Category Archives: CD

NATHAN OLIVER – Head in the Sand EP

Album: Head in the Sand EP

Artist: Nathan Oliver

Label: Potluck Foundation

Release Date: June 09, 2017

www.potluckfoundation.com

The Upshot: A cause for celebration among fans of quirky, charming indie pop.

BY JOHN B. MOORE

In the span of just 20-minutes, Chapel Hill’s Nathan Oliver (aka Nathan White) manages to remind fans that his lo-frills solo project is still very much alive after a nearly decade-long hiatus.

His re-emergence is cause for celebration among fans of quirky, charming indie pop, but also a little puzzlement that he only pulled together six songs with this long-time-coming offering. Bringing to mind everyone from early Ben Folds to Pavement’s more mellower stuff, Head in the Sand is a welcome addition his two previous efforts.

Some are the songs here are downright great, like the EP opener “Marbles” and “The Exquisite Wait.” But the addition of the droning “Little Belle” drags the record down a bit.

It may not be a flawless comeback, but it’s a solid start.

DOWNLOAD: “Marbles” and “The Exquisite Wait”

RUSS TOLMAN – Compass & Map

Album: Compass & Map

Artist: Russ Tolman

Label: Lost

Release Date: May 26, 2017

www.russtolmanmusic.com

The Upshot: Erstwhile True West guitarist serves up a 20-song career overview that demonstrates stellar songwriting, singing, and playing.

BY FRED MILLS

Russ Tolman is part of an ‘80s collective of musicians, deejays, journalists, and just plain dedicated fans that continues to thrive over three decades later. We were the so-called College Rock Generation, caught between the ’70s stoners and ‘90s alt-rockers, and we valued community over commerce—not that the occasional ‘mersh breakthrough by a band wasn’t cheered, it’s just that it wouldn’t be until the post-Nirvana gold rush that artists could genuinely claim to having the proverbial “career” that might allow them to work, thrive, and provide for their families. Luckily, most of us were young enough in the ‘80s to also value the fact that we were having a whale of a lot of fun, too, even if we still often struggled to pay the rent.

Tolman, with his early ‘80s band True West, was one of yours truly’s faves, alongside other heroes like the Dream Syndicate, Green On Red, Long Ryders, Three O’Clock, Rain Parade et al, aka The Paisley Underground. (How big a fave? A 1984 North Carolina gig the band had graciously allowed me to tape got turned into a European bootleg LP without my knowledge, so a number of years later Tolman and I put our heads together and decided to beat the boots by releasing it in its entirety as The Big Boot CD. Things do come full circle sometimes.) Upon going solo in 1985, he would release seven solo albums, commencing with 1986’s Totem Poles and Glory Holes, and along the way he would collaborate with numerous other alumni of the aforementioned Generation. With Compass & Map, Tolman takes a look back at that solo career to date, and the songs collected here are more than just impressive—according to liner notes by fellow alumnus Pat Thomas (Absolute Grey and archivist/label dude supreme), it heralds Tolman’s newfound urge to recommence touring and recording after a lengthy hiatus from the spotlight.

Highlights? Early Totem Poles track “Looking For an Angel” has that telltale Paisley Underground vibe, part punk, part Nuggets, part Velvet Underground, and it nicely demonstrates that Tolman’s initial reluctance to be the vocalist was misguided. “Blame It On the Girl,” from 1988’s Goodbye Joe, reaffirms same, additionally benefiting from a heady, catharsis-inducing guitar/keyboards arrangement. “Monterey” was a standout track on 1998’s City Lights, a jovial, upbeat shuffle featuring harmony vocals by Wendy Bird. And the relatively recent “Los Angeles,” released as a single in 2013, is strummy, twangy Americana as sweet—and, lyrically speaking, perfectly lovelorn—as it comes.

There’s a lot more here to bask in, 20 songs to be exact, and not a bum note among ‘em. If this is a way of reintroducing Tolman to the music-loving public, and also of introducing him to a new audience, then it more than handles the task. Welcome back, Russ. For me, it’s just gratifying to know that after all these years, one of my gang is still going strong and making terrific music. We’ve lost a few folks along the way (R.I.P. Scott Miller and Gil Ray, from Game Theory), and it’s more important now than ever to come together and celebrate those we still have. As I wrote in my liner notes to that True West bootleg-of-a-bootleg, “there was a communal, us-against-the-mainstream-world feeling” back then. In many ways, that feeling persists. So it all comes down to supporting the home team, y’know?

