Category Archives: CD

Review: Uriah Heep 2CD Reissues (Look At Yourself/Demons and Wizards/The Magician’s Birthday)

If you were into Hard Rock in the ’70s, then you fell in somewhere with Uriah Heep. Whether that was with the popular track, “Easy Livin'”, or the later issued “Stealin'”, you likely enjoyed listening to them more than once. Uriah Heep is a UK band with their beginnings rooted in 1969, and who eventually owned the stage and airwaves with their progressive-styled music. They first issued Very ‘Eavy…Very ‘Umble back in 1970. Following with Salisbury less than a year later, the band was as creative as could be expected. And creativity was a strong point. Pushed by an ambitious manager, they continued to create at the highest level producing the classics that followed on the heels of the first two. Those were Look At Yourself (1971), Demons and Wizards (1972), and literally six months later The Magician’s Birthday (1972).

With Demons And Wizards, they began to gain greater notice as “Easy Livin'” soared onto Top 40 radio charts worldwide. Of course, the band had already been gaining momentum with previously released singles but those were primarily FM classics (“July Morning” from Look At Yourself, for example). But it was “Easy Livin'” that captured the attention of the widest audience. Uriah Heep would drift back into FM territory with The Magician’s Birthday songs, but return to Top 40 with “Stealin'” from their ‘nine month later’ album, Sweet Freedom (1973). The story goes on further from there.

On March 31, BMG Music reissued Look At Yourself, Demons And Wizards, and The Magician’s Birthday as newly remastered 2CD sets including essential alternate takes of each album that create elaborate and definitive sets for any Uriah Heep collector.

Look At Yourself includes eleven bonus “Alternative” tracks. They include an extended alternate track (“Tears In My Eyes”), a live alternate track (“July Morning”), and a single edit of “Look At Yourself”. The remaining tracks are alternate mixes with two of them outtakes (“Why Fourteen Minutes”, “What’s Within My Heart”). These tracks are previously unreleased.

Demons And Wizards delivers a treasure of fourteen bonus “Alternative tracks. They provide alternate mixes of the entire album as well as four outtake tracks (“Home Again To You”, two versions of “Why”(one a single edit), “Proud Words” (chosen and re-recorded by Hensley for his solo effort, Proud Words On A Dusty Shelf – 1973), and “Green Eye”). These tracks are previously unreleased.

The Magician’s Birthday – my personal favorite – contains fifteen “Alternative” songs. The original album is represented completely by eight alternate mixes, along with outtakes that include “Crystal Ball” (two versions, one titled as “Gary’s Song”)”Silver White Man” (two editions, one instrumental), “Happy Birthday”, a single edit of “Sunrise”, a single edit of “Sweet Lorraine”.

   

The remastered tracks make the music even more a joy to listen to. And with the bonus racks, it’s nice to hear the ideas that were played around with in the studio. I love the fact that the band were meticulous with their music. Within the studio. they largely knew what they wanted to end up with. There are several lineups of Uriah Heep, all quite good within their sphere. But the high point version of Uriah Heep had David Byron at the front, Gary Thain at bass with his partner in crime, Lee Kerslake on drums, Ken Hensley with his keyboard magic, and the unmatched guitars of Mick Box.

All three of these reissues are tri-fold housing for the two CDs and wallet housed 20-page booklets. Each booklet are richly designed with informative essays, interviews with original members, Ken Hensley and Mick Box. The booklets contain photos, memorabilia (with singles covers), lyrics, and full credits! Complemented by the earlier released ‘best of’, Your Turn to Remember, these three albums join the first two to make your collection of Uriah Heep classics as memorable as they may ever be able to attain to outside of these new reissues.

Now, we wait for the work and announcements for Sweet Freedom, Wonderworld (1974), and perhaps even Uriah Heep Live (1973). You can bet I’ll let you know! These reissues are the ones that worked hardest at making my year complete, no matter what else comes out!

