoey' concert on December 18, 2015.
An acclaimed electric guitarist since the early 1990s, Gary Hoey has been one of the few contemporary six-string virtuosos to score a Top 5 Billboard instrumental rock hit (his 1993 cover of the Focus hit "Hocus Pocus") and create an expansive discography on his own terms.

But of all Hoey's achievements, most bright are his trio of '90s holiday releases and his annual "Ho Ho Hoey" Rockin' Holiday Tour that has become a modern-day tradition. That was confirmed on Friday night, Dec. 18, 2015, when Hoey and his backing two-man rhythm section performed before a capacity crowd at the legendary Coach House in San Juan Capistrano, CA. 
Gary rocking early during his set at
The Coach House.

Time has been kind to Hoey's blend of guitar craft, with his brew recalling a mix of Eddie Van Halen, Steve Vai and Jefferson Starship legend Craig Chaquico that is truly the New England-based guitarist's own. His 90-minute performance in Orange County was weighted heavily in favor of his original instrumental versions of Christmas material, with the arrangements both honoring and expanding the melodic scope of the selections. Hoey opened his set with a hard rocking take of "Twelve Days of Christmas," memorable for Hoey's focused guitar lines that even wove a bit of "Jingle Bells" into the tune. A similarly-satisfying approach greeted "Little Drummer Boy" with the involving arrangement finding drummer Matt Scurfield powerfully working the skins and all three musicians incorporating a dose of Led Zeppelin's "Kashmir" into the seasonal favorite.

In addition to the holiday-heavy approach of the setlist, Hoey also performed material off his latest studio album, 2013's "Deja Blues," and off a forthcoming album set to be released in spring 2016. The title track from "Deja Blues" provided Hoey to showcase his expressive touch on the guitar; later he premiered a new song ("The Ghost of Yesterday"), a heavy blues-styled rocker where Scurfield was able to work a mini-solo into the song's arc.

Another secular highlight included the tender "Reminds Me of You" from his 2010 album "Utopia," this track showcasing Hoey's solid lead vocals.

But the night was mostly about spreading holiday cheer, and the colorfully decorated Coach House was the perfect setting as Hoey conjured up a bit of Chuck Berry exuberance on "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree," showcased a medley of Christmas favorites highlighted by his work on "Carol of the Bells" and closed the night with the one-two punch of "Santa Clause is Coming to Town," Hoey and company adorned with bright red Santa hats. 

Opening for Hoey was the impressive Northern California-based progressive rock trio Points North. The threesome packed a solid and memorable punch, performing eight inspired instrumentals that astonished at every turn. Among the highlights of the trio's set were the seven-minute prog-rock epic "Turning Point" (off the band's new self-titled sophomore album), an energetic-and-faithful cover of the Rush staple "YYZ" and the set-ending "Steve's Morsels." The complexity and ambition of the material was matched by the breathtaking chops displayed by guitarist Eric Barnett, bassist Uriah Duffy and drummer Kevin Aiello (as evidenced by "Sky Punch," where tight and impressive short solos helped propel the rocker).

Review by Robert Kinsler

Photos courtesy of Bob Steshetz

Friday, December 18, 2015

Music Worth Buying episode: Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Class of 2016 discussion

Yesterday (Dec. 17, 2015), the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame announced the Class of 2016 including Cheap Trick, Chicago, Deep Purple, Steve Miller and N.W.A. Watch the latest episode of MUSIC WORTH BUYING where TJR and Robert Kinsler discuss those artists, as well as some of our favorites on the ballot who didn’t get in:

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Cheap Trick, Chicago, Deep Purple, Steve Miller and N.W.A. set to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Here is today's breaking music news. 

Cheap Trick, Chicago, Deep Purple, Steve Miller and N.W.A. have been announced as next year's inductees into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Cheap Trick one of artists set to enter The Rock
and Roll Hall of Fame in 2016.