DOWNLOAD: “Blame It On the Girl,” “Los Angeles,” “Dry Your Pretty Eyes,” “The Best Is Yet To Come”

COCK SPARRER – Forever LP

Album: Forever

Artist: Cock Sparrer

Label: Pirate Press

Release Date: June 09, 2017

www.PiratePressRecords.com

The Upshot: A testament the vitality of punk rock when done right. And rarely has it been done this well before.

BY JOHN B. MOORE

Despite playing across London’s around the same time as the Sex Pistols, The Damned and The Clash – even showing up on the radar of punk rock Svengali Malcolm McLaren –  Cock Sparrer never achieved the global recognition of their scene mates. In fact, their label at the time dumped their 1978 debut in Spain and quickly walked away from the band (the record finally saw a proper UK release 9 years later). As the Sex Pistols were busy imploding and The Clash and The Damned experimenting with new sounds, the guys in Cock Sparrer continued to plug away at their sound, perfecting a mix of punk, pub rock and R&B that would eventually be dubbed Oi’, or street punk.

More than four decades later, Cock Sparrer are still at it, surprisingly with only one non-original band member, and have managed to turn in possibly their best record yet, Forever. Finding a home in the U.S. on the punk and vinyl-friendly label Pirate Press, the album is an exercise in brilliance spread out across a dozen tracks.

The LP, only their sixth in 45 years, kicks off with the rallying cry, “One By One,” and doesn’t let up until the last gang vocal fades out on “Us Against the World,” a song that perfectly bookends the record. For a gruff crew, the lyrics here are downright optimistic, or at least encouraging; there’s an overall theme of “shit may be falling around us, but at least we got each other” (the bitter “Family of One” being the exception here). Brimming with sharp hooks, singalong choruses, gunfire drums and ringing power chords, Forever is a testament the vitality of punk rock when done right. And rarely has it been done this well before.

DOWNLOAD: “One By One,” “Every Step of the Way” and “Us Against the World”

 

DAVID CHILDERS – Run Skeleton Run

Album: Run Skeleton Run

Artist: David Childers

Label: Ramseur

Release Date: April 07, 2017

www.ramseurrecords.net

The Upshot: Childers is authentic and unaffected when it comes to his lack of pretense and posturing. Indeed, one can’t help but get the feeling that this guy is the real deal.

BY LEE ZIMMERMAN

It’s ironic that David Childers launched his career late in life, but given the fact that he cites some literary influences – Chaucer and Kerouac among them – he appears all the more seasoned even despite his relative obscurity. A son of the South, he resides in Mount Holly, North Carolina, a former high-school football hero with a humble demeanour befitting one with such humble origins. Yet it’s not that he isn’t accomplished; a poet and painter whose love of music extends to jazz, opera, and folk, he practiced law before turning his focus to following his muse.

Come to think if it, it’s actually too bad that Jimmy Stewart isn’t still with us. He’d be a natural if Hollywood ever chose to cast someone to star in Childers’ life story.

As it is, Run Skeleton Run finds Childers effectively holding his own, thanks to some star-studded assists from Don Dixon. Mitch Easter and Scott Avett of Avett Brothers fame. Even so, it’s Childers’ home brewed blend of rural wisdom and rambling rhythms that establishes his traditional country cred. Songs such “Manila,” “Bells,” “Collar and Bells,” “Goodbye to Growing Old,” and “Belmont Ford” cast him in the role of a wizened down home troubadour, ready to impart hard-learned lessons with a fiddle and frenzy. The dark narrative “Radio Moscow” and the snarling boogie of “Run Skeleton Run” mix things up to a certain extant, providing a cantankerous side to his otherwise good old boy mentality. But no matter. Childers is authentic and unaffected when it comes to his lack of pretense and posturing. Indeed, one can’t help but get the feeling that this guy is the real deal. Honest and authentic, Run Skeleton Run ought to put him on the fast track to some well-deserved recognition.

DOWNLOAD: “Manila,” “Bells,” “Collar and Bells”

JULIEN SAGOT – Bleu Jane

Album: Bleu Jane

Artist: Julien Sagot

Label: Simone

Release Date: April 07, 2017

http://simonerecords.net

The Upshot: Only French speakers will understand what Sagot sings about in his quietly sober baritone, but you don’t need to grok the language to appreciate the vibe.

