Butterfly (Vinyl Picture Disc) By Mariah Carey

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Butterfly (Vinyl Picture Disc Reissue)

Mariah Carey

Legacy 2017

Review by David Bowling

 

During the 1990’s, Mariah Carey ruled the pop music world. While her commercial appeal diminished during the 2000’s, her sales of 200,000,000 plus albums, makes her the biggest selling female artist of all time.

Her early albums were pop oriented but in 1997, the release of Butterfly signaled a change of direction. It has a more urban feel as her style moved toward hip hop and rhythm & blues. Now to commemorate the 20th anniversary of its release, Butterfly has been re-issued as a limited-edition picture disc.

Picture discs have been around for decades. They are issued more as collectibles than records that are actually played. Early picture discs had audio issues as the different colors of the vinyl affected the sound. Modern technology has mostly cured that problem.

Carey really came into her own as she co-wrote 11 of the 12 tracks. The only exception was a cover of Prince’s “The Beautiful Ones, on which she shared vocals with Dru Hill.

The number one hit “Honey” fueled the album’s new direction. “My All,” “Babydoll,” “Whenever You Call” and “Outside” solidified her new approach.

Today the album may seem a little dated and mild but at the time of its release it pushed the envelope of popular music as it began the fusion of pop, rhythm & blues, and hip hop.

This numbered edition of Butterfly is a visual collectible and basically for the hard core Mariah Carey fan. If you want a copy of the album to actually play, they are cheaper versions available.

Rating: ***

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Vintage Christmas Trio

David Ian

Prescott Records 2017

Review by David Bowling

 

If there is a holiday coming, the chance are there will be a David Ian release following close behind. He specializes in holiday music and his new release, Vintage Christmas Trio, continues this trend.

Ian is a piano player, who produces a light jazz sound. His style produces perfect background music for the season.

Backed by only a bass and percussion duo, his new album is a minimalist affair that revolves around his piano. Songs such as “Deck The Halls,” “White Christmas,” “”I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day,” and “Silver Bells” all slide by the senses effortlessly. Perhaps the most creative track is his take on “O Come All Ye Faithful,” which features only piano and percussion.

Ian Has found a nice niche for himself. His music may not be revolutionary but it is pleasant and sometimes that is enough.

Rating: ***

Willie And The Boys: Willie’s Stash Vol. 2 (Vinyl Release) By Willie Nelson

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Willie And The Boys: Willie’s Stash Vol. 2 (Vinyl Release)

Willie Nelson

Legacy

Review by David Bowling

 

Many artists who have been active for decades, both dead and alive,  seem to have an unlimited reservoir of unreleased material. Prince has a treasure trove in the Paisley Park vaults, Elvis has the RCA archives, Dylan has his seemingly endless Bootleg Series, and Willie Nelson has his stash.

Thus far, Nelson’s archival series has been a family affair. The first release from his stash was December Day with his sister Bobbie. Now comes Willie And The Boys: Willie’s Stash Volume 2, which features sons Lucas and Micah.

Nelson describes the album as…’kinda like the country version of ‘Stardust’ and that is an apt description. It consists of classic country songs that many people are unfamiliar with these days.

The album’s core is seven compositions by Hank Williams Sr. Songs such as “Your Cheatin’ Heart,” “Cold Cold Heart,” “Why Don’t You Love Me’ and particularly “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” are perfect for Nelson’s laid back approach and cadence.

Hank Snow’s “I’m Movin’ On,” Hank Cochran’s “Can I Sleep In Your Arms,” and Hank Locklin’s “Send me The Pillow You Dream On” are re-imagined by one of the great interpreter’s of country music. The only original tune is Nelson’s “Healing Hands Of Time,” which fits the overall concept of the album well.

The vinyl pressing has a superb sound as one would expect with modern day recording techniques. There is something to be said for listening to classic country the old fashioned way.

Willie Nelson is like “Old Man River” in that he just keeps flowing along. Willie Nelson And The Boys is a fine album that makes one wonder what else is lurking in his stash.

 

Rating: ****

 

 

Waiting For The Train (CD) By Johnny Rawls

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Waiting For The Train

Johnny Rawls

Catfood Records

Review by David Bowling

 

You can call it blues, you can call it rhythm & blues, you can call it soul music. In really doesn’t matter because Johnny Rawls is a master of them all.

Rawls has returned with a new release titled Waiting For The Train. The album contains five originals co-written by Johnny and some tasty covers of material by the likes of Wilson Pickett “I’m In Love,” Syl Johnson “We Did It,” and a re-imagined version of Bob Dylan’s “I Shall Be Released.

Rawls just does not produce bad or even average albums. The passion and enthusiasm are always present. Listen carefully to his new album and you’ll hear a master at work. It’s a train you don’t want to miss.

 

Rating: ***1/2

Blues Been Good To Me (CD) By James Armstrong

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Blues Been Good To Me

James Armstrong

Catfood Records 2017

Review By David Bowling

 

James Armstrong plays the blues pure and simple. To help him keep the faith on his new release Blues Been Good To Me, he brings along veteran bluesman Johnny Rawls as the producer.

Eight new original songs form the core of the album. The title track, “Shot Gun Wedding,” “Change In The Weather,” and “Second Time Around” epitomize what the fusion of classic and modern blues are all about.

His ability to twist a song and make it his own are shown on Marvin Gaye’s “How Sweet It Is To Be Loved By You.” He speeds up the tempo and changes the textures through the use of a slide guitar.

Armstrong’s sound is vibrant with a full band, including keyboards and a brass section in support.

Blues Been Good To Me is a traditionalists blues lovers delight.

 

Rating: ***

Scream (Vinyl Release) By Michael Jackson

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Scream (2-LP Vinyl)

Michael Jackson

Legacy 2017

Review by David Bowling

 

Michael Jackson, like Elvis, Jimi Hendrix, and Prince, remains just as popular in death as he was in life. Also, similar to the aforementioned mentioned threesome, there seems to be a huge reservoir of material waiting to be released or re-released.

Jackson’s newest posthumous release is titled Scream. While it was issued in conjunction with Halloween, it is basically a collection of 13 dance tracks, plus a newly created five song medley “Blood On The Dance Floor X Dangerous (The White Panda Mash-Up)” It is being released in a number of formats but this review is for the double disc vinyl version.

The uniqueness of the vinyl will appeal to hardcore Jackson fans and possibly to general record collector’s alike. The vinyl is glow in the dark. Picture discs have been around for decades but this is a nice modern technological touch, especially when spinning on the turn table.

The sound is impeccable as it should be with today’s technology and the use of quality rather than scrap vinyl.

The 13 regular tracks are not new but having some of his up-tempo material in one place makes for an energetic, toe-taping release. They also dig a little deeper into his catalogue. Songs such as “Thriller” and “Dirty Diana” are very recognizable but Rockwell’s dance hit “Somebody’s Watching Me” with Jackson adding vocals, “Heartbreak Hotel” by The Jacksons now titled “This Place Hotel,” and “Scream,” which is his only duet with sister Janet are all nice additions and give the overall feel of the album a different twist.

Scream is a well-thought out and impeccably produced album. It presents Michael Jackson’s legacy from a unique perspective. The vinyl is an added bonus.

Rating: ****

Better Late Than No Time Soon (CD) By Leonard Griffe

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Better Late Than No Time Soon

Leonard Griffie

Pangoboy 2017

Review by David Bowling

 

Leonard Griffie is a musician who explores a number of styles and sounds but in the end he is grounded in the blues. He has released a new album titled Better Late Than No Time Soon. It is an album of original material which fuse the modern with the traditional.

Griffie is a musician who is able to change tempos effortlessly. There are silky ballads, gritty rhythm & blues, and explosive blues/rockers.

He is one of those artists who tends to float under the radar. despite producing very listenable blues. Hopefully Better Late Than No Time Soon will bring him some well deserved commercial success to go along with the respect he has already earned.

