Current Album Reviews
Our take on some of the latest material from a variety of artists.
Todd Rundgren – Todd – DVD review
1974 must’ve been a particularly memorable year for Todd Rundgren. Last year, he reformed the prog-rock version of Utopia (which he originally formed in ’74) for a US tour. Now comes an entire live performance of Todd, originally a double album released in, you guessed it, 1974. In a way, that album is his most underrated, taking the 2-LP blueprint from his breakthrough Something/Anything and turning it inside out. The album contains several of his best compositions, including the poignant breakup song “The Last Ride,” the lullaby-like “A Dream Goes on Forever,” and the moody “Don’t You Ever Learn.” But, Todd also contains a fair amount of over indulgence: the goofy “An Elpee’s Worth of Toons,” and “King Kong Reggae,” the even more absurd “Lord Chancellor’s Nightmare,” and the experimental “The Spark of Life.”
Rick Nelson - The Complete Epic Recordings (Real Gone Music) review We tend to try and keep our pop stars frozen in time. Many of us still think of Springsteen in his leather jacket staring back at us from the Born to Run album cover - he’s moved on, but many of us haven’t. That’s what happened to Rick Nelson too. He began his career as the teenage singing star “Ricky” on his parents’ hit TV show, The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet. After his initial pop stardom faded, Nelson began mixing elements of country and rock together in the Stone Canyon Band, but was unable to find mass appeal for his new direction. Yet, just a few years later, bands like the Eagles would take this template to superstardom. Nelson’s final big hit, “Garden Party,” was a plea to take his new direction (and his adulthood) seriously. Unfortunately, we didn’t listen. And, instead of building on the success of that last hit, he faded into obscurity.
The Complete Epic Recordings shows that Nelson was still making great music, even if we never heard it.
Big Brother & the Holding Company featuring Janis Joplin – Live at the Carousel Ballroom 1968 (Sony Legacy) review There’s no denying that Janis Joplin is one of the greatest singers in the history of rock n’ roll. Yet, where’s the proof? Of the precious few live recordings that have survived over the years, most are either too tame or sloppy (her Woodstock concert falls into the latter category). Sony/Legacy intends to correct this with Live at the Carousel Ballroom 1968, an unbridled look at both Big Brother and Joplin at the absolute peak of their powers, just two months before she left the band.
Pink Floyd – The Wall – Experience Edition – bonus disc (Capitol/EMI) review
We’ve decided to review the bonus disc separately, since it is that good
Call it “bonus discs,” “unreleased material,” “alternate versions,” “demos,” or “deluxe editions,” but the goal of any record company is to get you to re-purchase what you already own. Because of that, most of this “extra footage” is usually something that you listen to once, and then tuck away, leaving you to wonder why you spent the extra cash for this “ultimate version” of your favorite album. The bonus disc to the Experience Edition of Pink Floyd’s the Wall is the rare exception; it’s a disc so revelatory and rich with insight into the finished album, that it begs to be issued on its own.
Paul McCartney – Kisses on the Bottom (Hear Music / Concord) review
An entire album of Frank Sinatra-styled standards isn’t quite the stretch you might think for Paul McCartney. Considering he wrote similarly-themed songs like “When I’m 64” and “Honey Pie” way back in his tenure with the Beatles, and tracks like “Ballroom Dancing” in his solo material, the real question is “what took you so long”? And while those aforementioned tunes all were done with gleeful abandon, there’s a decidedly somber tone to Kisses on the Bottom (which is actually a line from the opening cut, “I’m Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter” – he’s referring to the bottom of the letter.)
Foxy Shazam – The Church of Rock and Roll (IRS /EMI Records) review Rock n’ roll is supposed to be fun. But, if that’s truly the case, why is everyone so pissed off? The current crop of “rock” bands angrily storm the stage, pushing their voices as low as Auto-Tune will take them, and worst of all, they act like they don’t want to be rock stars! Well friends, from Cincinnati - here comes Foxy Shazam, sticking out like a transvestite in a Southern Baptist tent revival, they’ve come to put the “good” back in damn good times. Imagine taking your old LP copies of Zeppelin’s Houses of the Holy and Queen’s News of the World, stacking them together on the sidewalk of a blistering hot day – you’d have quite a mess on your hands, but you’d get a better idea of what Foxy Shazam is all about.
Martin Sexton - Fall Like Rain (Kitchen Table) CD review by Mike Kelly Like a Quaker who has to speak when the spirit is upon him, Martin Sexton felt a pressing need to release a 5 song EP called Fall Like Rain, instead of waiting for a full length album. Not known for releasing frequent studio albums of new material, this EP follows Sugarcoating in 2010 and Solo in 2008. Overall, the EP is pleasant, but not, in any way, a departure from his recent work.
Van Halen – A Different Kind of Truth (Interscope) review The guys in Van Halen certainly have lots to prove. Their last full-length, Van Halen 3, was a complete disaster (read the review here), and former lead singer Sammy Hagar had some extremely unflattering things to say about the VH brothers (especially Eddie) in Red, his autobiography (read the book review here). Add to that, the fact that original singer David Lee Roth hasn’t exactly been lighting up the charts with his solo material, and you can see that the stakes are pretty high. Not surprisingly, the entire album permeates with a sense of urgency. This is no veteran band simply going through the motions; this is four guys out to prove everyone wrong.
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