All posts filed under: CD Reviews

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BOXSET REVIEW: PAUL MCCARTNEY, “Pure McCartney” (various editions)

  What can you really say that hasn’t already been said about Paul McCartney?  This isn’t some “rock critic” trying to dissect the now 46-year solo career of the greatest (still living) pop musician of all time; this is simply an assessment of a very fine, albeit flawed, comprehensive compilation of the man’s works, picked by him. I plumped for the 4-disc, hardcover book edition of Pure McCartney and it is, indeed, quite a treasure trove that goes from 1970’s McCartney all the way to 2013’s New.  Of course, I find it flawed because aside from some glaring omissions which are personal favorites, he did leave off several essential tracks (certainly “My Brave Face” or “This One” from 1989’s Flowers In The Dirt should have been here or “Hope Of Deliverance” from 1993’s Off The Ground could have found a spot).  Nonetheless, according to the press release: ‘”Me and my team came up with the idea of putting together a collection of my recordings with nothing else in mind other than having something fun to …

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ALBUM REVIEW: THE ANDERSON COUNCIL, “Assorted Colours”

As I’d said previously, when this album and signing was announced, if it wasn’t obvious that The Anderson Council has been one of New Jersey’s best kept secrets, well now, it won’t be… This band, who has been around since 1999 with their deliciously crisp modern take on classic mid-’60’s psychedelic pop and late ’70’s Mod has now signed to Marty Scott’s legendary Jem Records label and Assorted Colours is the first fruit of this new partnership. It’s a “primer” of several previously released tracks from their first three albums plus some new tracks for good measure.  The new tracks have been produced by another New Jersey neo-beat-legend, Kurt Reil of The Grip Weeds and together, they’ve fashioned this (incredibly) fine collection of songs. Meaty and bouncy, a song like “Sitting On A Cloud” is ripe with 12-string Rickenbackers, harmonies, perfect pop structure and sends you into an immediate nostalgia trip of how/when bands knew how to craft songs – and thankfully, that’s what The Anderson Council are here to do. “Girl On The Northern …

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ALBUM REVIEW: GREG HUMPHREYS ELECTRIC TRIO, “Lucky Guy”

The warmth of this album can’t be understated.  North Carolina native turned Brooklyn transplantee Greg Humphreys (late of the glorious Dillon Fence) has now formed a new band, Greg Humphreys Electric Trio, and released a very fine album of eight new songs that stand out upon first listen. The title cut is more than enough to sink your teeth into with its intricate guitar flutters and upbeat shuffle; certainly, the rhumba-like feel and mandolin brings a liveliness to the track but the silky vocals and tight harmonies makes this shine immediately.  “Sayin’ What You Mean” is dreamy; ethereal, soulful and at flashes, jazzy.  Sadly gentle and yet meaty with its arrangements.  “Golden Bone”, on the other hand, has that swampy kind of balls out riffage that I love – the kind you could expect from The Black Crowes or more recently, Luther Dickinson but even then, at the song’s mid-point (this is an instrumental), a pastoral break comes and the song goes from minor to major – like clouds parting after rain – and then …

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ALBUM PREMIERE: LOVESPEAKE, “DNA”

We’re going to do something a little different – rather than a straight review, we’re going to premiere for you the debut album from Norway’s Lovespeake.  And if giving you all ten songs isn’t enough, we’re also including their video for “DNA”. Very ’80’s in their groove and production, the overall feel is warm and breezy – really, a perfect album for the start of the summer season.  Tracks like “DNA”, “Sundive”, “U” and “Can You Feel The Love?” are all ripe to be the soundtrack at the beach. If you like (or love) the ’80’s, you’ll be glad a band like Lovespeake are around.  They’ve done their homework and studied well.  Elements of Scritti Politti, China Crisis, Heaven 17 and The Style Council (!) color this collection of songs just right. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED DNA is available now https://www.facebook.com/lovespeake/?fref=ts  