BY MICHAEL TOLAND

Formerly the drummer for Quebec arena rock act Karkwa, singer/songwriter Julien Sagot veers far off his former band’s Coldplay-on-steroids path. Inhabiting similar territory on his third album to Australian fellow travelers Mick Harvey or Barry Adamson, the multi-instrumentalist and his pals paint pictures of bleary-eyed mornings, the sun coming up outside as the fog lifts inside and the room’s denizens ponder what they were up to the night before.

Serge Gainsbourg looms in the background, and not just because Sagot and the French music deity speak the same language. Melodies weave through an impressive wave of sounds, from electronica to chanson to twangy guitar pop, often within the same track. “Blue corail électrique,” “Les sentiers de terre” and “Les racines au ciel” conjure up dreams of smoky bars and chance encounters, the atmosphere conducive to unusual circumstances just this side of surreal. The title track adds a busy groove and jazzy violin and piano to the mix, letting the track breath heavily as if after sex. “Vacille,” “Autour des oeuvres de exing saông” and “Désordre et désordre” field a bit more of a rock sound than the other tracks, but never stay in one sonic place for long.

Only French speakers will understand what Sagot sings about in his quietly sober baritone, but you don’t need to grok the language to appreciate the vibe. The enigmatic, frequently gorgeous Bleu Jane enchants even without access to a Google translator.

DOWNLOAD: “Autour des oeuvres de exing saông ,” “Blue corail électrique,” “Bleu Jane”

 

 

WOODS – Love is Love

Album: Love is Love

Artist: Woods

Label: Woodsist

Release Date: April 21, 2017

www.woodsist.com

Upshot: San Francisco’s Woods wrestle with stages of grief in wake of Trump presidency.

BY JOHN SCHACHT

Donald Trump’s bottomless vapidity and dictatorial view of governance has poisoned myriad wells in myriad ways. He’s divisive enough that even those in full agreement about the dangers he presents split—sometimes unpleasantly— over the best way to cope:  Do we keep our heads down (and sanity intact) for four years and hope there’s something left of democracy to salvage? Do we join the resistance and man the barricades? Is the act of making art and music resistance enough, or should the politics that make Trump possible be addressed as well?

You can hear the pysch-rock gang in Woods wrestle with these questions in real time with this six-track EP, recorded in the two months after the gut-punch of the November election. That the band sought solace in what they enjoy—the creative impulse of music-making—suggests their fallback answer, but Love Is Love isn’t clear cut, reading at times like the various stages of grief.

“It feels like a dream, but the trip gets worse,” Jeremy Earl sings over layers of descending keyboard runs on “Lost in a Crowd,” an elegant 3-minute gem that addresses the morning after-shock and denial many Americans experienced Nov. 9. Though nobody will confuse Earl with Johnny Lydon, even the acoustic guitars and Beatles-like horn lines of “Bleeding Blue” simmer with anger, acknowledging that “hate can’t lose” and, in this instance, didn’t.

Of course by the end of the track, “hate” has been bargained out of the equation; “I heard a voice inside my head/high on the wind/love’s not dead.” And it’s on that acknowledgement that the rest of the LP turns. The swirling 10-minute trip, “Spring Is in the Air,” contrasts middle-eastern melody and percussion—wind chimes, shakers, et al—with Ray Manzarek-like keys and dubby horn laments to cast its instrumental multi-culti spell. That song drifts into “I Hit That Drum,” the mini-album’s (ironically) drum-less statement of purpose, where “You can hang your head in shame/I won’t be hanging mine,” Early sings, “I hit that drum/It takes me away.”

The mini-LP bookends with two distinct versions of “Love Is Love,” where the band explores the old Hindu trick of repeating a mantra in the hopes of bringing it to fruition. The slinky opener rides a prominent bass groove, wah-wah guitar and Ethiopiques horns to broach the topic, while the closer tracks more as a funky call to arms built on organs and syncopated guitar. But befitting this fucked-up dysTrumpian horrorscape, Early and company know the mantra and drum-banging will require vigilance — “how can we laugh if this won’t go away?/How can we love with this kind of hate?”

DOWNLOAD: “Lost In a Crowd,” “Spring Is In the Air”

Beatles “Pepper’s” 6-CD Bootleg Issued to Compete w/Official 50th Anniv.

File under “B” for…. you know.

