New Releases: Neil Young’s latest works because of its spontaneityBy MIK DAVIS,
For the first time in seven years, Neil Young reconvened Crazy Horse – Nils Lofgren, Ralph Molina and Billy Talbot – all longtime veterans of playing with Young.
Much like "Psychedelic Pill," this is Young stretching his songwriting to the same maximum he uses in his books. The "Cowgirl In The Sand"-ish "Milky Way" feels like a trip back to Zuma and features some of Young's most gentle vocals yet. While these gentlemen are getting old, the real reason for such restraint is that "Colorado" was recorded over 11 days in Telluride some 10,000 feet above sea level (the band arrived to find their hotel rooms stocked with oxygen tanks.).
Never fear; they still harmonize on the hymn-like "Rainbow of Colors," a track that would have been at home on "American Stars N' Bars." Much like most of his late-career recordings, "Colorado" works because of its spontaneity. This is an album recorded in pursuit of a sound. As he basks in the mountain glow, he taps into the last 50 years of his writing.
NEIL YOUNG & CRAZY HORSE Colorado (LP/CD)(Reprise)
The Soul Blues slinger has made a career out of slow jams. Despite branding himself a "Country Boy" with his 1999 debut, Richardson regularly charts with national singles and dominates here in the South.
"Gold Dust" feels like a departure from his normal 70's-based Soul. Beats skitter along, synth bass and he harmonizes with about 12 different instances of himself.
The New Jack-ish "Let Me Love On You" will definitely keep his streak alive. However "Gold Dust" is received, twenty years later Richardson just keeps on pushin'.
Michael Gira always writes the darkest music. What do you expect from a person who spent their adolescence in and out of detention facilities and jails?
When he formed Swans in 1982, they blossomed as part of the noisy, challenging downtown scene that also birthed Sonic Youth. The years have seen him mellow somewhat musically. The last 10 years have seen his short-story style adapted for his powerful and consistent band.
"The Seer" and "To Be Kind" are still chill-inducing, especially listening in the dark. Their most frightening moments seem to be the impetus for "Leaving Meaning" where Gira is out to exorcise ghosts.
"The Hanging Man" plays like a mantra as Gira barely sings outside of a single pitch over sinuous percussion and interwoven guitar and hammer dulcimer parts. His new band (the third incarnation) fills in the background beautifully giving the Bowie-esque "It's Coming It's Real" a stunning build over nearly eight minutes.
Desert Sessions Vol. 11 and 12
Back after an extended hiatus, Josh Homme's high desert musical improv project returns with a cast clearly assembled for Homme's enjoyment and our disbelief. Les Claypool, Billy Gibbons, Jake Shears are all cast as odd men out against a stellar lineup including amazing drummer Carla Azar (Autolux and Jack White's "Boarding House Reach",) Matt Sweeney (everything from Chavez to Kid Rock,) Mike Kerr (Royal Blood) and Matt Berry (TV series "Toast of London" (check your Netflix) and "What We Do In The Shadows.") Six days brought out eight new songs as the series returns after 16 years.\
CIGARETTES AFTER SEX - Cry [LP/CD](Partisan)
To look at this band's art and aesthetic conjures thoughts of another more downtrodden Eurythmics or a slower, ambient Portishead. The crestfallen high vocals and drowsy textured Pop sound like a European dream come true. However, this is truly a band and surprisingly they hail from El Paso, TX. The Texas winds blow warmly through most of their second album as their dream Pop ages well. "Falling In Love" is a gauzy Cocteau Twins-esque beauty setting up an LP that be a late night fave for months to come.
GRACE POTTER - Daylight [LP/CD](Fantasy)
"Daylight" covers a lot of new ground for the once-bluesy shouter. Surviving a divorce and the breakup of her band have toned her vocals down a bit. "Love Is Love" boasts horns and chorus ready for trailers and promos. "Daylight" finds Potter now a mother and remarried (to producer Eric Valentine) as she brings in Lucius to sing backup and woos the legendary Benmont Tench into occupying her slot on keyboards.
REISSUES OF THE WEEK
MOTORHEAD - 1979 [BOX]/ Bomber [2CD/4LP]/Overkill [2CD/4LP] (Sanctuary)
When the Iron Maiden label Sanctuary saved Motorhead's early recordings from the scrapheap, they probably had no idea that the long time iconoclasts would be nominated for the Rock N'Roll Of Fame. While an accolade like this would likely be met with derision and scathing humor by the late Lemmy, it is enough to vacuum seal the band's place in history as the union between Punk and Heavy Metal. After the nearly broke up following the Speedy (Keen) recording of their first album, they unleashed a blistering assault and set the ship of NWOBHM on its course with two searing records in one year. Newly remastered and expanded, this pair of classics (or just purchase them together in one complete box) should be in every Heavy Metal library.
