Monday, April 20, 2020

New releases inspire amidst COVID-19 pandemic

Check out a roundup of outstanding albums that bring much needed joy and inspiration during the continuing coronavirus pandemic.

Artist: The Monkees
Title: The Mike & Micky Show (Rhino Records)
You might like if you enjoy: The Monkees, Micky Dolenz, Michael Nesmith
Tell me more: Hard to believe, but the Monkees' latest release The Mike & Micky Show marks the first-ever official live album from the '60s hitmakers. While the group's lineup is down to Micky Dolenz and Michael Nesmith (Davy Jones died in February 2012, while Peter Tork passed away in February 2019). This terrific collection sounds fantastic, with oft-shimmering harmonies, a joyful spirit, timeless strength of songcraft and sparkling storytelling shining across the 25-track set. Dolenz is one of his generation's most gifted lead singers, able to elevate power pop, garage rockers, Americana and tender ballads with equal potency. Even now, his voice remains a wonder as evidenced by top-flight singing on the freewheeling rocker "Mary, Mary," the wistful "For Pete's Safe," jubilant "Pleasant Valley Sunday" and rollicking "(I'm Not Your) Steppin' Stone." Nesmith's strong signature baritone takes center stage on original country-flavored gems including "Sunny Girlfriend," "Listen to the Band," "Sweet Young Thing," "Circle Sky" and "St. Matthew." Together, their duel voices create magic on "Birth of an Accidental Hipster" (a psychedelic gift penned by Noel Gallagher and Paul Weller), country-western original "Papa Gene's Blues," the Ben Gibbard-penned baroque ballad "Me & Magdalena" and inspired "I'm a Believer." Information:

Artist: Bruce Sudano
Title: Spirals, Vol 1- Not a Straight Line to be Found (Purple Heart Recording Co.)
You might like if you enjoy: Nils Lofgren, Tom Rush
Tell me more: Singer-songwriter Bruce Sudano's newly-released EP Spirals, Vol 1- Not a Straight Line to be Found includes a tuneful set of five tracks that are both melodic and well crafted. The probing "The Mountain," intimate "Shelter Island" (bolstered by his nuanced guitar work and Kenny White's touch on keyboards) and evocative "Back in the Neighborhood" all resonate, exuding a warm touch. Sudano further explores his pleasing blend of folk and light rock with the decidedly acoustic "In The Garden Of November" and disc-ending embrace of "See You When I Get There." Information:

Artist: EOB
Title: Earth (Capitol Records)
You might like if you enjoy: Radiohead, Doves, Tom Yorke
Tell me more: It's little surprise that the solo debut release from Radiohead guitarist-backing vocalist Ed O'Brien (performing under the moniker EOB) both challenges and embraces the listener. Earth was written and recorded over a five-year span and the album is bolstered by a genre-defying exhilaration across its nine wonderful tracks. The decidedly uplifting spirit that permeates the album spans from the electronica rock opener "Shangri-La" and casual jazzy jewel "Long Time Coming" to the tranquil "Sail On," dance floor-ready "Olympik" and acoustic closer "Cloak of the Night" (the latter featuring Laura Marling sharing lead vocals with O'Brien). The ambitious acoustic-meets-electronica "Brasil" and swirling "Mass" are among the other standouts on a terrific and adventuresome debut. Other guests on the outstanding album include bassist Nathan East and Portishead's Adrian Utley. Information:

Artist: Peter Buck and Luke Haines
Title: Beat Poetry for the Survivalists (Omnivore Recordings)
You might like if you enjoy: R. Stevie Moore, The Auteurs, Radio California
Tell me more: As interesting as it is fun, Beat Poetry for the Survivalists is an ambitious collaboration between famed guitarists Peter Buck (R.E.M.) and Luke Haines (the Auteurs). Against a sonic lo-fi soundscape of spoken word, textured melodious flourishes and nuanced dynamics, the two artists explore rocket scientist "Jack Parsons," alternate radio station "Apocalypse Beach," the art damage tale of "The Last of the Legendary Bigfoot Hunters," "Andy Warhol Was Not Kind" and other far-flung forays to be found in this crazy world we all call home. In addition to Haines and Buck, the album includes the talents of Scott McCaughey (bass guitar, keyboards), Linda Pitmon (drums), Joe Adragna (percussion) and Fred Ph (backing vocals). Information:

Artist: Tom Rush
Title: Voices (Appleseed)
You might like if you enjoy: Bruce Cockburn, Tom Rush, John Prine, Bob Dylan
Tell me more: The continuing toll that the coronavirus pandemic has inflicted on the world has taken the lives of more than 40,000 Americans  including acclaimed musicians Adam Schlesinger, John Prine, Joe Diffie, Ellis Marsalis and Lee Konitz. Fortunately, acclaimed folk singer Tom Rush, 79, has recovered from his battle with the dreaded disease. Now is a great time to revisit the New Hampshire native's most recent album, 2018's excellent Voices. Rush got his start singing folk songs in the early 1960s but Voices marked the first Rush album featuring a full run of original songs. His colorful and literate lyrics are delivered amidst a sonic landscape blending folk, blues, Americana and even spoken word stylings. On the aptly-pegged "Life is Fine," he whistles and sings in a celebration of everyday life's joy. On the rootsy rocker "How Can She Dance Like That?" Rush and a supporting cast of excellent players rock the house with playful abandon. A reworking of the traditional folk standard "Corina, Corina," countrified "Cold River," reflective "Far Away" and Appalachia-draped "Heaven Knows (But It Ain't Tellin')" display his sway with material be it comedic or solemn. Information:

Robert Kinsler

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