 

Review: The Night Siren – Steve Hackett

Most will recognize Steve Hackett as one who helped Genesis create six classic studio sets from Nursery Crymes (1971) through Wind & Wuthering (1976). That short lifetime with Genesis gave Genesis and Hackett a lot of structure. After his departure, Genesis changed their style of music beginning with their post-Hackett venture, … And Then There Were Three… (1978). Steve Hackett went on to produce more than 20 studio sets as well as partner for a successful GTR collaboration with Steve Howe, and a very interesting outing with Chris Squire in a band called Squakett. There were others.

Throughout Steve Hackett’s recorded career, he has produced enduring classic recordings that have been remastered and expanded over time. His place in the world of Rock and Roll is an essential one. With elaborate skill on the guitar, Steve Hackett is a classic delight for prog fans everywhere.

With the release of his latest studio set, The Night Siren, fans like myself can only be excited. The new album brings eleven new tracks, all of which are well expressed songs with plenty of Hackett guitar wizardry on display. The songs are showcase his unusually strong talent of songwriting.  As “In the Skeleton Gallery” will reveal (see video below), Steve Hackett has lost nothing in his interpretation of today’s culture. He creates music that is uniquely him (and well-loved by fans), and still is able to address the problems of today’s word within his lyrical scope.

You will be warmly overjoyed by the eleven new songs. You will amaze at the quality of the music found here. The start of The Night Siren with “Behind The Smoke” amply sets the stage. There is not one disappointment. In fact, the Hackett magic is in place but imbued with a current world sound as well.

The Deluxe Edition of The Night Siren provides the CD, and on a separate Blu-Ray disc, provides access to 5.1 Surround tracks as well as  Hi-res Stereo tracks. The 5.1 Surround is offered on DTS-HD Master Audio, and 48 kHz/24-bit LPCM. The Stereo is 48 kHz/24-bit LPCM. The Blu-ray disc also provides a video, “Somewhere In Darkest Teddington – The Recording of The Night Siren.”

The booklet is a 24-page, full-color collection of lyrics, artistic photo manipulations, and a complete page of album credits.

If you’re a Steve Hackett fan, The Night Siren will not disappoint. It belongs in your collection.

 

Review: Turbo 30 – Judas Priest (3CD Reissue)

Firmly cemented as one of the top-listed go-to bands where Heavy Metal is concerned, Judas Priest effortlessly moved from their mid ’70s recorded years with their debut, Rocka Rolla (1974), on up to the last album to feature Rob Halford before his departure. In between, their dominance of the widening genre was second to none. (This does NOT mean that the band faltered post-Halford, but it’s certainly nice to have him back!)

Their albums with Columbia Records were classics in every way beginning with Sin After Sin (1977). They gained greater success with singles that broadened their audience. And while their UK fan base was massive, generating hits after hits, their fan base in the US slowly grew wider. It was the band’s release of “Turbo Lover” that increased their worldwide success further. That song anchored their tenth studio set, Turbo.

On February 3rd, Columbia Records reissued Turbo in an ongoing re-release campaign. The reissue of Turbo (Turbo 30) is a 3CD super set that joyfully girds up the remastered original classic with 2CDs of a period-centric live set from their Turbo support tour. The complete show from their Kemper Arena (Kansas City) is enjoyed here with over 20 performance tracks. With the newly remastered Turbo original, the entire set becomes a begging entrance to any serious Judas Priest library.

Turbo 30 is housed in an eight-panel sturdy cardboard that reveals the band on cycles as you unfold the package. The three CDs are slipped into wallet-styled holders with a 12-page booklet in a pocket of its own. Judas Priest is shown in all their ’80s metal preeminence in the photos. The lyrics are included as well as a complete list of credits.

Turbo is classic Judas Priest.

For Judas Priest fans, it’s good to know that the band is currently working on their next album. After all, world Heavy Metal dominance isn’t just easily maintained; it has to be reinforced!

