New Song: Dave Matthews Band’s First New Song In Five Years, “Madman’s Eyes” From Upcoming New LP

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“We live as if our hands are tied
Is it really so hard
To do what we know is right”

The Dave Matthews Band, “Madman’s Eyes”

Look who’s getting the band back together! The Dave Matthews Band has returned after 5 years with a new song, “Madman’s Eyes,” which also heralds the coming of a new album in May, Walk Around The Moon. If five years sounds like a long time between albums, let’s remember it was six years between 2012’s superb Away From The World and 2018’s moody Come Tomorrow. I was frankly surprised by this song and the new LP announcement – which seems to happen more and more to me despite my attempts to keep an eye on bands I like. I had minor surgery on Tuesday and have basically been asleep since then. I wake up and voila, a new DMB song! Prior to surgery I’d been lost in a David Crosby and Jeff Beck music binge in honor of those two great artists’ recently  lost… I had been reading that Dave was going to do another solo record like Some Devil and had that in the back of my mind as a possible release for this year. I wasn’t expecting a full-on band release and I’m delighted to hear these guys playing new music. Maybe I should schedule surgery more often?

I got in early on the Dave Matthews Band. Well, as early as most mainstream radio listeners could with the release of Under The Table And Dreaming. I was like everybody else 1994 to 2000, a huge Dave Matthews Band fan. But like many bands do, the DMB hit a bit of a mid career lull to my ears. Maybe it was the coming of the new millennium. 2001’s Everyday produced by Glenn Ballard was a huge miss for me. That one almost felt more like a Dave solo album than Some Devil. They rebounded with one of their finest albums on Busted Stuff, but once again lost me completely on Stand Up. There were a few tracks on Stand Up that I connected with – namely “Dream Girl” and “American Baby” – but the rest left me really cold. When I say they lost me completely, I mean it, I walked away from the Dave Matthews Band and left them for the soccer moms out there. Part of the problem was never being able to see them live – those tickets sold out faster than I could find a connection to buy from…

As usual, I chose the wrong moment to give up on a band. Describing their work since 2009s Big Whiskey And the GrooGrux King as a late career renaissance might be a bit strong but they’ve put out a string of really great records. After GrooGrux, which was dedicated to the late LeRoi Moore, the DMB horn player for years, who tragically died in an ATV accident, the DMB hit their stride again. 2012’s Away From The World kept the hot streak alive. And of course, 2018’s Come Tomorrow was another strong if moody and dark record. When I reviewed that record, I compared it in “attitude” to Lenny Kravitz’s Circus in that it has a rather dark perspective. There’s nothing wrong with dark perspectives, those are the only perspectives I held for a long time in life. And again, Come Tomorrow sounds nothing like Circus from a musical standpoint.

The Dave Matthews Band at this point is: Dave Matthews (vocal/guitar), the vastly underrated Carter Beauford (drums), Stefan Lessard (bass guitar) who have all been with the band since the start and Tim Reynolds (guitar), Jeff Coffin & Rashawn Ross (horns) who all joined after LeRoi’s passing. The band is rounded out by keyboardist Buddy Strong who joined the band after original violinist Boyd Tinsley left under a cloud of sexual harassment suits. They still have that eclectic, DMB signature sound.

I really like “Madman’s Eyes.” I feel like Dave’s vocals are buried a little too far in the mix but that may be because my head is slightly clogged after surgery. The song, like Come Tomorrow, is a bit of a moody track. It starts with Dave’s voice intoning a wordless melody. Then the song kicks in. It has an epic, almost cinematic sweep to it. It feels Middle Eastern to me, like it was torn from Lawrence of Arabia or it’s “Kashmir”-lite. I can almost feel hot desert winds full of sand on my face. Whatever was bothering Dave Matthews five years ago seems like it’s getting worse… when he sings, “I’m afraid, can’t lie, Momma said baby don’t you cry, In the dark be the light, Don’t let go baby hold on tight,” I believe him. It’s a hard time not to be concerned about humanity’s future.