Their first salvo, the single "Overkill" served notice they were taking no prisoners (especially when they played in on "Top of the Pops." in March '79) Its initial burst along with the well-timed brewing interest in heavy guitar-driven Rock set the stage the Jimmy Miller-produced album to rage out of the gate. As dispirited Punk rockers turned away from New Wave, songs like the battering ram "Stay Clean" drew them to the Saxon/Iron Maiden front now christened "The New Wave of British Heavy Metal" by Sounds magazine in May '79.
A lengthy tour ushered in a blazing set of new songs which the inspired trio then cut with Miller in July '79 as "Bomber." Another adrenaline shot of ear-splitting Rock N'Roll, "Bomber" was rushed out in October '79 on its strength as an album. While Lemmy would later claim it did not fit into the Motorhead he led during that time, "Dead Men Tell No Tales" and "Stone Dead Forever" are stalwarts on any Motorhead playlist.
The newly packaged deluxe editions roll out entire concerts from that hallowed year, B-sides, alternate versions and outtakes. These were the albums that secured Motorhead's place as the loudest Rock N'Roll band in the world, and could earn them a slot in Cleveland's hall.
JIM SULLIVAN [LP](Light in the Attic)
The Seventies were a strange yet important time for music. While the Sixties get all the glory, and the Eighties get most of the love - the wretched excesses of the Me decade are sometimes to wide-eyed and unfocused to celebrate. The California Sound brought singer/songwriters out of the woodwork. Working with only an acoustic guitar, these modern troubadours could summon magic from those six strings. The tale of Jim Sullivan is one where great potential somehow leads to great mystery. After making one very obscure private press album in 1969, Sullivan was signed to Hugh Hefner's newest project Playboy Records in 1972. Given the money and time for a state-of-the-art production, his lost self-titled debut is the stuff Folk/Rock dreams are made of. Sullivan brings together the chime of classic Folk with the classic sound of L.A. studio pros (like the legendary drummer Earl Palmer.) The heartwarming "Sonny Jim" brings out French Horns and flutes, yet never collapses into either have too many ornaments or sounding anything less than timeless. "Biblical Boogie (True He's Gone)" could have even been a single with its Little Feat-ish guitars and Carole King-esque piano. When the record tanked, Sullivan sank into alcoholism for a few years before decided to start again in Nashville. On the road to Music City, Sullivan disappeared. After being pulled over and cautioned by police, Sullivan checked into a motel in Santa Rosa, NM. After it was reported he wandered to a ranch 25 miles away, a bystander reported seeing him just walk away from his VW Beetle and leave all his possessions behind.
Years later as fans discovered this lost diamond of a record, these new fans also carried on with their unfolding the mystery of his vanishing. As devotees will do, those who found his early 1969 album discovered that it was awash in extraterrestrial imagery and detail. "UFO" could be more than a lost album, it could reveal that Sullivan did not necessarily "disappear." His supposedly "abduction" then fueled the fire and now 50 years later is responsible for the reissue of this lost California gem.
THE KINKS - Arthur Or The Decline and Fall of the British Empire [2CD/2LP](Sanctuary)
In hindsight, the first phase of the Kinks career follows an interesting arc. While best known as the founders of Punk Rock ("You Really Got Me,") the band spun their Pop success and their ban from playing in the US into a brand of songwriting that continues to inspire Brits and Anglophilic Americans. Beginning with "Dedicated Follower of Fashion, " Ray Davies began to write about the world around him without regard to anyone. Tours of cabarets in the UK were disastrous, singles flopped and the band found themselves without an audience. Perhaps he was hoping to woo his compatriots back with several "veddy British" songs or perhaps his personal vision was like of Laurence Olivier in "The Entertainer" desperately playing vaudevillian showstopper to an indifferent crowd. Either way, the once mighty Kinks became self-contained with 1967's magical "Something Else" and the now-classic "Village Green" in 1968.
When both failed to sell ("Something Else" had to be paired with "Greatest Hits"-style LP just to move,) Davies set off to mend fences. After traveling to Los Angeles to plea to end their ban by the AFM, bassist Pete Quaife quit. The new concept album/TV soundtrack "Arthur" was released to rapturous acclaim from both Rolling Stone and The Village Voice. His newly regrouped group found their inspiration. Compared to The Who's "Tommy," "Arthur" is the true Kinks-ian song cycle. The tale of a carpet layer in Post-War England was largely autobiographical and their first real swipe at class and culture. Having digested their Music Hall influences on "Village Green," songs like the sparkling "Victoria", the driving "Brainwashed," and the elegant "Shangri-La" felt far more universal. While the new cinematic scope of "Australia" and the anti-authority stance of "Yes Sir, No Sir" and "Nothing To Say, " would serve as indicators for the second phase of the Kinks beginning with 1970's "Lola v. Powerman"
"Arthur" sadly was not seen as a success in its time. However, its influence (and it continues) on bands in the 80's created a revival of their 1967-69 "lost period." These albums which sold so few copies they were deleted, were snapped up by Rock fans in used stores and garage sales. How ironic that as he searched through his past to write, Ray Davies and The Kinks would come to define Modernism in Rock.
After the Fire/The Wanting
(CD)(Late August/The Orchard)
JIMMY “DUCK” HOLMES