 

Review: Acoustic – Simple Minds

One of the better albums of 2016 (or at least one that deserves inclusion with a note that this is not an album of brand new originals) is Acoustic by Simple Minds. Simply, the collection is a newly recorded unplugged set of classic Simple Minds originals. And given the band that Simple Minds are, they have created a timeless and ultimately listenable album with easy replay value. In fact, this is not the first time I’ve listened to Acoustic. It may be around the 50th time!

Acoustic has twelve familiar songs including their breakout hit, “Don’t You (Forget About Me)”. What Acoustic has successfully done is to recreate those beloved songs from many original albums and make them new classics. Few artists can do this trick. For the record, there’s “Waterfront”, “New Gold Dreams”, “Sanctify Yourself”, “Chelsea Girl”, “Alive and Kicking” and others. Culling songs from as early as their first album (Life In A Day, 1979) with “Chelsea Girl”, and as late as their Real Life album from 1991 with “See The Light” (unless you want to count the non-album cover, “Long Black Train” as the latest, or the LP add of “Light Travels” from the band’s 2009 set, Graffiti Soul).

While most tracks are excellent, I’m a little less enamored of “See The Light”, a song version that feels too underpowered. However, I doubt there will be much complaining when you listen to the rest of the album. Songs like “Don’t You (Forget About Me)”, “Waterfront”, “Someone, Somewhere in Summertime”, and the highly marketable “Promised You A Miracle” with KT Tunstall.

Acoustic is an album that can easily occupy your time like it has mine. And with so many classic SM songs unrepresented, I’m hoping for a second volume of Acoustic. One that will include “Book Of Brilliant Things”, “All The Things She Said”, “Belfast Child”, “She’s A River”, “Life In A Day”, “Let There Be Love”,  “Today I Died Again”, “Up On The Catwalk”, and a few others.  But…if you’re a vinyl fan, Simple Minds has thrown three bonus tracks onto the LP that do not appear on the CD edition of Acoustic.

Since the album’s release, it has done well on the European music charts. That’s a magnificent feat given the difficulties of anything hitting the charts. But it also speaks of the excellence that Acoustic is filled with.

Acoustic – Simple Minds (2016)

01 – The American (Sons and Fascination, 1981)
02 – Promised You A Miracle w/KT Tunstall (New Gold Dreams (81.82.83.84), 1982)
03 – Glittering Prize (New Gold Dreams (81.82.83.84), 1982)
04 – See The Lights (Real Life, 1991)
05 – New Gold Dreams (81.82.83.84) (New Gold Dreams (81.82.83.84), 1982)
06 – Someone, Somewhere In Summertime (New Gold Dreams (81.82.83.84), 1982)
07 – Waterfront (Sparkle In The Rain, 1984)
08 – Sanctify Yourself (Once Upon A Time, 1985)
09 – Chelsea Girl (Life In A Day, 1979)
10 – Alive And Kicking (Once Upon A Time, 1985)
11 – Don’t You (Forget About Me) (1985)
12 – Long Black Train (2016).

LP adds:

13 – Stand By Love (Real Life, 1991)
14 – Speed Your Love To Me (Sparkle In The Rain, 1984)
15 – Light Travels (Graffiti Soul, 2009)

 

Review: Blue & Lonesome – The Rolling Stones

stones-blue-lonesomeHonestly, just how often is it that a band of so many albums, so many songs, and so many years in the business of manufacturing Rock and Roll make one of the great Rock albums of the year of 2016? Not often I can tell you. But that’s just exactly what the Rolling Stones did with the release of their latest album, Blue & Lonesome. Personally, I had my doubts. I wasn’t overjoyed with their last album, A Bigger Bang. I’m not exactly thrilled with the prospect of seeing them live at this age. Call it a mortal fear of my own aging, I’m just glad I saw them at their peak during two separate periods, both before 1980. I refused to see them afterwards. For their albums, I’ve increasingly settled that I wouldn’t get a satisfactory album any more. But God bless ’em for trying. And if they tried, I’m gonna listen. After all, I STILL consider them the greatest Rock band of all time.