I think this is a pretty good selection, that honors a variety of styles and makes up for lost time in getting some pretty well-known and/or groundbreaking names into the Hall. In particular, I am very happy with the long-overlooked inclusion of Cheap Trick and Deep Purple. Cheap Trick blended power-pop and late '70s hard rock styles together masterfully, taking up the torch from Big Star and ultimately influencing a slew of other artists. Cheap Trick continues to move ahead, and the band is set to release its next studio album Bang Zoom Crazy... in 2016. 

Deep Purple was one of the seminal and pioneering British heavy metal bands. 

There will likely be a number of questions about what members of Deep Purple will be on hand at the ceremony, but my hope is that guitarist Ritchie Blackmore will be on hand and actually perform. It is sad that long-time band keyboardist Jon Lord passed away in 2012 and didn't live long enough to receive the honor in person.

In terms of Chicago, I loved the band's early albums (those covering the period of 1969 - 1972) but can't say I am a big fan of their subsequent music. Steve Miller is someone I consider to be a sadly-overlooked rock artist, who has enjoyed a well-deserved return this decade with the blues-styled gems Bingo! (2010) and Let Your Hair Down (2011).

With the exception of N.W.A., I have seen all of the artists set to be inducted a number of times and several of them are still worth checking out in concert if you have the chance.

Later today, TJR and yours truly plan to shoot an in-depth analysis on the artists who will be inducted into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and we'll get that episode of MUSIC WORTH BUYING posted this week.

Robert Kinsler

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Album reviews: Walter Trout, Neil Finn + Paul Kelly, Flying Colors, Pat Boone, Matt Reagan

Late 2015 has seen no shortage of new studio albums and must-have concert recordings out now. 

Artist: Walter Trout
Title: Battle Scars (Mascot Label Group)
You might like if you enjoy: Joe Bonamassa, Rory Gallagher
Tell me more: Acclaimed singer-songwriter-guitarist Walter Trout's amazing fight for survival that included a life-saving liver transplant in May 2014 and arduous-but-full recovery is chronicled on the bluesman's latest album Battle Scars. From the blistering "Almost Gone" where Trout sings of how his body is ravaged to the beautiful ballad "Please Take Me Home" and triumphant "Gonna Live Again," Trout's lyrically honest and musically gallant disc is almost a conceptual follow-up to his previous 2014 release The Blues Came Callin'  carved out as the artist feared he might be dying. One of the best blues rock guitarists of all time, Trout's distinguished and virtuoso guitar works shines across all dozen tracks, including on the hard rocking "Playin' Hideaway," the soaring "Fly Away" and survival-themed British blues-styled
 rocker "Move On." Information:

Artist: Neil Finn + Paul Kelly
Title: Goin' Your Way (Omnivore Recordings)
You might like if you enjoy: Crowded House, Split Enz, the Finn Brothers, Paul Kelly
Tell me more: As two of the world's greatest-ever singer-songwriters, Neil Finn and Paul Kelly have achieved considerable acclaim for respective careers dating back to the mid-1970s. The two legendary artists teamed up in 2013 to tour Australia, with a concert recorded at Sydney Opera House issued commercially that ultimately proved to be a Top 5 album Down Under. Now, more than two years after its release in Australia and New Zealand, Goin' Your Way is finally available in the U.S. Fans of the artists will be thrilled at the selection of 29 songs and the inspired power exhibited across the two-disc recording. In addition to revisiting some of their greatest songs (Finn's "Don't Dream It's Over," "Distant Sun" and "Fall At Your Feet"; Kelly's "To Her Door," "Winter Coat" and "Before Too Long"), they faithfully cover Buddy Holly's "Words of Love" and rework the Henry Mancini-Johnny Mercer classic "Moon River" to close out the delightful collaboration. Information:

Artist: Flying Colors
Title: Second Flight: Live at the Z7 (Mascot Label Group)
You might like if you enjoy: Steve Morse, Yes, Asia, Rush
Tell me more: Prog-rock's full-on resurgence is personified by Flying Colors' multi-format Second Flight: Live at the Z7 (available as a 2-CD/1 DVD combo or 2-CD/1 Blu-ray package). The latest supergroup of musical heroes, Flying Colors features former/current members of Deep Purple (guitarist Steve Morse), Dream Theater (drummer/backing singer Mike Portnoy), Spock's Beard (keyboardist/backing singer Neal Morse), Alpha Rev (lead singer/rhythm guitarist Casey McPherson) and Dixie Dregs (bassist Dave LaRue). Like Asia, Flying Colors has somehow been able to artfully fuse complex and dazzling musicianship with accessible songwriting - a feat far more difficult than the casual listener would know; just listen to the magical "Bombs Away" with its heavy rock riff laced with rich harmonies and symphonic sections that appear out of thin air and segue into jaw-dropping solos. Flying Colors brings just about everything into its amazing sonic brew including baroque textures (the lovely "Kayla"), classic metal ("Shoulda Coulda Woulda," "Forever In a Daze"), time-honored progressive rock forays ("A Place In Your World," "The Storm") and even Americana ("One Love Forever," "Colder Months"). Essential for lovers of prog-rock. Information:

Artist: Pat Boone
Title: R&B Duet Hits (Goldenland Records / Cleopatra Records)
You might like if you enjoy: Pat Boone, James Brown, Sam Moore
Tell me more: A collection few likely saw coming, Pat Boone's latest album R&B Duet Hits finds the 81-year-old singer teaming with a number of groundbreaking R&B artists to revisit that genre with a fun-filled approach. "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag" (with the late James Brown), "Get Down Tonight" (with KC & The Sunshine Band) and ""Tears of a Clown" (with Smokey Robinson) are all dance floor-worthy. Boone's 1997 album In a Metal Mood: No More Mr. Nice Guy found the singer using his baritone to cover heavy metal songs in a jazz/big band style that returned the artist to the Billboard charts but alienated some of Boone's long-time fans; his new album is a fun-filled collection that will likely please fans of his 2006 collection "Pat Boone R&B Classics." Information:

Artist: Matt Reagan
Title: Leavenworth (independent)
You might like if you enjoy: The Weeknd, Derek Webb, Hozier
Tell me more: Although Matt Reagan's Leavenworth only features three songs, the EP (released Dec. 1, 2015) provides a pretty good showcase for the upcoming San Francisco-based singer-songwriter/multi-instrumentalist's alternative pop style. The lush "Tell Me," romantic "With You All The Way" and driving "Lights" will appeal to fans of The Weeknd and Derek Webb's "I Was Wrong, I'm Sorry & I Love You" 2013 album. Information:

Robert Kinsler

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Christmas has come early for fans of Mystery Science Theater 3000 (including yours truly!)...

Joel Hodgson, Creator of Mystery Science Theater 3000, Successfully Funds Kickstarter Campaign
To Bring Back MST3K
Campaign Raises $6.42 Million to Produce Full Season in 32 Days 
The award-winning comedy television series Mystery Science Theater 3000, one of the most beloved TV shows of all time, will be returning for a new season after a 15-year hiatus, thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign helmed by series creator and former host Joel Hodgson, and supported by legions of devoted fans.

The campaign, which concluded at 10 pm PT on Friday, December 11, raised over $6,420,000 in 32 days—$5,764,229 on Kickstarter alone, and more than $660,000 of additional contributions on In the final hours of the campaign, MST3K’s supporters raced past previous record-holder Veronica Mars ($5,702,153) to set a new record as the highest-funded Film, TV & Video crowdfunding campaign ever.

In total, over 50,000 fans contributed to support MST3K across, with hundreds more making additional contributions after the official end of the campaign.

“When we launched with Kickstarter, it wasn’t clear what was going to happen,” Hodgson admits. “But I did know that we’ve always been a show that relied on our fans. If we were going to come back, we needed to start by making our case to the fans. We wanted to know if this was what they wanted. And over the past month, they’ve sent a really clear message: they want MST3K back just as much as I do.”

