A great week for female artists!

Posted: May 15, 2013 in Popular

pistol

pattyIt’s pretty rare when new releases by female artists outnumber male artists, but this has been a pretty busy week. We have new CD’s by Amy Grant, Patty Griffin, Natalie Maines, Pistol Annies, and, if you include duos or groups, Lady Antebellum and She & Him, too! Yes, there’s a very strong country thread running through these albums, but even if you’re not that into country, a new Patty Griffin CD is never a bad thing, and She & Him always provide something fun and different. So find some time for these new releases in your personal playlists!

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mollyIn her debut CD, Molly Ringwald – of movie and television fame – has produced Except Sometimes, a thoroughly enjoyable collection of standards, but with an eye and an ear towards lesser known but equally wonderful songs. Yes, I’ve heard “I Get Along Without You Very Well (Except Sometimes)” many times before, but I haven’t heard “Where is Love?” or “Ballad of the Sad Young Men,” or “Sooner or Later” on any album in years, if ever other than the original. So the song list is already above par for most standards records, but what’s also so wonderful is Molly’s voice. I had read somewhere, years ago, that Molly has been singing all her life. Why she took so long to release her first album is beyond me, because it’s really quite lovely. She’s backed by a great combo of piano, guitar, bass, drums, and a couple of horns, and the arrangements have a very easy and smooth vibe such that I’d stack the band up with any other combo working today. And I really can’t say enough about Molly’s voice. Yes, it’s possible she wouldn’t have had the opportunity to record an album were it not for her fame as an actress, but of all the actor-turned-musician albums I’ve heard in the last few years, this is by far the best. That might seem like faint praise, but give this a listen and tell me what you think. Also, don’t miss the final song on the record, which is a loving tribute to writer/director John Hughes, and is the perfect song for Molly to end with. Enjoy.

Dave Grohl’s Sound City

Posted: March 27, 2013 in Popular, Soundtrack

sound cityIf you’re a fan of rock music from the last, say… 40 years, then you have to check out Dave Grohl’s new film Sound City. You can also, happily, enjoy one heck of a soundtrack! The film and the soundtrack are a testament to a recording studio – Sound City – and to its analog mixing board. What Grohl did was call in a handful of artists whose careers were formed in some way by this studio, including Stevie Nicks, Rick Nielsen (of Cheap Trick), Trent Reznor, and – my personal favorite of the bunch – Rick Springfield. Lots of other musicians participated as well, including members of Rage Against the Machine, Foo Fighters, and, oh yeah… Paul McCartney. All of the material on the soundtrack was written and recorded exclusively for the movie, and on the classic console. It’s a true rock and roll album with some great songs, especially the one by Rick Springfield! Check it out!

Bryan Ferry’s Jazz Age!

Posted: March 20, 2013 in Jazz, Popular

ferryI know it’s early in the year to say this, but the latest release by Bryan Ferrymay be the coolest CD of the year: The Jazz Age. Having been a lifelong fan of jazz, Bryan decided to recast some of his most famous songs from Roxy Music and his solo career into jazz arrangements. BUT WAIT!… This isn’t something like Sting creating orchestral arrangements of his hits and singing them so that they sound almost exactly like the originals (nice but unnecessary). This is Bryan creating instrumental versions and arrangements of songs like “Avalon,” “Love is the Drug,” and “This Island Earth” that sound exactly as if they were recorded by a Preservation Hall type jazz combo from the 1920’s. And I mean, exactly! The CD even sounds as if it’s a lost acetate of a New Orleans combo that was discovered in somebody’s attic and then restored to as close to perfect sound quality as possible. Basically, there is nothing wrong with this CD. Whether you’re a fan of Bryan, Roxy Music, or a jazz freak who wouldn’t know the melody to “Avalon” in a million years, this is a heck of a CD!

The return of 10,000 Maniacs

Posted: March 13, 2013 in Popular

maniacsJust a brief note today to showcase the first new recording from 10,000 Maniacs in 10 years! This new disc is called Music from the Motion Picture, and it’s a welcome return to the classic “Maniacs” sound so many people adore. Perhaps the most interesting part of the CD is that when most of us think of our favorite “Maniacs” song, we most likely think of a tune sung by Natalie Merchant. But Natalie left the group way back in 1993, and though they’ve gone through a few different line-ups since then, they’ve remained almost constantly active, while never reaching the heights of success they had with Merchant. Mary Ramsey has been singing with the group – off and on – for over 15 years, and this may be the best record she’s made with the band. So while many fans are still quite attached to the Merchant-era, I think you’ll really enjoy the vibe of the current band, and the voice of Mary Ramsey!

Tegan & Sara’s Heartthrob

Posted: February 27, 2013 in Popular

teganTegan & Sara have been around for well over 10 years, and if you haven’t heard them before, you’re depriving yourself of some fantastic music. These two identical twins, 32 years old, have crafted some of the best indie-pop music you’re ever going to hear. They’ve just released their seventh CD, called Heartthrob, and it could be their best, yet. While their sound has evolved from a more acoustic style to the glowing and energetic pop of this latest release, their lyrics have remained wonderfully smart, clever, and completely engaging. Whenever I get in a batch of new releases, I always try to listen to a little bit of each one just so I can gain a sense of what each CD has to offer (and by “little,” I mean 30-40 seconds of the first three or four songs). To give you a sense of how positively infectious this CD is, I pressed play, had my finger on the button to skip to the next track, and realized about 40 minutes later that the CD had ended; I’d just gone about my business and loved every second of the music. So if you’re a fan but didn’t know they had a new release out, here it is! And if just haven’t been lucky enough to hear their amazing releases like The Con or So Jealous, jump right on in with Heartthrob!

Miles Live in Europe 1969

Posted: February 6, 2013 in Jazz

miles 2Yes, I know… a recommendation from me to listen to Miles Davis is nothing shocking. But this is really something special. Even though Miles was continually looking for a new sound, a new way to experiment – leaving his career hard to categorize – many people use a few groups he performed with as helpful markers in his music. The first great quintet with Coltrane, Garland, Chambers, and Jones is a highpoint for many, just as the second great quintet of Shorter, Hancock, Carter, and Williams, stands as another milestone about 10 years later. Once Miles entered the 1970’s, he typically augmented his groups well beyond a quintet, at least on record. But in 1969, right before In a Silent Way was released, and a year before he recorded and released Bitches Brew, he toured with what you could certainly call the third great quintet: Wayne Shorter, Chick Corea, Dave Holland, and Jack DeJohnette. What makes this particular release so exciting – other than that it contains 3 CD’s filled with 3 different concerts from 1969 and a DVD with a completely different and exceptional fourth concert – is that this group never recorded together. Yes, they’re all on Bitches Brew, but not as a quintet. What makes this new release so exciting for me, though, is that Miles almost always played new music in concert; he was not one to play the old favorites, but always strove for something new. But in these concerts, hearing Corea’s electric piano pounding out that almost definitive 1970’s Miles Davis sound on tracks like “Milestones,” and “‘Round Midnight,” is just a thrill. So if you want to experience some of Miles’ greatest songs in a new way, be sure to check out Live in Europe 1969: The Bootleg Series vol. 2.