It only took one listen through of Blue & Lonesome to be awed. Recorded pretty much as a warm-up to an album of originals, the music felt much too energetic to them to ignore. And from the opening track of “Just Your Fool”, you’re sitting there with a stunned expression on your face. The Stones? You guys did this?

I find myself continually listening to this instant classic over and over. I LOVE “All Of Your Love”, a cover track of the Magic Sam gem. With the entire album a potent Stones-styled love letter to the Blues, there isn’t a single bad moment in the album. Mick Jagger is at top form. Keith and Ron are fiery guitarists, and Charlie’s drumming is at its best. Blues is the nuclear fuel that has almost always powered the reactor of The Stones. And with this new album, there’s no doubt (if you had any) that Blues is the bedrock of Rock and Roll. Not Punk. Not Pop. Not vocal-oriented music. The Blues. And it is never more excellent than hearing a bunch of old-school Rock stars understand it so deeply that their new offering is a time machine to the glory years of Rock.

If you’re a Stones fan, how can you not enjoy Blue & Lonesome? If the Grammys ignore this one, then they have proven themselves to be out of touch.

Buy with confidence! Blue & Lonesome is fiery!

 

 

Notes on The 2CD Uriah Heep Collection, Your Turn To Remember: The Definitive Anthology 1970-1990

uriahheep_yourturntorememberUriah Heep was one of the bands that helped to begin and further the progressive fantasy element of Rock music way back in 1969. Their debut album, Very ‘eavy, Very ‘umble (1970) started the ball rolling. By the time they arrived at their third album, what they strove to become was in full bloom. One of the songs from Look At Yourself (1971) was “July Morning”, a favorite on FM radio, and the “Look At Yourself” title track. Just a year later, they released Demons And Wizards (1972), an album that landed them a solid US hit with “Easy Livin'”. The UK, ahead of US interest also gave life to “The Wizard” from the same album. The rest of the story is history as the band gained more of a fan-base as they released albums and singles. By the time they reached their debut US Warner release, Sweet Freedom (1973), they were doing what they wanted. The excellent hit song off that album was “Stealin'”.

Over time, the core band began to disintegrate beginning with Gary Thain. He was soon joined by David Byron, the band’s brilliant vocalist. Both ended up dying as a result of their addictions. The band, from a point after the release of David Byron, changed line-ups frequently losing and regaining core members. Mick Box is the only remaining founding member, and the one that insured that Uriah Heep never went away. Amazingly, despite the challenges that presented themselves, Uriah Heep remained artistically viable. Although the band had different members, Box chose them wisely as every Uriah Heep fan will say, the output of the band was, more or less, excellent additions to a growing library. David Byron was an impossible vocalist to replace so they didn’t try; they just filled in the blanks as they went along in admirable fashion.

BMG is currently undertaking a restoration project of Uriah Heep classic releases (which I’ll gladly follow through every release and report on). The label began with a superb 2CD anthology that explored Uriah Heep from its ‘umble’ beginnings to 1990, a core afterlife, if you will. The set is called Your Turn To Remember: The Definitive Anthology 1970-1990. (Your Turn to Remember is taken from the band’s song of the same name found on their Return To Fantasy (1975) album, which has two songs represented on the first CD.) Within its paneled casing, the two CDs explore Uriah Heep well, with CD one concentrated on the David Byron years, and CD two working with subsequent vocalists (High And Mighty – 1976 utilized David Byron and is the only represented album on CD 2 to do so. But although CD 2 contains a number of songs with various voices, they never suffered because the music was so strong.

The set contains 33 songs representative of Very ‘Eavy, Very ‘Umble in 1970 and Raging Silence from 1989, and the fifteen studio albums recorded between those two. As with any set, selections may not fit every one’s idea of a perfect anthology, but this one certainly whetted my appetite for the whole albums. Listening to this anthology, which I’ve done to excess already, has brought up memories that needed revisiting by hearing whole albums. And with the upcoming remasters, it’s going to be a great 2017 for classic Uriah Heep remasters and bonus tracks.