Here’s the track:

It’s certainly an epic sounding track with strings, horns, keyboards all creating a palpable sense of tension. It’s perfect for these times. No band struggled to try and get out on the road the way DMB did during Covid and maybe that frustration is manifesting here in this song. It’s a tough time for an embattled collective Human Condition. It’s a really strong first single and it’s perfect for these troubled times. I love the Arabic flair here.

In dark times we need artists to reflect the darkness for us all to see it and to over come it. This track scratches that itch for me. I am really looking forward to late May when this album comes out. The DMB are on a roll and this song would indicate that’s going to continue!

Cheers!

Review: Paul McCartney, ‘7″ Singles Box’ – **Streaming Only** – A Monolithic Life’s Work As Told In 80 Singles

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Legend, ex-Beatle Paul McCartney turned 80 this year in June and to celebrate he put together the mother of all box sets. This new box in it’s physical form was way over the top. It’s entitled The 7″ Singles. He went back and put together a box – actually if I’m being honest it was a wooden crate, I’m not sure I could lift the thing – with eighty (80) old school, vinyl, 7″ singles. In the days before CDs and MP3 artists released vinyl 7″ singles that were also known as 45s… Open this crate and you find the actual, physical copies of 80 of McCartney’s singles with the original artwork from back in the day on the single sleeve. The crate doesn’t have every single he ever put out but the 80 singles – to match his age – certainly cover his entire career from his first solo record McCartney to his latest McCartney III. To add to it’s rather massive packaging, it came with a massive price tag, over $600. There were only 3000 of these produced, I think? These will obviously be instant collectors items. But alas, too rich for me.

My dad had a rack of singles that my brother sort of took over when we were kids. We had a little record player, I hesitate to call it a turntable and we’d listen to my dad’s old Johnny Cash, Ray Charles, and Elvis records. Well he’d listen, I didn’t pay as close attention as he did. When an artist was going to put out an album – or an LP in industry vernacular –  it was proceeded, like today, by the release of a single to get the buying public lathered up for the album. An album was vinyl, 12″ and spun at 33 rpms (revolutions per minute). In those days a single was also vinyl, but only 7″ and spun at 45 rpms. Singles ruled the world before the Beatles made albums artistically relevant instead of just mere collections of singles. The irony is not lost on me that one of the guys who made albums more relevant than singles has come back with a crate full of… singles. It’s the circle of life folks… All these years removed from sharing a room with my brother and I have such a complicated turntable I’m not sure I could even play a vinyl single any more. I would have to get under the hood and change some belts underneath to change the speed. Uh, no thank you… I’m not that technically proficient.

When I saw the price tag of this thing I was an immediate “No.” Even I have limits. But then I realized McCartney had also released it for purchase in MP3 format. That made me check the streaming service I use and yes, it was also released to all major streaming services. These “non-physical” formats contain 159 songs released over 80 singles during McCartney’s solo career. It’s close to 10 hours of music. Naturally, I knew I had to spend the next three or four days listening to it straight through. Someone had to do it, it might as well be your intrepid blogger. Who else is musically obsessed enough to endeavor to do this? I felt compelled to separate this collection from the gimmickry of the packaging and see if it had any merit as a listening experience. I’m just glad I didn’t have to get up and walk to the turn table 159 times to turn the records over and I’m a vinyl guy. In truth I don’t care how anybody gets their music as long as they listen!

As I listened to this thing, I couldn’t help but feel that this might be the biggest monolithic greatest hits album ever. I mean it has 80 of his singles. By definition, when an artist like McCartney releases a single it’s probably going to hit the charts, ergo it’s a hit, be it minor or major. But then he also included 79 B-sides. Those B-sides could be anything from unreleased gems to deep LP cuts that are throwaways, or deep LP cuts that are actually great songs, or remixed or mono versions of a song, or maybe a live track. B-sides can indeed be a mixed bag. Regardless of whether you consider this the largest greatest hits album ever released or not, it certainly tells us the story of McCartney’s solo career, post-Beatles in a pretty comprehensive way. And, when you think about McCartney’s solo career – he’s a legend but there were definitely low periods in his career – this is perhaps the most courageous box set ever released. This box really tells his story, warts and all, triumphs and misses.

