Category Archives: Reviews

Fastball – All the Pain Money Can Buy (review)

Fastball – All The Pain Money Can Buy (Omnivore Recordings)

One of the best albums of the late-Nineties’ alternative scene gets another look

Beginning with a snippet of someone turning the radio dial, then a primitive keyboard loop, “The Way” sounded like nothing else on the radio in 1998. The debut single off Fastball’s sophomore album, All The Pain Money Can Buy, shot up the Modern Rock charts, eventually hitting #1 for seven weeks, and changing the fortunes of the three musicians from Austin forever.

Yet, unlike so many bands from that time period (Marcy Playground, anyone?), Fastball were not a “one-hit wonder.” Two other hits followed, “Fire Escape,” and “Out of My Head,” propelling the album, first to Gold, then to Platinum status, within six months of its release. Here’s the thing – atypical of that time period, this is an entire record of good songs, and it actually still holds up twenty years later. Omnivore Recordings has just issued the album in remastered form, with some very interesting bonus tracks. Continue reading Fastball – All the Pain Money Can Buy (review)

NRBQ – All Hopped Up (Omnivore Recordings) (review)

NRBQ – All Hopped Up (Omnivore)

NRBQ has been making music, some brilliant, some downright indescribable, for over 50 years now.  All Hopped Up is their fifth album, originally issued in 1977, and it’s finally been reissued by Omnivore Recordings, who even found some bonus tracks.

From their 1969 debut album, NRBQ specialized in genre-hopping, mixing party rockers alongside avant-garde jazz, while tender ballads rubbed shoulders with novelty numbers.

That eclecticism certainly prevented the band from gaining much traction or mass popularity, but it made for interesting albums and incendiary live shows.

All Hopped Up marked the debut of the “classic” NRBQ lineup that would stay intact for two decades – Terry Adams (keyboards), Joey Spampinato (bass), Al Anderson (guitar) and new arrival, Tom Ardolino (drums).  It also was the first LP the band issued independently, on their own Red Rooster label.  Continue reading NRBQ – All Hopped Up (Omnivore Recordings) (review)

R.E.M. – At the BBC (review)

R.E.M. – At the BBC (Craft Recordings)

Massive set tracks the band’s ascent from college radio darlings to worldwide superstars

R.E.M. were one of the unlikeliest of global rock bands.  Hailing from the college town of Athens, Georgia, the band’s unique blend of 60’s jangle pop combined with a hip aesthetic, quickly grew from word of mouth to commercial success story, and helped usher in the alternative rock movement that would follow into the 90’s.

At the BBC is a brand-new, multi-disc collection that charts this trajectory  – you really hear the band mature right before your ears.

It might seem odd that a band from the southern US would best be summed up in a collection of their recordings from England.  Yet, at closer look, R.E.M.’s wry humor, art aesthetic and (at least initial) aloofness were all closer to British in nature. Continue reading R.E.M. – At the BBC (review)

Stax ’68 – A Tale of Triumph Over Tragedy (review)

Various Artists – Stax ’68: A Memphis Story (Boxset) (Stax)

To say that 1968 was a bad year for Stax Records might be the understatement of the year.  The label, known for releasing it’s own brand of southern soul, was still reeling from the loss of their biggest and brightest star, Otis Redding, killed in a plane crash the previous month.  Then, in April, Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated in the same Memphis hotel used by many Stax artists for meetings.  Finally, the company was informed mid-year that, in signing a distribution deal with the much-bigger Atlantic Records, they basically forfeited the rights to their entire back catalog of songs and many of their artists.

There’s more than enough excuses in the previous paragraph to close up shop.  Yet, Stax Records carried on.  Stax ’68: A Memphis Story is a five-disc boxset that delves deep into that fateful year 50 years ago, containing every A and B-side of each single the label released in 1968, along with a booklet, detailing the chaos that was going on, inside and outside the walls of this pioneering record label. Continue reading Stax ’68 – A Tale of Triumph Over Tragedy (review)

Colin James – Miles to Go (review)

Colin James – Miles to Go (Stony Plain)

Canadian guitarist Colin James had a breakout hit album with his last release, 2016’s Blue Highways.  And, while I liked that album, I think his brand-new record, Miles to Go, is better in every way, and should earn James another truckload of accolades.

