Current Album Reviews
Our take on some of the latest material from a variety of artists.
Clannad - The Essential (RCA / Legacy Recordings) review by J Hamrick A 14-year recording hiatus has left at least one generation unfamiliar with Grammy award-winning Clannad’s work. With the March release of The Essential, the internationally recognized group is reintroducing itself.
Thelonious Monk Quartet - Misterioso (Riverside / Concord Music Group - remaster) review The reissue of Misterioso takes you back to the now defunct Five Spot Cafe in the Bowery neighborhood New York City. It's the summer of 1958. There is no cover charge and a beer is only 75 cents. Thelonious Monk is in his second residency at the Five Spot. The stage is cramped and the audience sits mere feet from the band.
Blue Oyster Cult - Essential (Sony Legacy) review Sony’s “Essential” series is an excellent opportunity to delve deeper into an artist’s catalog with satisfying results. Blue Oyster Cult are basically remembered for their macabre hit “Don’t Feat the Reaper,” and for a pair of Seventies Album Rock hits “Godzilla,” and “Burnin’ For You.” Sony Legacy’s new Essential Blue Oyster Cult contains those three tracks, plus adds 28 more songs, helping give a much clearer picture of an under-appreciated band.
Various Artists - A Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On (Fantastic Voyage) review
They ain’t fakin’
I haven’t had this much fun listening to an album in a long, long time. We need more record companies like the London-based Fantastic Voyage. They’ve consistently put out fun-themed collections for some time now. Their latest is A Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On, a double disc set containing 50 tracks from the late Fifties / early Sixties, and everyone of them featuring the word “shake” in the title. Lovingly compiled by Stuart Colman, who also gives background on each track in the CD booklet. What he’s put together is one helluva great party album.
Johnny Cash - Bootleg Vol. IV: The Soul of Truth (Columbia / Legacy) review No other performer of any genre was more of a “man of the people” than Johnny Cash. No matter how popular he became (he even hosted his own TV show for awhile), he never forgot the common man, the underdog - some of his finest recordings came from behind the harshest prisons in America. And, even during the heights of his career, his demons weren’t too far behind. That’s one of the things we love about Cash - he never preached, instead taking the “I’ve been there, I know what you’re going through” approach.
The Cash Estate continues it’s fine archival campaign, mining the rich Johnny Cash vaults for Bootleg Vol. IV: The Soul of Truth, a collection of previous unreleased and hard-to-find songs of faith.
Janis Joplin - The Pearl Sessions (Sony/Legacy Recordings) review For a singer as legendary as Janis Joplin, her all-too brief recording career is wildly uneven; it’s as if she was forever searching for the right ingredients. Her debut with Big Brother & the Holding Company sounded tentative, lacking any strong flavors. The band’s second album, Cheap Thrills, was loud and out of control - it was a triumph, yet in many ways it was too strong, as if they went too heavy on the spices - her singing is great, but it’s often overshadowed by the ferocious playing around her.
Various Artists – The Red Bird Girls - Very First Time in True Stereo 1964-1966 (Real Gone Music) review For fans of the girl group sound, this is like finding the Holy Grail. While digging through the archives, the folks at Real Gone Records stumbled upon actual session tapes from the famed Red Bird label, the company run by songwriting duo Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, and home to many of the finest girl groups in history. The only way these songs had been released before was in the mono single versions. These tapes, released as The Red Bird Girls – Very First Time in True Stereo 1964-1966, showcases some familiar favorites, alongside rarities presented in clear stereo sound for the very first time.
Ruthie Foster - Let it Burn (Blue Corn Music) review Let it Burn is a landmark album for Ruthie Foster. It marks the point where she's totally shed her folk roots and transitioned into an artist to be reckoned with. Any performer can do cover songs, but it's the rare artist that can take other people's songs and breathe new life into them. With her new album, Foster has created a sound that's warm, soulful, and bluesy, yet never shop-worn. The list of cover material is incredibly diverse - she draws influence from just about anywhere.
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