425 – Tom Rush – First New Album in Five Years – Gardens Old, Flowers New

Tom Rush pretty much pioneered the folk movement of the early Sixties, issuing his debut album in 1962.  He’s also credited with putting compositions by Joni Mitchell, Jackson Browne and James Taylor on album for the first time, with his LP The Circle Game in 1968. 

We talked with Tom back in 2018 when he issued his album Voices.  Well, he’s back with his first new record in five years out called Gardens Old, Flowers New.  

He talks about how he unearthed one of the songs on the new album from a live recording from 50 years ago. Also, how he wrote a song for his daughter when she was young (now she’s grown up), and how he never intended that one to be on an album. He also talks about Rockport Sundays, a program he started during Covid, where he invites many of his musical friends to play and tell stories.

The Stylistics – Love is Back in Style (review)

The Stylistics – Love is Back in Style (Omnivore Recordings)

Philly soul stalwarts updated for the Nineties

The Stylistics had a string of hits in the early Seventies that were unparalleled in their sultriness.  Led by the unmistakable soaring vocals of Russell Thompkins Jr, and flanked by Airrion Love and Herb Murrell, each single was enveloped in lush arrangements courtesy of producer Thom Bell.  “Betcha By Golly Wow,” “You Make Me Feel Brand New,” “You Are Everything,” and “Break Up to Make Up” are just a few of their numerous offerings.  

Love is Back in Style reunites the trio of vocalists for the final time, for an album issued originally in 1996.  Led by producer Preston Glass, the idea was to update the group’s sound for the then-current times, while also retaining what made them legends in the first place.

First off, Thompkins is absolutely fabulous here.  Over two decades had passed since their heyday, yet his voice is angelic as ever.  The album opens with “I Once Had a Love,” which successfully recreates that signature sound, right down to the electric sitar, strings and uncanny chord structure, all done over a slow jam tempo.  This could’ve easily been a hit if it had been issued during their peak years.

Even more of a treat is hearing their sound updated.  “She’s All That” has a juiced-up digital groove, and gasp! a rap in the middle.  Thompkins voice absolutely soars on another ballad, “Shoulder,” where he shares vocals with Love, while “Keeping You To Your Promise” is spine-tingling good.  “Have You Ever Been in Love” sounds like another lost track from the Seventies.  

While I like the upbeat tracks, they do all have a sameness to them, especially the beat, which kind of makes them blend together.  But, let’s be honest here: the Stylistics were never known for their peppy material. Their wheelhouse is sweet, sexy ballads, and there are plenty of them here.

Another standout is “Love Can Heal a Wounded Heart,” which actually features all three vocalists, Thompkins, Love and Murrell.  “You Must Love Loneliness” is a happy medium; it’s got a beat, but still retains the fire of the ballads.

As a bonus, there’s a remix of “She’s All That” which features rapper Biggy Smallz.

Love Is Back in Style originally came out on the small Marathon Records and quickly disappeared.  Kudos to Omnivore for unearthing this lost treasure.  Fans of Philly soul take notice.  This album is surprisingly solid.  —Tony Peters

424 – Van Duren – Archival Release of Underrated Band, Good Question, Entitled Cartwheeling: Live in Memphis

Memphis musician Van Duren was the subject of a recent documentary called Waiting: the Van Duren Story, available to rent at most streaming services.  Omnivore Recordings released an excellent summation of Duren’s career in the form of the documentary soundtrack, then issued his first two solo albums in 2020. 

Next up is Cartwheeling: Live in Memphis, showcasing Duren and his underrated band, Good Question, recorded in an intimate setting amongst friends and family back in 1992. Duren talks about events leading to the concert and why the tapes lay dormant for over 30 years. He also reveals why they chose to cover “Got To Get You Into My Life.”

Duren also tells a great story about having Ringo Starr show up at one of his gigs.

The Korgis – Orchestrations (review)

The Korgis – with the Rialto Symphony Orchestra – Orchestrations (Omnivore Recordings)

Strings replace synths, with satisfying results

The Korgis had a worldwide smash in 1980 with the ethereal, synth pop track, “Everybody’s Got to Learn Sometime.”  That song has continued to be covered from artists like Beck, and Zucchero & Vanessa Carlton.  Orchestrations features, you guessed it, new renditions of 10 Korgis’ songs, set to symphonic arrangements.  

Admittedly, I only knew that one track from the Korgis – yet, after diving in, the rest of the band’s catalog is very solid as well, and deserving of a deeper look.

