Pink Floyd: The Endless River (Columbia) It says something for the cultural impact Pink Floyd has had that on the very first day of the release of this set—a “new” album, offered up in various formats including Deluxe CD, Blu-Ray and, of course, vinyl—Amazon already has rolled up 104 customer reviews and counting. Most of them are positive—four stars on the average—and most show that love for the band has not dwindled one iota since they released The Dark Side Of The Moon in 1973. Much has changed since then, of course, not least the absence of band co-founder Roger Waters since the mid-‘80s, the pair of Waters-less album that followed, and the unfortunate passing of keyboardist Rick Wright in 2008. This new album, officially declared the band’s last-ever, is an atmospheric, predominantly instrumental collection originating from the 1993 Division Bell recordings—thus featuring band members David Gilmour, Nick Mason and Wright—but significantly dressed up, modernized, and alternatelyRead More »from Pink Floyd's Final Fling: The Last Album
Bob Dylan And The Band: The Basement Tapes Complete: The Bootleg Series Vol. 11 (Columbia / Legacy) It’s that time of the year when the holidays approach and treasured recordings make their deluxe and ideally box-setted appearance—and as far as record companies are concerned, the more iconic the artists involved, the better. Bob Dylan is about as iconic as it gets, and “complete” sets of little-heard, oft-mythologized recording are even iconic-er, so to speak. Luckily either the time is right or not quite all the barrels have been scraped, because the goods to be had on this 6-CD, 138 track collection of 1968 recoding sessions will make the jaws of some music fans drop to the floor. Sonically restored—relatively speaking—chronologically laid out from start to finish, and treading that fine line between collector-based anal-retention and happy-time listening, this is a really good “reissue” that errs on the side of completeness and respect for both the artist and paying consumer. It’s aRead More »from Bob Dylan's Basement Tapes Revealed
Neil Diamond: Melody Road (Capitol) For someone who has left such an imprint in popular music, Neil Diamond might be expected to be in his gracefully petering out phase: A few scattered recordings, released less and less frequently, issued more to prove that it all can still be done, that he’s still got it, before the inevitable, terminal fade. But. Here’s his first album of new studio material in six years, produced by Don Was and Jackknife Lee and featuring a hefty number of musicians old, young, and similarly skilled, and—well—a bunch of brand new Neil Diamond songs. They are well played, they are catchy—most of his best songs have been incredibly catchy—they don’t drone off into dullsville, and Diamond’s voice is remarkable. Not to name names, but there are a certain number of iconic vocalists in pop who, as they’ve aged, have lost a significant portion of their vocal range—but we understand, and we rarely complain. This guy has still got it. This is a strong album, with a variedRead More »from Neil Diamond Shines On
Bob Seger: Ride Out (Deluxe Edition) (Capitol) Bob Seger is remarkably still in the game, well after most people first heard his “Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man” single in 1968, and his hometown Detroit area heard his local classics even earlier. To his credit, all those years have done nothing to destroy his reputation as one of rock ’n’ roll’s very best good guys—nobody doesn’t like him—or diminish his artistic achievements. And despite his intermittent recording, Ride Out—only his second new album in nearly 20 years—does Seger’s legacy proud. From its opening track and first single “Detroit Made,” penned by John Hiatt and perfectly Segeresque, to closer “Let The Rivers Run” (track 13 on the Deluxe Edition, which considering how rarely he records, is the recommended listen), Ride Out boasts all that is good about Bob Seger: Thoughtful lyrics—about climate change and guns, no less, which is no small thing considering the breadth of his fanbase; a mix of music with a smattering of country andRead More »from Seger's Latest: Detroit Made, Very Well Played!
Jackson Browne: Standing In The Breach (Inside) There are a lot of good things to be said about this new Jackson Browne record—his first in half a decade or so, and one emphasizing all those things that have made him, at his best, a very special songwriter. Setting the tone in an almost cheating manner is opening track “The Birds Of St. Marks,” which Browne originally penned back in 1967, when his chord changes were wild and more unpredictable, his lyrics wide open, and his songs about politics that were personal above all else. He’s in excellent voice here, and when tracks like “The Long Way Around” instantly evoke his classic “These Days”—it’s that opening guitar bit, of course—it only reaffirms that he has been, since the start, like few other songwriters in his prime. Unlike most of his peers, he has not been over-recorded or reduced to cliché, and in 2014, he’s still got it. Excellent stuff.