I didn’t start listening to music until the late 70s when I was in junior high. We are a product of our past and at that point McCartney was the king of the ex-Beatles, charts-wise. Lennon had retreated into being a house-husband by 1975. Harrison had lost his way creatively and well, I never paid attention to Ringo’s solo music. I love Ringo but… McCartney was my favorite Beatle when I started listening to music because he was who we heard on the radio most often. He had more hits in that mid to late 70s era. Even before I had really listened to music McCartney’s music was ever present. I’d hear “Another Day” in my mom’s car while we were going to the market or “Band On The Run” over the loudspeakers at the neighborhood swimming pool. As I listened to the singles, arranged here in chronological order, I began to realize that McCartney’s music has been that way – ever present – my entire life. Whether he was producing chart topping, iconic LPs or critically panned schmaltz I have always been at least aware of what he was doing. If his latest LP was a dud (especially in the late 80s) there was always a good song or two on the album. McCartney was always such a master when it came to melody even at his worst I’d find myself humming his songs… “Press” comes to mind from when I was in college…

The start of this thing really is like listening to a greatest hits package. All of those iconic early hits from his early LPs – which were panned by the critics at the time – just roll out of the speakers. “Another Day,” one of my favorite B-sides “Oh Woman Oh Why,” “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey” and “Hi, Hi, Hi.” I even liked the B-side, live track “The Mess” that I’d never heard before. There are just so many great songs here. I loved hearing “Mull of Kintyre” a song that was the greatest selling single in the UK until 1984 (and they may play at my funeral). I didn’t realize that McCartney hadn’t released any singles from his solo debut McCartney. It wasn’t until I heard the live version of “Maybe I’m Amazed” from Wings Over America that I realized that was the version that was the hit on radio. I couldn’t help but smile to think that bands used to actually release singles from live LPs!

Hearing “With A Little Luck” brought back memories of being in the backseat of dad’s Oldsmobile listening to Casey Kasem when that track was a huge hit. My brother had the album Back To The Egg which was supposed to be McCartney’s response to punk rock, and I used to go in his room to listen to that album just to hear the rocker “Old Siam Sir,” included here as well. My brother also had McCartney II and no one will ever be able to convince me that “Temporary Secretary” is a good song. I can’t believe it was a single.

The 80s are when the wheels came off a bit for McCartney. I have always felt that McCartney was more traumatized by the assassination of John Lennon than anybody ever realized. They were such dear friends at one time. He did respond with one of my favorite albums of his, Tug Of War. That was, for me, the highlight of McCartney’s 80s. I heard it playing in the record store when I’d gone to browse for music and I walked out with it. My girlfriend at the time was like, “You like “Ebony and Ivory”?” Well, no but listen to “Here Today.” While the 80s mostly sucked you’ll never find a better song than “No More Lonely Nights,” complete with David Gilmour on lead guitar. “Spies Like Us” from the movie of the same name is here too.

McCartney finished the 80s with his strongest LP since Tug Of War with Flowers In The Dirt where he collaborated with Elvis Costello. I love tracks from that era here – “My Brave Face,” and “Put It There” in particular. We all thought that was McCartney’s comeback but he continued to stumble until he immersed himself in the Beatles Anthology project in the 90s. He emerged from that project with (to me at least) his real comeback album Flaming Pie. Those singles are looser and rock more than anything he’d done since the 70s. Shortly after that we lost Linda McCartney and Paul recorded one of our favorite albums of cover songs and I was pleased “No Other Baby” was included here.

