Monday, December 11, 2017

Favorites celebrated via new LPs, reissues and live sets

With the arrival of the holidays, a number of wonderful collections representing a wide range of genres and eras are available now.

Artist: Herb Alpert
Title: The Christmas Wish (Herb Alpert Presents)
Tell me more: Nearly 50 years after recording his now-classic Christmas Album with the Tijuana Brass in 1968, Herb Alpert has issued another full-length holiday music collection. The wonderful The Christmas Wish showcases the 82-year-old artist's enduring talents as a trumpet virtuoso across this set. Backed by a 45-piece orchestra and 32-member choir, there are many highlights on the album, with the stirring "Carol of the Bells" and "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" medley and potent performance of Bach's "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring" among this writer's favorites. Fans of the memorable holiday albums recorded throughout the 1950s and 1960s will love this old-fashioned and deeply reminiscent 15-track LP.  Information:

Artist: Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds
Title: Who Built The Moon? (Caroline Records)
Tell me more: A dramatic and stylistic shift away from 2015's Chasing Yesterday, Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds' third studio disc Who Built The Moon? certifies the greatness of Oasis' principal songwriter. Noel Gallagher's latest effort features a lavish mix of alt rock, electronica, synth pop and tinges of gospel, soul and other styles. Listening to the exuberant "It's a Beautiful World," driving New Order-mining "She Taught Me How to Fly," cosmic blues romp "Be Careful What You Wish For" and expansive "Holy Mountain" is to be spellbound by the wide range of styles collected and merged with flawless artistry. The urgent "Fort Knox," acoustic "Dead in the Water" and heavy title track are other standoutsGallagher's voice and dazzling guitar work are seminal, while the role of noteworthy artists who guest on the album including Jason Falkner (of Beck, Jellyfish and Air fame), Johnny Marr (The Smiths, The The) and Paul Weller (The Jam) help bolster this amazing album. Who Built The Moon? is one of the best albums of 2017. Information:

Artist: Big Head Todd and the Monsters
Title: New World Arisin' (Big Records)
Tell me more: Big Head Todd and the Monsters have released their 11th full-length album and it's as epic as the title. New World Arisin' kicks off with the explosive "Glow," a song that expertly bridges alternative rock and blues. From there, the Boulder, Colorado-spawned quartet delves into Southern blues-rock ("New World Arisin' "), melodic alt rock ("Damaged One"), funk ("Trip") and jangly psychedelia ("Mind")  and that's just the first handful of tracks on the album. Thirty years into their illustrious career, Big Head Todd and the Monsters are still writing and performing with the firepower and creativity displayed on their breakout 1993 album Sister Sweetly.  High octane rocker "Detonator" the lovely "Wipeout Turn" and inspired blues rocker "Under Your Wings" are among the other memorably-affecting songs on the outstanding New World Arisin'. Big Head Todd and the Monsters will be performing at House of Blues Anaheim on Thursday, Dec. 14, and at the Troubadour in Hollywood on Friday, Dec. 15. Information:

Artist: The Searchers
Title: Another Night: The Sire Recordings 1979-1981 (Omnivore Recordings)
Tell me more: One of England's break-out bands following the Beatles, the Searchers scored a slew of hit singles in the early 1960s including "Needles and Pins," "Don't Throw Our Love Away" and "Sweets for My Sweet." But while the group's initial string of hits stopped coming in the late 1960s, there was a revival of sorts for the group when the head of Sire Records caught the band at a performance in the late 1970s and signed them to a new contract. These recordings  featured on the new compilation Another Night: The Sire Recordings 1979-1981 – are a delight. Spirited material penned by everyone from Bob Dylan and Tom Petty to John Fogerty and Big Star's Alex Chilton afforded the Searchers plenty of ammunition to put their distinctive vocals and musical stamp on songs that draw natural comparisons with Tom Petty, the Plimsouls, Great Buildings and other melodic rockers to emerge at the dawn of the '80s. There are 29 splendid tracks splashed across two discs, representing all the album tracks, B-sides and alternate mixes from the Sire era. Listening to winning material such as "Love's Gonna Be Strong," "Feeling Fine," "It's Too Late" and a shimmering reworking of Fogerty's classic "Almost Saturday Night," it's easy to hear why the Searchers are worth discovering. Information:

Artist: Little Richard
Title: Here's Little Richard (Craft Recordings/Concord Music)
Tell me more: To listen to the 60th anniversary edition of Here's Little Richard is to be joyfully transported to the early days of rock 'n' roll and gain a newfound appreciation of the artist born Richard Penniman. One of rock's founding fathers, Little Richard's debut (recorded in 1955 and 1956) more than holds up in 2017. The performances here are simply riveting, with Little Richard's signature vocals and pounding piano driving rockers such as "Tutti Frutti," Ready Teddy," "Rip It Up" and "Long Tall Sally" as well as New Orleans-flavored blues ("I Can't Believe You Wanna Leave," "Baby," "Slippin' and Sliding' "). A second disc on this essential deluxe edition features 22 must-hear demo and/or alternate recordings of the dozen songs on the original Here's Little Richard. Information:

Artist: Peter Case
Title: On The Way Downtown: Recorded Live On Folkscene (Omnivore Recordings)
Tell me more: Singer-songwriter Peter Case's On The Way Downtown: Recorded Live On Folkscene features live tracks captured on Los Angles radio station KPFK-FM' syndicated radio program in 1998 and 2000. This fantastic collection features Case singing a number of his stellar originals, including the Americana-styled "On the Way Downtown" and "Honey Child," Delta blues-flavored "Let Me Fall" and introspective "Green Blanket (Part 1)" from "Full Service, No Waiting" (released in 1998); the last nine selections on "On The Way Downtown" are weighted in favor of Case's 2000 LP "Flying Saucer Blues"; songs from that disc shine in the live setting including the Appalachia spirited "Something Happens" and wistful folk nugget "Blue Distance" (with lovely fiddle work from David Perales) and the playful acoustic blues chantey "Walking Home Late." The package also features liner notes penned by Case about the radio performances featured on the disc. Information:

Robert Kinsler

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