Tuesday, June 5, 2012

New Releases

Sorry things have been a bit sporadic over here. I have been consumed with some less-than- entertaining stuff that has made my mind mush. (Okay, mushier.) It'd make me happy to not have to post for another day or two, but I'd be remiss not to mention a few of today's new releases, since there are many. Plus, if I don't mention just how horrible I think the new Neil Young record is, my head will indeed explode.

My last count had Neil Young with 10 classic albums and 23 albums that are either mediocre or worse and while he can continue to put out in-jokes like "Americana" and still get enough of the right people to call it "brilliant," I'd like to point out that Paul McCartney still hasn't lived down "Silly Love Songs."


At least "Living With War" had an agenda. It was sloppy and lacked finesse, but it had guts and you felt Neil Young's emotion seeping through the grooves. "Americana" works on no level. It's unlistenable, and actually makes me angry the way a motorcycle triggering a car alarm makes me angry.

I wasn't expecting much from the Beach Boys and maybe that is why I enjoyed the new record, "That's Why God Made The Radio." A lot of it sounds like "Kokomo," and that isn't a good thing. But there is enough here, especially the 4 songs that close the record out, that is simply gorgeous.

Joe Walsh's new record "Analog Man" has been given the Jeff Lynne "make everything sound like post-prime, 80s ELO" makeover, and while it's not quite an epic fail, it's not very good. It's a shame that Walsh's first record of new, pretty good material in ages, has been coated with the synthetic drum splat sound that one of my musical heroes, Jeff Lynne, somehow thinks is pleasing. This should have been a new Joe record, Jeff, not a new Jeff record, Jeff.

There's so much I haven't gotten to yet like new records from Patti Smith, Shawn Colvin, Alejandro Escovedo and Rodney Crowell & Mary Karr. As I said up top, just haven't had the head to dive into all this music. I am especially excited about these four.

I have listened to the new Kelly Hogan, but only once through. I love her voice, and a new record with Booker T., James Gadson, and my new favorite guitarist Scott Ligon of NRBQ should have been a winner. But the first pass was uneventful. More on that later. I'm not giving up on this one.

The Chris Robinson Brotherhood, a new project by Black Crowes lead singer, drops "Big Moon Ritual." I am a Crowes fan. Have been since day one. I've also mentioned on these pages how the Black Crowes may be my second favorite live act after the E-Street Band. But, "Big Moon Ritual" is a mess. It's a noodle-fest. It wants to be the Grateful Dead, but it's just not that interesting. I blame the songs. There is nothing to see here. Please keep moving.

Another record that only got one pass, but unlike the Kelly Hogan, left a strong impression on me, is the new collaboration from Bela Fleck with the Marcus Roberts Trio. I've always been a bigger fan of the latter and not the former, but together, the sounds they make on "Across The Imaginary Divide" are joyous. Roberts' trio features Jason Marsalis on drums, and he's a big reason this record keeps things interesting, though I want to take nothing away from the brilliance of Roberts or Fleck.  (too many commas?)

There is a big, expensive "Graceland" box from Paul Simon, a boxed set from Ann & Nancy Wilson, better known as Heart, and a new record from Rhett Miller also out today.

Finally, I'd like to make mention of the new Tedeschi-Trucks live record "Everybody's Talkin'." This is a record that has been on heavy rotation since its release, and thanks to the brain mush, I have neglected it two weeks running.

"Revelator," the debut from TTB was a fave of mine and finished high on my year-end "best of" list. Now, on "Everybody's Talkin'," the band takes the elements of southern soul, blues and world music that they perfected in the studio, to even greater heights.

 Derek's slide playing is otherworldly and yet he rarely overplays, letting his stellar band find their groove. Originals from the debut, like the gorgeous "Midnight In Harlem" and "Bound For Glory" get more of a workout, while choice covers, like Fred Neil's title track and Stevie's "Uptight" find new life as pulsing funk and R&B workouts. The horn section, featuring Maurice Brown on trumpet, is truly special.

I know I've missed a few things.  My apologies.

Hope to pick things up soon.


buzzbabyjesus said...

Neil's batting average is a little better than Lou Reed's.

James A. Gardner said...

Sal, hope whatever's causing the brain mush clears up soon. Summer means fun! And a new Beach Boys album! Which I wish had been an e.p. with the title track, the last four on the album, and the remake of "Do It Again" (just so people won't buy the "zine pak").
American Songwriter gave the new Neil four out of five. I just don't hear it, and don't think I ever will.
As Joe Walsh's voice has gotten increasingly nasal and unlistenable, seems like he'd want to enhance it or push it back in the mix, but the opposite seems to be the case. No one can avoid the ravages of time, but this doesn't even sound like the same person from James Gang Rides Again. He's become unlistenable for me.
Haven't heard the new Kelly Logan. Love her voice (which is amazing, live), not always her choices in material.
Tedeschi Trucks Band's new live set is an interesting followup to Revelator. Very 1970s in many ways, positive and less so.

Sal Nunziato said...


I've just updated today's post to include the TTB. I love this record and thanks to my brain mush, I've forgotten it two weeks straight. Thanks for the reminder.

Anonymous said...

I've only listened to Americana twice, once at work on the computer to a resounding "eh...", once at home on the stereo, to a resounding "eh... well, I dunno, maybe better than I first thought...." Loud definitely helps.

Neil's 10 classic albums? Hmmm.

Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere
After the Gold Rush
On the Beach
Tonight's the Night
Rust Never Sleeps
Ragged Glory
Harvest Moon


Interesting. I thought you were short-changing him at 10, but this would be my list of all-out classics and I hit 10 too. (Do Homegrown and Chrome Dreams count?) On the less than classic but well-liked side, I listen to Silver and Gold and Prairie Wind fairly regularly, and I still like Living With War too.

How many artists can claim a better Top 10?

Bruce H

buzzbabyjesus said...

For a second there I thought I was going insane. Thanks for the TTB update.

Ken D said...

Even the cover art on Neil Young's new one is terrible.

I think the Kelly Hogan record is first-rate. Those like Mr Gardner (above) might be interested in this short interview about how the material for this new album came about:

One other new release of note (to me anyway): The Hives, "Lex Hives" — turn it up!

Sal Nunziato said...

@Bruce H.

I would substitute "Freedom" for "Comes A Time." And I actually love the debut.

As for artists who can claim a better Top Ten? Good point, though at some point, the wealth of mediocrity in an artist's career needs to be taken into account. Is it simply the strength of Neil's over 30 year old albums that give him a free pass on so much crap?

Bulletins From Mars Hill said...

Can't agree more with you on your Neil Young comments. The guy can be both awe inspiring and embarrassing. This new album falls into the later category. To be added to the pile of crap that includes Broken Arrow and, well most of his recent releases. I thought he was going to cover the sex Pistols Song instead it is the British National Anthem! Seriously Neil?

On the other hand the Tedeschi-Trucks Band are classy players who seem to lock down the grove every time. I'm looking forward to hearing the new live album. (Downloading from iTunes as I type.)

James A. Gardner said...

Sal, glad to remind you of the TTB album. Much as I like the album, the drum solo is one 70s tradition I could live without.
KenD, thanks for the tip on the Kelly Hogan interview. Stephen Merritt should get her to sing all his songs. (Someone reminded me of the tragic end to Hogan's early band, the Jody Grinds, losing a couple of them in a car crash.)

Joelhb53 said...

Sal, we don't always agree, but you're right about the new Neil. Garbage.

Ken D said...


K Hogan sings S Merritt (plus a few more) live at the NPR offices:


A walk in the woods said...

Hang in there Sal. Hilarious reviews. (Love the Kokomo reference) I am a huge Allman Bros fan but have NOT gotten on the Trucks/Tedeschi train yet - but I will try!

p.s. I DO dig Neil Young, pretty muchly ALL Neil. You actually have not scared me off yet to 'Americana.'

Anonymous said...

Well, some of Neil's great albums are only 20 years old...

For me, Neil's bad stuff is more boring than outright crap--if that's a valid distinction. I guess on the one hand, true, he hasn't produced an all-out late-life gem like Time Out of Mind or Love and Theft or (to my mind) Chaos and Creation in the Backyard, but aside from those guys, not sure who else can touch Neil for remaining vital this long into his career. Okay, Paul Simon. Joni Mitchell. (I didn't hate Shine.) Not, for me, the Stones or the Who or Stevie Wonder or George Harrison. Not sure if Nick Lowe belongs in the above class but I sure do love his recent run of albums. I don't love the Johnny Cash American Recordings as much as a lot of people, but I can see their greatness, but they're also kind of a different kettle of fish.

Of course, going back to Neil, I do believe that he has made some solid to good albums in the last 20 years along with the boring/crappy ones. I also like Chrome Dreams II, along with the ones I mentioned earlier. But in fairness to you, Sal, I could see the argument for crucifying him on the basis of "Let's Roll" alone.

Bruce H

Anything Should Happen said...

We've spoken about the Neil Young Sal and I don't think it's half as bad as it's made out after repeated listens.

Beach Boys fully concur.

TTB - Yuck. I don't get them and never have. They remind me of a good covers club act. Not my thing at all.

I too have no idea why Joe Walsh chose or felt the need to choose Jeff Lynne and my thoughts on Lynne are the same as yours, just hope his solo album isn't in a similar Calling America style stylee.

OldRockr1 said...

Have to disagree with you about the CRB. I kind of dig it. But then I like this kind of jammy stuff. I do however agree with you about the Neil Young...sadly garbage.

James A. Gardner said...

Thanks, Ken D! Looking forward to hearing it.

Shriner said...

So, I liked the Neil. It didn't sound forced and the Horse sounded like they were having fun. I can't wait for the follow-up album of original material.

But, I like "T-Bone" and would put Re-Ac-Tor up in my Top 10 (well, maybe top 15), so sue me...

