Peace Trail By Neil Young

April 12, 2017

I don’t think Neil Young has ever issued a bad album in his half-century or so in the recording studio. His latest release, Peace Trail, may not rank among his best work but it is certainly above average.

The music is primarily acoustic and sparse as he only uses drummer Jim Keltner and bassist Paul Bushnell.

The album clocks in at 38 minutes divided between 10 tracks. The heart of the release is his socio/political material which has become more common as he has aged. More interesting are the times and songs when he looks inward and takes a more philosophical approach to his writing. There is an emotional connection to this type of material that seem genuine as he and much of his long-time fan base are facing their own mortality.

Peace Trail may not be his most memorable release but it does have a power to it. It will make you think and reflect and that is enough this time around.

 


Re-Loaded By Al Atkins

April 12, 2017

The brass ring was within reach of Al Atkins but it passed him by. During 1969, he formed Judas Priest with himself as lead vocalist. That band quickly imploded but he re-formed the band in October of 1970 with all new members. He left in May of 1973, just before the release of their first album, and the rest, as they say, is history.

For the last 40 years or so, he has maintained the faith. His career has existed on the periphery of success as he has fronted bands such as Holy Rage and the Atkins/May Project, plus released a number of solo albums.

His latest release, Reloaded, is his re-imagining and re-recording of ten songs from various parts of his career. It includes “Winter” and “Never Satisfied,” which he co-wrote and appeared on Judas Priest’s debut album.

At this point in his career, Atkins is who he is. He produces a straight forward brand of metal and hard rock. He surrounds himself with veteran musicians including Ian Hill (Judas Priest), Chris Johnson (Holy Rage), Rob Allen (UK), and current band mate Paul May.

Tracks such as “Cradle To The Grave,” “Love At War,” “A Void To Avoid,” and “Coming Think And fast” are pounding pieces of rock and roll with Atkins voice leading the way.

Reloaded is an introduction to Al Atkins. It may not change the face of hard rock but it helps gives a veteran of it his due.


On Safari By The Kentucky Headhunters

March 21, 2017

It has been almost a half-century since vocalist/guitarist Richard Young, drummer Fred Young, and lead guitarist Greg Martin began playing together, Bassist Doug Phelps was an early addition, and they have remained together ever since. It took them nearly 20 years to issue their first album but Pickin’ On Nashville was worth the wait as it sold just over two-million copies.

The Kentucky Headhunters have just released their 12th studio album titled On Safari. Their sound has changed with the passing of time. They have evolved from an electric country band into a southern rock group who incorporate blues into their mix.

Their new album includes ten originals and two covers, Alice Cooper’s “Caught In A Dream” and Charlie Daniel’s “Way Down Yonder.”

It is the ten original compositions that form the heart and soul of the album. They are the type of sold rock and roll that one has come to expect from the Headhunters. “Rainbow Shine,” ”Jukebox Full Of Blues,” and “ “Deep Southern Blues Again” wrap their southern rock roots around a blues foundation. “Beaver Creek Mansion” and   “Lowdown Memphis Town Blues” are a clever look at their own history wrapped in rock and roll.

The Kentucky Headhunters have evolved into one of the great American rock bands. On Safari is another brick in their musical wall.


From The Heart By The Temprees

March 21, 2017

The Temprees were, and currently are, a smooth soul vocal group. Formed by Jasper “Jabbo” Phillips (died 2001), Harold “Scotty’ Scott, and Deljuan “Del” Calvin during the late 1960’s; they gained success during the 1970’s, while signed to the Stax label. They have reunited several times and now original members Scot and Calvin plus new addition Walter “Bo” Washington have returned with a new album titled From The Heart.

The Stax label was famous for its gritty and funky rhythm & blues. The Temprees were more of a classic vocal group, who based their sound on sweet ballads and tight harmonies. Their new release may veer from this formula a little but at heart they remain an old school brand of soul group.

Their sound, 40 years after their popular period, remains smooth like butter. The title song is like a harmonic Harlequin love novel. This love song sets the tone for the album. “We Do Music” contains a history lesson of the Stax label. “Keep It Real” continues the positive vibe of the album as they sing about the importance of human interactions.

They travel in a different direction with “Paparazzi.” It has a funky dance vibe and is more like what one would expect from a Stax label artist.

The Temprees have channeled and modernized their seventies period and re-created a sound that is never out of date.


Keepin’ Outta Trouble By Rory Block

March 16, 2017

Rory Block is one of the most accomplished blues musicians working today, male or female. She has received five Blues Music Awards in the Traditional Blues Female and Acoustic Blues Album Of The Year categories.

