Morrison Hotel: 50th Anniversary By The Doors

June 8, 2022

Morrison Hotel ranks as my second favorite Doors album, settling in between L.A. Woman and their classic debut featuring “Light My Fire.” It has now reached the half-century mark and was recently reissued with a second disc of outtakes.

The A side of the original vinyl release was perfect. “Roadhouse Blues,” “Waiting For The Sun,” “You Make Me Real,” “Peace Frog.” “Blue Sunday,” and “Ship Of Fools,” were a return to their Doors blues/rock roots and is just about perfection. The rest of the songs are more hit and miss with “Queen Of The Highway” and “Maggie McGill” being  the best of the rest.

The sound is crystal clear but so were several other reissues of this album. The original lineup of material is more of a reminder of the brilliance of this release.

The second disc is one of those “for the person who must have everything by the band.” An example is the nine takes of “Queen Of The Highway.” It is always interesting to follow how a song was developed but how many times will someone actually listen to these tracks.

The two stand alone tracks are the classic “Money (That’s What I Want)” and Muddy Waters “Rock Me Baby.” While neither enhance the Doors legacy, they do fill in some gapes for the completest.

If you don’t have a modern version of the album them this will be a good purchase. It is music that has aged well with the passage of timeand as such presents the enduring quality of the Doors music. In a way familiarity takes away from some of the impact but it still remains a strong release.

Long Hot Summers: The Story Of The Style Council

June 8, 2022

Music by The Style Council has been readily available for the last three decades. The latest entry, Long Hot Summers: The Story Of The Style Council, is a fine representation of the band’s career and is an excellent introduction to their career.

The Style Council begins and ends with Peter Weller. Weller is now 62 years old and remains one of the most respected musicians in English history. It is just about impossible for people in the United States to realize his popularity and musical impact in his home country.

Weller’s first band, The Jam, was one of the most popular and commercially successful of the English punk rock bands 1976-1982. He formed the Style Council in 1983 with keyboardist Mick Tolbot, formally of Dexy’s Midnight Runners.

The Style Council allowed Weller to move beyond the confines of punk music. He explored, jazz, pop, soul, and folk. His vocals took on new textures and the music was smoother. It was the lyrics that retained some of his punk roots. They were socially conscious and had an anger and bite to them. They were also tied to the band’s English roots, which may have prevented them from having a larger commercial appeal in the USA and in some ways ties the band to their era.

This release proves what a fine band the Style Council was through out their career. If you are looking for just the highlights, then this CD is it. Their American hit “My Ever Changing Mood,” “Why I Went Missing,” “Walls Come Tumbling Down,” “Life At The Top People’s Heath Farm,” “Ghosts Of Dachau,” and a bevy of others all exemplify the best of British post punk and mod music.

It is a straight forward release with few surprises. An extended “Dropping Bombs On The White House” and a string-laden “My Ever Changing Moods” are the only significant additions.

Long Hot Summers: The Story Of The Style Council introduces their music to a new generation or two. There may not be a lot of new revelations but the old ground is covered very well.

Way Down In The Rust Bucket By Neil Young

June 8, 2022

Just about any live album by Neil Young is a good album and Way Down In The Rust Bucket is no exception. Recorded 20 years ago at The Catalyst bar in Santa Cruz, with Crazy Horse in support, it finds Young at his improvisational and rock & roll best.

The performance was culled from the Neil Young archives. The sound is good for what was a house show but not spectacular by today’s standards. The emphasis is on the songs, which interferes with the flow of the concert.  Still, it is lucky that he had the tape machine rolling as it chronicles one of Young’s better live performances.

The two CD set combines some of his best-known material with a few deep cuts that combine into a satisfying set. The concert took place at the time of his Ragged Glory album release, so those songs tend to predominate.

The live setting provides a perfect setting for young to improvise on his guitar as he extends a number of songs far beyond their studio versions. “Like A Hurricane” at close to 13 minutes and “Love To Burn” at just shy of 14 minutes are a guitar extravaganza for Young, plus several other tracks come close in length.

A gem is the first live recording of “Dangerbird;” 15 years after its release on Zuma. Add in such classics as “Cinnamon Girl” and “Cortez The Killer” and you have a statement from the early part of his career.

Crazy Horse has supported Young on numerous projects and he is comfortable and at ease with them They tend to bring out the best in him. Bassist Billy Talbot, drummer Ralph Molina, and guitarist Frank Sampedro provide excellent support without getting in the way.

Way Down In The Rust Bucket is a raw performance of rock and roll at its best.

The Lucky Ones By Pentatonix

June 8, 2022

Back in the day, NBC had a television show titled The Sing Off. The winner of season three was the acapella group Pentatonix. They have gone on to sell tens-of-millions of albums and tour constantly for almost a decade. They are arguably one of the most popular and successful pop groups in the world.

For the last several years Pentatonix has relied of Christmas and cover songs, but now have released a new album of original songs titled The Lucky Ones.

