Monday, August 07, 2017

New Reviews: Eagles of Death Metal, Paul Kelly, Peter Himmelman, Arcade Fire, A.J. Croce

Artist: Eagles of Death Metal
Title: I Love You All The Time: Live at The Olympia in Paris (Eagle Rock)
You might like if you enjoy: Queens of the Stone Age, Eagles of Death Metal
Tell me more: In the midst of Eagles of Death Metal's concert at the Bataclan Theatre in Paris on Feb. 16, 2016, gunmen entered the venue and opened fire. Tragically, that terrorist attack left 89 persons dead. Three months later, the Palm Desert, California-spawned rockers returned to France to complete the show as part of The Nos Amis Tour, performing at a packed Olympia Hall. That emotional return is captured on the new DVD release I Love You All The Time: Live at The Olympia in Paris. The concert kicks off with the powerful rocker "I Only Want You" and follow-up post-punk salvo "Don't Speak (I Came to Make a Bang!)," and the show never lets up. In addition to the full-length concert filmed in France, there are three memorable bonus cuts from a performance at the Taragram Ballroom in Los Angeles in October 2015; the high-octane blues rocker "Anything 'Cept The Truth" and Steppenwolf-styled '70s rocker "Bad Dream Mama" really capture the energy of the genre-blending outfit. Information:

Artist: Paul Kelly
Title: Life Is Fine (Cooking Vinyl)
You might like if you enjoy: Neil Finn, Paul Kelly, Bruce Springsteen
Tell me more: A veritable treasure in his native Australia, singer-songwriter Paul Kelly has just released an aptly-titled album titled Life Is Fine that showcases the genuine strengths that make the artist so beloved at home. A gifted singer, songwriter and guitarist able to bring rock, folk, and Americana sounds together with ease, the new album is further elevated by the range of great singers and musicians who join Kelly on the mostly-upbeat project. The songs breathe and vibrate with life's power; the first track on the album "Rising Moon" mirrors the passion of a Springsteen track with its blend of rock dynamics, hopeful spirit and sense of the dramatic. "Finally Something Good" is a joyful exploration of love finally found. Beyond the instinctive and emotional pull of the songs is how Kelly has brought in guest vocalists Vika and Linda Bull to enhance select songs; indeed Vika Bull delivers lead vocals on the retro blues "My Man's Got a Cold." while Linda Bull sings the shimmering melodic folk rocker "Don't Explain." Kelly's own affecting baritone is more than up to the task everywhere else, including on the lively and expressive "Letter in the Rain," stirring country-flavored "Petrichor" and sparse title track. Life Is Fine will be released on Aug. 11. Information:

Artist: Peter Himmelman
Title: There Is No Calamity (Himmasongs Recordings)
You might like if you enjoy: Elvis Costello, Bruce Cockburn
Tell me more: Singer-songwriter Peter Himmelman's There Is No Calamity (set for release on Aug. 11) is a marvellous album that tackles intimate and universal themes in tune with a troubled and imperfect world. The titles alone often reveal the core of the matter ("245th Peace Song," "Fear Is Our Undoing," "Rich Men Run the World"), but the disc's dozen songs extend far beyond cliche or creative rote. Produced by Los Lobos' Steve Berlin, "There Is No Calamity" is a cohesive gathering of powerfully-performed songs that challenge while they entice, spun with nuanced arrangements and real world wisdom. On the folk rock album opener "245th Peace Song" Himmelman sings: "Scapegoating, killing, hating on the other / Isn't it time that we finally discover / Everyone you see could be your sister and your brother / Did you forget that in your pain? Has weakness made you insane?" The baroque pop "Burning Through the Days,"  acoustic-styled "The Depth of You" and poignant "I Pity You Poor Spirits" unlock more secrets with each listen, a testament to their depth and power. Information:

Artist: Arcade Fire
Title: Everything Now (Columbia Records Group)
You might like if you enjoy: Arcade Fire, the Shins
Tell me more: Make no mistake, many high-profile reviews of Arcade Fire's new album Everything Now have been negative. But while the Win Butler-led group's latest effort lacks the anthemic firepower of the band's earliest efforts (2004's Funeral and 2007 sophomore effort Neon Bible), it is simply ludicrous to ignore the joys of the Canadian troupe's 2017 effort. An intelligent exploration of today's obsession with the here and now, as well as a growing detachment of deep human connections courtesy of a dependence on technology and instant gratification make this an important album. Society's obsession with remaining young at any cost is artfully explored on the pulsating "Peter Pan," and there are other points across the 13-track disc where the dangers of celebrity culture, empty nightlife and suicide are explored amidst dance- and disco-minded soundscapes. Before dismissing this album, this writer encourages discerning listeners to check out the electronica sweep of "Creature Comforts" and the wistful "Put Your Money On Me," two fantastic songs that blend vibrant music making and topical lyrics in spades. Information:

Artist: A.J. Croce
Title: Just Like Medicine (Compass)
You might like if you enjoy: Jim Croce, Leon Russell, Andrew McMahon
Tell me more: Bona fide talent and an independent artistic voice collectively work wonders for artists trying to escape the shadow of more famous parents. Just as drummer Zak Starkey has established himself as one of today's greatest rock drummers free of comparisons with his dad (Ringo Starr), singer-songwriter/piano great A.J. Croce has fully escaped all but passing nods to his late father Jim Croce (who sadly died in a plane crash in September 1973 at the age of 30). On his ninth full-length album Just Like Medicine, A. J. Croce puts his virtuoso talents at the keyboard and strong lead vocals on display in the service of 10 soulful songs that recall the sounds of Memphis and New Orleans. The songs here range from the graceful bluesy grooves of "Gotta Get Outta My Head" and buoyant "The Heart That Makes Me Whole" (co-written with Leon Russell) to the beautiful ballad "I Couldn't Stop," the latter injecting a bit of continental jazz into the disc's Muscle Shoals luster. The album also features a special track, "The Name of the Game," a blues-styled song that was the last song written by Jim Croce. Never recorded by the elder Croce, A.J. Croce's version is a true gem and features celebrated guitarist Vince Gill. Elsewhere on the fast-moving LP, guitar hero Colin Linden, electric guitar great Steve Cropper and the Muscle Shoals Horns are featured. Information:

Robert Kinsler

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