Category Archives: New Releases

THE BLURT JAZZ DESK, ep. 12: 5 LATE ‘18 / EARLY ‘19 JAZZ RELEASES

 

For our latest installment, Prof. Kopp takes a look at some of the most notable new titles…

4 out of 5 stars

09-14-18 street date

TONY BENNETT & DIANA KRALL – Love is Here to Stay

Verve

www.ververecords.com

The Upshot: A meeting of two jazz vocal greats results in a low-key, subdued yet note-perfect musical summit.

BY BILL KOPP

Tony Bennett is an American institution. At age 92 he’s still going strong, long after most all of his contemporaries have left us. Diana Krall is only a bit over half Bennett’s age, but she’s well established as one of her (my) generation’s finest jazz vocalists. It’s fitting – if not inevitable – that the two would eventually team up for a sultry stroll through the Great American Songbook. With superb backing (Bill Charlap Trio) the two tackle a dozen songs the likes of which won’t surprise listeners. But the seeming effortlessness with which they deliver the songs is a true delight. Bennett’s voice is surprisingly like it was decades ago, and Krall could – as the shopworn saying goes – sing the telephone book and it would sound great. Everything about Love is Here to Stay is understated, but when you’re these cats, there’s nothing to prove, so you do it the way you want. Bennett and Krall are so assured that they happily give space for pianist Charlap trio to drop in the occasional tasty solo, too. The pair’s classic phrasing and smooth back-and-forth is spot-on. Each takes a solo break (for Krall it’s “But Not for Me,” and for Bennett it’s “Who Cares?”) that’s a delight, but it’s the pairing-up that really makes this disc special.

Listen: (“Love is Here to Stay”)

4 out of 5 stars

12-07-18 street date

THE GIL EVANS ORCHESTRA – Hidden Treasures Volume One: Monday Nights

Bopper Spock Suns

The Upshot: Led by its namesake’s talented son, the modern-day Gil Evans Orchestra delivers the goods in a set that bridges the gap between classic and modern-day (if not strictly modern) jazz.

BY BILL KOPP

Gil Evans was a giant of jazz; he was a key figure in the development of several substyles. To some, he’s best known as a Miles Davis associate, but there is much more to his work. Evans passed away more than 30 years ago, but today his band is led by his son (pointedly named Miles Evans). And all of the thrilling ambience of the elder Evans’ work is on display in tis 21st century recording. Ten core musicians (including Gil Evans associate and brother of bassist Tony, keyboardist Pete Levin) are joined variously by auxiliary players . Some of them are fairly obvious choices (the ubiquitous but undeniably talented Paul Shaffer, for example), while others are quite unexpected (guitarist Vernon Reid on trumpeter Miles Evans’ original Steely Dan-flavored number “LL Funk”). The set is a tasty mix of classic and more modern (urbane funk-jazz) approaches, and it all works. Even when synthesizer is used (as on the orchestral-tinged “I Surrender”) it’s done in a tasteful way that’s fully integrated in to the arrangement, never showy or scene-stealing. This set is a fine collection worthy of its namesake.

Listen: (nothing recent)

4 out of 5 stars

11-09-18 street date

JEFF GOLDBLUM & THE MILDRED SNITZER ORCHESTRA – The Capitol Studios Sessions

Decca

www.deccarecords.com

The Upshot: Don’t hold it against Jeff Goldblum that he’s best-known as an actor. Joined by to-flight guests, the pianist and bandleader shows that he deserves recognition as a skilled jazz artisan as well.

BY BILL KOPP

There is, I think, a healthy tendency among critics to look upon potential busman’s-holiday efforts as just that. Such a perspective brings skepticism to album releases by artists better known as actors. That said, Jeff Goldblum knows how to play that piano, and he lead s a band. His quirky persona meshes well with a swingin’ cocktail-vibed collection of vocal jazz numbers featuring talented friends. Using a proven approach favored by the great Cannonball Adderley, Goldblum assembled band and audience in an ersatz club inside the Capitol Records building. With a peerless selection of songs – the set opens with Herbie Hancock’s soul jazz classic “Cantaloupe Island” – Goldblum and band deliver in a big way. There is, of course, little about The Capitol Studios Sessions that identifies it as a current-day recording. What does give it away is the onstage guest list: Haley Reinhart, Imelda May, trumpeter Till Brönner and a surprisingly competent Sarah Silverman. The band really cooks – simmers, actually – and Goldblum is a superbly expressive pianist. Even chestnuts like “Caravan” are performed in a way that feels both true to the original spirit and some combination of timeless and modern. A delight.

Listen: (“My Baby Just Cares for Me”)

3 out of 5 stars

01-04-19 street date

JORGE NILA – Tenor Time

Ninjazz Records

www.ninjazzrecords.com

The Upshot: A pleasing tribute to some of the biggest jazz names in tenor saxophonem, with just a splash of the new.

BY BILL KOPP

The tenor saxophone holds an important place in the history of jazz. On this new recording, Jorge Nila pays tribute to the masters of the instrument, a list that (from his perspective at least) includes Lester Young, Dexter Gordon, Hank Mobley, John Coltrane, Wayne Shorter, Stanley Turrentine, Joe Henderson, Sonny Rollins, Sonny Stitt and Harold Vick. It’s hard to argue with those choices, nor with the songs chosen to represent each of them on this album. Some of the choices are expected (“Soul Station in tribute to Mobley) but Stevie Wonder’s “Rocket Love” is an unexpected choice that still fits in well among the older classics. Nila’s band is small (guitar, drums and organ); while there’s plenty of ensemble playing and individual soloing, that configuration keeps the focus primarily on the horn.

Listen: (nothing recent)

3 out of 5 stars

11-09-18 street date

TED PILTZECKER – Brindica

Zoho

www.zohomusic.com

The Upshot: A varied collection that showcases the versatility of the vibraphone in a jazz context.

BY BILL KOPP

It’s not all that uncommon for a jazz player to be a multi-instrumentalist. But trumpet and vibes are an unlikely combination. Though he studied at the Eastman School of Music as a trumpeter, Ted Piltzecker ended up playing the vibes. And that’s fine; that storied instrument is among the most expressive and lively tools in the jazz idiom. Here, Piltzecker plays nearly as much marimba, a similar instrument, albeit one with a slightly more gimmicky sound. It’s when he moves over to the vibes that he really shines. The rich interplay between the band (various combinations of some 16 players) is the true star of this set. The tracks are nicely varied, showcasing the vibraphone’s appeal across a wide array of jazz styles. Piltzecker is equally at home playing with understated nuance as he is tearing up the scale.

Listen: (“Brindica”)

 

PUTTING THE ‘X’ BACK IN XMAS: The Sixth (or last?) Annual Blurt Christmas Album Guide

Our annual—and always, in-progress, so keep checking back through Dec. 24.—roundup of seasonal platters. Guarantee: no evangelical caveats required; this is a rainbow roundup. X-tra points for any releases that come packaged with sex toys. Happy holidays, kids! (Ed. note: JBM = John B. Moore; FM = Fred Mills)

 BY JOHN B. MOORE, TIFFINI TAYLOR, & FRED MILLS)

  

 

RODNEY CROWELL – Christmas Everywhere
(New West Records – 3 / 5 stars) www.newwestrecords.com

Tired of the saccharine sweet Christmas songs that start to clog the airways just moments after Halloween? Have I got a record for you! Christmas Everywhere, the inaugural Holiday album from living legend Rodney Crowell is a holiday album that’s heavy on the honesty and humor and not so much tidings of comfort and joy.

With songs like “Christmas Makes Me Sad,” Merry Christmas From an Empty Bed,” and “Let’s Skip Christmas This Year,” Rodney never strays too far from his well-earned rep for pairing heartache and humor.

That’s not to say ever track here is for the brokenhearted, “Very Merry Christmas,” is an upbeat, jump and jive, almost standard Xmas tune with plenty of sax. But to be honest, that’s not exactly what a Rodney Crowley fan looks for in a Christmas album by the Americana great. They’re looking more for a song like “Christmas in Vidor,” a duet he co-wrote with Mary Karr years ago, about a near depression-level single mom not exactly feeling the Holiday spirit on the Louisiana/Texas border town.

Probably not the best soundtrack for you Christmas Eve Open House, but destined to eb a Holiday classic for Crowell diehards.

DOWNLOAD: “Christmas Everywhere” and “All For Little Girls & Boys”   (—JBM)

***

THE MAVERICKS – Hey! Merry Christmas!
(Thirty Tigers/Mono Mundo Recordings – 4 / 5 stars) www.thirtytigers.com

One of the more depressing inevitabilities about the holidays is that obvious cash grab, forced Holiday album from a band that has no business putting out a Holiday album. Think Afroman, William Hung, Mojo Nixon or Jethro Tull (yup, all real). You know who can’t be accused of that? The freakin’ Mavericks! Their 10-tracks Christmas record is a thing of brilliance.

The band is always dynamic, no matter what they’re recording and singer Raul Malo is simply incapable of feigning sincerity – he just his. As a result, the band’s Miami mix of Folk, Rockabilly, Jazz and Blues-based Holiday music is simply divine.

The band mixes in two Holiday standards, “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” and “Happy Holidays” with eight originals for a refreshingly new annual classic in the making.

Though none of the songs here deserve to be skipped, the dynamic opener “Christmas Time Is (Coming ‘Round Again)” and their almost anthemic take on “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” are early stand outs.

If you’re not capable of enjoying this one, you’re probably just a Scrooge… or an asshole (hey, maybe both!).

DOWNLOAD: All of ‘em.  (—JBM)

****

A TAV FALCO CHRISTMAS  (4 out of 5 stars)
(Org Music / Frenzi – 4 / 5 stars) www.orgmusic.com / www.tavfalco.com

A new perennial favorite in the BLURT reindeer barn, and with special thanks to that awesome Tav Falco album that turned up recently for the Record Store Black Friday event. Memphis raconteur, filmmaker, photographer, and author Tav Falco is known far and wide as the guiding light of Panther Burns, that proto-Americana, R&B-championing outfit that once featured the late Alex Chilton as a member. For A Tav Falco Christmas he’s joined by bassist Mike Watt, drummer/sleighbellsman Toby Dammit, guitarist Mario Monterosso, and pianist Francesco D’Agnolo, and we are advised that the ensemble hunkered down at Sam Phillips Recording Service studios in early July—which, if you know anything about Memphis in the summer, is the least likely time of year when one would find oneself “getting into” the Christmas spirit.

But maybe working through this eight-song set of holiday staples and a handful of semi-obscure R&B Christmas standards worked some seasonal magic, because the music is, in a word, cool. Sammy Cahn’s slow, strutting “Christmas Blues,” in particular, is for all you finger-snapping, whistling hepcats, while a twangy, countrypolitan “Jingle Bell Rock” is guaranteed to have even the most stalwart Scrooge—such as yours truly, who is on record as not being a huge fan of Christmas records—joining in, no guilty pleasuredom needed.

Throughout, Falco is in fine voice, his Southern near-drawl adopting a Presley-like classy croon on tracks like “Blue Christmas” and Lieber & Stoller’s “Santa Claus Is Back in Town.” He’s nicely abetted by backing vocalists Lahna Deering and Tiffany Harmon, and the entire ensemble seems to revel in truly inhabiting the material. The LP, released for Record Store Day Black Friday 2017, is a limited edition (1000 copies) red vinyl gem, a perfect visual representation the holiday season. Christmas does come in July after all.

DOWNLOAD: “Jingle Bell Rock,” “Blue Christmas” (–FM)

****

MATT ROGERS – Rated Xmas
(Party on Parody Productions – 5 / 5 stiffies)

This CD apparently was released in 1997, although I can find virtually nothing about it except for a cursory Wikipedia listing (which informs us that due to a lawsuit, most copies were destroyed) and an inflated-price listing at Amazon UK; there’s no listing for the title OR the artist at Discogs. No matter—a friend posted this to me as an early Christmas gift, no doubt aiming to help put me and Mrs. Mills, er, I mean, Claus, in the mood for laying out the Christmas eve spread for the kids. Wait – we already have a kid, and he’s 17… well, after listening to tunes here like “Have Yourself a 1-900 Christmas,” “Frosty the Pervert,” “Rudolf the Deep Throat Reindeer,” and of course “Suck On My Cock” I clearly can envision being “up” for the idea of making us a new little elf this holiday season. I mean, I could simply pull out some GG Allin records and cover similar territory, but hey, I’m feelin’ the seasonal spirit right now.

As the record label name suggests, these are naughty parodies of popular Christmas tunes, but rather than have to post a spoiler alert here, I will simply add that you can let your imagination to the legwork for ya. Cut up the CD, turn down the volume on your favorite RedTube video, and spread some holiday cheer… all over your significant other’s thighs.

DOWNLOAD: Mmm… better not. It might not be legal in your state or country.

 

 

SHE & HIM – A Very She & Him Christmas
(Merge – 4 / 5 stars) www.mergerecords.com

You’re forgiven for assuming A Very She & Him Christmas (originally issued in 2011) would be the hipster equivalent of The Carpenters Christmas Album, a holiday staple for every Williamsburg and Bushwick apartment. Despite the fact that the “She” in She & Him is Zooey Deschanel, hipster chick personified, the album is surprisingly irony free, just an even dozen Christmas standards updated slightly with Deschanel’s charmingly quirky lilt backed by the always impressive M. Ward. Even the ukulele on The Beach Boys’ “Little Saint Nick” sounds a bit alluring, rather than forced. The album is a holiday classic in waiting, even if you don’t own a single pair of skinny jeans and couldn’t grow a beard to save your life.

DOWNLOAD: “Baby It’s Cold Outside,” “Little Saint Nick” (—JBM)

***

MARK KOZELEK – Sings Christmas Carols
(Caldo Verde- 5 / 5 stars) www.caldoverde.com

“I don’t feel happy… I just don’t understand Christmas,” Mark Kozelek mutters under his breath, in the middle of the Charlie Brown Christmas classic “Christmas Time Is Here,” and considering the tone of Sun Kil Moon mainman’s last several months, which included a highly public beef with War On Drugs and a so-called “meltdown” at the annual Hopscotch Music Festival, it’s easy to presume that Kozelek isn’t exactly a leading candidate for the lead character in a Broadway revival of Elf.

But listen carefully: Mark Kozelek Sings Christmas Carols is a remarkably faithful, utterly transcendent take on what I will humbly submit is the beatific, unadorned side of Christmas music. It’s basically just M.K. and acoustic guitar, and I will further submit that all the folk, country and Americana artists who go into the studio each annum armed with just their guitars but feel compelled to add pedal steel, fiddles and the like in order to “flesh out” their arrangements lest they come across as too spartan simply don’t understand how sometimes “less” can be more than just “more” — it can be “just right.”

From the urgent query of “Do You Hear What I Hear?” and the innocently straightforward “O Little Town of Bethlehem” to heart-rending versions of the Pretenders’ “2,000 Miles” and Greg Lake’s “I Believe In Father Christmas” (which has some additional, subtle keyboard flourishes), Kozelek proves that despite his reputation as a crabby curmudgeon, he’s actually a sentimental bastard who remembers how magical the holiday season can be when rendered in song. I am not ashamed to admit that I teared up listening to his take on “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing,” subtly abetted by backing vocalists and filtered through sweet Peanuts memories.

And “What Child Is This?” has always taken my breath away… no less so, here. Merry Christmas, Mark. You may claim to not understand Christmas, but I suspect you do in ways maybe you just haven’t yet figured out. It’s nice to close out the year with you this way, on such a wonderful note.

DOWNLOAD: Every bit of it. (–FM)

***

VARIOUS ARTISTS – An Americana Christmas
(New West- 3 / 5 stars) www.NewWestRecords.com

Giving a nod to both Americana’s elder statesmen and the up-and-comers, New West Records – easily one of the genres best labels going right now – has just offered one of the freshest takes on Christmas albums in years. Despite some solid contributions by Bob Dylan, The Band and Johnny Cash, aside from John Prime’s brilliantly original number “Everything is Cool,” the real standouts here come from New West’s newest artists like Robert Ellis’s cover of “Pretty Paper” and Nikki Lane’s beautifully twangy “Falalalalove You” (Patsy Cline’s heir apparent?). While Christmas albums nowadays are as stale as a plate of Gingerbread cookies left out until April, An Americana Christmas is a refreshing take on the seasonal record.

DOWNLOAD: “Everything is Cool” (John Prine), “Pretty Paper” (Robert Ellis) and “FalalalaLove You” (Nikki Lane)  (–JBM)

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HERB ALPERT – The Christmas Wish
(Herb Alpert Presents – 4/5 stars) www.herbalpert.com

Herb Alpert is a trumpeter who has pleased many for decades. He has a unique way of making a trumpet speak. This is the perfect time of year for The Christmas Wish, a Christmas album form Herb Alpert. It has been around 50 years since he has had a Christmas album out, so why not write about it.

Need something to listen to while the yule log burns, then Santa Baby will make anyone smile. This song is a good Christmas list for anyone, but still not as expensive as 12 days of Christmas. The sound of trumpet is magical it has no need for lyrics. Imagine just sitting by the fire watching the twinkling lights on the tree listening to this in the background with a cup of eggnog in hand. A good Christmas eve evening.

Throughout this album not only will there be great trumpet, but it is with a symphony and a choir. There are a couple of medleys and they are wonderful. One that stands out is Carol of the Bells/ We Wish You a Merry Christmas, the crossover between the two songs will fill one with joy. The choir is beautiful, the strings from the symphony coincide beautifully with the trumpet.

Silent Night is a classic and for most a tradition. This is the song that sums up the season. The trumpet speaks on this song like no other. Herb Alpert brings the trumpet to life and gives it a heart. A smooth soft soothing sound that illuminates the heart. Merry Christmas, Darling spreading love to the ears. A bit of a modern soft jazz undertaking of this sensual song. It is one to be played to and for that special someone.

Another way to look at Christmas is through a child’s eyes, Santa Claus is Coming to Town. A favorite to play while Santa is flying, dreams of presents to all girls and boys. This is a soft re-interpretation of this classic. The Christmas Wish is the album name as well as a beautiful song that will make a tear drop of joy run down one’s cheek. The softness with the lovely voice presenting a song in a great way.

The Christmas Song is a must listen for any Christmas get together. It is what makes the season bright. Hearing it will make one cheerful and reflect on how wonderful and magical this season truly is and will always be. There are songs that one listens to and will make one think differently about everything. Trumpet on this one is simply amazing. This is what every office party should play at their Christmas party. White Christmas is simply spectacular with trumpets. The movie classic has competition now.

What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve? , this is one of those end of night songs to remind one that just because the 25th is gone the holiday season of joy and celebration is not over. A nice way to end an album that is filled with love and beautiful music.

This writer has 3 Christmas trees up in a tiny apartment, maybe this writer is a little crazy.  Sitting here watching the lights twinkle reminds what is important in life. The soft jazz sound of this album is what makes thoughts more special. Check this album out and Merry Christmas!

DOWNLOAD: Go for every holiday tune! ( – TT)

 

 

BOZ SCAGGS – Out of the Blues

January 01, 1970

Concord Records

https://concord.com/

The Upshot: It seems almost criminal that the record Boz Scaggs is most remembered for should act as the signpost for an entire career. In the years since ’76’s Silk Degrees, his best work ever is happening now.

BY ERIC THOM

I’m guessing Boz Scaggs could care less whether we like what he’s doing or not – and am betting he hasn’t cared for years. His connection to music is deeply personal. He sings for himself and it’s always been about the music. He’s never been a trend setter and I believe that the overblown commercial success of Silk Degrees – the album by which he’ll be forever measured – was likely as big a surprise to him as it was to his management. In typical Boz fashion, he never set out to align himself to the ‘disco’ of the times. Truth be told, the record has more to do with the blues and R&B shadings that this blue-eyed soul singer has always favored – which is why it holds up to this day, long after the dust of disco era has blown away. Long his own man, Scaggs has always seemed driven to do his best and to exceed his own standards first – a perfectionist from humble beginnings.

A lot is being made of the fact that Out Of The Blues is “Act III” of a trilogy of genre albums, as it is being billed. I doubt Boz’ fans care. All that really matters is that Out Of The Blues is his best release yet since Come On Home – and likely the best album you’ll hear this year. It’s entirely consistent with everything Boz he’s ever done since being birthed into the age of early rock ’n’ roll, R&B, blues and rock, growing up on radio in Oklahoma and Texas. He’s just – at 74 years of age and a 20+ record catalogue – a hell of a lot better at it now. He knows his strengths and it’s only natural he’d pay tribute to those originals which have meant something to him, adding something tangible to his personal evolution as acting Ambassador of Refined Tastes. Despite his unerring reverence for the likes of Jimmy McCracklin, Bobby “Blue” Bland, Jimmy Reed and even Neil Young, the songs chosen had to do more than simply be good. Each had to allow him to transform them into something all his own. Of special note are the four, obsidian-solid originals written by fellow San Franciscan musician and friend, Jack ‘Applejack’ Walroth, one a Scaggs co-write – seamlessly blending with the whole, despite the mixture of ‘new to old’.

Boz’ mastery over his technique and painstaking control over the material that he covers is only part of the recipe for success here. His choice of musicians is notable as each is adept at adding much more to each song than mere notes and rhythms. Out Of The Blues literally breathes with an intimacy and a larger-than-life groove throughout, thanks to the chemistry between Willie Weeks, Jim Keltner, Jim Cox, Ray Parker Jr., Doyle Bramhall II and Charlie Sexton. This vital crew lends an earthy, highly organic feel to a record expertly produced within an inch of its life, informed by an allegiance to the principles of just-enough but never-too-much.

Right out of the gate, the highly colorful “Rock and Stick” hits hard with its ringing guitar chords and Bramhall’s rich embellishments. Boz’s liquid, honeyed vocals – wrapped in the warmth of Weeks’ bass – join with songwriter Walroth, who injects a surprisingly beefy harp as Keltner adds his distinctive touch with every drum strike. A little B3 in the background and backup singers conjure a little bit of heaven as Boz notes, “You can shake, you can shim-sham-shimmy” – entirely committed to the era, despite this being a new composition. Cue the opening sax attack of Eric Crystal, Thomas Politzer and Doc Kupka which, when added to Jim Cox’s seductive B3 (and stately piano), sets the stage for Scaggs’ treatment of “I’ve Just Got To Forget You” – a powerful and personal tribute to a key idol, the late Bobby “Blue” Bland. Magic Sam’s cover of Jimmy McCracklin’s “I’ve Just Got To Know” was an unknown to Scaggs until introduced to it by David Hidalgo. Here, aided by Cox’s St. Louis-styled piano, a bewitching horn section and Charlie Sexton’s tasteful lead guitar break, Scaggs’ silken vocals make it his own. On “Radiator 110”, Walroth’s standout harp (with its slight Lee Oskar shading) combines with a tougher guitar mix (Scaggs and Steve Freund) and Ricky Fataar’s fat drum sound, propelling Walroth’s ‘lover as hot car’ analogy towards becoming an ultimate driving song. Here, Scaggs’ convincing vocal gently simmers over sparring guitars as Cox’s B3 keeps the RPMs just out of the red. Walroth and Scaggs’ own “Little Miss Night and Day” is a swinging Texas shuffle injecting a severe shot of rock ’n’ roll to the hip as Bramhall and Sexton blaze against Cox’s pounding 88s, together with a hint of Walroth’s harp. Considering the choice of covers, who would guess that Neil Young’s semi-obscure “On The Beach” would be included? Yet, in Scaggs’ hands, it’s the most memorable track here – squeezing the blues out of the starkly ragged original, transforming it into something achingly beautiful. It makes the most of its slowed-down self as each fat slap of Keltner‘s tom-tom hits hard like a punch to the stomach while strains of B3 and lightly dueling guitars breathe much life into the original treatment.