Since Flaming Pie McCartney has been on such a creative roll. There are so many great songs many of you may not have stuck around to hear after his creative dip in the 80s and early 90s. “Jenny Wren” with the great B-side “Summer of ’59,” “Fine Line,” “From A Lover To A Friend,” and all the tracks from Dance Tonight, especially the title track. They even included his hit from the side project The Firemen, “See The Changes.” For what it’s worth they also included tracks from his opera album(s) and his old pop standard album. There are a few non-album singles here as well. Artists used to not wait until the album was finished and would just put out a single and not include it on the next album, just a little something to keep them in the minds eye.

Over the course of listening to this monolithic collection of songs it dawned on me how breathtakingly wide the range of things McCartney can do is. Whether it’s a rocker, a classical pop song with strings, a ballad, folk, country, a few reggae moments, Christmas classics, opera, electronic pop – there’s not any genre of music that McCartney didn’t try. The man is truly fearless with a boundless imagination with a bold need to experiment and try new things. He is truly one of the most important artists of the rock era – in and out of the Beatles. While the set dips a bit in the middle, like his career, the singles are still very strong. While I can’t suggest anybody plunk down even the $80 for the MP3 version of this – it’s certainly a collection everyone should hear… maybe not all at once like I did – and explore. There may be a stray single you missed or a great B-side you’ve never heard. Like McCartney’s career in total, this set has so many gems and pleasures that I think everybody will find something to enjoy.

I want to wish everybody who celebrates it (or endures it like me) a very Merry Xmas and Happy Holidays. Having people read these crazy ramblings is the greatest gift I get every year so thank you all very much!

Cheers!

 

Review: Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, ‘Live At the Fillmore, 1997’ – A Truly Joyous Rock N Roll Live Album!

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I wish I could tell you how happy I am about finally having Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ Live at the Fillmore, 1997 to listen to. In the interest of full disclosure I can’t tell you that I’m holding this live box set in my hands yet… The sketchy character known as “Santa” is supposed to bring it to me. I have a strong feeling that it’s wrapped and under my tree already. In that sense I do own it right now but I just can’t get to it for another few weeks… 12 days and counting. I will say, if you haven’t asked Santa for this music you best get on the horn to the North Pole asap and get it on your rock n roll list. In the absence of holding the physical album in my hands I’ve been streaming this amazing live document of a band at one of their true zeniths almost constantly. Other than Neil Young’s latest LP World Record, it’s literally all I’m listening to right now.

Part of the excitement I feel over this package is I can remember Petty, when he was still alive, talking about it. The two projects I’d hear him mention in interviews before we alas, lost him, were a live album culled from their 1997 20-concert residency at San Francisco’s venerable Fillmore theater and the expanded version of Wildflowers that more accurately portrayed his original vision of that record as a double-LP. I have to say that Adria Petty (Tom’s daughter) and whoever else she’s working with has done a nice job on the posthumous releases they’ve done to celebrate the life of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. I’ll be the first to admit there was some skull-fuckery on her part around Wildflowers And All The Rest. I bought the deluxe 4-CD edition and it didn’t have the B-side everybody wanted, “Girl On LSD.” Well, there was a live version. That song, amongst a few others were held out for inclusion on a bonus “fifth disc” that a bunch of people spent a lot more money than I did purchasing. Then, chastised, they released that fifth disc separately as Finding Wildflowers. The folks that bought the 5-disc All The Rest were pissed and well, so was I just because Petty was never greedy like that. He once fought the record company to keep his albums priced at $8.98 vs the $9.98 the record company wanted to charge. That part aside, the Wildflowers And All The Rest was ultimately a very satisfying box set.

The other box set Adria (with help from some Heartbreakers, notably guitarist Mike Campbell and keyboardist Benmont Tench) put out to honor Tom – and to release a treasure trove of released and unreleased stuff – was 2018’s American Treasure. Man, do I love that box set. It was truly a different path through Petty’s amazing career than provided by his officially released albums. If you haven’t checked that out yet again, you might wanna call the North Pole. American Treasure finally saw the release of what I consider the definitive version of “Breakdown” recorded live at the Capitol Studios.