By Uncle Blurt

So you say you are enjoying that mega-Beatles box released the other day to mark the 50th anniversary of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band? Y(ou can read all about it HERE on our site.) Well, get set for an additional endorphin rush: The estimable Japanese Label Digital Archives Productions has just dropped its own version that by all accounts is remarkably competitive with the official EMI title, with comparable handsome artwork, intriguing song selection, and very good sound quality.

Titled Sgt. Pepper’ Lonely Hearts Club Band Recording Sessions Chronology, the bootleg is, like its aboveground brother, a six-CD set focusing on studio sessions for the landmark 1967 album and includes extensive documentation of both “Strawberry Fields Forever” and “Penny Lane,” which were released as a 45 and later surfaced on the Magical Mystery Tour soundtrack album.

You can find more information HERE – it will help if you can read Japanese – and meanwhile, check out the tracklisting, below.


CD 1
ABBEY ROAD STUDIO november 24th 1966 STRAWBERRY FIELDS FOREVER
1. Rehearsal 2. take 1 3. take 1 overdubs
ABBEY ROAD STUDIO november 28th 1966 STRAWBERRY FIELDS FOREVER
4. take 2 5. take 3 6. take 4 vocal 7. take 4
ABBEY ROAD STUDIO november 29th 1966 STRAWBERRY FIELDS FOREVER
8. rehearsal fragment 9. take5 10. take 6 vocal 11. take 6  12. rehearsal fragment (remaster) 13. take 7 14. unknown take 15. take 7 rm 3
ABBEY ROAD STUDIO december 6/8th 1966 WHEN I’M SIXTY FOUR
16. take 1/2 17. take 3 announcement 18. take 2 basic 19. take 2 vocal
ABBEY ROAD STUDIO december 8th 1966 STRAWBERRY FIELDS FOREVER
20. percussion reversed 21. percussion edit 22. take 24 23. take 25 track2 rs1
ABBEY ROAD STUDIO december 9/15th 1966 STRAWBERRY FIELDS FOREVER
24. take 25 25. take 26 rm9 26. take 26
ABBEY ROAD STUDIO december 29th 1966 STRAWBERRY FIELDS FOREVER
27. original mono mix
ABBEY ROAD STUDIO january 3rd 1967 STRAWBERRY FIELDS FOREVER
28. U.S.stereo mix 29. U.K.original stereo mix

CD 2
ABBEY ROAD STUDIO december 29th 1966  PENNY LANE
1. take 6 basic piano 2. take 6 piano and harmonium
ABBEY ROAD STUDIO december 30th 1966  PENNY LANE
3. take 7
ABBEY ROAD STUDIO january 5-6th 1967  PENNY LANE
4. take 7 + take 4&6 5. take 7 overdub take 6
ABBEY ROAD STUDIO january 9th 1967  PENNY LANE
6. take 9 overdub sessions 7. take 9 without overdub
ABBEY ROAD STUDIO january 10-12th 1967  PENNY LANE
8. take 9 handbell track 9. take 9 oboe track 10. take 9 flute track 11. take 9 with vocal overdub 12. rm 8
ABBEY ROAD STUDIO january 17th 1967  PENNY LANE
13. take 9 piccoro trumpet 14. rm 9 15. rm 10 16. rm 11 (U.S. promo mono mix)
ABBEY ROAD STUDIO january 19th 1967  A DAY IN THE LIFE
17. take 1 18. take 2 19. take 4 20. take 4 basic track 21. take 4 vocal track
ABBEY ROAD STUDIO january 25th 1967  PENNY LANE
22. U.K. original mono mix

