CHRIS SPEDDING/The RAK Years (4CD set) reviewed!

     Chris Spedding is a Rock ‘n’ Roll renaissance man. Ever since the British guitarist arrived on the music scene in the late ‘60s, he has been the personification of cool. He’s played (live and/or in the studio) with artists as varied as Sharks, Harry Nilsson, Roy Harper, Sixto Rodriquez, Roxy Music, John Cale, The Wombles and many others. His solo career started in 1970 but he didn’t make an impact until his fifth album, the self-titled debut album for the RAK Records label, was released in 1975. And that album is where the four CD set CHRIS SPEDDING: THE RAK YEARS begins. Containing his four albums for the label (including bonus tracks), this is an essential box set that will appeal to fans of Rock, Punk, Power Pop and most other guitar-fueled Rock genres.

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AMPED™ FEATURED ALBUM OF THE WEEK: BIG HEAD TODD & THE MONSTERS/NEW WORLD ARISIN’

In the world of Rock ‘n’ Roll, it is rare for a band to hit the 31-year mark with all original members intact. Big Head Todd & The Monsters is one of those rare beasts. Formed in Boulder, Colorado in 1986, Todd Park Mohr, Rob Squires and Brian Nevin (along with longtime member Jeremy Lawton, who joined the original trio in 2003) have achieved commercial and critical success, sold boatloads of albums, traveled the world and built up a huge, devoted following. And on their 2017 album NEW WORLD ARISIN’, they prove that they still have something to say.

AMPED™ FEATURED ALBUM OF THE WEEK: THE WAILIN’ JENNYS/FIFTEEN

 
From the haunting a capella opening track, “Old Churchyard,” you can tell that there’s something special happening on FIFTEEN, the fourth full length studio album from Canadian Folk trio The Wailin’ Jennys. Celebrating their 15th anniversary – hence the album’s title – the three hugely talented ladies that make up the band create a sound that is both intimate and spacious. Nicky Mehta, Ruth Moody and Heather Mass have recorded an album of covers that they have most definitely made their own. It is a delectable treat for the ears and the soul.

AMPED™ FEATURED ALBUM OF THE WEEK: EVEN A TREE CAN SHED TEARS

 

This compilation offers a fascinating peek into the Japanese Folk and Rock movement of the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. Though influenced by Western music, the music contained on EVEN A TREE CAN SHED TEARS: JAPANESE FOLK & ROCK 1969-1973 is undeniably infused with a deep connection to their very own Japanese culture.

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ERIC STEWART: An EXCLUSIVE interview with the former 10cc member and Rock icon!

A SILLY PHASE I’M GOING THROUGH:

     It is quite possible that you have something by Eric Stewart in your music collection at this very moment without even realizing it. Eric was a member of Wayne Fontana & The Mindbenders, eventually singing lead on their 1966 hit “Groovy Kind Of Love” after Fontana had left the fold. By 1969, with the Mindbenders in his rear view mirror, Stewart was recording backing tracks for Bubblegum hits at his Strawberry Studios facilities. His recording mates included hit songwriter Graham Gouldman and multi-instrumentalists Lol Creme and Kevin Godley. In 1970, Stewart, Creme and Godley released the surprise hit “Neanderthal Man” under the group name Hotlegs. Two years later, American singer/songwriter Neil Sedaka arrived in the UK in hopes of recording new material and making a comeback. His backing band featured Stewart, Gouldman, Godley and Creme. Sedaka and this quartet of talented musicians recorded two albums together, both directly responsible for the enormous success that Sedaka and 10cc would achieve within a few short years.

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AMPED™ FEATURED ALBUM OF THE WEEK: ALBERT CASTIGLIA/UP ALL NIGHT

      While he may be classified as a Blues artist, Albert Castiglia will certainly appeal to more than just that genre’s enthusiasts. Fans of Alt-Country, Roots Rock and Americana will most certainly fall under the spell of Castiglia and his 2017 album UP ALL NIGHT, which hits stores on October 6. His name may not be familiar to some but he’s been raising the roof since 1990 when he joined Miami Blues Authority. Discovered six years later by Blues legend Junior Wells, Albert became his sideman until Wells’ death in 1998. Working as a sideman for a variety of other artists, Castiglia didn’t step into the solo spotlight until he released his debut album in 2004.

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AMPED™ FEATURED ALBUM OF THE WEEK: ZARA McFARLANE/ARISE

British Jazz/Soul vocalist and songwriter Zara McFarlane returns to the scene with her third album, ARISE, the follow-up to her 2014 album IF YOU KNEW HER. Like her first two albums, ARISE is available on the beloved Brownswood Recordings label. Brownswood was founded by Gilles Peterson, the respected French-born British DJ who was also responsible for the Acid Jazz and Talkin’ Loud labels. Anyone familiar with Brownswood’s eclectic roster and Zara’s first two albums will already know that she is a musical force to be reckoned with and that ARISE does not disappoint on any level.

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AMPED™ FEATURED ALBUM OF THE WEEK: JON LANGFORD/FOUR LOST SOULS

Jon Langford is a rarity in the music business. I can’t think of another artist that can be called a pioneer of British Post-Punk (with The Mekons and The Three Johns) AND a beloved Americana singer/songwriter.  But don’t misunderstand the man: this is NOT a case of an artist changing musical styles to chase fame and fortune! In fact, one can find traces of the American musical landscape in the early Mekons releases although they are buried amongst the many shadows that the band were prone to throw during their inspiring career. Over the years, Langford traveled many different musical roads, all of which lead to the glory that is FOUR LOST SOULS.

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AMPED™ FEATURED ALBUM OF THE WEEK: BRUCE COCKBURN/BONE ON BONE

BONE ON BONE is the highly anticipated 2017 album from Canadian singer/songwriter Bruce Cockburn. The album is his first in six years and is the follow-up to 2011’s SMALL SOURCE OF COMFORT. His 25th studio album overall, BONE ON BONE finds Bruce Cockburn at ease as a musician but ill at ease with the world. For those familiar with Cockburn’s work over the years, this may seem like nothing new. However, BONE ON BONE finds Bruce at the top of his game. And for an artist that has been releasing albums for nearly 50 years, this is quite a feat.  Mixing Folk and Blues, the album is warm, intimate and filled with songs that are destined to become Cockburn classics. Amongst the Folk Blues stomp of songs like “States I’m In” (the first single) and “Café Society” is “Forty Years In The Wilderness”, one of the loveliest songs he’s ever written.

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AMPED™ FEATURED ALBUM OF THE WEEK: CHARLIE PARR/DOG

 

     Singer/songwriter Charlie Parr has returned with an album that mixes his Folk roots with plenty of heart and soul. Although he may sometimes write as an observer, his songs put him square in the eye of the storm. Parr writes songs that are extremely personal yet universal at the same time.  Listening to DOG, you’ll stumble across people that you feel that you already know, places that you are sure you’ve been and feelings that you most definitely have experienced.  This is a world where both feet are firmly planted on the ground. You can feel the heat of the sun and smell the beer-soaked floorboards. This is an album that pulls no punches.  Life is hard and then you die but in between, there is light in the darkness. However, that light may be only fleeting at times. But that is understandable because Charlie experienced some truly dark moments before making the album.

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