Now we finally have the live LP that Petty never got around to releasing, Live At the Fillmore, 1997. While he talked about it occasionally, I’m not sure Petty was a big live LP enthusiast the way we are here at B&V. I remember him describing live albums as being greatest hits played way too fast. As longtime readers know, I love live albums. I actually bought and still own Petty & the Heartbreakers first live album, the double vinyl Pack Up The Plantation. It was from the tour to support Southern Accents and coincidentally was the first tour I actually saw Petty live. I don’t know what took me so long. The whole Plantation theme and the big Confederate Flag as a stage backdrop were probably ill-conceived and Petty said later in his career he had some regrets about that. I really liked that live album but it was overshadowed for most folks as Springsteen released his mammoth live LP Live ’75 to ’85 at around the same time. And while I liked Plantation even I’ll admit I don’t think it’s representative of the true live spirit of the Heartbreakers. They had a horn section and back up singers on that tour and thus on the album. Petty eventually put out an epic live album of his own ala Springsteen with the 5-CD Live Anthology. It remains a favorite here at B&V.

As much as I loved Live Anthology, now that I’ve heard Live At the Fillmore, 1997 I might have to go back and change my post on our favorite live LPs, BourbonAndVinyl Comes Alive: The Epic List Of Essential Live Albums to include this one. When the Heartbreakers decided to hole up for a 20 night residency at the Fillmore in San Francisco in early 1997 things were changing a bit for the band. Longtime drummer Stan Lynch had split – last performing on the two bonus tracks on the Greatest Hits album – to be replaced with Steve Ferrone. They’d added multi instrumentalist Scott Thurston somewhere along the line to round out their sound. Luckily bassist Howie Epstein (who also provides delightful harmony vocals) was still with us and plays/sings on this live album. Of course guitarist Mike Campbell and keyboardist Benmont Tench are here in all their glory. The band had just put out their soundtrack Songs and Music From “She’s The One” in August of 1996 and were three years away from recording Echo. These performances were to be the Hearbreakers only live shows in 1997 but man, what shows it sounds like they were.

Instead of the usual set list of songs a band plays on a big tour the Heartbreakers mixed it up quite a bit on this residency. I saw the Stones in ’81 in Houston and and then Kansas City and they played the exact same songs, in the same order and looked utterly bored doing so. I mean, that has to get old right? This is like listening to the best house band ever in a small bar. If I lived out in California I’d have tried to go to as many of these shows as I could have. Instead of playing the usual big hits and time worn crowd favorites Petty and the Heartbreakers turn to playing the music that inspired and influenced them in the first place. You can tell what an absolute kick they get out of that. It’s like a resurgence of energy. The sheer joy pouring out of the speakers on these performances makes this essential Petty listening. It’s like capturing a moment in time forever in amber. Who among us wouldn’t want that? Some people might be put off at the lack of hits here but give me the Heartbreakers honoring Chuck Berry by way of the Stones by blasting through “Around And Around” all day long.

Early on, after blasting through “Jammin’ Me” and “Runnin’ Down A Dream” they crank up Little Richard’s “Lucille” and I am here for it! They follow that up with J.J. Cale’s “Call Me The Breeze” and that point on the album they’d played more covers than originals. The band sounds loose and happy but they are tight as Hell here. “I Won’t Back Down” gets an airing but it’s very stripped down. Petty plays “a song (he) learned at camp” which turns out to be “You Are My Sunshine” which leads into a soulful Bill Withers’ cover “Ain’t No Sunshine.” I feel like I’m standing in a bar, beer in hand, jaw agape thinking “I’m glad I came out tonight.” The band takes us in so many wonderful directions here.  They even dip into the early, early Mudcrutch catalog for “On The Street.” They dig pretty deep on the choice of covers with “Hip Hugger,” an instrumental by Booker T. and the MGs. Anything goes! A fan actually calls out a request for “Hearbreakers’ Beach Party” – a Playback obscurity – and the band obliges him and plays the song which Petty admits the band had heretofore never played live.