CD 3
ABBEY ROAD STUDIO january 20th 1967  A DAY IN THE LIFE
1. take 6 rough mix
ABBEY ROAD STUDIO february 1st/2nd 1967  SGT. PEPPER’S LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND
2. take 1 3. take 2 4. take 3 5. take 9 unedited 6. take 9 basic track 7. take 9 edit and combined 8. take 10
ABBEY ROAD STUDIO february 3rd 1967 A DAY IN THE LIFE
9. orchestra overdub 10. edit piece take 11 11. studio chat and overdub 12. bass and drums 13. middle eight vocals
ABBEY ROAD STUDIO february 8th 1967 GOOD MORNING GOOD MORNING
14. basic track
REGENT STUDIO february 9th 1967 FIXING A HOLE
15. basic track 16. guitar and backing vocals
ABBEY ROAD STUDIO february 10th 1967 A DAY IN THE LIFE
17. take 7 orchestra track 1 18. take 7 orchestra track 2 19. take 7 orchestra track 3 20. take 7 orchestra track 4 21. 4 track tape remix 22. take 11
ABBEY ROAD STUDIO february 13/14th 1967  ONLY A NORTHERN SONG
23. take 3 24. take 12
ABBEY ROAD STUDIO february 16th 1967  GOOD MORNING GOOD MORNING
25. unknown take 26. take 8 overdub 27. take 8
ABBEY ROAD STUDIO february 17th 1967 BEING FOR THE BENEFIT OF MR KITE!
28. rehearsal 29. studio chat 30./31. take 1/2 edit 32./33. take 1/2 long version 34. take 3 35. take 6 36. take 7 rehearsal 37. take 7 38. take 9
ABBEY ROAD STUDIO february 20th 1967 BEING FOR THE BENEFIT OF MR KITE!
39. sound effects
ABBEY ROAD STUDIO february 21st 1967 FIXING A HOLE
40. unknown take 41. take 3 vocal overdub
ABBEY ROAD STUDIO february 22nd 1967 A DAY IN THE LIFE
42./43./44./45. piano ending edit pieces

CD 4
ABBEY ROAD STUDIO february 22nd 1967  A DAY IN THE LIFE
1. RS 1 2. RS 2 3. RS 3 4. RS 4 5. RS 5 6. RS 6 7. RS 7 8. RS 8 9. RS 9 10. piano overdub
ABBEY ROAD STUDIO february 23rd 1967  A DAY IN THE LIFE
11. U.S. stereo mix  LOVELY RITA 12. take 8 instrumental
ABBEY ROAD STUDIO february 24th 1967  LOVELY RITA
13. take 9 bass and vocal
ABBEY ROAD STUDIO march 1st/2nd 1967  LUCY IN THE SKY WITH DIAMONDS
14. unknown take 1 15. unknown take 2 16. unknown take 3  17. take 6 monitor mix 18. RS edit take 6/7/8 19. take 7 instrumental  20. take 7 overdub 21. take 8 22. RM 20
ABBEY ROAD STUDIO march 3rd 1967  SGT. PEPPER’S LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND
23. take 10 guitar and horns
ABBEY ROAD STUDIO march 6th 1967  SGT. PEPPER’S LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND
24. applause overdub

CD 5
ABBEY ROAD STUDIO march 6th 1967  SGT. PEPPER’S LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND
1.4 track tape mix
ABBEY ROAD STUDIO march 7th 1967  LOVELY RITA
2. unknown take 1 3. unknown take 2 4. take 11 backing vocals
ABBEY ROAD STUDIO march 9th 1967  GETTING BETTER
5. unknown take 1 6. unknown take 2 7. unknown take 3 8. take 7
ABBEY ROAD STUDIO march 13th 1967  GOOD MORNING GOOD MORNING
9. take 10 brass overdub
ABBEY ROAD STUDIO march 15th 1967  WITHIN YOU WITHOUT YOU
10. take 1 basic track
ABBEY ROAD STUDIO march 17th 1967  SHE’S LEAVING HOME
11. take 1 12. unknown take 1 13. unknown take 2
ABBEY ROAD STUDIO march 20th 1967  SHE’S LEAVING HOME
14. take 9 strings 15. take 9 first vocal 16. take 9 second vocal 17. 4 track tape mix
ABBEY ROAD STUDIO march 21st 1967  LOVELY RITA
18. take 11 piano solo
ABBEY ROAD STUDIO march 22nd 1967 WITHIN YOU WITHOUT YOU
19. take 1 reduction mix
ABBEY ROAD STUDIO march 23rd 1967 GETTING BETTER
20. take 14 21. take 15
ABBEY ROAD STUDIO march 28th 1967 GOOD MORNING GOOD MORNING
22. take 10 vocal overdub 23. take 10 backing vocals 24. sound effects  BEING FOR THE BENEFIT OF MR KITE!  25. take 9 effects overdub
ABBEY ROAD STUDIO march 29th 1967  BEING FOR THE BENEFIT OF MR KITE!
26. take 9 remix
WITH A LITTLE HELP FROM MY FRIENDS 27. unknown take
28. take 10 basic track 29. take 11 vocal 30. take 11 backing vocals

