All The Pain Money Can Buy: 20th Anniversary Edition (CD) By Fastball

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All The Pain Money Can Buy (20th Anniversary Edition)

Fastball

Omnivore 2018

Review by David Bowling

 

Tony Scalzo, Miles Zuniga, and Joey Sheffield formed the band Fastball during the mid 1990’s. Their first album, Make Your Mama Proud, sold a robust 6500 copies and quickly disappeared from public consciousness. So it came as a surprise when their second release, All The Pain Money Can Buy, sold over one million copies during the first six months after its release.

The thee members of Fastball have continued to record but All The Pain Money Can Buy remains their musical magnum opus. A 20th anniversary album has now been released complete with nine bonus tracks.

Fastball has never been able to repeat their commercial nadir but this reissue is a reminder of just how good a band Fastball was at its peak. They combined memorable melodies, precise lyrics, and an energy that was the epidemy of the late 20th century indie rock movement.

The hit single “The Way,” plus mainstream tunes “Fire Escape” and “Out Of My Head” remain solid pieces of rock and roll.

The bonus tracks are highlighted by four previously unreleased demos and an acoustic version of “The Way.” They even manage to produce a credible cover of Herb Alpert’s “This Guy’s In Love With You.”

Fastball is a basic three piece band who fill in their sound with catchy tunes and emotional bravado.

Fastball is a modern band celebrating a 20 year milestone. The band remains relevant but All The Pain Money Can Buy represents their creative and commercial peak. If you missed them and this album the first time around; this reissue is an excellent second chance.

Rating: ***1/2

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Wake The World: The Friends Sessions (CD) By The Beach Boys

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Wake The World: The Friends Sessions

Beach Boys

Capital 2018

Review by David Bowling

 

During the 1960’s, The Beach Boys recorded some of the most enduring and popular rock and pop songs in music history. Their precise and tight harmonies combined with Brian Wilson’s producing wizardry enabled tens-of-millions of listeners to grab ahold of their vision of an endless summer.

As the decade drew to a close, their contract with their label was coming to an end. Tensions within the group and with the label had begun to erode their popularity.

Friends was their second to last album for the label. Released against the background of the Vietnam War in the United States, it was a mellow album that had an excellence that was lost in it quickly disappearing from the musical consciousness of the day.

The entire recording process has now been released as Wake The World: The Friends Sessions. The original album consisted of 12 tracks, clocking in at just over 25 minutes. The new release has 31 tracks from the original recording sessions.

It always comes back to the vocals with the Beach Boys. Brian Wilson was a genius in creating their harmonies. A Cappella versions of “Friends,” “Anna Lee The Healer,” “Little Bird,” and “New Song” are highlights as they present the unadorned clarity of their vocals.

The rest of the album is typical of the type. It contains demos, alternative versions, and backing tracks. “My Little Red Book,” “Be Here In The Morning Darling,” and “Child Is The Feeling Of The Man.” It all adds up to a complete history of the album and a peek into their recording process.

This is an album that is for the person who wants everything by the band. If you just want the hits, there are dozens of other releases and downloads that are a better option. For the Beach Boys completest, however, it fills in a lot of gaps.

 

Rating: ***

Nature (CD) By Paul Kelly

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Nature

Paul Kelly

Cooking Vinyl 2018

Review by David Bowling

 

Paul Kelly is a national treasure in his home country of Australia but his inability to achieve large commercial success in the United States remains a mystery. His brand of cerebral and catchy music have enthralled his fan base for decades. He has now issued his latest album Nature.

His new release is loosely connected to 2017’s Life Is Fine but here the music centers around the theme of nature. The creative and unique aspect of the release is his use of poems by Dylan Thomas, Walt Whitman, Sylvia Plath, Gerard Manley Hopkins, and Phillip Larkin, which he sets to music.

Kelly’s music always has an earthy nature to it. While he is not an American, there are influences there. If there is an Australian equivalent to America, this is it as his sound settles in comfortably somewhere between country, folk, and pop.

His regular backing band is made up of drummer Peter Luscombe, bassist Bill McDonald, guitarists Ash Naylor and Dan Kelly, and keyboardist Cameron Bruce. They can rock when needed and can fade into the background when necessary. Here they provide a precise and smooth backing for Kelly’s creative process.

The opening track sets the tone of the album. Dylan Thomas’ classic poem “And Death Shall Have No Dominion” has always appealed to the mind and soul. Put to music with a full band, the words take on new textures and depths. Walt Whitman’s “With Animals” is a center piece around which Kelly’s original compositions, “Little Wolf,” “With The One I Love,” “Seagulls Of Seattle,” and “Morning Storm” revolve.

Gerard Manley Hopkins was a Jesuit Priest and Victorian Irish poet. His “God’s Grandeur” should have been the last track, rather than the 11th of 12, as it sums up Kelly’s creative intent.

Nature is another unified concept from Paul Kelly’s mind. It is a thoughtful release, whose individual chapters add up to a satisfying conclusion.

Rating: ****

Don’t You Feel My Legs: The Naughty Bawdy Blues Of Blue Lu Barker (CD) By Maria Muldaur

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Don’t You Feel My Legs: The Naughty Bawdy Blues Of Blue Lu Barker

Maria Muldaur

Lost Music Company

Review by David Bowling

 

Anyone who could survive half-a-decade or so as a female member of the Jim Kweskin Jug band deserves a half-century career.

Maria Muldaur began her career during the fold revival of the 1960’s, spent some time as a backing vocalist for the Grateful Dead, produced the seminal pop hit “Midnight At The Oasis,” and has released recorded pop, blues, and jazz music for the last four plus decades. Her latest release, Don’t You Feel My Legs: The Naughty Bawdy Blues Of Blue Lu Barker, is a fun-filled blues romp with a little jazz thrown in for good measure.

Blu Lu Barker, 1913-1998, was a blues singer who reached her commercial peak during the late 1930’s and 1940’s, but performed regularly into the 1990’s. She had a sultry voice and like many of the early female blues singers got by on guile, sass, and sexual innuendo. She may be a somewhat obscure singer today but she is a good choice by Muldaur as their approach to music match well.

While Muldaur sings several of Barker’s most famous songs; for the most part she takes material and interprets it according to Barker’s style, but from a modern perspective. Above all, Muldaur is able to capture the fun of the music.

“Don’t You Feel My Leg” was Barker’s signature song and Muldaur cut a version of it in 1973 but it was considered to risqué for radio at the time. Today it is mild but fits Muldaur perfectly as a light-hearted blues piece. “Loan Me Your Husband” is another bawdy Barker song that succumbs to Muldaur’s light touch. Barker’s “A Little Bird Told Me’ crosses over into jazz territory.

The other tracks run the gamut from gritty to humorous to boisterous to lewd at times, which is Muldaur’s career in microcosm. “Nix On Those Lush Heads,” “Bow Legged Daddy,” “Hard Andy,” “Georgia Grind,” and the metaphor laden “Trombone Man Blues” are a trip through the tough female blues of a by-gone era.

The career of Maria Muldaur has taken a number of career turns but lately she has settled into a blues style. While her latest release may approach the blues from a certain direction; it remains true to the genre.

Maria Muldaur has created another interesting and ultimately enjoyable album of music. Don’t You Feel My Legs: The Naughty Bawdy Blues Of Blu Lou Barker is music for the mind and bordello.

Rating: ****

 

 

Happy Xmas (CD) By Eric Clapton

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Happy Xmas

Eric Clapton

Bush Branch/Surf Dog Records 2018

Review by David Bowling

 

Somewhere between the blues and the holiday season is Eric Clapton’s 24th studio album.

Happy Xmas is not your usual holiday season fare. Consisting of 13 Christmas tunes and one original composition; it is an album of music on which Clapton brings his own style of blues to the Christmas season. It all adds up to one of the more unique Christmas albums of the season. It may not be your album of choice for sitting around the tree on Christmas Eve but is fine for ear phones and your favorite beverage at the end of a long day.

It is both a mellow blues and Christmas album. Veterans Jim Keltner and bassist Nathan East set the foundation and Clapton builds on top of each track with stings, choirs,  backing vocals, guitarist Doyle Bramhall II, keyboards by Simon Climie, and assorted other instruments.

Clapton combine well known songs, “Silent Night,” “White Christmas,” and “Away In A Manger” with lesser known material such as “Lonesome Christmas,” “Sentimental Moments,” and “Christmas Tears.” The original “For Love On Christmas Day” is a fine addition to the holiday lexicon.

His fiery guitar playing of the past may not be so prevalent but there are times when he steps forward. The sound he creates is still distinctive and immediately recognizable.

The only oddity is a techno version of “Jingle Bells,” which is far from the original intent of the song. Different from most of what Clapton has produced during his career; it is, for better or worse, a re-imaging of the holiday classic. It has producer Climie’s imprint all over it and is dedicated to deceased Swedish artist Avici.

Eric Clapton may seem like an unusual artist to produce a Christmas album, yet it feels authentic because of his blues imprint. While not a traditional release; is does capture the spirit of the season from a different and creative direction.

Rating: ****

Long Live Them Blues Vol. 1 (CD) By Dry Johnson

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Long Live Them Blues Vol. 1

Dry Johnson

CD Baby

Review by David Bowling

 

It can be said that Long Live Them Blues by Dry Johnson is an album that was created from the inside out.

Dry Johnson is comprised of bassist Terry Dry and drummer Matthew Robert Johnson. They are the rhythm section for guitarist deluxe Mike Zito.

Creating an album as a two-person rhythm section has its own problems. As such they gather a number of friends and guests to help them out including guitarists John Del Toro Richardson, Mighty Orq, James Wilhite, plus band mate Mike Zito, vocalists Kevin Fitzpatrick, Trudy Lynn, and Annika Chambers, and harpist Steve Krase. It all adds up to an album of excellent modern day blues.

Dry Johnson and friends romp through ten original tracks and a cover of Johnny “Guitar” Watson’s “Hit The Highway.” Songs such as “Daddy’s Got A Cadillac,” featuring dual vocals by Zito and Chambers, “Juke Joint,” “Fried Chicken,” and “Too Many Hipsters” form the heart of a listenable and in many ways creative blues album.

Dry and Johnson form the foundation for the music and then allow the guests to build upon the rhythms and fill in the blanks. While they are in control; they are wise enough not to overwhelm their guests contributions. They are veterans who are wise enough to shepherd their musical visions to a positive conclusion.

Dry Johnson is a rare rhythm section that has moved out of the background to the forefront. Long Live Them Blues is the first release in what will hopefully be a successful new career.

Rating: ***

Inspired By The Blues (CD) By Kenny Blues Boss Wayne

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Inspired By The Blues

Kenny Blues Boss Wayne

Stony Plain 2018

Review by David Bowling

 

The blues reaches out in many directions with a variety if styles and genre’s. Kenny “Blues Boss” Wayne has been playing his form of Boogie Woogie piano blues for decades. He has now issued his latest album Inspired By The Blues.

Wayne has assembled an all-star supporting cast including former B.B. King bassist Russell Jackson, harmonica player Billy Branch, and guitar player deluxe Duke Robillard.

His new album consists 11 new original tracks and a live cover of the old rhythm & Blues classic “Georgia On My Mind.”

Wayne is a stylish piano player who produces an infectious sound. He also adds a very personal tough with tributes to Fats Domino and Ray Charles; both strong influences in his musical life.

Despite the flourishes, Wayne has created a traditional album of blues. Inspired By The Blues proves that suit zoot blues is always in style.

Rating: ***

Paradise Blues (CD) By John Akapo

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Paradise Blues

John Akapo

Mensch House Records 2018

Review by David Bowling

 

There are many paths to becoming a blues artist but few have taken the route of Taumei “Big John” Akapo. He spent his childhood in Alaska. his coming of age in American Samoa, and is now a presence in Hawaii. He has fused his Island influences with his love of the Delta Blues to create a different brand of traditional blues.

Akapo is an imposing man with a smooth, light, and precise sound. He now brings that sound to his album Paradise Blues.

His new album consists of seven original tunes plus three classic blues songs by Muddy Water, Tommy Johnson, and a soulful version of Robert Johnson’s “Ramblin’ On My Mind.”

If you like your blues with an island twist, then Paradise Blues by John Akapo is an album for you.

Rating: ***

 

The Beatles White Album: 50th Anniversary Deluxe Edition (3 CD Set) By The Beatles

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The Beatles White Album: 50th Anniversary Deluxe Edition (3 CD Set)

The Beatles

Capital 2018

Review by David Bowling

 

The Beatles White Album has reached the half-century mark. At the time of its release, the band had begun its downward spiral toward dissolution. Yoko Ono, outside projects, and tensions among members led to a sprawling, non-cohesive, and disparate album of brilliant music. The individual tracks were better than the whole as songs such as “Back In The USSR,” “Ob-La-Di, Ob La-Da,” “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” “Rocky Racoon,” and “Birthday” have become essential parts of rock history.

To mark the albums 50th anniversary, the music has been released in a number of formats including a four vinyl LP set and a huge 6-CD plus Blu-ray including a hard-cover book that provides everything you ever wanted to know about the album and more. However, unless you want absolutely everything by the Beatles, then this 3-CD edition, currently being reviewed, is more manageable and price conscious.

The first two CD’s cover the material from the original release. Giles Martin, son of original producer George Martin, has re-engineered the original tracks with modern day technology. The result is a vibrancy not heard on the 50 year old material.

The individual instruments have an increased clarity and there are more layers and textures to the music. Sometimes its the small things such as the discovery of harmonies toward the end of “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Di” and the piano on “Rocky Racoon” becoming more prominent.

The third disc is some of the more interesting Beatles material to see the light of day. Titled “The Esher Demos;” it is a series of acoustic tracks recorded at George Harrison’s home. While rarely do all four band members appear on a track, the music has a laid back and finished feel. It gives the songs from the album a different feel.

The Beatles White Album: 50th Anniversary Deluxe Edition is an interesting and technological upgrade of a classic album that has aged well. The tracks may still not have a cohesiveness but individually the songs don’t get much better.

Rating: *****

Tea Leaf Confessions (CD) By Ynana Rose

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Tea Leaf Confessions

Ynana Rose

Ynana Rose Music 2018

Review by David Bowling

 

Ynana Rose is an accomplished vocalist, and an acoustic guitarist; But above all she is a talented poet, which forms the basis for her original compositions.

Whether it be the philosophy of aging, “Stardust Firefly,” a tribute to her grandmother, “Lillian,” or odes to love, “Impossible” and “The Gift Of A Song;” the words are incisive and the melodies simple.

Her approach is simple. She provides a foundation with her voice and guitar and then fills in the gaps and expands the sound with her band.

Ynana Rose has created her own musical universe for her thoughts and words. Tea Leaf Confessions is an album for the ear and mind.

Rating: ***1/2