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ALBUM REVIEW: RYAN CASSATA, “Shine”

Crisp, crunchy pop would be an accurate description of Ryan Cassata’s newest release, Shine.  This 22-year old Long Island native has already issued four full-length albums since 2011 and now, he’s breaking new creative ground with this 10 track collection that runs the gamut of pop styles. Starting with the slightly wry “We’re The Cool Kids” (“…we’re changing things and we’re leading this movement; we’re gonna prove it that we’re the cool kids…”), which sounds like a mix of Green Day and The Pixies, you’re immediately drawn into the sheer catchiness of the song; “Check Engine” feels like a spoof of modern pop with electro-drum track and rap/sung and the subject matter (to me) seems like a gripe about the struggles of a middle-class suburban teen (which is quite funny) as “Sunrise Highway” is just impossibly great with its tight and galloping rhythm and slaughter/buzzsaw guitars, punctuated by horn charts in classic pop-rock style.  “Man In The Mirror”,  the old Michael Jackson composition, gets a gentle, sympathetic acoustic treatment which gives a genuine poignancy to …

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ALBUM REVIEW: FREDDY & FRANCINE, “Gung Ho”

Sometimes a romantic relationship can lead to great art…  and sometimes the end of that relationship can lead to even greater art.  But when a fractured professional couple get back together, at least to make music, it can be amazing.  And that’s the case with Gung Ho, the newest release from Freddy & Francine (who are really Lee Ferris and Bianca Caruso).  Having parted and spending considerable time apart, this new offering is quite a staggering collection of songs. Acoustic guitars abound; stellar production – warmth and depth is the first thing you pick up on at first listen.  The opening track, “If You Want Me” is a seamless blending of the voices of Ferris and Caruso, with clean guitar figures and a deep, resonant rhythm section – a masterful building of tension and melody combined; “Tryin’ Hard To Love You” has delicious guitar slides in the intro while Caruso’s vocal is both cool and impassioned in this country-fied track and “Father’s Daughter” will send shivers down your spine as you listen to the harmonies, …

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ALBUM REVIEW: CIARAN LAVERY, “Let Bad In”

This sophomore effort from Irish singer-songwriter Ciaran Lavery has an aura about it twinged with a sweet melancholia – and that is its strength; its secret weapon.  And it’s not not your standard singer-songwriter fare, either.  What you may project or expect isn’t what you get and that makes it even more interesting and worth the exploration. As Let Bad In begins with “Sonoma”, a brooding piano piece, you’re immediately jolted out of its hypnotic and gentle spell as it’s only two minutes long and then goes into “Okkervil River” with its electrobeats and samples, which is a neat and cleaver offset to the somewhat cryptic lyrics.  “The Show” is no less dark, but yet has an upbeat-ness about it and is catchy with an (you guessed it) Americana feel – slightly countrified with a sweeping, yearning melody; “Return To Form” is radio-friendly and walks the very fine line between danceable pop and Americana with its acoustic body but heavy beats and “Tell Them All” is a stripped down confessional with acoustic guitar that yields …

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ALBUM REVIEW: BILLIE RAY MARTIN, “The Soul Tapes”

For someone who’s made her name in the dance world, Billie Ray Martin has A LOT of soul and it’s evident on this new album, The Soul Tapes.  A true labor of love, it took a decade for this album to be realized.  The sound is remarkable – produced by the one and only Jon Tiven, this sounds like it, indeed, came out of Willie Mitchell’s Royal Studios for Hi Records in Memphis – small wonder, since that was, in fact, Ms. Martin’s intention/vision.  And frankly, it’s an amazing vocal transformation for this German-born chanteuse to sound as American and soulful as she does. Just the opening track, “Your Ghost Is Right Behind Me” puts any questions of doubt to rest – it’s a powerhouse achievement, both sultry and heartbreaking – her voice conveys pain but at the same time, makes you ache in the best way you can.  Everything works; the gospel-like nature of the track’s feel, the backing vocals and that deadly guitar solo at the end makes you automatically feel like this …