Of course, nobody can squeeze more from sadness than the velvety strains of Boz Scaggs and here, he’s at his best. Walroth’s harp takes a sharp country turn on Jimmy Reed’s “Down In Virginia” which, for Scaggs, is an artist almost too easy to cover, lending him an element of elegance not normally associated with his style. “Those Lies” – another Walroth work – grabs you instantly by the throat with its slick, uptown attack. Driven by Sexton’s aggressive, processed guitar sound, Keltner’s skin-tight drumming and a brawny barrage of sax, extra animation from the baritone helps push this over the top. Cox adds B3 as if each player is following a different path – Scaggs’ vocal gluing it all together as one. “The Feeling Is Gone” is another of Bobby “Blue” Bland’s iconic songs that goes downtown with a decidedly jazzy feel as Scaggs plays straight homage to one of his more sophisticated heroes. While the horn section and piano add scorch to Scaggs’ liquid vocal, this classic breakup song serves as a lamented end to this lush outing.

This is a re-energized Scaggs, paying the love for his R&B roots well forward, seemingly delighted with the process. Out of the Blue offers more blues and R&B than you might have expected. But chances are good you’ll leave wanting more.

 

 

JACK DRAG – 2018

January 01, 1970

Burger Records (Sept. 14, 2018)

http://burgerrecords.com

BY MICHAEL TOLAND

At this point in his career, singer/songwriter/composer John Dragonetti is best known for his work with (now ex-wife) Blake Hazard in the Submarines and for film and TV scores (All About Nina, FX’s Married, We Are Legion, The Secret Life of Muslims). Before all that, however, the Bostonian led the underrated indie rock band Jack Drag.

Dormant since 2002, the moniker is back for 2018, a state of the union address from the low-key musical polyglot. Looking back at past relationships (and not just marriages) and forward to the present, Dragonetti soaks his tunes in bittersweetness. The synths ‘n’ percussion arrangement of “Bloody Noses” gives lightness to its emotional confusion, while the catchy hooks of “I Am Not Willing” bely its disillusioned theme. “Marigolds” pulls light out of the darkness through a subtly anthemic pop arrangement, while “Strangers” dips into sixties pop for its tunefulness and nineties angst for its heart. “Hope Revisited” goes unabashedly for its title concept, with brash hooks and unambiguous lyrics, though it almost feels like the forced giddiness of the damned.

With his now-signature blend of twinkly new wave and melancholic power pop, Dragonetti knocks out one sweetly melodic gem after another here, putting adult uncertainty and confusion to a catchy soundtrack.

BROKEN ARROWS – Streetflowers

January 01, 1970

Intelligent Design Records

https://brokenarrows1.bandcamp.com/album/streetflowers

BY DANNY R. PHILLIPS

Music, of late, makes me sad.  Turning on the radio is a game of Russian roulette with five chambers out of six holding a bullet.  Pseudo-soul, re-hashed 1980s synth garbage, ham-fisted knuckle dragger butt rock and over produced rap tracks about shaking ass and making money pass for music.  Yes, I sound like an old man but the years I’ve spent sifting through the mountain of crap to uncover gems has left me somewhat jaded and cold.  Where many bands are content releasing tracks with endless over-dubs of inane lyrics and unimaginative licks of scant guitar tracks, Kansas City’s own Broken Arrows, a group of seasoned players, unloading their musical knowledge of all things power pop and classic garage, go deeper, farther into the past, using the great wave of garage rock of the ‘60s and ‘70s as touchstones and thank god they do.

Streetflowers, the latest from Broken Arrows, is an album packed with the minimalist approach of bands like The Sonics and The Trashmen crossed up with the psychedelic jump of the great Roky Erickson and the 13 Floor Elevators, intermingled with bands like Teenage Fanclub, Big Star (a strong influence throughout) and the power pop goodness of Matthew Sweet, alongside lesser known acts like The Exploding Hearts, The Electric Prunes, the always great Seeds and The Castaways.

While most acts seem content churning out half-baked thoughts and thrown together, unimaginative, inane workings that pass for singles, Broken Arrows approach Streetflowers as a whole, to be listened to as a completed work, to be listened to in its entirety, its song sequencing calling to be heard in order, the type of album that screams at the listeners to put on headphones, light a joint and soak it all in.

