Current Album Reviews
Our take on some of the latest material from a variety of artists.
REM - Document - 25th anniversary edition (IRS/Capitol) review
The album that changed the playing field for alternative music in the Eighties celebrates a quarter century
When REM entered the studio in 1987 to record their fifth album, they had a decision to make: continue as the darlings of the college radio underground, or reach for something bigger. They knew that their brand of Byrds-meets-Velvet Underground jangle pop was not going to take them to the next level. So instead, they teamed up with co-producer Scott Litt and every member of the band upped the ante for one of the group’s best albums. IRS/Capitol is celebrating Document with a 25th anniversary edition, featuring the original album in remastered form, an excellent concert from the tour that followed, and a booklet, featuring insightful recollections from members of the band. There’s even four postcards and a large poster of the band.
Heart - Fanatic - (Sony / Legacy) review First, a career-spanning box set, then a revealing memoir, and now, one of their finest albums of their entire career - it’s been a banner year for Heart.
Most artists mellow as they get older. The previously-vitriolic Bob Dylan now jokes with his audience, while the once-mighty Robert Plant is now singing quiet folk music. Well, apparently Heart didn’t get the memo - their new album, Fanatic, contains some of the most blistering hard rock that the band has ever laid down. Their 14th studio album caps off a flurry of activity from the group that began earlier in the year with the release of Strange Euphoria, the band’s first-ever multi-disc retrospective. Then, just a few weeks ago, Ann & Nancy Wilson collaborated on Kicking and Dreaming, a revealing memoir. Now comes Fanatic, showing that these girls aren’t slowing down one bit - in fact, they’re riding an unprecedented creative streak.
David Bowie - The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars - 40th Anniversary Edition (EMI/Virgin) review
The quintessential Bowie record is back in the spotlight again
Although David Bowie has led a long and colorful career, it just doesn’t get any better than The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars. Sure, Bowie experimented with many styles and did some incredibly pioneering work in the late Seventies with Brian Eno, and was all over MTV in the early Eighties. Yet, nothing else holds a candle to this masterpiece.
Various Artists - We Walk the Line: A Celebration of the Music of Johnny Cash (Sony/Legacy) review If there is one thing that has become apparent since the death of Johnny Cash back in 2003, it’s that his influence stretches much farther than any genre or age group can contain. Case in point, We Walk the Line, a star-studded, multi-generational concert salute to Cash who would’ve turned 80 this year, released in a DVD/CD set.
Another thing that is made clear is that Cash is irreplaceable - a one-of-a-kind mix of honesty and magnetism, coupled with one of the most unique voices ever recorded. But, it’s this uniqueness that makes a tribute like this somewhat problematic - you’re never going to copy Johnny Cash, so what to do? You can take one of his songs and try and make it your own (something Ruthie Foster has done quite well with “Ring of Fire” on her latest album), or you can attempt to capture the spirit of the original performance.
Shoes - Ignition (Black Vinyl) review For any great power pop record, the drums are just as important as the chiming melodies. From the Raspberries, and Badfinger, to Matthew Sweet and the Posies, every great band of this genre were propelled by excellent drumming. For Shoes, they’d always fallen a little short in this category - until now, with their brand new album Ignition.
The first new Shoes record in 18 years is also their best.
Kiss - Destroyer - Resurrected (Mercury) review Widely-regarded as their best studio album, Destroyer gets a new coat of paint, courtesy of original producer Bob Ezrin
Destroyer - Resurrected is the band’s 1976 album remixed from the multi-track tapes by original producer Ezrin. Right off, the drums and bass guitar are louder, there are different effects on the vocals, and little differences on each song (for instance, there’s a loud shout at the end of “Shout it Out Loud”). While purists will howl in detest, this is not meant to replace the original version, but to give the album a little more of a modern sound.
Asia - XXX (Frontiers) (review)
View the album on amazon.com
Face it - most reunion albums are disappointing affairs. The guys are older, recording budgets are smaller, and good melodies are usually hard to come by. Plus, most reunited bands fall flat by trying to update their sound to whatever trend is popular. That’s what makes Asia’s reunion so unbelievable - they’ve created an entire album of excellent songs that stand up to their finest work
Asia’s debut was one of the biggest albums of 1982, spending nine weeks at number one and going quadruple platinum. XXX, the third album of the reunited original lineup, is a nod to that successful first record (“XXX” in Roman numerals is 30 - you remember that from high school, right? It's the amount of years since that album’s release).
Johnny Otis - That’s Your Last Boogie - The Best of 1945-1960 (Fantastic Voyage) review
When talking about pioneers of R&B and early rock n’ roll - names like Elvis Presley, Ray Charles, James Brown, and Sam Phillips all come to mind. But, after listening to the new, three-disc compilation from Fantastic Voyage, That’s Your Last Boogie, Johnny Otis has to be on that list as well.
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