“Even The Losers” and “American Girl” appear but merely as acoustic renditions which was fine with me! They do the James Bond theme “Goldfinger” which no one wants to acknowledge was a song done by Mike Campbell’s side project (the Blue Stingrays). Eventually they welcome original Byrd Roger McGuinn onto the stage for a mini-Byrds set of tunes. The Heartbreakers were always compared to the Byrds so why not invite Roger to the party. Eventually John Lee Hooker comes out for some smokin’ blues. It’s fantastic and I’m so thrilled they included the guest stars on the record.

You name an influence on the Heartbreakers and there’s probably a song here by them: the Rolling Stones, the Kinks, the Byrds, Blues music, the Grateful Dead, Them (Van Morrison), the Everly Brothers…the list goes on. This is like Tom and the guys are still just a small band playing the biggest ballroom in Gainesville like back in the early days. There is just so much joy and great music on this live album. There’s so much that is great on this thing I can’t even begin to list it all. I can’t recommend this thing highly enough. It’s been a real treat to let myself get absorbed in these performances. It’s clear to me that Petty and the Heartbreaker’s were at an absolute peak at this stage of the game. Everyone should hear this album. It should be taught to all new bands… learn this great set of rock songs and you’ll always have a job.

Petty says at one point on the album he considered the shows they were doing at the Fillmore as one of the true highlights of his career and goes on to say “It’s going to be hard to get us off the stage…” Thank Heaven it was!

Cheers!

Review: Neil Young & Crazy Horse Return With Ecology Focused ‘New World Record’ – Third Winner In a Row!

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Despite the fact that Neil Young, who is 77, has been quite prolific over the course of his late career, even I was surprised that he was back with a new album this quickly. When I speak of Young being prolific I’m not even talking about his Archival output from his vaults – the unreleased LPs like Toast or Homegrown or his wonderful Archive box sets – I’m talking about new material. This new album, World Record, is his third album in four years. And, more importantly it’s the first time in his career that he has put out three albums in a row with his once-and-future backing band Crazy Horse. There was a time in the 70s when he was cobbling albums together from previous recording sessions and many of his albums would have a few cuts from Crazy Horse, but he’s never done three proper studio albums in a row with Crazy Horse. Personally, I like the guitar chemistry Neil has with Crazy Horse and I considered the news that he had reconvened “the Horse” for a third go-round as good news to my ears. Clearly there will be no “soul covers” album from Neil Young like Mr. Springsteen has chosen to do… sigh. But then Neil has Everybody’s Rockin’ to atone for…

Crazy Horse has gone through quite a few changes over the years. Neil recruited drummer Ralph Molina, bassist Billy Talbot and guitarist Danny Whitten from a band named the Rockets back in ’69 for his second solo LP after leaving Buffalo Springfield, Everyone Knows This Is Nowhere. But then Neil joined CSNY for Deja Vu which helped solidify his status as a star. After all of that his relationship with Crazy Horse was sort of off again, on again. He’d recruit certain members of the band to play on certain albums. But then, in 1973 during the rehearsals for the tour in support of Harvest, guitarist Danny Whitten died of an overdose. He wouldn’t record a full album with Crazy Horse again until 1975’s Zuma. Although I’ve always considered Tonight’s The Night to be a Crazy Horse album…. Of course after Whitten passed Neil would play with Crazy Horse with guitar virtuoso Nils Lofgren taking Whitten’s place. By 1975 Lofgren was off on his solo career and Young hired Frank Sampedro to be the second guitarist in the band for Zuma. Sampedro was the perfect guitar foil for Young. Young recorded many of his great guitar epics with Sampedro egging him on, such as “Like A Hurricane,” “Cortez The Killer,” and take your pick from anything off of 2012’s Psychedelic Pill (Sampedro’s last album with Crazy Horse before he retired).