The included 20-page booklet crams in a wealth of album covers, posters, and an eye-opening new interview with Mick Box, and Ken Hensley. The booklet concludes with a two-page track-list of songs found on the 2CDs, complete with credits.

This anthology is a must have set for Uriah Heep fans. It makes traveling on long, lonely highways feel like you’re traveling with long time friends.

uriah-heep-your-turn-to-remember-back-cover

 

 

Review: Something To Ruin – Ages And Ages

Ages To Ages Something To RuinMusic is a long, long running addiction for me. I listen to way more of it than I should, which seriously reduces my time to fully appreciate the classics and any new artists that I find to be of worth. But the other side of it is that I can find new bands and artists that are worth more than a single listen. One of the new bands that I’ve run across is Ages and Ages.

Ages And Ages is a band from Portland, OR. that employ a delightful harmonic sound to all of their songs. The songs are Pop/Rock-oriented by design. At times, they have a cool retro ’60s quality that warms the synapses as you listen. If you are somewhat familiar with early Coldplay, then you have a sense of what Ages and Ages can sound like at times.

On their newest album, Something To Ruin, which was released on August 19, there is a strong experimentation within its grooves. Electronic layers, with touches of musical quirkiness, all blended in with a church-like chorus of voices makes for an interesting listen. As mentioned before, with their occasional ’60s-styled harmonies (“Something To Ruin”, “All Of My Enemies”), their new album is a treat waiting to be fully enjoyed. And with songs like “They Want More”, the catchy Modest Mouse-like pop tune that begins the album, it’s easy to be lured in.

Something To Ruin uses the theme of a wasting world returning to nature, and rampant, trespassing greed. It’s available on CD, DD, and vinyl LP via Partisan Records.

 

Review: Strangers – Marissa Nadler (too good to ignore)

Marissa Nadler StrangersMarissa Nadler is not one for the usual stream of Pop. Rather, she uses a strong sense of melancholy to permeate all of her songs. That usually isn’t the way that the general mainstream-driven audience travels, although they respond well to it. And that makes the extraordinary Bella Union/Sacred Bones artist a special one for that.

With a haunting voice, and her penchant for the lush, magically-fused instrumentation that easily reverberates her sense of sadness and loneliness, Marissa Nadler can absolutely be considered a modern master of her craft. With her newest album, Strangers, released in May (2016), Marissa perfects her style, making her newest songs even more a ripping fabric of the soul than her previous efforts. And that’s a talent becoming better because I could not (ever) imagine anything more heart-rending than her beautiful and gorgeous “Drive” from her July album (2014). With a display of eerie pedal steel, and her dream-soundtrack lyrics, “Drive” is a song that will never leave your soul. Never. Then there’s the stunning softness of “Dead City Emily” with its train whistle instrumentation, also from July.

Tripping back to The Sister (2012), where the music is much more spare, the ghost of Nadler’s sadness is clearly evident. That ghost was reshaped in July, and has become even more memorable in Strangers. The lead-off single for Strangers was “All The Colors Of The Dark”, a track that transitions her from July to Strangers quite well.

Marissa Nadler BW

Strangers has eleven tracks (12 in the bonus edition). All of them are engaging, which makes a trip through the full album a desirable one. The inherently sad Country feel, along with an evident Cocteau Twins hint, creates a new drug to enjoy in those full sittings. Yes, I have favorite tracks. Who doesn’t of any album. But Strangers is captivating in its entirety, every song. The same can be said of July. I recommend both!

I don’t know where Marissa Nadler got her exquisite talent for introspection but it’s a gripping one. It may never let you go.

She is my Laura Nyro in this time!

