Monday, December 24, 2018

Year-end Sounds Abound

As 2018 draws to a close, I wanted to highlight a diverse group of wonderful releases sure to please discerning listeners.

Title: Aquaman (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) (WaterTower Music)
You might like if you enjoy: Hans Zimmer, Rupert Gregson-Williams
Tell me more: With a thoughtful blend of instrumental music courtesy of composers Rupert Gregson-Williams and Joseph Bishara as well as two contemporary songs, Aquaman (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) is one of the year's best soundtracks. Whether it was because of the artistic power of the story and inspiration of the film's stunning locations, or primary composer Gregson-Williams' connection with the compelling superhero origin tale, the new soundtrack is an intoxicating mix of symphonic-draped romanticism and dynamic electronica that delights across its length. The sweeping "Arthur," propulsive "Kingdom of Atlantis," gorgeous "The Legend of Atlan" and romantic "Reunited" are among the dazzling tracks on the soundtrack penned by Gregson-Williams. Listening to the songs on the disc, Skylar Grey's poignant "Everything I Need" is particularly stirring; the relevant "Ocean To Ocean" from Pitbull and Rhea effectively addresses Arthur Curry's character arc with apt lyrics and weaves a dose of Toto's 1982 classic "Africa" into the sonic moodscape. Information:

Artist: Tom Brumley and the Buckaroos
Title: Steelin' the Show (Omnivore Recordings)
You might like if you enjoy: Buck Owens and His Buckaroos, Chris Hillman & Herb Pedersen
Tell me more: Pedal steel player Tom Brumley was best known for his role in Buck Owens' '60s band the Buckaroos but his talents come to the fore across the 17-track "Steelin' the Show." Gathering tracks featured from nine classic Owens albums, the firepower featured on the collection will amaze those who have never heard Brumley's steel work (the acclaimed musician passed away at the age of 73 in February 2009). The speedy "Tom Cattin'," graceful "The Neosho Waltz," buoyant "Steel Guitar Rag" and Scottish-flavored "March Of The McGregor" showcase Brumley's virtuoso-meets-artful approach to playing his instrument. In addition to all the instrumental gems, the memorable country-western ballad "Together Again" (featuring Buck Owens and His Buckaroos) is featured on the essential set. The audio CD comes with a wonderful, fully-illustrated 16-page booklet that includes liner notes penned by author-Grammy nominee Scott B. Bomar. Information:

Artist: Michael Simmons, Andy Reed, Cait Brennan, more
Title: White Lace and Promises: The Songs of Paul Williams (Curry Cuts)
You might like if you enjoy: Paul Williams, Cait Brennan, power pop music
Tell me more: Paul Williams is one of modern music's all-time great songwriters and that is displayed in spades via the terrific 23-track White Lace and Promises: The Songs of Paul Williams. Many leaders of the contemporary power pop genre are featured on this title that captures the diversity of Williams' song craft genius. The dreamy "Fill Your Heart" from songstress Andrea Perry, melodic rocker "Special to Me" (a choice song in the 1974 rock flick "Phantom of the Paradise") performed by The New Empire, the baroque pop ballad "Let Me Be The One" interpreted by Michael Simmons and lush "An Old Fashioned Love Song" from Cait Brennan are among the stellar cuts on this affecting tribute. Singer Andy Reed hits "Rainbow Connection" out of the park via a tender and wistful cover of the 1979 classic. Information:

Artist: Popdudes
Title: Maximum Rock Stupidity (Not Lame Media / Crab Apple Records)
You might like if you enjoy: Cheap Trick, Paul McCartney and Wings
Tell me more: An audio collection that comes as a bonus companion to Southern California-based author John M. Borack's new 414-page Shake Some Action 2.0: An Updated Guide to the 200 Greatest Power Pop Albums 1970-2017, the Popdudes' Maximum Rock Stupidity is a great collection featuring mostly-faithful covers of some of the most melodic tunes penned this side of the Beatles' "Abbey Road." The Popdudes (featuring Sparkle*Jets U.K. front man Michael Simmons and the aforementioned Borack) unleash rip roarin' takes on material ranging from a ferocious tear through a mini-medley of Cheap Trick's "Hello There" and "Top of the World" and sweet reading of Paul McCartney and Wings' "With A Little Luck" to a shimmering cover of ABBA's "Waterloo" and equally-rousing turn with the Turtles' 1968 hit "Elenore." One of this writer's favorites on the disc is a introspective version of Men At Work's "Overkill." Other classic songs covered include the Electric Light Orchestra classic "Xanadu," John Fogerty-penned "Have You Ever Seen the Rain" and Walter Egan's enduring 1978 Billboard Hot 100 entry "Magnet and Steel." Information:

Robert Kinsler

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