In fact, fan demand for MST3K exceeded even Hodgson’s estimation. The campaign’s original goal was to raise $5.5 million, the number needed to cover campaign expenses and produce a full season of 12 brand-new, feature-length episodes. But in the campaign’s final 48 hours, as fans raced past the original target, Hodgson announced two “stretch goals,” and fans responded, passing the final goal of $6.3 million during the final 60 seconds of the campaign.

The additional funds will allow Hodgson produce two more episodes, including a holiday special, and will bring MST3K’s next season to a total of 14 episodes.

Hodgson adds, “It’s just so crazy to see what our fans did when we gave them the chance. And it’s impossible to find the words to explain how humbling this is. I’m so grateful that the fans were still there for MST3K, and am really excited to get back to work. Which, by the way, starts January 4th at 10 am.”

While Hodgson will oversee the new season as creative director, supervising and participating in all facets of production, MST3K’s new episodes will feature comedian Jonah Ray as the next host (“Jonah Heston”), actress and comedian Felicia Day as the next Mad (“Kinga Forrester”), actor and comedian Patton Oswalt as the next evil henchman (“TV’s Son of TV’s Frank”), comedians Baron Vaughn and Hampton Yount as the newest voices of “Tom Servo” and “Crow T. Robot,” respectively, and of course, more cheesy movies to riff. Hodgson is partnered with Shout! Factory, who has been releasing classic episodes of MST3K on home entertainment platforms since 2008 and who recently purchased the intellectual property of MST3K from Best Brains, to bring the show back to life for a new generation.

Throughout the process, Hodgson and team will keep MST3K’s backers informed and involved with regular updates on Kickstarter and For more information and news, fans should follow @MST3K on FacebookTwitter,Instagram and Tumblr.

Monday, December 14, 2015

AC/DC announces 2016 American Tour Dates

Happy Monday everybody! This release speaks (and rocks) for itself...

AC/DC Left to Right: Cliff Williams,
Chris Slade, Angus Young,
Stevie Young and Brian Johnson.
Photo credit: Josh Cheuse
December 14, 2015 - New York, NY - American dates for the next leg of AC/DC's "Rock or Bust" World Tour were announced today.  The American dates kick off on February 2, 2016 in Tacoma, WA at the Tacoma Dome and run through April 4, 2016 in New York, NY at Madison Square Garden (see below for a full list of dates). Tickets are on sale starting Friday, December 18, 2015.   For more information visit

The American Tour date announcement comes after a massive year for the band, with them kicking off the 57th annual Grammy Awards, headlining at Coachella, and completing 28 shows in Europe, 14 shows in North America and 11 shows in Australia/New Zealand.

AC/DC North American Tour Dates:
February 2    Tacoma, WA              Tacoma Dome
February 5    Las Vegas, NV           MGM Grand Arena
February 8    Denver, CO                Pepsi  Center
February 11   Fargo, ND                 Fargo Dome
February 14   St. Paul, MN             Xcel Energy Center
February 17   Chicago, IL               United Center
February 20   St. Louis, MO           Scottrade Center
February 23   Dallas, TX                 American Airlines Center
February 26   Houston, TX             Toyota Center
February 29   Kansas City, MO       Sprint Center
March 8         Atlanta, GA               Philips Arena
March 11       Ft. Lauderdale, FL     BB&T Center 
March 14       Greensboro, NC        Greensboro Coliseum
March 17       Washington, DC       Verizon Center
March 20       Detroit, MI                The Palace
March 23       Columbus, OH          Nationwide Arena
March 26       Cleveland, OH          Quicken Loans Arena
March 29       Buffalo, NY               First Niagara Center
April 1           Philadelphia, PA        Wells Fargo Center
April 4           New York, NY           Madison Square Garden

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Brian Setzer appearing On 'Conan' Dec. 16 and performing at Los Angeles' Microsoft Theater Dec. 18

Nothing like a like Brian Setzer Orchestra news to get into the holiday spirit! Click here to read my Orange County Register review of the Brian Setzer Orchestra's terrific December 2013 performance at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles.