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ALBUM PREMIERE/REVIEW: MARTIN BRAMAH, “The Battle Of Twisted Heel”

While Popdose recently reviewed the new, long-overdue release from Blue Orchids, the band led and fronted by guitarist/frontman Martin Bramah (original guitarist of The Fall), we also take great pleasure in presenting and premiering for you in full, Mr. Bramah’s newly-reissued solo album, The Battle Of Twisted Heel.  Originally released as a mail-order only item very briefly in 2008, this compiles the tracks from that CD plus a few items from an equally cult-based release from Blue Orchids, 2005’s Slum-Cavern-Jest!, giving this an 11-track fullness. While one might expect an upbeat, slightly angular pop sound as has been his trademark, you’ll find a very different affair here.  Acoustic based; a much more tradtional/folk feel and subdued – this is a low-voltage performance but highly powerful and seemingly personal.  Case and point, the emotions cast in “Stone Tumbling Stream”, with its flute figures for really coloring in the feel, is a standout track.  “The Fall Of Great Britain” (which, I admit is a very clever play on certain bands’ names…) is neo-Celtic and very Pogues-like.  “Lucybel” …

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ALBUM REVIEW: THE DANBERRYS, “Give & Receive”

Something to sink my teeth into, rich with acoustic guitars, mandolins, violins and shiver-inducing harmonies.  Although The Danberrys, who hail from East Nashville, are a band, the two main drivers are Ben Deberry on guitar and vocals and Dorothy Daniel on vocals.  The two have one of the sweetest blendings of voices and these songs are ripe with melody, emotion and pure, American soul.  This album, their fourth release, is one fine slice of Americana. Starting with “Receive”, the slow, mournful nature of the song actually turns into one of hope and uplift; the use of fiddle and subtle mandolin gives a greater dramatic feel along with the simply gorgeous harmony; “Lady Belle” is an acoustic tour-de-force with Ms. Daniel’s vocals gripping and fluid and “Long Song” is a deep country piece, raging with banjo, fiddle, mandolin and a galloping rhythm that walks straight out of the Bill Monroe school of bluegrass.  “Let Me Go” is stripped down to just two guitars and Dorothy Daniel’s echo-y and mesmerizing vocals; “Get Back Home” is possibly the …

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ALBUM REVIEW: IDENTICAL SUNS, s/t

This long-planned debut album from Identical Suns is one of those happy results of a strong Indiegogo campaign; combining the talents of Rene Rodriguez and Todd Stanton, this California and Ohio based aggregate makes a very pleasing power pop sound that has shades of The Beatles, The Raspberries and all the best elements of how to write hooky/catchy songs. Starting with “Baby I’m Down”, it’s uptempo feel makes you pay attention from the first beats; the economical guitar solo hits the mark and the harmonies and handclaps on the chorus makes it instantly classic, so you know you’re in for a good listen.  “Nothing I Can Do” is awash in acoustic guitars and a highly melodic and prominent bass line and is an early high mark; “Show Me A Sign” opens with a classic Fender Rhodes piano figure and sounds like it would have fit in on the AM radio of my youth in the ’70’s and “Emily” is a surprise in that it just comes in kicking hard, with a grinding guitar and riff, …

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ALBUM REVIEW: CHARLIE FAYE & THE FAYETTES, s/t

The first thing that immediately strikes you when you listen to this first album from Austin-based Charlie Faye & The Fayettes is the vintage AM-radio production; a very warm ’60’s feel that works perfectly in the poppy-soulfulness of the Motown vibe.  Or if, you’re like me,  you can imagine some of these songs being lost Northern Soul classics.   But be assured, these three ladies are of and in the here and now and it’s a joyful sound coming out of my speakers that makes me enjoy this album to no end. Think about this – amongst the players on this album include Pete Thomas (yes, him) on drums, Tony Gilkyson on guitar, Roger Manning on keyboards – and so on.  The three Fayettes:  Charlie Faye on lead vocals, Betty Soo and Akina Adderley on some remarkably silky harmonies have a pretty strong pedigree on their own and this is one of those happy combinations of performers that strike the right balance. Now as for the music itself, which are all original compositions – beginning with …