Anonymous said...

jeff lynne and his "sound" have destroyed so many records. artists who should know better succumb to being buried alive under his one sound fits all production methods. how could any of these people be happy sounding like this?

Andy said...

Agree on Americana... but at least Neil is out there and trying things. Unlike many of his generational peers he is not relying on rehashed templates over and over...

Sal Nunziato said...


As one friend put it, "There's little worse than when Neil runs out of ideas." Crazy Horse versions of American folk standards sounds like he ran out of ideas.

Personally, I'd have preferred a rehashed template. It's why we love these people in the first place.

Andy said...

I see your point. One reason people who like UFO, LIKE UFO...

I am still looking forward to seeing him whne he comes to Bridgeport in December...

buzzbabyjesus said...

I don't think Neil's album is so bad.
I heard him on NPR today, and I even liked "God Save The Queen". A bad Neil Young album is better than the best Rush album if you ask me.

Anonymous said...

from Duncanmusic: Innaresting thing...most of the 'classic' folk songs on Neil's Americana are songs he helped rearrange 40 years ago while scuffling in Toronto pre-Springfield days with a crew of up and comers that styled themselves as 'The Public Futilities' a casual group that played a few gigs at coffeehouses back then. His version of 'Oh Lonesome Me' was conceived at the same time. I might recommend reading the exquisite bio 'Shakey' (which I've just finished) for a whole lot more insight into Neil Young. To say he doesn't give a fuck about any of our opinions would be understating the obvious. When I saw the songlist for 'Americana' I realized where the inspiration came from and can see somewhat WHERE he's coming from. The big surprise on the CD is 'Get A Job' originally by the Silhoueetes. THAT'S the only soire thumb I see here. 'Wayfaring Stranger' gets my vote for the best song on the CD. Otherwise (if you've read 'Shakey' and understand a little more what Neil's vision is) it's just another statement by Neil of whatever trail he's lead to follow on any day. Honestly, can you name ANY OTHER ARTIST who has followed his muse so faithfully and unapologetically ALL of his career? Never categorizable and constantly frustrating even his staunchest fans, Neil is forever an original. Oh, by the way did you know he is the owner of Lionel Trains and one of the ion the edge generators of the newest in Model TRrain technology? Like a sound system that inbeds tiny chips in model trains that e,it coordinated sounds with the train's movements? Or that he designed controllers that can be used by even the most handicapped of individuals?

Sal Nunziato said...


I appreciate your comments, but even the label press release for "Americana" didn't offer this much info and background.

Should a music fan need to know this much ahead of time or afterward to enjoy a record?

I've loved Neil forever, and with each release I go in with a clear head.

There are artists who I love more than Neil, artists who I've read about and continue to read about. But no wealth of information about an artist's vision or history, will make me enjoy "the music."

My problem with this is strictly "musical."

You're a regular, so you must know how I feel about Todd Rundgren. I won't apologize for his output or defend his output if I don't like it, or find it to be lazy or misguided.

If only there was a happy medium where an artist could follow his muse without alienating his fans.

buzzbabyjesus said...

I liked "Get A Job". I've thought about doing a project like this for a long time and Neil didn't adapt my number one choice for Rockification of a song we sang as kids:
"I've Been Working On The Railroad".

A walk in the woods said...

Well put about "the music," Sal.

When determining what songs to add to my 80GB iPod - which only contains about 1/3 of the MP3s on my hard drive, so I have to be selective - my first qualifier about what to keep is "Will I ever actually want to listen to this even one more time again?"

Note that that comment has nothing to do with history, or the story behind it, or rarity, etc. etc.

If I don't actually want to HEAR it again, what can it matter?

(That being said, I DO like a few things on this Neil Young record)

William Repsher said...

How you feel about Neil Young? Man, that's how I feel about the new Beach Boys. I can't believe I'm hearing auto-tune, vividly, on some of Brian's vocals. This is like noticing patches of paint-by-number cells on the Mona Lisa. Don't know if this is some half-assed production value used to sound "contemporary" ... or if he really needs it. Man, say it aint so, Brian!

Some of the Joe Walsh songs don't strike me as bad at all, despite the awful Jeff Lynne production values. He probably would have been better off cutting this stuff live in studio.

Anonymous said...

I couldn't disagree with you more about the new Joe Walsh. I'm really digging it. Lucky That Way is a classic Walsh lyric with what sounds like a John Histt tune.
Someone complained about him sounding nasal. When did he not?
I think the Jeff Lynne touch ( molesting? ) works.

I'm happy to see The Beach Boys have found a way to go on after the defection of John Stamos.


kevin m said...

1. Just listened to samples of Neil's new one. Couldn't agree more with you Sal. Just embarassing.

2. On the other, I am enjoying the CRB album. Like you, I've always loved the Crowes and have seen them live more than any other band. This is a change of pace but pleasant nonetheless. Might have to check him out later this month in Brooklyn.

3. LOVE Tedeschi/Trucks live one!

So, two out of three ain't band eh?