I’m either the right guy to be writing a review of a ‘new’ Christmas release… or I’m the wrong guy. You see, I’m a connoisseur of Christmas music and I’m extremely picky about the holiday music that I listen to. I don’t care who performs the song or in what style – I’m looking for the FEELING of the season in the song. And for someone who loves Christmas music, there’s very little that has tickled my fancy since the ‘70s. There are exceptions but my favorites tend to be random singles (XTC, Band Aid, Status Quo, etc.) and very few albums. Sure, I appreciate the attempts to create a new classic Christmas album but it is very obvious to me when it is merely a cash-grab by the artist or the label. Or almost as worse – when an artist is only interested in celebrating their own voice and not the holiday they sing so joyfully about. So, sadly, I now approach every Christmas album with trepidation and fear. And suddenly, Bloodshot Records’ 13 DAYS OF XMAS landed in my lap and I needed to take some anxiety medication before I could even listen to it….
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.
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.
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.
It has been forty years since Neil Finn made his recorded debut on Split Enz’s 1977 album DIZRHYTHMIA. Although he only provided guitar and backing vocals to that album, he certainly
made his presence known. His own compositions started showing up in 1979 on the band’s FRENZY album. While his big brother Tim handled a bulk of the Enz’s material, it was Neil who penned their first global hit, “I Got You,” which was released in 1980 on the TRUE COLOURS album. Over the course of the next few Enz albums, Neil wrote more highlights including “One Step
Ahead” and “Message To My Girl.”
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.
In the late ‘70s, the Rock world was being turned on it’s head by Punk and New Wave. The pretentious ‘old guard’ (i.e. Prog rockers, Folk singer/songwriters, Pop stars, etc.) were
handed their walking papers by the press, who latched onto the shouty, belligerent Punk kids. By ’79, you were more likely going to read about the exploits of Sex Pistols, The Damned and The Clash before you’d stumble upon a review of ELP’s latest live gig. And by that time, reviews of ELP, Yes and the like were leaning towards scathing.
However, while the press fell over themselves to discover the latest Punk craze, Pub Rock and British Rhythm & Blues was also a happening thing. Dr. Feelgood were already established and Nine Below Zero were on their way to becoming legendary. While not always recognized as such, The Inmates were certainly one of the best of the Pub/R&B bunch (in fact, they still are!). With Cherry Red’s three CD box set, THE ALBUMS 1979-1982, The Inmates are finally receiving the credit and attention that they deserve. Containing the band’s first three studio albums (plus bonus tracks), this is a long over-due look at the band’s excellent early output.
For nearly 20 years, Guilderland, NY-based Wounded Bird Records has been quietly reissuing a plethora of CD titles that are generally geared for collectors but most definitely appeal to causal music lovers as well. Not a label to focus on one genre, Wounded Bird has just about every musical style covered – from OC punks Agent Orange to Jazz legend Joe Zawinul. In between, you’ll find releases by the golly-ricious Jim Nabors, Hard Rock heroes Montrose, former Eagles members Don Felder, Joe Walsh and Timothy B. Schmidt and way too many others to list. In the early days, Wounded Bird was a straight reissue label – no bonus tracks or liner notes. However, over the years, they’ve started adding bonus material to some of the releases, which makes them even more exciting.
A few years back, it wasn’t a shock to see that British singer/songwriter Nick Lowe would be touring with American instrumental Rock combo Los Straitjackets. Both Nick and the ‘Jackets occupy the same musical universe although they are on opposite ends of the galaxy.