Iconic guitarist, songwriter, vocalist and three-time Grammy-Award winner BRIAN SETZER and THE BRIAN SETZER ORCHESTRA are set to perform "Here Comes Santa Claus" from the recently released ROCKIN' RUDOLPH album-their first studio Christmas album in 10 years-on TBSCONAN this Wednesday, December 16 (check local listings for time).The 19-piece band will be in Los Angeles on a stop during their major 31-date 12th annual "Christmas Rocks! Tour" for a performance Friday, December 18 at the Microsoft Theater. For ticket information, visit: See critical praise for album and tour below.
Released October 16 via Surfdog RecordsROCKIN' RUDOLPH-which exclusively premiered on YAHOO! Music (10/12)-was produced by Peter Collins(Rush, Bon Jovi, Alice Cooper, etc.) and recorded in both Nashville, TN and Hollywood, CA. The 12-track album includes highlights such as "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree,""Yabba-Dabba Yuletide," and "Rockabilly Rudolph" (premiered exclusively  10/9), among other notable Christmas classic tunes, with SETZER'strademark guitar work and vocal stylings matched with THE BRIAN SETZER ORCHESTRA's rockin' big-band horn arrangements. Click hereto watch a short sizzle video for ROCKIN' RUDOLPH.
Catch the remaining dates of the 12th annual "Christmas Rocks! Tour" in the following cities:
Austin, TX
ACL Live at the Moody Theatre
Allen, TX
Allen Event Center
San Antonio, TX
Majestic Theatre
Tucson, AZ
Fox Tucson Theatre
Phoenix, AZ
Celebrity Theatre
Los Angeles, CA
Microsoft Theater
Indio, CA
Fantasy Springs Event Center
Temecula, CA
Pechanga Resort and Casino
Bakersfield, CA
Fox Theater
Santa Rosa, CA
Wells Fargo Center for the Arts
San Francisco, CA
Warfield Theater
Spokane, WA
Martin Woldson Theater at The Fox
Seattle, WA
Benaroya Concert Hall
Calgary, AB
Grey Eagle Resorts and Casino
Track listing for ROCKIN' RUDOLPH:
1. "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree"
2. "Yabba-Dabba Yuletide"
3. "Most Wonderful Time of the Year"
4. "Rockabilly Rudolph"
5. "Here Comes Santa Claus"
6. "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas"
7. "Swingin' Joy"
8. "Carol of the Bells"
9. "Little Jack Frost"
10. "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing"
11. "O Little Town of Bethlehem"
12. "Yabba-Dabba Yuletide" (extended)
"...the Brian Setzer Orchestra succeeds with a remake of the 'Flintstones' cartoon TV show theme, with Christmas lyrics substituted. 'Yabba-Dabba Yuletide'...features the former Stray Cats leader's fast-picking guitar solos, backed by a kicking horn section. 'Joy to the World' shows up here as 'Swingin' Joy,' a rollicking big band instrumental that defies you not to dance to it, followed by a guitar-heavy 'Carol of the Bells.' For the Flintstones-themed song alone, this is worth getting. But there's enough alongside it to keep this album in your annual go-to holiday playlist."
--Wayne Parry, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, November 19, 2015
"This collection of Christmas songs is the second such album that Setzer and his very talented 18-piece band have released. It is a worthwhile purchase for those looking for Christmas music with some punch. Setzer's band is fantastic, and they give new life to several standards. Opening track 'Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree' sizzles, and it features a terrific sax solo as well as Setzer's fantastic fretwork. 'Yabba-Dabba Yuletide' pays a holiday homage to 'The Flintstones' with swinging horns and a trebly guitar break by Setzer. 'Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas' is the standout track of the album. It's slower and more mellow than most of the other tracks and features a nice vocal from Setzer. Other album highlights include a subtle 'Most Wonderful Time of the Year,' the guitar work in 'Rockabilly Rudolph,' a rocked-up 'Here Comes Santa Claus,' a light and easy 'Little Jack Frost,' and a slowed-down but great 'O Little Town of Bethlehem.' The song selection on the album is very good, the horn arrangements are stellar, and Setzer's guitar work is excellent...In a genre often filled with cheesy, cringe-inducing albums, this collection is a standout and well worth checking out."