Several years ago she embarked on her Mentor Series and to date has issued albums covering and being inspired by the music of Skip James, Mississippi John Hurt, Rev. Gary Davis, Mississippi John McDowell, and Son House.

Her sixth album in the series, Keepin’ Outta Trouble, is a tribute to Bukka White. Interestingly, White’s music inspired her to create more original compositions than any of the previous releases in the series.

The four Bukka White penned tunes, “Aberdeen Mississippi Blues,” “Panama Limited,” “Parchman Farm Blues,” and “New Frisco Train” are classic interpretations straight from the Delta. She has always been a superior acoustic guitarist and her ability and style brings out the original power of these old blues songs.

Her own songs are modern day blues who use White’s material for their inspiration. “Gonna Be Some Walkin’ Done” is a clever ditty based on White’s guitar lines from “Bukka’s Jitterbug Swing.” She wisely leads off the album with her own “Keepin’ Outta Trouble” and “Bukka’s Day,” which not only introduce the theme of the album but her own approach to traditional blues.

Block has followed her own career path, and many times has travelled the road less taken, and through it all has dedicated herself to playing, creating, and preserving the blues. She has never wavered from her chosen musical career path. The fact that she is so good at her chosen profession is just icing on the cake. Keepin’ Outta Trouble is another brick in her wall of blues.

 


Full Circle By Rev. Billy C. Wirtz

February 28, 2017

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And now…from the Church of the Polyester, the Reverend Billy C. Wirtz has assumed the pulpit and called the congregation to order. Can you say amen? Amen!

Wirtz is basically a musical comedian who is now almost 40 years into his career. He has just released his 12th album titled Full Circle. He has assumed many persona’s during the course of his career but his Reverend moniker and his First Church Of Polyester And Horizontal Throbbing Teenage Desire is his most controversial.

His musical approach is right out of the Jerry Lee Lewis school of music, complete with pumping piano. He makes a wise decision to use the classic roots group, The Nighthawks, as his backing band. They tend to suppress his wildest tendencies and keep at least his music somewhat under control. Still, it is a wild ride through the 15 tracks.

It is the lyrics and stories that set him apart. They tread the line between bad taste and humorous. Songs such as “Mennonite Surf Party,” “Mama Was A Deadhead,” “Daddy Was A Sensitive Guy,” “Rockin’ Up To Gloryland,” and “Daddy Passed Away” are examples of his brand of humor. Many comedians would use this material in a stand-up act but Wirtz is different as he presents them is a rock and roll format.

The re-action to his music depends on a person’s sense of humor and ethical code. It is not an album for the faint of heart but if you have a propensity for the odd, ribald, and unique encased in a retro rock and roll style, than the Rev. Billy Wirtz wailing away in his First Church Of The Polyester may be an album for you.

Can you say Amen!


The Intimate Keely Smith (Expanded CD Reissue) By Keely Smith

February 28, 2017

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Keely Smith was a star during the 1950’s as the vocalist of a band led by her husband Louis Prima. After their divorce in 1961, she embarked on a solo career that has extended into her late 80’s.

During the mid-1960’s, she produced four albums for Frank Sinatra’s Reprise label. That material has been out of print for decades. Now, The Intimate Keely Smith, probably the best solo album of her career, has finally been re-released in an expanded form.

Smith had just released her most commercially successful album with Sings The Songs Of Lennon And McCartney. A year later she went in an entirely different direction with a very simple album of music backed by guitar, piano, and drums. The word intimate is the key as it seems she is in the room with you presenting the songs in a very laid back fashion. It is an approach that treads the line between jazz and moody pop.

It is mostly a laid back collection of songs from The Great American Songbook. Gershwin’s “Somebody Loves Me,” Gus Kahn’s “It Had To Be You,” the Khan/Styne “Time After Time,” and the classic “God Bless The Child” are like butter in her hands as they are given gentle treatments.  The best performance may be “The Whippoorwill.” She revisits the song for the third time in her career but this simple and stark performance is the best.

The two bonus tracks may be a little out of place but taken individually they are both interesting. “No One Ever Tells You” is a Goffin/King/Spector song originally sung by The Crystals. Her take is very adult with a lot more emotion than the original. It was originally released as a single and never appeared on an album. The other bonus track is a duet with Frank Sinatra. “Twin Soliloquies” was originally recorded as a part of a Reprise label all-star salute to South Pacific. The give and take of the song is a perfect vehicle for the two masters of easy listening pop.

The Intimate Keely Smith is an album that may have been out of style 25 years ago but with the expansion of musical tastes today, it is an album with a time feel.