CD 6
ABBEY ROAD STUDIO march 30th 1967  WITH A LITTLE HELP FROM MY FRIENDS
1. 4 track tape mix 2. take 11 overdub
ABBEY ROAD STUDIO march 31st 1967  BEING FOR THE BENEFIT OF MR KITE!
3. sound effects overdub 4. organ overdub
ABBEY ROAD STUDIO april 1st 1967 SGT. PEPPER’S LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND (REPRISE)
5. take 5 6. unknown take 1 7. unknown take 2 8. take 9
ABBEY ROAD STUDIO april 3rd/4th 1967  WITHIN YOU WITHOUT YOU
9. unknown take 10. take 2 strings 11. take 1&2 remix 12. anthology mix
ABBEY ROAD STUDIO april 20th 1967  ONLY A NORTHERN SONG
13. take 3&12 14. take 3 overdub 15. RM 6
bonus tracks  STRAWBERRY FIELDS FOREVER
16. abbey road show mix 17. RM 3 take 7 18. take 7 take 24 19. take 25 alternate mix 20. RM 9 take 26  PENNY LANE  21. take 6/7  LUCY IN THE SKY WITH DIAMONDS  22. take 6 multitrack remix SHE’S LEAVING HOME  23. multitrack remix  BEING FOR THE BENEFIT OF MR KITE!  24. take1&2 25. take 7&9 anthology mix 26. take 7 anthology video mix  A DAY IN THE LIFE  27. take1&2 intro 28. anthology mix  ABBEY ROAD STUDIO april 21st 1967
THE RUN OUT GROOVE 29. stereo mix 30. mono mix

NUMBER THREE COMBO – Resurfacing

Album: Resurfacing

Artist: Number Three Combo

Label: Slowburn

Release Date: May 12, 2017

http://www.slowburnrecords.net/news/ntc-resurfacing/

BY JONATHAN LEVITT

It was a sad day when the latest cd and accompanying press release from Slowburn Records arrived in my mailbox here in Santa Fe, New Mexico. In it, label doyen Eric Johnson explains that this is to be the final release of new music from the label, and that he’ll be focusing his efforts on archival releases, as he moves on to a new stage in his life. Slowburn, for those not in the know is the label that brought the reformed Black Sun Ensemble’s music to a wider audience, as well as projects from Sundarata, and the mighty Sun Zoom Spark. If there was ever a label in Tucson, free from the Gelb-axis of power, that typified a completely open space where artists could create to their hearts content then Slowburn was it. Over the years, Eric Johnson in association with an assorted cast of characters from the Tucson music scene managed to push musical boundaries and keep Tucson just weird enough to always wonder what new fascinating project lay right around the corner.

Alas we come to Number Three Combo’s Resurfacing record with its killer cover drawn by Chicago artist, Ben Johnston. Eric Johnson has never shied away from his love of Arabic influenced rock, cue up Black Sun Ensemble’s numerous releases, or maybe it’s the Kashmir effect (speaking of Zeppelin we’ll get to that later!)

“The Diamond Mine” is a cryptic number that has numerous intricate layers interweaving with each other. It’s a real tour-de-force that displays a myriad of influences that have propelled Johnson and crew forward. Here on exhibit is the fascinating amalgam of Black Sun Ensemble and Jethro Tull. On this track, Joe E. Furno (Inferno) turns in some stellar flute playing and as always Carl Hall mesmerizes with his hand drums and assorted percussive elements. If there’s a downside to the song it’s the extremely cold production that makes it feel a tad distant. Thankfully the song is powerful enough to rise above such sonic limitations.

“Killing Time” is a blistering number that shows off Eric Johnson’s move into being a much more confident singer. I had to do a double take when I heard a few measures of Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” thrown into the mix. Indeed, this song is a showcase of Johnson’s earliest musical influences, from Zeppelin, to a smidgen of Deep Purple and a healthy dose of Jethro Tull.

“Friends” is the closest the combo has come to making a commercial radio friendly tune. Part Tom Petty, part Alejandro Escovedo, the track shows a fascinating foray into a type of music the band have never attempted and show that they could easily have turned their focus that direction and maybe even one day appeared on Austin City Limits.

The band blow things wide open with the cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Oh Well Part 1” and “Oh Well Part 2”. This is a masterclass on how to cover a song. Fresh, nuanced and lovingly rendered the band shine here in a total shocker, that truly blew me away.