--John Curley, GOLDMINE MAGAZINE, January 2016
"There can't be a more entertaining rocking Christmas show than the one guitar wizard Brian Setzer and his swing orchestra puts on."
-Stephen Peterson, THE SUN CHRONICLE (Attleboro, MA), 11/29/15
"Setzer and his players were truly rocking. Whether it was 'Boogie Woogie Santa,' 'Fishnet Stockings' or a riotous 'Let's Shake,' BSO rocked this town. Setzer stretched out often on guitar, showing a wide vocabulary of rock, rockabilly, jazz, blues and surf licks."
             -Jon Bream, STAR TRIBUNE (Minneapolis, MN), 11/16/15
"Ninety minutes of frenetic musical joy. That's what Brian Setzer and his big band gave Omaha for an early Christmas present Sunday night...Setzer brought [his] 12th annual Christmas tour to the Orpheum Theater with all the relentless enthusiasm and unparalleled electric-guitar virtuosity - fully emulated by his 20 bandmates - that have made 'must-hear' experiences out of both his recordings and concerts...Setzer's guitar solos are beyond description. He uses virtually every trick in his vast arsenal of styles, speeds and sound effects, not only throughout his concerts but seemingly in every song. And he throws maximum energy into his performance from the first song to the last...If music isn't fun, there isn't much reason to do it. Few teach us that lesson better than Brian Setzer."
-Todd von Kampen, OMAHA WORLD-HERALD, 11/16/15
"Reimagining Christmas songs has been done before, but never this unusually and rarely this well. The reason for that became clear as the night wore on: He is not just that tattooed, pompadoured skinny guy from the Stray Cats. He is a Musician, with a capital M...what Setzer does is become music... his guitar face is one of pure joy, for him and for us. But the depth of his immersion into the music allows him to turn otherwise holiday chestnuts like 'Here Comes Santa Claus,' 'Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree,' 'Jingle Bells' and especially 'Angels We Have Heard on High' into something wholly different. And there's not enough praise for the genius in morphing the theme song for the cartoon 'The Flintstones' into a new holiday classic, 'Yaba-Daba Yuletide.'"
            -Chuck Yarborough, CLEVELAND PLAIN DEALER, 11/21/15

About Brian Setzer:
Iconic guitarist, songwriter, vocalist and 3-time Grammy-award-winner, is a "Musician's Musician" credited with continually taking chances with innovative and daring musical styles, while single-handedly resurrecting two forgotten genres of music (rockabilly in the '80's and swing in the '90's). Along the way, he has scored chart-topping hits, sold 13 million records and received the Orville H. Gibson Lifetime Achievement Award throughout his decorated career as founder/leader of the Stray Cats, his 18-piece Brian Setzer Orchestra, and as a solo artist. He is consistently cited as one of the world's greatest living guitarists, and has a best-selling, extensive line of elite Gretsch signature model guitars bearing his name. Brian appeared in the 1987 film, La Bamba, portraying rockabilly pioneer Eddie Cochran. In 2002, Brian earned the privilege of being one of the few musicians to be animated in an episode of "The Simpsons," alongside Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and Tom Petty. That same year, Setzer was personally requested to induct Chet Atkins into the 17th Annual Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In 2014, SETZER received the distinct honor of being asked by the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, D.C. to donate a replica of his original 1959 Gretsch 6120 "Stray Cat" guitar, joining an elite collection of musical instruments at the museum including Dizzy Gillespie's trumpet and John Coltrane's saxophone.
For more information, visit: