Monday, May 04, 2020

Rediscover top-tier artists via outstanding releases

A handful of new releases bring much-deserved attention to an equal number of influential artists.

Artist: Marshall Crenshaw
Title: Miracle of Science (Shiny-Tone)
You might like if you enjoy: Jason Falkner, The Smithereens, Matthew Sweet
Tell me more: The newly-available reissue of Marshall Crenshaw's 1996 classic Miracle of Science is a true gem worth adding to your music library. In addition to several bonus tracks being included on the new version, Crenshaw undertook a number of technical steps to enhance the sound across the disc (it was originally recorded digitally and there was not an analog master tape; one was created this time to help create the vinyl release of the reissue). The enticing earworm "What Do You Dream Of?" is a mix of power pop and early rock 'n' roll sparkle. Track after track exudes a wealth of melodic riches and affecting song craft; the '60s-mining alt country rocker "Who Stole That Train," shimmering "Only An Hour Ago," ornate "Laughter" and mysterious "A Wondrous Place" are early standouts on "Miracle of Science." The literate "Twenty-Five Forty-One," tuneful "Starless Summer Sky" and "There and Back Again," along with the bonus tracks "What The Hell I Got" and "Misty Dreamer" extend the magic on the last half of the terrific reissue. While there are guests to be sure (including multi-instrumentalist Bill Lloyd and guitar great Pat Buchanan), the talented Crenshaw produced the album while handling lead vocals, guitar, bass, keyboards, percussion, tambourine and even "wine bottles" across "Miracle of Science." Information:

Artist: America
Title: Heritage II: Demos/Alternate Takes 1971-1976 (Omnivore Recordings)
You might like if you enjoy: America, Andrew Gold, Neil Young, David Crosby
Tell me more: Time has been more than kind to the music of America. Recent headlining tours have helped shed a welcome reassessment of the groundbreaking trio (Dan Peek died in 2011, but Dewey Bunnell and Gerry Beckley have carried on with a top-tier touring band). Add to the renewed interest in the band the newly-issued Heritage II: Demos/Alternate Takes 1971-1976, an essential collection of demos, alternate studio takes and live jams captured during the beginning of America's time working with producer Sir George Martin. The evocative lure of "Cornwall Blank," piano-anchored Beckley ballad "Mandy" (a song previously not released), an alternate mix of the hit "Tin Man" with a focus on the backing vocals, and alternate mix of the winning "Simple Life" all add depth to America's legacy. Other highlights include an intimate demo of Beckley's baroque ballad "What Does It Matter," luxurious vocals-and-strings slice of Peek's "You" produced by Martin and engineered by Geoff Emerick, and the Bunnell folk rock original "Amber Cascades." The biggest surprise on the disc may well be the ambitious instrumental jam "Jameroony" featuring Bunnell, Beckley and Peek showcasing their skills on acoustic guitars for more than 12 glorious minutes. Information: and

Artist: Andrew Gold
Title: Something New: Unreleased Gold (Omnivore Recordings)
You might like if you enjoy: Andrew Gold, Graham Nash, 10cc 
Tell me more: A true treasure trove of previously-unheard material graces Something New: Unreleased Gold, a 16-track collection of Andrew Gold demos he originally produced with Chuck Plotkin that soon earned him a recording contract with Asylum Records. The recordings showcase Gold's mastery of writing and performing original songs. The material spans from melodic pop ("Something New," "Prisoner") and soft rock ("Resting In Your Love," "Don't Bring Me Down," "A Note From You") to ballads (the lovely "Come Down To Me," roots-swept "Ten Years Behind Me") and singer-songwriter sophistication ("What You Do Is What You See," "Timothy Corey," "To Be Someone"). The collection features liner notes penned by Grammy Award-winning producer Peter Asher. Sadly, Gold died of heart failure at age 59 in June 2011. Information: and

Artist: Doug "Cosmo" Clifford
Title: Magic Window (Concord Music Publishing ASCAP)
You might like if you enjoy: Bad Company, Mike and the Mechanics, CCR
Tell me more: Drummer Doug "Cosmo" Clifford rose to fame in the late 1960s as a member of Creedence Clearwater Revival and has enjoyed continued success with the related project Creedence Clearwater Revisited. But even life-long fans of both bands likely didn't see Clifford's first-ever solo album coming. The good news is that Magic Window   recorded in 1985 and rediscovered when the artist was cleaning out his garage last year  is wonderful and makes a compelling case for a quick followup. The new album will please fans of classic rock, from the Bad Company-styled title track and swampy rocker "Born On The South Side" to the power ballad "Don't Leave Me Alone Tonight" and New Wave-tinged "Somebody Love Me Tonight" — and those are just the first four tracks on the set! Clifford proves to be a top-flight lead vocalist and strong tunesmith. The album's first single "Just Another Girl" could well have shot up the Billboard charts in the mid-80s, and it's easy to believe that the melodic rockers "Love Mode" and "Don't Let Go" as well as the power ballad "You Mean So Much To Me" would have scored radio airplay at that time too. Kudos to lead guitarist Russell DaShiell (who assisted with the production of the album), multi-instrumentalist Chris Solberg and guitarist Rob Polomsky for their contributions in the studio. Information:

Robert Kinsler

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