“…nothing like the way it feels, nothing like the way it feels to drive. Still remember all the words, to every song you ever heard, drive…”
–“Drive”

 

Review: That Thing Reality – Beau

Beau That Thing RealityAs with all music, we look for the one that separates from the others. These days, with over 50 years of Rock and Roll originality behind us, that’s a difficult task to achieve. And while there is really ‘nothing new under the sun’, there are still enticing elements of some new bands and artists that cause us to pause, to drink in the music a little deeper than we allow for the others.  Beau is one of those bands.

Beau is a duo that features two school friends in Heather Golden and Emma Rose. Heather is the duo’s voice and an enchanting one at that. She is not only one of the more interesting voices in the world, she has a dark, enchanting beauty to go with it. The guitar accompaniment of Emma Rose, who also has an enchanting beauty, works quite well with Heather’s voice to make the music of Beau one of the better bands to come from NYC.

Their extraordinary debut album, That Thing Reality, was recently released (March 11). The album contains twelve tracks that range from engaging blues tunes, to lively rock tracks, and to evocative folk songs. “Leave Me Be”, a bluesy gem of a song showcases the girls with all the stops pulled out. Heather’s lovely voice provides the song’s ‘come hither’ attraction while Emma’s guitar arrangement is more complex here (than their other songs) adding to the charm of it.

The radio-ready instant choice from the album is “One Wing”. It gives Heather’s voice a challenge (something that is a highlight of this entire album with Heather pulling it off wonderfully). I find the three-note play that Emma Rose uses on her guitar in several places in the song a truly haunting play. Its use in the close of the song leaves you wanting to return to it…just to hear those notes replayed. “One Wing” is a masterful song, great in its sincerity and excellence.

The other tracks I leave for you to discover for your own. But I can easily say that the straight blues/rock of “C’mon Please” will not disappoint. Nor will “Animal Kingdom”, the folk-styled “Roam”,  or even “Sweet Lips”, which is a go-to Rock track that doesn’t fail. “Lullaby” is a gorgeous close to the standard edition of the album (the deluxe edition contains three additional tracks).

This debut is a welcome start to a band that I have every faith in to make their next one a soaring masterpiece. But for now, That Thing Reality is highly recommended by me.

 

Review: The Things That We Are Made Of – Mary Chapin Carpenter

Mary Chapin Carpenter The Things That We Are Made OfWhat separates a Mary Chapin Carpenter album from others of her style (folk/country) is the simple ability to haunt us with her words and musical arrangements. Certainly she has had some serious practice having been releasing albums since 1987. But it is without question that she just gets better and better as she releases each album. Her previous works with Rounder Records are some of the best of her career.

The Things That We Are Made Of is a strong collection of songs. Weaving through all eleven tracks, there is the usual natural tenderness that Mary Chapin Carpenter employs when musically presenting her songs to you. With an embracing display of supporting music that complements her acoustic guitar work, the shivering coolness that you experience is not that of the air; it’s the quality of an ethereal beauty that frames each song.

The opening track, “Something Tamed Something Wild” tells a story of remembrance of times in your life that were special to us, recognizable as we review them. We are defined to ourselves by the intense moments of our lives, and Mary Chapin Carpenter showcases a brilliant understanding of those memories with this song.

She closes a fantastic album with a ‘close to the heart’ title track, reminding us that we are more than what we seem. The music that frames this song is expansively haunting and echoing. In between the opening song and the closer, we are held close. This is not an easy feat with artists but Mary Chapin Carpenter seems to know the formula.

Using songs that remind us of our oft-visited past, Mary Chapin Carpenter gift to listeners is her ability to sit with us, to help us sift through our past with her entrancing voice, her ‘put us at ease’ guitar work. Along with the production’s use of other essential instruments that are relegated to the background to give Mary Chapin Carpenter the room that she needs to spin her magical spells, all eleven of them, she has engineered a must have album.

As far as I’m concerned, Mary Chapin Carpenter is as beautiful an artist as those others that we hold dear to us. The Things That We Are Made Of is another classic.

Even the cover is haunting.