Rating: ***

Down Hearted Blues (CD) By Eilen Jewell

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Down Hearted Blues

Eilen Jewell

Signature Sounds 2017

Review by David Bowling

 

Eilen Jewel is as much historian as she is a blues musician. Her new album, Deep Hearted Blues, reaches back in time for songs by the famous; Willie Dixon and Memphis Minnie, and some who have been swallowed by the mists of time; Fiddlin John Carson.

She has taken a somewhat convoluted journey to releasing her first blues album. She has issued two albums of original material, recorded two gospel albums with the Gospel Shakers, and even recorded an album of Loretta Lynn covers.

Despite her search for the perfect blues material, she adds her own personal touches ranging from rockabilly to the twang of old-time surf music.

She has a wonderful soulful voice that traverses a number of keys. Every once in a while she comes close to jazz territory.

Three Willie Dixon songs form the heart of the album. “You’ll Be Mine,” “Crazy Mixed Up World,” and “You Know My Love” take on new textures curtesy of a modern day female blues approach. Minnie Lawler’s “Nothing In Rambling” is a unique take on a classic blues tune. Also of note is her resurrection of the old blues ditty “The Poor Girl’s Story” by the aforementioned Fiddlin John Carson.

Eilen Jewel continues her journey through American music with her blues laden Down Hearted Blues. It is a journey of surprises worth taking with her.

Rating: ***1/2

Quiet Money (CD) By Al Basile

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Quiet Money

Al Basile

Sweetspot Records 2017

Review by David Bowling

 

Over four decades ago Al Basile was the trumpet player for the Rhode Island jump-blues band Roomful Of Blues. These days, he surfaces every so often with a new solo album. He has explored a number of styles and rhythms but Quiet Money comes close to the classic sound of Roomful Of Blues.

He brings along many of his usual cast of characters. Former bandmate, producer, and brilliant guitarist Duke Robillard is on board as are former buddies from Roomful Of Blues, plus an assortment of musicians from Robillard’s current band.

In addition to being a superb trumpet and cornet player, it is his ability as a songwriter that pushes his music beyond the norm. He is a poet who regales the listener with thoughtful and incisive stories set to melodic blues music.

When you get to a certain age, your thoughts and approach to life begin to change. “Not Today” and “Who’s Gonna Close My Eyes” explore the passage of time. “Put Some Salt On It” is a humorous take of classic blues with hidden meanings lurking in the lyrics.

Quiet Money is an excellent dollop of modern-day blues from a sometimes unappreciated master.

Rating: ****

Angels Hear (CD) by The Action Skulls

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Angels Hear

Action Skulls

CD Baby 2017

Review by David Bowling

 

There are super groups and then there are sort-of super groups. John Cowsill of the 1960’s pop group the Cowsills, Vicki Peterson of the Bangles, and Bill Mumy,  producer, singer, and child actor of Lost In Space “Danger Will Robinson Danger,” have combined their talents to produce the album Angels Hear by their newly formed group, Action Skulls.

While the music is modern sounding, in many ways it contains a retro approach harping back to the 1970’s California and west coast sound. They basically produce shiny pop music that travels in a number of directions. There is the up tempo toe-tapper, “The Luckiest Man Alive,” a maudlin “I’ll See You In Another World,” the acoustic “Map Of The World,” and the bluesy “Feed My Hungry Heart.”

The harmonies are not only well-crafted but interesting. Their voices are very different but they blend together well. Whether the style is laid back or energetic, the harmonies which can be subtle or soaring and remain the foundation of their sound.

Angels Hear was about four years in the making. Eight songs were recorded, when original member, bassist Rick Rosas passed away. That loss and their own schedules put everything on hold for several years. Whether the Action Skulls ever record another album remains to be seen; but Angels Hair is an excellent album of well-crafted pop that proves musicians from different backgrounds can create very listenable music together.

Rating: ***1/2