Flying Lotus: You’re Dead! (Warp) Over the years there have been a few scattered albumsRead More »from Jackson Browne Goes Back To The Breach
Prince: Art Official Age Prince & 3RDEYEGIRL: PLECTRUMELECTRUM (both Warner Bros.) From the exciting graphics of these album covers, which between them seem to signal a possible return to his Around The World In A Day gaudy psychedelia persona, to the sudden wealth of new music here on his former record label, it would appear that Prince Rogers Nelson is back and, er, shorter than ever. And there’s a certain comfort to be had in the deliberately varied grooves stalking Art Official Age that warmly recall some of his very best moments, true. But that familiarity is just one step away from the same-old/same-old, and in 2014, no matter how it’s all dressed up, Prince records now seem to have that peculiar air of those too-numerous, George Clinton-related LPs that haunted record stores in the late-‘70s and early ‘80s—not sonically, but as pieces of indistinguishable, market-saturating product. Though Prince’s groove is inimitable, his chops and his taste remarkable, and his perspectiveRead More »from All Eyes On Prince!
Leonard Cohen: Popular Problems (Columbia) Given the enormity of his work and the duration and consistency of his output—he’s been making stunning albums since his first, back in 1967, and that’s only part of what he does---it’s difficult not to over-praise Leonard Cohen. And here he is, offering up a spotlessly produced studio album—only his 13th, mind you—just days after his 80th birthday. And like literally all of his others, it is expertly produced (this time by Patrick Leonard), crafted without a wasted note or excessive lyric, and about as wry and knowing in its vocal delivery as any artist out there could ever be. Popular Problems oozes with the Cohen persona, so how could that be less than great? Still, there is the issue of Cohen’s voice; it was never a remarkable instrument (as he acknowledged in his own “Tower Of Song” over a quarter century ago), but its range has diminished over the years and now seems to dwell in territories perilously close to spoken-word. Cohen is ofRead More »from Leonard Cohen's Elegant Return
Train: Bulletproof Picasso (Columbia) It is no small wonder that Amazon gives this album and V, the latest by Maroon 5, its “Frequently Bought Together” designation: Both are polished, almost scarily perfect examples of commercial pop music—tightly honed melodies, perfectly arranged harmonies, and not a wasted note anywhere. Yet while the Maroon 5 album has an unmistakable sense of near-focus group calculation behind each song’s catchy twist and turn, Train—good ol’ Train, who’ve been around for 20 years or so—simply seem to have blundered into something good. As in: You could not ask for a more innocently commercial album if you tried. With its opening trio of songs—“Cadillac, Cadillac,” radio hit “Angel In Blue Jeans,” and the title track—the San Franciscan band roars unerringly through an upbeat, innocent sense of good times, pop formulas be damned, and the result is joyous, carefree fun that sounds better with each listening. Kudos to producer Butch Walker and the band itself—who,Read More »from Fully Trained!
Robert Plant: lullabye…And The Ceaseless Road (Nonesuch) It has always been known that Robert Plant, aside from being blessed with one of the most remarkable voices in rock ‘n’ roll, has had freakishly good taste in music. Though the blues and its related forms have been in evidence since Led Zeppelin made their colorful debut, there’s be odd snatches of dialog in older interviews in which names like Arthur Lee, Skip Spence and Tim Buckley would surface; back then, not many people dropped those names. So it’s no major surprise that while the early Zeppelin albums are getting current exposure a set of terrific reissues, the man himself continues to focus on what’s now, what’s new, and what’s not necessarily known. And good for him. Because this record sounds like a man with extraordinary good taste—and ability—has made it. His voice has never sounded warmer or more appealing in its lower registers—where one tends to sing when one is one’s mid-60s—and the deliberately eclectic,Read More »from The Secret Life Of Plant!
Maroon 5: V (Interscope) Well, the word on this album is that it may as well be an Adam Levine solo album; it is a complete sell-out; it is further proof that paid-popmeisters here like Dr. Luke and Max Martin have an ear for the hook that however catchy is increasingly formulaic; and that fame in the music biz has never been more meaningless than it is at this very moment. Plus, tattoos are cool! It’s hard to feel betrayed by this catchy piece of pop fluff, which with its processed vocals at times evokes the Police, Bruno Mars, and about everyone else popular for the last decade you might imagine; even Gwen Stefani pops up for no discernible reason, and it sounds better than her not popping up, so why argue? As critical consumers at Amazon.com have it, “”What N’Sync would have sounded like if they were still together,” “What was once a very talented group now sounds just like Justin Bieber,” and the heart-wrenching “What a disappointment.” I think all of these naysayers might wellRead More »from Madam, I'm Adam!