“Everybody’s Got to Learn Sometime” sounds sweeping and grand in this setting – absolutely gorgeous.  There’s even an additional, “lost” second verse.  If you only know the Korgis for their one big hit, you’re in for a treat.  “All the Love in the World” is a tender ballad, while their first UK hit, “If I Had You,” has great harmonies to augment the orchestration.

“Something About the Beatles” deals the death of John Lennon and the indelible mark his band left on us all.  “The Best Thing You Can Do Is Love Someone,” a more recent composition, is a simple prayer for peace during these divisive times.  “Bringing Back the Spirit of Love” is a more upbeat track with a similar message.

If there’s one word to describe this, I’d go with cinematic.  

A note about the vocals – from what I can discern from the liner notes, these are new recordings (sometimes, as in the recent Elvis with the symphony disc, an old vocal was pasted over new orchestrations).  In this case, these are new renditions.  I have to say, if that is true, James Warren sounds absolutely fantastic on vocals.  His soaring voice has lost nothing over the years.

If you’re a fan of Eighties’ synth pop, there’s a lot here to love about Orchestrations.   —Tony Peters

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The Babys – Live at the Bottom Line, 1979 (review)

The Babys – Live at the Bottom Line, 1979 (Omnivore Recordings)

Proof that they could rock!

The Babys are largely remembered as the band that helped start John Waite’s long musical career.  But, as a brand new, archival live album reveals,  The Babys should be taken more seriously on their own.

Live at the Bottom Line, 1979, finds the British/American band on a rare headlining gig during a US tour mostly supporting other acts, like Alice Cooper and Styx.  The group had just issued their third (and finest) album, Head First, and not surprisingly, it’s the main focus of this set.

The show kicks off with the appropriate, pounding title track from that new LP.  Waite sounds great, maybe a little raspy from the extended road trip?  The band featured both lead guitar and keyboards, and it’s an interesting dynamic, especially on songs like “Give Me All Your Love” and “Run to Mexico,” which are augmented by a clavinet.  A real highlight is the very melodic “California,” which should’ve been a single.

The band’s latest single was the ballad, “Everytime I Think of You,” and it’s interesting to hear Waite’s breathy vocal here.  Plus, not sure who the girl who provides the additional vocal on the chorus is, but it’s fantastic.  This version really rocks.

The brooding “Stick to Your Guns” features someone else singing, and is a totally unreleased Babys’ track – it never appeared anywhere in studio form, that I can find.  Another treat is “Crystal Ball” which would be retitled “Anytime” for their next record.  After an interesting keyboard flourish from new member, Jonathan Cain (who later joined Journey), they launch into their other big ballad, “Isn’t It Time” – here, a little rough and ragged, which gives it more heat. There’s also a nice, extended guitar solo at the end too.

As the concert nears the end, they dig all the way back to their debut for the excellent “Lookin’ For Love.”  And, it wouldn’t be the 70’s without an extended drum solo!  The set ends with a rousing cover of “Money,” which gives Waite a chance to introduce everyone in the band, before the guys encore with another unreleased track, “Loaded.”

Often lumped in with other glam bands, Live at the Bottom Line, 1979, proved that the Babys could definitely rock.  —Tony Peters

Whitesnake – The Purple Album (Special Gold Vinyl Edition) (Review)

Whitesnake: The Purple Album (Special Gold Edition) (Rhino Records)

By Ann Stevens 

It’s not unusual for mothers to have keepsakes of their kid’s childhood. A drawing, a baby tooth or maybe a lock of hair. But if your David Coverdale’s mum or “mam” as he calls her, you keep handwritten lyrics. Some people may not know that Coverdale’s first rock band was Deep Purple and he found some of those original DP lyrics in a trunk of his mom’s personal belongings that was in storage. What a find!

Released in Rocktober 2023, the special 2-LP gold color vinyl reissue of the 2015 Purple Album is “thing of beauty” and “beyond sexy,” according to Coverdale, who marks his 50th anniversary of joining Deep Purple. There are several forms to listen to the Purple Album reissue: digital, Blue Ray and the LP. Each contains revisited, remixed and remastered songs, expanded for each edition with some previously unreleased material.

Inside the double jacket of the album, Coverdale tells the tale of how Jon Lord wanted to have a Deep Purple reunion and how Coverdale wished to make amends with Ritchie Blackmore with a collaborative effort that never was able to come to fruition.