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ALBUM REVIEW: PARQUET COURTS, “Human Performance”

There is a sudden buzz about Parquet Courts, especially with this new release, their 5th, Human Performance.  I usually stay blissfully unaware when it comes to New York bands (because of my disdain for The Strokes, etc. – those that never represented New York as far as this native is concerned) thanks to the deluge of nauseating hipsterdom and mediocre pseudo “new wave revivalists” or whatever bullshit they call themselves this week.  Nonetheless, the word of mouth from friends who I trust and respect led me to seek this one out and give it a try.  And being that they’ve been at this now for six years, there must be a ripening. Having said that, the first track, “Dust” caught me by surprise – quite pleasantly.  I was struck by the Wire-like manner of the song – a singular riff with taut rhythm and short verses repeated; hypnotic and interesting.  The title track, “Human Performance” has shades of Lou Reed (around Loaded) but vocally, I hear Warren Zevon’s delivery.  Musically, it has again, Wire’s structure …

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ALBUM REVIEW: THOSE PRETTY WRONGS, s/t

You may be tired of me saying “I’m not going to pretend to be objective”, but what’s the point of a review if you’re not being honest?  We’ve already been treated to no less than four songs (one of which, “Fool Of Myself”, the flipside to the debut single, “Lucky Guy” is NOT included on this album, surprisingly), so now we get to enjoy the other seven tracks that make up this debut, self-titled album. And “enjoy” is the key word.  The music Those Pretty Wrongs makes is enjoyable, warm, heart-filling, soulful pop with acoustic flavors and harmonies – and I can ask for nothing better.  I don’t need to give you the background on Those Pretty Wrongs – you know it’s Jody Stephens and Luther Russell and you know their histories.  So let’s focus on the here and now. “Ordinary” – well, there’s no way around it.  It’s going to be familiar, because there is a unquestionably a Chris Bell-like presence.  And it’s beautiful – listen to those harmonies and the guitar arrangement, with …

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ALBUM REVIEW: DAVE NACHMANOFF, “Spinoza’s Dream”

It isn’t often a concept album based around the theme of classic philosophers comes along.  However, that’s the case with this new release from Al Stewart’s guitarist, Dave Nachmanoff, Spinoza’s Dream.  Nachmanoff has a Ph.D in philosophy and here he has melded his two worlds and passions to create this interesting song cycle. “That Guy” is an upbeat opening track; poppy and with groove while “Temptation” has some definite Reinardt-esque guitar textures and “One Black Swan” has a very easy ’70’s soulful feel.  The title cut, “Spinoza’s Dream” is gentle, acoustic-bodied and airy; “No Matter How Close” does, indeed, remind me of Al Stewart’s style but has a crispness all its own and to me, “Bruise On My Soul” is possibly the album’s standout with great arrangement, harmonies and powerful (yet simple) chorus.  “The Painter” is another standout with its hooky melody; “Time Of War” has a clever structure of major to minor chords on the verses and some meaty Hammond and “All Good” closes out the collection in an upbeat, hopeful way (listen for …

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REISSUE REVIEW: J.D. SOUTHER, “Black Rose”

