Led Zeppelin – How the West Was Won – (Swan Song / Atlantic)
The one, and only, live album every fan should own
Led Zeppelin wasn’t always great in concert.
I know, that sounds like blasphemy, right? But, in truth, this legendary band was capable of laying an egg just as easily as blowing your mind. Unfortunately, there’s lots of proof of the former: just do a quick Youtube search of the bootlegs out there, or watch the weary Song Remains the Same film, or if you dare, the horrendous Live Aid “reunion” from 1985, or even the creaky Celebration Day reunion from 2007.
If you want to enjoy Zep in all their in-concert fury, there is no substitute for How the West Was Won. Originally released in 2003, the three-disc set is back in the spotlight in a remastered edition from Atlantic. Continue reading Led Zeppelin – How the West Was Won – The Real Live Zeppelin
Stone Temple Pilots – self titled (Rhino)
Against all odds, the band is back
Few band have dealt with as much chaos and tragedy as Stone Temple Pilots. Yet, here they are issuing their seventh studio album, simply titled Stone Temple Pilots, the first album without original vocalist Scott Weiland.
It’s not surprising that there’s a dark cloud that hangs over much of the album. For twenty years, the band rode the roller coaster ride of Weiland’s drug problems – sporadically breaking up, then reuniting, before finally firing him for good in 2013, and replacing him with Linkin Park’s Chester Bennington. Both Weiland and Bennington would tragically pass away over the next few years. This new record is dedicated to both men, saying simply “we miss you” in the accompanying booklet. Continue reading Stone Temple Pilots – self titled – 1st New Album Without Weiland
Steppenwolf – Steppenwolf at 50 (Rainman)
A complete overview of the band’s lesser-known years
History is a strange animal. Bands with long careers too often get distilled into one or two songs. Case in point: Steppenwolf, who are best remembered for the motorcycle anthem, “Born To Be Wild,” and the psychedelic rocker “Magic Carpet Ride.” You might be surprised to know that the band actually scored eight Gold albums during their heyday, and have continued to release albums and tour to this day. A new, three-disc collection attempts to tell a more complete story of the band in Steppenwolf at 50 from Rainman Records.
Full disclosure here: the band’s biggest hits have been omitted in favor of their lesser-known material (there are live versions of the hits on disc 3). For those looking for just the hits, start with The ABC/Dunhill Singles Collection (reviewed here). Continue reading Steppenwolf – At 50 – Collection Grabs Hard to Find Gems (review)
Elvis Presley – The Searcher – Original Soundtrack (RCA / Legacy)
3-disc soundtrack to the new HBO documentary
It’s hard to mention Elvis Presley and not think of the white jumpsuit, the gold-rimmed glasses and his “thank you very much” deep voice. In fact, his music often seems to take a backseat to the legend. Elvis Presley – The Searcher, a two-part documentary debuting on HBO, attempts to set the record straight by concentrating on Presley as an artist.
An accompanying three-disc soundtrack pulls together his most passionate performances – familiar favorites sit alongside rare alternate and live versions, and songs that he was influenced by. The goal here is to help paint a more clear picture of Elvis as an extremely talented musician. Continue reading Elvis Presley – The Searcher (Soundtrack) – Examining Elvis the Artist
First time on CD for a pair of underrated solo albums from the ex-Byrd
Chris Hillman was a late-bloomer. He began as the bassist, and occasional vocalist for the seminal 60’s band, the Byrds. Yet, his early songs sounded tentative, and video footage of him from that time period revealed an uncomfortable rockstar. Who could’ve guessed that much bigger success for him lurked right around the corner?