The five members of Pentatonix have voices that blend perfectly and creatively. They are also a rare group that can re-produce their intricate harmonies in concert, where without backing instruments, there is little room for error.

The band members may not plump the depths of their psyche’s but The Lucky Ones is a personal album. The title song is an autobiographical chronicle of the musical journey and their acceptance of a little luck along the way.

The topics vary from breaking up (“Happy Now”), to support (“Love Me When I Don’t” and “Coffee In Bed”}to mental health (“Be My Eyes”).

The tempos vary but there are a number of ballads that present the group at their best. “Side,” “Exit,” and “It’s Different” all allow the individual voices to shine before combining into soaring harmonies.

The 11 songs are concise as the album checks in at just under 40 minutes. It is a format that serves the group well as they do not over-extend their welcome on any of the tracks.

Pentatonix has taken a chance by leaving cover songs behind and that decision serves them well on The Lucky Ones. 

Winter Stories By Judy Collins & Jonas Fjeld

April 8, 2022

There was a time when Judy Collins was an important part of the American folk revival movement. Beginning in 1961, she released a series of excellent folk albums. While she has turned in a pop direction during the past four decades; every once in awhile her folk roots shine through.

Her latest release, Winter Stories, is a nice fusion of pop and folk. There are some older songs and recreations of past tunes. Her choice of Norwegian folk singer Jonas Fjeld as a vocal partner on a number of songs was an interesting choice, and ultimately an effective one, as he pulls a number of the tracks back from the pop precipice.

Winter Stories, despite the title, is not a Christmas album. Rather it is a laid back affair that is best heard sitting around the fire place on a cold winter night. It is mostly an album of story songs, including her 30 year old opus “The Blizzard.”

The vocal duet tracks work well. “Northwest Passages” is about the explorers of the past and Eric Anderson’s “Angels In The Snow” is recreated for a duo. Add in “Frozen North” and the title track and it adds up to a series of strong tracks with Fjeld.

Possibly the best song is her haunting rendition of Jimmy Webb’s “The Highwayman.” She transforms this old country tune.  She takes “Bury Me With My Guitar On” in a different direction and it emerges as a peppy rendition.

It is nice to see Collins veer back toward her folk roots. Winter Stories is one of her strongest albums in decades.

From Elvis In Nashville By Elvis Presley

April 8, 2022

Since Elvis Presley’s death over 40 years ago, his material has been reissued dozens of times in every form imaginable. From small greatest hits albums to huge box sets that have been pieced together from previously available material, every song he ever recorded has appeared over and over again. Now, however, someone has had an original idea.

During June of 1970, Elvis went into the studio and, in several marathon sessions, recorded three albums worth of material. Later, background vocals, orchestration, and some duets were added before their release. Now all the additions have been erased. What remains is just Elvis and his basic backing band, which makes for a very different listening experience.

The first two CD’s in the set contain the undubbed masters of all the issued songs. Elvis was recording live in the studio and his voice dominates each song without any distractions. Songs such as “The Fool,” “You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me,” “Mary In The Morning,” “Love Me,” and “Life” are re-invented and re-imagined in their simplicity.

The final two discs contain the outtakes from the sessions. I think they have all been released previously but have not been collected in one place. Now back in their original context, they make sense. Elvis was recording live in the studio and so tracks with multiple takes show him in total control. It is a good presentation of his creative and recording process.

This is another one of those albums that will appeal mainly to Elvis’ hard-core fan base. It is not that there is anything really new here but rather the appeal is in the uniqueness of the presentation. Forty-four years after his death, that is enough.

The Complete Atlantic Singles 1968-1971 By Dusty Springfield

April 8, 2022

Dusty Springfield, 1939-1969, was one of the lead pop songstresses of the last half of the 20th century. After a brilliant music career and tumultuous life, she died just prior to her induction into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.

While she was known for pop hits such as “You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me” “The Look Of Love,” and “Wishin’ And Hopin,” it was her three years with the Atlantic label the formed the definitive period of her career.  Tom Dowd, Jerry Wexler, and Arif Mardin, (engineer, producer, vice president), transitioned her from pop to a more soulful style.

Now her 12 singles, both A and B sides, released by the Atlantic label, have been issued under the title The Complete Atlantic Singles 1968-1971.

Led by “Son Of A Preacher Man,” one of the best songs of the time period, the bulk of the material should be required listening for any fan of the era or Springfield. Her smooth delivery effortlessly transitions to soul and her voice gives everything a unique sheen.

Songs such as “Just A Little Lovin,’” “Breakfast In Bed,” “Willie And Laura Mae Jones,” and lesser known tracks “Bad Case Of The Blues,” “That Old Sweet Roll,” and “I Don’t Want To Hear It Anymore” are all sublime.

