Saturday December 20

Current Album Reviews

Our take on some of the latest material from a variety of artists.

ZZ Top - Complete Studio Albums 1970-1990ZZ Top - The Complete Studio Albums 1970-1990 (Rhino / Warner Bros) The Big Cahuna from the “Little ‘Ol Band from Texas.”  Featuring the original mixes, many for the first time on CD.

 

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The story of ZZ Top is one of the wildest in all of music: how an unassuming trio from Texas, steeped in blues and sounds from the Southern border, became one of the biggest bands of the 1980’s with their unique brand of electronic boogie.  The Complete Studio Albums 1970-1990 chronicles their slow rise to fame, with a hefty dose of surprises along the way.  All ten albums from their peak years are here - many available in their original mixes for the first time on CD.

 

Big Star - Nothing Can Hurt MeBig Star - Nothing Can Hurt Me (Omnivore Recordings) review

I Never Travel Far -  Without a Little Big Star

 

View this album on amazon.com

Despite their name, and a glutton of radio-ready songs, Big Star achieved neither fame nor fortune during their brief history.  Their stupefying lack of success and subsequent critical acclaim is the subject of a new documentary coming later in the summer.  In the meantime, Nothing Can Hurt Me is so much more than just the accompanying soundtrack.  In fact, it stands as a very important addition to the band’s small catalog, managing to act both as their first-ever career retrospective, and a treasure trove rarities’ collection for devoted fans.  As a result, it makes this disc quite indispensable.

Wings Over America - remasteredPaul McCartney & Wings - Wings Over America (remaster) (MPL/Starbucks/Concord) review

The remaster McCartney fans have been clamoring for

View this disc on amazon.com

For whatever reason, Wings Over America has been the black sheep of the Paul McCartney catalog.  Put on CD way back in the late Eighties, that version was muddy, lacking any high or low end.  When his entire output got overhauled in the Nineties, Wings Over America was sadly passed over.  Now, Concord has finally given it the remastering it deserves.  And, the new version doesn’t disappoint. The bass is deeper and, finally there’s the crispness that we’ve been missing in the high end.

Linda Valori - Days Like ThisLinda Valori - Days Like This (LeArt World Music) review

 

The best blues album we’ve heard all year - and it comes from, of all places, Italy!

View this album on amazon.com

 

She didn’t grow up in America, and English isn’t even her first language, but man, can Linda Valori sing the blues.  Her new album, Days Like This, is one of those perfect storms - where fantastic singing meets killer accompaniment.  It surprised us - and it will surprise you.

Shuggie Otis - Inspiration Information / Wings of LoveShuggie Otis - Inspiration Information / Wings of Love (Sony Legacy) review

Prince cut his teeth on this record

 

View this album's entry on amazon.com

Shuggie Otis was riding high in the early Seventies.  The son of bandleader Johnny Otis (who had a massive hit with “Willie and the Hand Jive” in 1958), Shuggie had already developed into a guitar prodigy in his late teens, releasing two solid albums featuring some hot soloing.  Released in 1974, Inspiration Information was a testament to a singular talent - virtually every note played and sang on the record came from Otis himself.  Yet, for whatever reason, the album was not a success, and its failure proved to be a crushing blow to his career.  For almost 40 years, Shuggie never released another record.

R.E.M. - Green - 25th Anniversary EditionR.E.M. - Green (25th Anniversary Edition) (Rhino / Warner Bros) review R.E.M.’s major-label debut gets the royal treatment - including a killer concert recorded on the subsequent tour

 

View this album on amazon.com

This is where R.E.M. really got serious.  Signing to Warner Brothers after five albums on the independent I.R.S. label, the guys had a lot to prove.  This wasn’t the time for the band to tread water.  Instead, everyone upped the ante and came up with Green, an album that managed to do the impossible - broaden their popularity, while keeping their loyal fan base happy as well.  The album has just been reissued in a new, deluxe edition, with some fine bonus material, including a 21-track live show from the tour.

Blue Cheer - Rocks EuropeBlue Cheer - Rocks Europe (Rainman) review Heavy rock trailblazers' last stand

 

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One of the keys to success in life is to outlive all of your detractors.  Blue Cheer, once reviled by critics for their form of low brow sonic fury, are now hailed as pioneers of both modern heavy metal and punk.  Rocks Europe is a document of the band’s final tour before the passing of vocalist, bassist, and longest-tenured member, Dickie Peterson.

Lisa Germano - No ElephantsLisa Germano - No Elephants (Badman Records) review How about something off the beaten path?

 

View this album on amazon.com

The music business is in an unprecedented rut.  We’ve been without a bona fide new trend in music for over a decade.  Which is why, when something comes along like No Elephants, the new album from Lisa Germano, it’s just a breath of badly-needed fresh air.

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