February 14, 2018
Since Alex Chilton’s death, everything Big Star and everything associated with Big Star is being reissued. The latest entry in the Big Star sweepstakes is a two-disc expanded version of Chris Bell’s I Am The Cosmos.
Bell was a founding member of Big Star but left the band after their first release. His contributions helped establish the sound that made the band a cult favorite. His solo career came to an abrupt end in 1978 at the age of 27 when he died in motor vehicle accident.
Recently his pre-Big Star material was gathered together and issued as Looking Forward. It was a hit or miss affair of a young artist leaning his craft. I Am The Cosmos is a fully realized release. It finds Bell experimenting, not always successfully, and looking to the future, which never came. As such, it remains his best album and a treat for any fan of Bell or Big Star.
It is an album that moves in a number of directions. “Speed Of Sound,” “Get Away,” “I Don’t Know” and “I Got Kinda Lost” fit the Big Star sound and would have fit any of their albums. “You And Your Sister,” both the single version and the acoustic version find him moving in a different direction and show off his guitar work. The title track is a well thought out and mature recording of his thoughts at the time.
There are some misses but they are apart of a musician moving from a band setting to becoming a solo artist.
The second disc is comprised of 19 alternate versions of songs, unreleased material, and outtakes. It all holds together well and hints at what his musical future may have looked like.
Chris Bell remains an artist whose career was cut all too short. I Am The Cosmos is a look at his defining moment.
February 14, 2018
I have a soft spot in my musical heart for slide guitarists. They are individualistic and each have their own unique sound.
One of the current leading proponents of the slide guitar style is Dennis Johnson, who with his backing band, The Mississippi Ramblers, has returned with their latest album Rhythmland.
What makes Johnson unique is while he has an easily identifiable sound, he is able to adapt it to a number of varied styles. Whether it be touches of folk, rock, roots, Americana, or straight blues, he is able to add his slide guitar sound over and through their rhythms. His approach is interesting in that he approaches a song from the basic rhythms and builds his leads from there.
Nine of the ten tracks are original and like any good blues artist they deal with life’s journeys through a story. The only non-original track is a unique interpretation of “Walkin’ Blues,” enhanced by his 12 string dobro. A counterpoint to that track is the laid-back acoustic performance on the jazz laden “My Love Is Here For You.”
Johnson is one of those master musicians who many times floats under the radar to all but a select few blues and slide guitar aficionados. He is also one of those guitarists who creates the illusion of playing the rhythm and lead parts on the same guitar.
Rhythmland is a creative piece of blues presented through the slide guitar sound. It is well worth exploring.
February 14, 2018
It all starts in Texas, at least for the Milligan Vaughan Project. Vocalist Malford Milligan and guitarist Tyrone Vaughan are Texans to their core and their joining together serves up a helping of dynamic rock and blues with their debut album MVP..
Milligan has a soulful voice and when it joins together with Vaughan’s guitar work, the sound emerges as a fusion of rock and blues.
The album was recorded in the studio except for the last two live tracks. “What Passes For Love” and the classic Freddy King song “Palace Of The King” represent the heart of their sound, which has been honed by constant touring.
They travel in a different direction with the ballad “Here I Am,” which is a nice counterpoint to their usual upfront, in your face approach.
MVP is a fine debit album from two music veterans who compliment each other well. Recommended for anypne who likes their modern days blues powerful and Texas style.
February 14, 2018
Who could have guessed 20 years ago that Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame guitarist Ritchie Blackmore would find love and happiness as a front man for a Renaissance/Rock fusion band, but here we are two decades later. He and partner Candice Night are celebrating the 20th anniversary of Blackmore’s Night with a 2-disc release titled To The Moon And Back: 20 Years And Beyond.
The first disc is basically a compilation of their better known material. To my ear, the mix on some of the songs appears different. The sound level on Blackmore’s acoustic work on the mandolin and guitar has been turned up and it shares equal billing with Night’s vocals. It allows the listener to hear just how intricate many of the songs are and how good a guitarist Blackmore is when everything is stripped to basics. There is also a 9 minute version of “Home Again’ that presents the band at its best.
Disc two moves in a number of directions. They have re-imagined a number of their classic songs and “Writing On The Wall,” “Coming Home,” and particularly the bonus track “I Surrender” emerge as hard rock classics. They are more akin to Blackmore’s work with Rainbow with a female vocalist. While they are outside the usual norm for Blackmore’s Night; they are an interesting turn for the band.
Disc one is a fine introduction to their sound, while the second disc hints at possibly new directions.
Blackmore’s Night has carved a unique niche for itself. To The Moon And Back: 20 Years And Beyond brings a period of their career to a close. Twenty years is a long journey in the world of music but it is one worth taking with the band.