Not deterred, Coverdale went forth with his homage to the band that launched his rock career with current Whitesnake band members Tommy Aldridge, Reb Beach, Joel Hoekstra, and Micheal Devin. All the “snakes” according to Coverdale were enthusiastically onboard with this celebration disc, bringing their own “identity to the music.” Add the Hook City Strings, a string quartet from the Reno Philharmonic, and the Hook City Hooligans on chorus vocals, along with special guest keyboards from Derek Sherinian (Hammond organ) and Derek Hilland and you’ve got an amazing compilation of iconic kick ass songs such as “Burn,” “Stormbringer,” “You Fool No One,” and “Lay Down, Stay Down.” The original demo that Coverdale recorded when he auditioned for Deep Purple is also included on this studio album. 

All in all, Deep Purple and Whitesnake fans will relish unboxing the re-recorded music that has withstood the “sands of time” and gave us some of of the best rock musicians including the “Deeps” rhythm section of Ian Paice and Glenn Hughes.

423 – Susan Cowsill – A Christmas Offering From the Cowsills

The Cowsills are the original family band – formed in 1965, they hit pay dirt with their smash, “The Rain, the Park and Other Things” in 1967. Other hits followed, including “Indian Lake,” “We Can Fly” and “Hair.” They even were the basis for the hit TV show The Partridge Family. 

After some time apart, the group reformed in the early 90’s and has been playing and recording ever since. They’ve been a fixture on the Happy Together tour for almost a decade, and they just released a brand new album called Rhythm of the World last year. 

Now, comes A Christmas Offering from the Cowsills. Two of the songs date back to 1992, “Christmastime (Song For Marissa)” and “Some Good Years.” These two songs are joined with a brand-new, acapella version of “Winter Wonderland” – and the EP is now available digitally from Omnivore Recordings. 

We chat with Susan Cowsill about how Christmas is the favorite holiday of the Cowsill family, the origins of these “lost” holiday tunes, and the prospects of new Cowsill material in 2024.

422 – Sue Foley – New Album, Live in Austin, Volume One

In her early twenties, Canadian born Sue Foley, trekked down to Austin, Texas and quickly immersed herself in the fertile blues scene there.  Since then, she’s released 15 albums, garnered tons of awards, including Traditional Blues Female Artist from the Blues Foundation – an award she’s taken home three years now. 

Her latest record is a homecoming of sorts – Live in Austin Volume One takes her back to her roots, recorded at the legendary Continental Club, now out on Guitar Woman Records.

We talk about how she went high quality for the recording of this live album, digging back into her roots for some of the songs, and the prospects of a Volume Two coming soon.

421 – Paul Reed Smith – Eightlock – New Album, Lions Roaring in Quicksand

Paul Reed Smith is a name synonymous with guitarists worldwide.  His PRS line began in the mid Eighties, and ever since then, has produced 1,000’s of high-quality instruments.  If you’ve ever played one, you just know. 

Well, what you might not know is that Smith is also a musician in his own right, who’s played with the likes of Santana and the Doobie Brothers. Smith has assembled a group of highly-respected musicians into Eightlock.  Featuring three drummers, three guitarists, a bassist, and powerhouse vocalist, Mia Simone Davis, they’re issuing their debut album called Lions Roaring in Quicksand, on Steele Records.  

We talk to Paul about how he assembled this unique lineup of high-caliber musicians, the challenges in recording and playing live with three drummers, and why they chose to cover “War” by Edwin Starr.

He also talks about what got him into playing guitar as a young teen.

420 – Danny O’Keefe – New Retrospective, Circular Turns

Danny O’Keefe’s best known song is “Good Time Charlie’s Got the Blues,” which cracked the Top Ten in 1972. Jackson Browne put O’Keefe’s song, “The Road,” on his hugely-successful Running on Empty album. O’Keefe’s compositions have been covered by a wide range of artists, from Elvis Presley to Miranda Lambert, from Andy Williams to Ben Harper. 

His new album, Circular Turns, now out on Sunset Boulevard Records, covers the period from 1999-2017, which saw O’Keefe collaborate with the likes of Bob Dylan, Michael McDonald, Bill Braun, and Fred Knoblach. He also reimagines some of his best songs of the past, like “Angel Spread Your Wings” and “Magdelena” – and the improvements are noticeable.

In addition, there’s a second disc featuring an intimate live performance recorded in 2016. 

O’Keefe talks about what led to this new compilation, and the stories behind some of the songs, including a “collaboration” with Bob Dylan. He also touches on growing up in Washington state and learning from producer Arif Mardin.

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