First, the tracks on this new album just sound bigger. The playing is tighter – he’s kept the same guys intact for some time now and their playing has definitely gelled. The guitar is grittier (there is a picture of a Sears-Roebuck Silvertone on the inner sleeve, and it don’t get any more grittier than that!).  James’ singing, while always decent, seems to have taken on a more assured quality. Continue reading Colin James – Miles to Go (review)

The Doors – Waiting For the Sun (50th Anniversary Deluxe Edition)

The Doors – Waiting For the Sun (50th Anniversary Deluxe Edition) (Rhino Records)

Band’s only #1 album with improved sound, rare mixes and live tracks

Things were not well when the Doors went in to record their third album in 1968. Their first two records (The Doors and Strange Days) were built on repertoire the band had been playing live for years, but that well had just about run dry.  Plus, leader Jim Morrison was becoming increasingly erratic as his substance abuse ramped up, often not showing up to recording sessions.  Under these adverse conditions, the band completed Waiting For the Sun, recently reissued in a 50th Anniversary Deluxe Edition from Rhino Records.

“Why should I buy another version of Waiting For the Sun…I think I’m being ripped off!” Continue reading The Doors – Waiting For the Sun (50th Anniversary Deluxe Edition)

Sergio Mendes & Brasil ’66 – Greatest Hits – Back on Vinyl

Sergio Mendes & Brasil ’66 – Greatest Hits

Sergio Mendes & Brasil ’66 – Greatest Hits (Craft Recordings)

Best-selling album is back in print after many years

One of the key elements of throwing a good party is the music.  Are you going to subject your guests to ads every three songs on a lousy streaming service, or are you going to grab a turntable and show just how cool you really are?  While Moondance and Pet Sounds are obvious choices for spins, you really should choose something more exotic, yet familiar.  That’s where Greatest Hits from Sergio Mendes & Brasil ’66 comes in.  This great album, criminally out of print for decades, is finally made available again by the fine folks at Craft Recordings. Continue reading Sergio Mendes & Brasil ’66 – Greatest Hits – Back on Vinyl

Led Zeppelin – The Song Remains the Same (review)

Led Zeppelin – The Song Remains the Same (Swan Song/Warner) (remastered)

The black sheep of the Zeppelin cannon gets the deluxe edition treatment, but – what’s wrong with it?

There’s a reason that The Song Remains the Same is the last album in the Led Zeppelin catalog to get remastered.  The band has been very frank in their opinion of their original live album; Robert Plant even calling it “a load of rubbish” at one point.  It was recorded at the end of a long tour in 1973 and issued largely without the band’s consent in time for the Christmas holiday of 1976. So is it really that bad? Continue reading Led Zeppelin – The Song Remains the Same (review)

AJ Croce – Croce Plays Croce – Levitt Pavilion, Dayton – 9/6/18

Jim Croce’s son celebrates the legacy of his dad while forging his own musical path

As I was setting up my chair for the show, I heard a guy behind me say:

“I hear A.J. is going to play some of his dad’s songs mixed in with some of his own – I sure hope he plays more of his dad’s songs.”

Then, that very same guy, at the end of the concert said:

“wow, I need to go find out more about A.J.’s music, that guy was awesome!”

In a way, those two bits of dialogue sum up Croce’s show – people came to hear songs of Jim Croce, yet people left having a much greater appreciation for his son. Continue reading AJ Croce – Croce Plays Croce – Levitt Pavilion, Dayton – 9/6/18

Ian Anderson’s Jethro Tull – Rose Music Center – 9/5/18

Ian Anderson & Jethro Tull – Rose Music Center, Huber Heights, OH 9/5/18

Ahh, everyone seems to be celebrating anniversaries as of late.  Yet, most bands are using them simply as a not-so-obvious excuse to sell more tickets. Meanwhile, Ian Anderson’s Jethro Tull is utilizing their 50th anniversary to actually celebrate their band’s rich legacy.  During this tour, the band is digging deep into their catalog to pull out some lesser-known material, accompanied by a treasure trove of audio/visuals, both past and present.  Continue reading Ian Anderson’s Jethro Tull – Rose Music Center – 9/5/18