If it wasn’t enough that John David (J.D.) Souther’s debut self-titled album was a stunner, then it shouldn’t come as any kind of surprise that his sophomore effort, Black Rose, was a masterpiece.  Originally released by Asylum Records in 1976 and produced by Peter Asher (of Peter and Gordon fame, etc.), this now-expanded 17-track edition recently re-released by Omnivore Recordings breathes new life into this vibrant collection. Featuring the likes of Linda Ronstadt, Glenn Frey, Don Henley, David Crosby, Joe Walsh and Art Garfunkel amongst others, the original ten tracks shine brightly on their own – a brief but powerful piece like “Simple Man, Simple Dream” or a slow country-soul epic like “If You Have Crying Eyes” which features the heavenly voice of Ms. Ronstadt and a string section.  “Bang My Head Against The Moon” is a neatly upbeat groover; “Baby Come Home” is another of those “great lost Eagles tracks” since Souther was very much the unsung 6th Eagle; “Black Rose” is a perfect example of mid-’70’s mellow and there isn’t anything wrong with …

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ALBUM REVIEW: BLUE ORCHIDS, “The Once And Future Thing”

Once upon a band called The Fall, Martin Bramah was the original guitarist in this most important and seminal Manchester group.  But the overwhelming directing fist of Mark E. Smith dictated otherwise and Bramah left along with original keyboard player, Una Baines, to form The Blue Orchids.  While The Blue Orchids have had their stops and starts over the last 37 or so years, Bramah has seen fit to reform the band with a new line-up, a series of re-issues and a brand new album, The Once And Future Thing.  And for someone who’s been around for as long as Bramah has, he still has a lot of the youthful energy that makes this a fun and interesting listen. Opening with the very mid-’60’s/garage-y “Good Day To Live”, things are off on a very high level; catchy and driving, with the right dash of snarling punk-y vibes for good measure.  “Jam Today” has a late-period Kinks feel and is equally catchy and “Motorway” definitely harkens back to Bramah’s days with The Fall (think “Bingo Master’s …

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ALBUM REVIEW: BOB HILLMAN, “Lost Soul”

Popdose first (re)introduced you to Bob Hillman a few months ago with the video for “Big Sur”.  Now, the first full, new album from Bob Hillman in a decade – and produced by legendary singer/songwriter Peter Case – Lost Soul, is out and available and it’s a scorcher.  No frills, no soft soap, no funny business – this is all meat-and-potatoes, straight from the gut and done with skill. Going right for the kill, the album opens with the pointed “I Think I’ve Taken Enough Shit From You This Year” and it’s one of the best fuck-you songs I’ve heard in a long time.  Sometimes, you have to say what needs to be said with no room for misinterpretation and this song says it all; “Overnight Failure” looks at why a relationship goes south and “Big Sur”, as I’ve said before is sweet, wistful and filled with a perspective and maturity.  The very wryly tongue-in-cheek “I’ll Replace You With Machines” is another great swipe – presumably this time, about former bandmates who push you over …

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ALBUM REVIEW: UP THE CHAIN, “The Prison Break”

What had begun as a vehicle for singer-songwriter Reed Kendall’s solo project has now developed into a full band – a rollicking trio from Philadelphia featuring Noah Skaroff on a mean-walking bass and Kirby Sybert on skins.  Up The Chain have a new album, The Prison Break, and this sounds like what a good old-fashioned rock & roll trio should sound like. Kicking off with “Kelly Green”, which is a neat neo-psychedelic opening montage of drone, feedback, some radio snippets and segueing into “Crumbling The Stone”, for some reason, I felt/heard touches of Buffalo Springfield, especially in the harmonies and some of the riffs (nice use of 7th as well); “Sidecar” is a down-home slice of boogie and as catchy as any of those early rock records you listened to when you were a kid in the ’70’s and “Departed Trains” has a cool Chris Isaak-like feel with its heavy reverb and minor chord structures – it’s also a great “cinematic” track as it has atmosphere and visual lyrics.  “Globe”‘s church organ with echo/delay guitar …

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ALBUM REVIEW: Chris Bolger, “No Promises”