“Fog and Steam” feels like a reworking of the Cesare’s Dog classic “Shucks for Johnny G”, funky and tight, the song is another head turner that shows how truly diverse and talented Number Three Combo is.

This band out of all the one’s Eric Johnson has been associated with has probably given him the widest berth for his myriad influences to play, react and collide with one another.

Resurfacing is a fascinating record that to be honest works best when the band forgo the mystical myrrh infused numbers and let their rock side shine through. This is hard for me to write because those middle eastern tinged numbers are what attracted me to the band in the first place. To be honest though and I think this is the secret to the title, here the band are “resurfacing” what the band are capable of as they venture into uncharted waters. Sadly, since this is the end of the road we’ll never know where those uncharted waters could have led. Show some love and get a copy of this album while you can, it’s definitely an amazing journey and worth every penny.

DOWNLOAD: “Oh Well Pt.1” “Oh Well Pt.2” “The Diamond Mine” “Killing Time” “Friends” “Fog and Steam”

 

WHITE HILLS – Stop Mute Defeat

Album: Stop Mute Defeat

Artist: White Hills

Label: Thrill Jockey

Release Date: May 19, 2017

http://www.thrilljockey.com/

The Upshot: Cosmic psychedelia that never completely fades.

BY MICHAEL TOLAND

Like any good psych rock act, White Hills has evolved over the course of its existence. Stop Mute Defeat is no exception. The duo’s fifteenth LP adds droning synths, rhythms borrowed from motorik and industrial rock, and cracking drum machines in place of a human percussionist. Though he adds plenty of his trademark guitar spew, Dave W. sings in a near-monotone, with bassist Ego Sensation swooping in via detached coos. The boiling combination of organic psychedelia and impersonal electro-rock hearkens back to the initial explorations of electronica during the Reagan/Thatcher years, and leans more toward the harsh dreamscapes of Chrome and Cabaret Voltaire than the pop hooks of OMD and Human League. The stark, throbbing “Importance 101” contrasts with the acid-ically grungy “Overlord,” while the burbling synth popping title track varyies from the gothic rocker “A Trick of the Mind. “If…1…2” goes straight for overt Suicide worship, pushing the band further out into the hinterlands than they’ve ever been before. Even with all the synth weirdness, however, the songs still sound recognizably like White Hills. No matter how synthetic and mechanical things get, the stain of cosmic psychedelia never completely fades.

DOWNLOAD: “A Trick of the Mind,” “Overlord,” “If…1…2”

 

 

TOMASZ STAŃKO NEW YORK QUARTET – December Avenue

Album: December Avenue

Artist: Tomasz Stańko New York Quartet

Label: ECM

Release Date: April 14, 2017

www.ecmrecords.com

The Upshot: Equal parts improvisational whimsy and lush beauty, the album stakes out its own field in the land of contemporary jazz.

BY MICHAEL TOLAND

Polish trumpeter Tomasz Stańko has been at the forefront of the European jazz scene since the ‘60s. A player and composer associated with free jazz and the avant-garde, in five decades Stańko has carved out his own fairly distinctive niche in the improvisation world. Working on December Avenue with his NYC-based quartet of bassist Reuben Rogers, drummer Gerald Cleaver and rising star pianist David Virelles, Stańko unfolds a set of loosely constructed tunes designed to show off his sidemen as much as his own work.

Stańko sets up his pieces with wide open spaces, encouraging the listener to follow the sky down to the horizon. “Bright Moon” and “Blue Cloud” flow like rivers, shifting with the landscape but keeping to their paths. This allows Virelles, Cleaver and Rogers to follow their own muses without formal structure, Virelles comping the chords as he hears them and Rogers providing compelling solos as often as rhythm support. Stańko injects the spirit of free jazz more than the mechanics – no frenetic chaos or burning solos here. Instead, the group injects noirish atmosphere into sedate but improv-heavy numbers like “The Street of Crocodiles” and “Ballad for Bruno Schulz.” The swing of “Burning Hot,” “Yankeils Lid” and the title number add a more accessible side to the record, while still keeping to the spirit of musicianly freedom.

Stańko’s stark tone, avoiding both mute and blare, grounds the performances with clear-eyed purpose. Equal parts improvisational whimsy and lush beauty, December Avenue stakes out its own field in the land of contemporary jazz.

DOWNLOAD: “Burning Hot,” “Blue Cloud,” “The Street of Crocodiles”