Within the opening chords of “Not Coming Back”, Broken Arrows show that they aren’t perfect and aren’t trying to be; an act somewhat unwilling to be polished by studio magicians (no Pro-Tools here.  Again, thank the God of your choice for that), standing up for how they want their music cast into the world.;

Broken Arrows, above all else are a band of friends, like minded individuals on the same musical page, the same frequency.  This is shown above else by the tracks “Behind the Eight Ball” and the heavy Big Star or Paul Westerberg influences weaving in and out of Streetflowers, directing an album of songwriting that is both complex while speaking to the simplicity and fragility of life.

John Chevalier, Barry Lee, Mike Penner, Bill Ryan and Dave Storms should be proud of what they’ve created with Streetflowers; an album not of songs but a whole thought.  It has a rough beauty, a drive, a joy that is oftentimes  missing in music today.  Broken Arrows are not overly polished musicians; passion and drive replace technical prowess, “perfection” and virtuoso coldness; each song has a place, building to the next.  Is it perfect? No… is that ok? Absolutely.  Broken Arrows’ Streetflowers, at its heart, is a garage rock record standing tall in a time of Disco.

 

 

FAST LANE TO GREATNESS: Paul McCartney & Wings’ “Red Rose Speedway”

In which Macca’s critically underrated, but commercially toppermost, 1973 album is re-assessed via UMe’s new mega-expanded edition.

BY JOHN B. MOORE

After Paul McCartney’s somewhat tepid debut with his new band, Wings, many would have forgiven him if he’d just decided to jettison his bandmates and go back to being a solo artist.

Thankfully he didn’t.

Just two years after releasing that debut, Wildlife, McCartney and Wings turned in the stunningly impressive Red Rose Speedway, up there with Band on the Run as the group’s peak of brilliance.

Universal Music Enterprises (UMe) has just re-released a jaw-dropping box set version of Red Rose Speedway (along with Wildlife and a massive 11-disc Paul McCartney and Wings 1971-73).  Red Rose Speedway is a hefty 6-disc affair: 3 CDs, 2 DVDs, and 1 Blu-ray. Each limited edition box is numbered and also comes with a hardcover book, crammed with plenty of photos.

Released in 1973, just eight months before Band on the Run, Red Rose Speedway’s first single, “My Love,” put the former Beatle back in comfortable territory, reaching #1 on the U.S. charts. The song, sweet without the saccharine that used to cling to many pop love songs in the early ‘70s, still endures today. While none of the other eight tracks on the album charted, it’s still packed with some great songs, like the funky opening track, “Big Barn Bed,” and the bluesy “When the Night,” a song that gets better and better with each listen.

The limited edition deluxe includes the original record, remastered at Abbey Road (naturally!). The second and third CDs include 35 bonus tracks – most importantly – a reconstruction of the double-album version of  Red Rose Speedway (how it was originally supposed to be released), as well as various singles, B-sides, alternate mixes and a handful of previously unreleased tracks. In addition, the aforementioned DVDs plus the Blu-ray boast rare and, in many cases, previously unseen, footage. Of particular interest is “Live and Let Die,” filmed live in Liverpool, and the James Paul McCartney TV Special and The Bruce McMouse Show.

As if this massive cache of audio and video weren’t enough, they also come with a folio containing 14 replica hand-drawn original character sketches by McCartney (very cool!) and facsimile dialogue sheets for the film. The hardcover book houses some previously unpublished images by Linda McCartney, plus expanded album and single artwork from the archives, and the story behind the album. The book alone is a brilliant keepsake.

Finally, a proper re-release for one of Wings’ greatest records—which, by our critical rating system, rates a 5-stars-out-of-5. Believe it.

REVEREND HORTON HEAT – Whole New Life

January 01, 1970

Victory

www.victoryrecords.com

BY JOHN B. MOORE

The Reverend Horton Heat (known by his parents as Jim Heath) is likely the only musician out there to be namechecked by Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, John Lydon, and Rob Zombie. But it makes sense, as no band since The Cramps has done a better job of fusing rockabilly with a sharp punk rock attitude. And his latest, “A Whole New Life,” shows he still has a foot planted firmly in each musical camp.

The band is at its best when they’re playing ferocious up-tempo tracks, like “Perfect,” “Hate to See You Cry” or the New Orleans-styled “Tchoupitoulas Street” (a song you’d swear was an old standard, but is actually a Heath original). The album takes a brief detour on the Nick cave-ish dirge “Don’t Let Go of Me,” the weakest track here. But the band quickly corrects course for the remainder of the record. They also throw in a great cover of “Viva Las Vegas” on the closing track – a perfect ending to this 30-plus minute nostalgic ride.

This latest effort marks an even dozen albums for the trio and is just as solid as anything they’ve done so far. If you never dug their high-octane rockabilly/cocktail vibe, this record certainly isn’t going to change your mind. But, if you’re a fan, “Whole New Life” will only serve to reaffirm that admiration.