It is some of the lesser known tunes that add luster to the release. “Lost” is a foray in Philadelphia pop/funk, while “Let Me Get In Your Way” finds her vocal following a simple bass line. “In The Land Of Make Believe” uses a sitar to set up her vocal.

The sound is excellent as is most everything recorded for the The Atlantic label, especially when the three above mentioned gentlemen were involved. The instrumental backing is supportive and never gets in the way, which lets her voice be the focal point. She had a wonderful way of annunciating each word clearly, which was unique.

The Complete Atlantic Singles: 1968-1971 catches Dusty Springfield at her best, which given her career, says a lot.

Greatest Hits (1970-2020) By Bruce Cockburn

April 8, 2022

Greatest Hits (1970-2010)

Bruce Cockburn

True North Records

Review by David Bowling

Most American music fans, of a certain age, remember Bruce Cockburn for his gentle folk/pop hit of several decades ago; “Wondering Where The Lions Are.” In his native Canada, he is celebrated for his 34 album releases, 13 Juno Awards (Canadian Grammy’s), two Hall of Fame inductions, and as an Officer of The Order of Canada. He has now released a definitive career spanning, 30 track release titled Greatest Hits (1970-2020).

The 30 tracks are presented in chronological order, so they present not only a nice look at his career, but also of the development of his musical vision.

Cockburn’s music has always had a laid back and gentle feel. His lyrics, however, have constantly evolved as they have adjusted to the times around them.  Always cerebral, his words have told stories, as he has presented his views of love, the environment, political issues, indigenous people, and every now and then just simple folk music that makes you smile and wonder.

“Going To The Country” is nearly 50 years old, and it along with “All The Diamonds In The World,” “Mama Just Wants To Barrelhouse All Night Long,” and “Wondering Where The Lions Are” represent his early career, where as a young man, music was simple.

“If I Had A Rocket Launcher,” “Call It Democracy,” “People See Through You,” and “If A Tree Falls” present his developing social consciousness.

Life passes quickly and “Different When It Comes To You,” “Call Me Rose,” and “States I’m In” close the album as a mature human being and musician explores his world.

Greatest Hits (1970-2020) is a wonderful and heartfelt ride through the mind and music of a veteran artist. It is a journey worth hearing.

Moment To Lose By The Old No. 5’s

December 11, 2021

Moment To Lose

The Old No. 5’s

Self-Issued 2021

Review By David Bowling

The Old No. 5’s always produces interesting music as their albums tend to meander through a variety of styles such as blues, psychedelic, rock and roll, and old-time country. The songs tend to merge and complement each other as they form a collective whole. Their third release, Moment To Lose, follows this format.

Like many artists, they were busy recoding during the Covid shut down. The time was well spent as they have produced the best album of their career. The only issue is it is like a treasure hunt to track down a copy of the album.

The album begins with the very short “We’re Here,” It is a nostalgic instrumental pierce with a lead guitar part that will make you ache. It is a compact example of precise modern-day blues.

“New Light” proves once again that many times simple is best. With only an acoustic guitar in support as Bradl Alexander’s gentle vocals floats over the sound.

The heart of the album are their rock and roll tracks. Lead by “Same As You,” they rock through “Living Your Dream” and “What Does That Prove,” before taking a trip back in time with the psychedelic song “Rock And Roll.” These are full band songs with three guitars, keyboards, plus a bass and percussion rhythm section providing a fuller sound.

While their sound may be difficult to define, the music keeps your attention in a good way. Moment To Lose is a very good album of music that combines many of the elements of American music into a complete whole.

Latest Record Project By Van Morrison

October 16, 2021

Van Morrison has turned 75 years old, and his career is nearing the 60-year mark. He began as a gritty rocker with the group Them, producing such songs as “Here Comes The Night,” “Mystic Eyes,” and “Gloria.” His solo career began with the pop hit “Brown Eyed Girl” and he produced a number of classic albums including Astral Weeks, Moondance, Saint Dominics Preview, and Wavelength. During the 1980’s and 1990’s, a mystical element began to invade his music followed closely by rich poetry.

Latest Record Project is his 43rd studio release and fifth in the last four years. It is an album that reflects his age and as such may be a difficult release for a many of his fans.

Many of the 28 songs have a schizophrenic nature. The lyrics and music are at odds with each other. The music retains the melodic nature of his past work, while the lyrics put forward his beliefs and philosophy at age 75. Songs such as “Why Are You On Facebook,” “They Own The Media,” and “Western Man” run counter to the political beliefs of a large segment of the population in this country.

There are some worthwhile songs, but at 28 tracks, you really have to dig deep. “Only A Song” is a light-hearted relief after what has preceded it. “A Few Bars Early” is a blues track where Van Morrison really seems to be trying. “Duper’s Delight,” at close to six minutes, is probably the best track as Van Morrison relies on the imagery, he is famous for.

On the positive side, his voice has aged well, and the band is tight, but it is not enough to save the flow of the album. In many places he just comes across as an unlikeable old man, which in his case is sad.