Chris Bolger is another of those amazing musicians whose name you’ve heard but can’t understand why he’s not in the stratosphere of stardom.  Well, no worries – his newest album, No Promises is filled with prime cuts of meaty power pop – of the glorious riff-laden, Rickenbacker twang and rich harmonies – and you will have your appetite filled nicely with this sonic blast of damned fine rock and roll.  To sweeten the pot, amongst the players who grace this fine release include (once again) super-drummer Dennis Diken, bass master Graham Maby and the everywhere guitar hero, James Mastro. Opening with the ridiculously catchy and instantly classic “Easier”, my first thoughts were that it was a great, lost Van Duren track (on the order of the Are You Serious? period); that familiar, delicious sound of a Rickenbacker carries this track along with the singalong harmonies; “Souls Turn Blue” feels like one of those great AM radio-friendly singles from around 1971 (!) and the title track, “No Promises” is a tender and melancholic acoustic piece, driven …

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ALBUM REVIEW: BUTCH YOUNG, “Mercury Man”

Butch Young has been one of those names on the scene for a long time – you know you’ve heard of him – you know you’ve heard his music and yet…  But now, with Mercury Man, you should be able to say with solidity and clarity, “yes, I do know Butch Young – isn’t “One Foot In” amazing?” and the like.  A native son of Wayne, New Jersey who once played in the splendid-pop band In Color (where his bandmate was the always-wonderful Nick Celeste and producer was the other-always-wonderful Richard Barone), Mr. Young relocated to California and has been doing his thing out there since. Mercury Man is one of the most solid, cohesive pieces to come into my consciousness and it’s an instant guide for how to write a bold, brilliant pop song.  Except he delivers twelve of them.  Saying they’re Beatlesque may sound overplayed but just with the two opening stunners, “Mercury Man” and “Persephone”, these are glorious post-’68 pieces of orchestrated brilliance – a little Lennon and a little Harrison.  He …

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ALBUM REVIEW: KAREN HAGLOF, “Perserverance And Grace”

2014′ s Western Holiday was a stunning solo debut from guitarist-turned-oncologist-turned guitarist again, Karen Haglof.  Recorded in Brooklyn’s Cowboy Technical Services Recording Rig – run by guitar legend Eric “Roscoe” Ambel and produced by another legend, Steve Almaas, the songs were just an out-and-out rock & roll marvel.  So it come to be that now, Ms. Haglof’s second album, the deftly-titled Perseverance And Grace is about to be unleashed to the public and I would say has surpassed its predecessor (!).  Part of it may be due to working in different atmospheres – Cowboy Rig, Mitch Easter’s Fidelitorium in Kernersville, North Carolina and Old Colony Mastering in Boston – and add the continuing of working together with the same core players (Ms. Haglof on guitar, Mr. Almaas on bass and guitar and Mr. C.P. Roth on drums and keyboards) to give it that even-more seasoned sound (plus, special guest vocalist Liza Colby does not hurt at all…). Take one listen to the title track and you can easily understand why – it’s a thumper of …

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ALBUM REISSUES: THE FEELIES, “Only Life” and “Time For A Witness”

I’m pretty sure that I won’t be saying anything new or different about The Feelies – I’m sure it’s all been said before since the short summation about this band is that they’re great; they’ve always been great and are not only great, but legendary.  Nevertheless, their back catalog from A&M Records has now been lovingly re-issued by Bar/None; both albums – 1988’s Only Life and 1991’s Time For A Witness also come with download cards for bonus tracks, more recently recorded, and liner notes by Rick Moody and Michael Azzerad, respectively.  So although that’s more than enough to buy both, a few thoughts on the actual music… “It’s Only Life” is about a sweet a melody as you can ask for and a perfect way to open an album; the inevitable Lou Reed-styled vocal delivery can’t be overlooked but it fits the song’s mood and those little guitar fills shimmer; “Too Much” has a quasi-psychedelic and hypnotic feel; “Deep Fascination” is one of those wonderful pieces of dream-pop from the era and “Too Far …