DOWNLOAD: “Perfect,” “Hate to See You Cry” and “Tchoupitoulas Street”

THE RATCHETS – First Light

January 01, 1970

Pirates Press

www.piratespressrecords.com

BY JOHN B. MOORE

New Jersey has long been the farm team for punk rock bands. Everyone from The Bouncing Souls to Gaslight Anthem have hailed from one city or another off the NJ Turnpike before going on to spread the punk rock gospel to the rest of the globe. The Ratchets prove yet again with their latest LP, First Light, that the Garden State is still churning out punk rock’s best and brightest.

Relatively MIA for more than a decade after the 2006 release of their debut, the band is back – a little older, but just as promising as that debut that brought about more than a few comparisons to The Clash. On First Light those Clash influences are still front and center, as well as some of Joe Strummer’s more thoughtful later work. You can also hear a hint of Springsteen’s influence on the lyrics all across this one, as well. (You  didn’t think I could write about a Jersey band without at least one Springsteen reference, did you?)

But there’s also plenty of other elements here that make the band sound impressively original: the Bluesy guitar riffs on “Drone Control,” the ‘70s hard rock vibe of “2-4-6-8 Motorway” (a cover of the Tom Robinson Band punk classic), and Jed Engine’s sandpaper rasp vocals that were made for punk rock. The band manages to flawlessly bridge the political urgency of late ‘70s British punk rock with modern concerns.

Crammed with memorable hooks, air guitar-worth riffs and whip sharp lyrics, First Light finds The Ratchets back in fighting form and, if this record is any indication, ready to take over the world.

DOWNLOAD: “Drone Control” and “2-4-6-8 Motorway”

MISS WORLD — Keeping Up with Miss World

Album: Keeping Up with Miss World

Artist: Miss World

Label: PNKSLM

Release Date: September 28, 2018

http://pnkslm.com

BY JENNIFER KELLY

Natalie Chalal named her one-person, do-everything-yourself band after a Hole song, and that’s fitting, since not since Courtney’s heyday has a female rock musician skewered the conventions of contemporary young woman-hood while rocking the hell out this hard. Chalal, from London, has her finger on the pulse of Internet meme-ery, but her foot on the pedal of a blistering electric guitar. Her songs address a season’s worth of Keeping Up with the Kardashians ephemera, everything from low-card diets to collagen lip injections; she keeps such a straight face in doing so that it’s hard to tell whether she’s celebrating or sending up, except that she’s way too smart, self-aware and wickedly acid-tongued to be this excited about Tinder (a couple of truly vacant spoken word bits give the joke away if you haven’t gotten it before).

The best songs, though, go well beyond satire into fully realized, joyfully dissonant rock songs, which sound so rough and organic and live that you check for band credits. There are none. Chahal played everything, one track at a time. Whether you appreciate this album as social satire or straight up Joan Jett-into-Weezer rock and roll (or both) is up to you, but either way, songs like “Put Me in a Movie” and “Carb Yr Enthusiam” hit the mark. All hail Miss World, queen of the tawdry surface-y, click-obsessed world she surveys.  

DOWNLOAD: “Put Me in a Movie,” “Carb Yr Enthusiasm”

THE BAND OF HEATHENS – A Message From The People Revisited

Album: A Message From The People Revisited

Artist: The Band of Heathens

Label: BOH Records

Release Date: September 21, 2018

www.bohrecords.com

BY LEE ZIMMERMAN

A super group of sorts originally hailing from Austin Texas, The Band of Heathens are composed of five supremely talented individuals that are capable songwriters each in their own right. However on their new album, A Message From The People Revisited, they take a different tack, covering songs that remains essential to the character of this country and humanity as a whole. The band says they were inspired by “the artistry and genius of Ray Charles,” and indeed, in their soaring renditions of “America the Beautiful,” “There’ll Be No Peace Without All Men As One,” and “Heaven Help Us All,” the light and legacy of Brother Ray clearly comes shining through.

Other songs provide additional inspiration — Melanie’s “Look What They’ve Done To My Song, Ma,” Dion’s “Abraham, Martin and John” and John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads” in particular — recall the triumphs and tragedies that this nation has witnessed in modern times, with today’s trials clearly top of mind. Clearly meant to encourage a sense of unity and pride, this set of songs is perfectly timed. It arrives on the heels of their recent EP, Live Via Satellite, a breezy example of the band’s earlier efforts rendered with the effortless enthusiasm that consistently characterizes their concert performances.

That said, credit The Band of Heathens for taking time to deliver music with a message that’s needed more than every nowadays. Every individual, regardless of political philosophy or party affiliation, ought to consider it mandatory listening.

DOWNLOAD: “Take Me Home, Country Roads,” “America the Beautiful,” “Abraham, Martin and John”