Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Legendary Artists Celebrated on New Collections

Some of music's most beloved and groundbreaking artists are celebrated on a number of new releases.

Artist: Thomas Dolby
Title: Hyperactive (BMG)
You might like if you enjoy: Thomas Dolby, Beck, David Bowie
Tell me more: As Thomas Dolby prepares to go on a rare tour this summer, fans of the groundbreaking English musician, producer, author and university professor are being rewarded with a two-disc audio CD collection Hyperactive. Casual fans may know Dolby best for his timeless hits "She Blinded Me With Science" and "Hyperactive" but this collection is sure to focus renewed light on Dolby's master strengths as a recording artist. The range of material on the essential set includes the buoyant "Hyperactive!", New Wave-flavored "Europa and the Pirate Twins," the lovely synthesizer foray "Valley of the Mind's Eye" and funky "Airhead — and that's just on the first disc. Moving on to disc two includes the bewitching "One of Our Submarines," the genre-defying "The Flat Earth," the soulful ballad "Beauty of a Dream," and melodic "Close But No Cigar." Dolby is going on a short summer tour (titled "An Evening of Music and Storytelling with Thomas Dolby") including a date at Largo at the Coronet in Los Angeles on July 25, an opening spot for Blondie at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles on July 27, and a string of dates on the East Coast in late July and early August. The tour is sponsored in part by Roland Corp., manufacturer of the world's most iconic synthesizers, guitar pedals and drum machines. Information:

Artist: The Jayhawks
Title: Back Roads and Abandoned Motels (Legacy Recordings)
You might like if you enjoy: The Jayhawks, Dawes
Tell me more: Fresh off their role backing legendary Ray Davies on his Our Country: Americana Act II, the Jayhawks have released their own brilliant masterwork titled Back Roads and Abandoned Motels. Anyone who has admired any of the Twin Cities-spawned troupe's previous albums issued across the past three decades will want to get a listen of this outstanding LP. The album opens with the Memphis-styled soul of "Come Cryin' to Me," featuring the shining vocals of band keyboardist Karen Grotberg (whose voice draws strong comparisons with Roseanne Cash). That song was co-penned by Jayhawks frontman Gary Louris and members of the Dixie Chicks and was first featured on Natalie Maines' 2013 release Mother  this version outdistances that recording in spades. The rest of the album is just strong, with band drummer Tim O'Reagan singing several tracks (including the acoustic-flavored "Long Time Ago") and Louris offering up his signature vocals across most of the disc. Outstanding song craft, lush vocal harmonies and creative arrangements are everywhere. The instantly-infectious alt-country rocker "Everybody Knows," melodic "Backwards Women," romantic "Need You Tonight" and acoustic nugget "Bird Never Flies" are among this writer's favorite songs on Back Roads and Abandoned Motels. As if the album wasn't impressive enough, all 11 tracks were recorded in just two sessions. Amazing. Information:

Artist: Buddy Guy
Title: The Blues is Alive and Well (RCA)
You might like if you enjoy: Buddy Guy, the Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton, Muddy Waters
Tell me more: Buddy Guy has little left to prove. The celebrated bluesman  who will turn 82 in late July  has inspired and influenced everyone from Jimi Hendrix and Jeff Beck to the Rolling Stones and Eric Clapton while in recent years thrilling large crowds while performing at high-profile festivals and sold-out venues around the globe. On Guy's terrific new album The Blues is Alive and Well, Guy is joined by a parade of legendary guests as he tears through a 15-track disc of inspired Chicago blues. What is especially impressive about the new disc is how even when joined by bona fide greats, Guy's infectious personality and stellar skills as vocalist and guitarist elevate everyone around him. Take the slow blues burner "Cognac" where guitar greats Keith Richards and Jeff Beck join Guy, the interplay of three fret masters serves the song and is allowed to play out even while Kevin McKendree's work on the piano also shines. On the acoustic "Blue No More," Guy and guest James Bay (adding guitar and vocals) offer up one of the most tender and traditional tracks on the disc. On "You Did the Crime," Mick Jagger adds to the proceedings with some masterful blues harmonica work. Other standouts include the speedy "Guilty As Charged," soulful "The Blues is Alive and Well" (featuring the artful work of the Muscle Shoals Horns section) and the infectious "Bad Day." Guy will headline at several venues in Southern California later this summer, including at The Coach House in San Juan Capistrano on Thursday, Aug. 9, 2018. Information:

Artist: Gene Clark
Title: Gene Clark Sings for You (Omnivore Recordings)
You might like if you enjoy: The Byrds, Gram Parsons
Tell me more: Omnivore Recordings has recently released previously unheard post-Byrds recordings from Gene Clark. The good news for fans of the Byrds' early material as well as of Clark's solo work is this is an exciting new collection (Gene Clark Sings for You) that celebrates and expands the legacy of an important artist whose groundbreaking solo work was often overlooked in his lifetime (he died at the age of 46 in May 1991). Clark was the principal songwriter in the Byrds from 1964 to early 1966, writing classics such as "I'll Feel a Whole Lot Better," "Set You Free This Time" and "She Don't Care About Time." Comprised of tracks recorded in 1967, Gene Clark Sings for You explore folk rock with beauty and insight. The opener "On Her Own" features Clark's signature vocal styling and taps into a wistful '60s sound. The follow-up "Past Tense" is even stronger, an upbeat folk rocker that captures the magic of his work with the Byrds but also foreshadows the alt-country movement of that latter part of the '60s and early '70s. Other nuggets on the album include the wistful "That's Alright by Me" and baroque-flavored "Down on the Pier." In addition to the eight actual tracks pulled from the "Gene Clark Sings for You" acetate in the aftermath of his departure from the Byrds, there are an additional five songs from another 1967 acetate given to the Rose Garden for that band's consideration (Omnivore have simultaneously released their 1968 album; it is reviewed later in this column). A final track, a lovely acoustic demo of "Till Today," features Clark running through the song for the Rose Garden. Information:

Artist: The Rose Garden
Title: A Trip Through the Garden: The Rose Garden Collection (Omnivore Recordings)
You might like if you enjoy: Gene Clark, the Hollies, Sonny & Cher
Tell me more: Just listening to the expanded reissue of the Rose Garden's eponymous album is to hear why the best music from the 1960s continues to resonant so strongly a half century later. A Trip Through the Garden: The Rose Garden Collection shines a bright light on the Rose Garden, a troupe best known for their hit single "Next Plane to London." The group's full talents are on display on the expansive 26-track collection issued earlier this summer. John Noreen's nuanced 12-track guitar adorns the pretty "I'm Only Second," while everywhere the lead vocals of Diana DeRose and James Groshong entice the listener. Beyond the sterling original material there are memorable covers of material by the celebrated likes of Gene Clark ("Long Time"), Neil Young ("Down to the Wire"), Bob Dylan ("She Belongs to Me") and the Byrds ("So You Want to be a Rock 'n' Roll Star"). There is also an outstanding 20-page, full illustrated booklet that further completes a complete re-introduction to the Los Angeles-spawned Rose Garden. Information:

Artist: Styx
Title: The Mission — CD + Blu-ray (UMe)
You might like if you enjoy: Styx, Boston
Tell me more: When Styx released The Mission on June 16, 2017, few saw the album coming. The band's first new studio album in 14 years, The Mission was a creative and commercial triumph. Among the notable songs featured on "The Mission" are the rocking "Gone Gone Gone," expansive "Radio Silence" the Neo-classical "Khedive" and anthemic "The Outpost." Now, Styx has further rewarded rock fans with a deluxe two-disc edition that includes the album on audio CD and a second Blu-ray Disc loaded with essential content. Not only is listening to the immersive 5.1 Surround Sound mix a great experience, but there are stellar visualizations for each of the album's 14 songs based on the original album artwork. Among the bonus content on the Blu-ray Disc are music videos that add insight into the concept album and its creation. "Gone Gone Gone" is featured as both a concert-minded video and a secondary video created by NASA using the space agency's considerable resources, and a terrific live version of "Radio Silence" performed in Syracuse, NY.  Also included is "Making The Mission" where Tommy Shaw discusses the making of The Mission as a 5.1 mix (he even showcases some of the specific guitars he used on the album). Information:

Robert Kinsler

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