Eventually, Hillman would help found the groundbreaking country-rock outfit the Flying Burrito Brothers with Gram Parsons, team with Stephen Stills in the genre-bending Manassas, and hit well-deserved success in the early Eighties with the country combo the Desert Rose Band. The Asylum Years, a new disc from Omnivore Recordings, fills a gap in that story, making available for the first time on CD and digital formats, two forgotten solo albums Hillman recorded in the late Seventies, Slippin’ Away and Clear Sailin’. Continue reading Chris Hillman – The Asylum Years (review)
A.M. / Being There (Rhino / Reprise)
Jeff Tweedy’s Wilco is one of the most respected bands of the last 20 years. They’ve managed to gain critical praise while garnering decent sales and even battling major record labels. Yet, there was a time when all of this was in serious doubt. A pair of reissues from Rhino Records give us a glimpse of the early steps of the band with deluxe versions of their first two albums, A.M. and Being There.
When Uncle Tupelo imploded in 1994, leader Jay Farrar formed Son Volt, while the other remaining members joined Tweedy in Wilco. Initially, it was Farrar that achieved success, both with Son Volt’s debut album, Trace, and its college rock hit single, “Drown.” Sales of Wilco’s debut A.M. paled in comparison. Yet, over time, Wilco has certainly gained momentum, especially with albums like Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. Continue reading Wilco Remasters Revisit the Early, Post Uncle Tupelo Days
Never-before released album from band that spawned the Raspberries
The Sixties were a great time for music. Problem is, most everything has been overplayed from that era for years. Wouldn’t it be great to get some fresh, new music from that time period? Enter Artifact – The Unreleased Album from the Cleveland band, The Choir, just out on Omnivore Recordings.
The group is best known for “It’s Cold Outside,” a jangly bit of British Invasion imitation that became a minor hit nationally in 1966. The lineup at that time contained 3/4th’s of what would later become the Raspberries (minus Eric Carmen). But, as we find out in the liner notes and extensive family tree, The Choir became a revolving door of musicians from the North Coast, including members that would go on to be in the James Gang and many other, less-successful bands. Continue reading The Choir – Artifact – The Unreleased Album
The best, single-disc collection of the band’s music ever assembled
Toto’s debut album was a surprise hit when it was released back in 1978. Four decades later, the band continues to tour and create new music. That legacy is celebrated with Greatest Hits: Forty Trips Around the Sun, a new compilation from Legacy Recordings.
Few bands from that time period are even around now, yet Toto remains relevant. One reason is their versatility. Take the singles from band’s debut – the insistent “Hold the Line” had an odd drumbeat from Jeff Porcaro and killer guitar solo from Steve Lukather, while the slinky “Georgy Porgy” was a bona fide R&B hit. Then there’s their biggest hit, 1982’s “Africa.” Buoyed by a strange time signature and moody keyboards, who’d have guessed that it would go all the way to #1? Continue reading Toto – Greatest Hits: 40 Trips Around the Sun (review)
NC native’s first live album is as infectious as his studio work
Seth Walker has been on an enviable hot streak as of late, releasing a series of fantastic studio albums that mix R&B, folk, blues and rock into a style that’s all his own. Live At Mauch Chunk Opera House is his first-ever concert recording, and it shows that he’s just as lethal in a live setting.
Although Walker did a lot of solo shows promoting his latest album, Gotta Get Back, for this disc he’s joined by the trio of Myles Weeks on bass, Stefano Intelisano on keys & accordion, and Eric Kalb on drums. They provide the perfect backdrop for Walker’s laid back delivery. Continue reading Seth Walker – Live at Mauch Chunk Opera House (review)
Delbert McClinton & Self-Made Men – Prick of the Litter (Hot Shot/Thirty Tigers)
How many artists in their 70’s are still consistently releasing music? Of those, how many are putting out albums that rank as some of the finest of their career? There is absolutely only one – Delbert McClinton.
Rock, blues, country – he’s done it all, and has the awards to prove it. Yet, McClinton’s latest project is a nod to the pre-rock music of his youth. Prick of the Litter finds the 76-year old survivor exploring the classic song structures of folks like Johnny Mercer. But, instead of covering old material, he’s written new compositions that emulate that great music. Don’t worry, there’s still several rockers here too. Continue reading Our Favorite Album of 2017