As I mentioned, this is Young’s third album of new stuff with Crazy Horse in a row. The first album he re-recruited Crazy Horse for was Colorado in 2019. This was when Nils stepped back into the band to take Sampedro’s place. I really liked Colorado. But I think we all realized that Crazy Horse was a changed entity by that time. Gone were the guitar epics that Sampedro helped fuel. There was a 13 minute epic on that album, “She Showed Me Love,” but it wasn’t as fierce as say, “Cortez The Killer” or “Ramada Inn.” Still, it was a great tune. They turned around and in 2021 they released Barn which I felt was an even better late period Young album. Frankly, I’ll admit that if you include World Record this may be Young’s best 3-album run since the 90s. Young’s main concern over the course of these three albums is the environment, climate change and the slow reaction mankind seems to be having to it. The man knows his way around a protest song.

As I said, when I heard Young had another album coming this soon, I was surprised. I’m told he had it written by July of this year, a mere seven months after Barn came out. According to Wikipedia, World Record‘s “lyrical content concerns Young “reminisc[ing] with gratitude about the gifts the Earth has given him” as well as the “state of Earth” and “its uncertain future,” as well as “Chevrolet,” a song about “Young’s relationship with cars.”” My only concern in hearing all of that was that this might be another record that Young spun up from the headlines and hadn’t taken time to write full songs for like say, Living With War. For the first time since he reconvened Crazy Horse I had some trepidation about this album. But then I heard Rick Rubin was going to co-produce the LP in his studio Shangri-La out in Malibu. I was hoping Rick would be able to curb Young’s recording ideology of “the first take is the best take,” and I started to look forward to this album more. Then I realized that Rubin is more of a “vibe guy” as a producer. Most likely he just sat cross-legged in the corner like a long haired, bearded Buddha and grooved to the musicians playing. The most he probably did from a technical stand point is hit the “record” button. Young does miss David Briggs, his longtime late producer.

I heard the first song, “Love Earth” and I chose not to write about it… I wasn’t sure about it. It was a laid back piano shuffle that brought to mind both Petty’s “The Man Who Loved Women” (recorded on ukulele no less) or Monty Python’s “Always Look On The Bright Side of Life.” Those aren’t meant to be criticisms but the tune made me think of old-timey songs. It certainly doesn’t sound like “protest” music but music that celebrates the environment and asks you to do something about it. The song does have a nice harmonica solo. Now that I’ve spent last week after Thanksgiving listening to the album, “Love Earth” has bored it’s way into my brain. It is a damn catchy tune. I had heard that this wasn’t going to be a guitar driven album. I knew that they would be using a bunch of different instruments like tack piano, pump organ, harmonica, accordion, and such. I feared that this album might sound like a one man band falling down a flight of stairs. I was, thankfully, wrong. Although admittedly the instrumentation wasn’t what you’d usually think you’d get on a Neil Young and Crazy Horse album. But as I said, Crazy Horse is a different animal these days.

As mentioned, the album kicks off with the first single, “Love Earth.” I simply love that song but I’ll admit it’s a grower. That leads into a jaunty piano driven tune “Overhead.” It sort of reminds me of “Are You Ready For the Country?” I’d almost call this a country stomper of a tune. It’s an uptempo thing and might have really smoked had it been on guitar vs piano/harmonica as lead. That’s not a complaint, I’m just trying to frame the vibe of the tune. “Overhead” almost feels like a statement of purpose for the record especially on the falsetto bridge. “This Old Planet (Changing Days)” is another piano and possibly accordion driven tune. It’s a lament about climate change where Neil reminisces about beautiful days with clear blues skies and sparkling water. He’s not wrong… especially when he sings “You’re not alone on this old planet.” “The Long Day Before” is another organ/accordion driven track. It’s a pretty Neil Young ballad with a great harmonica solo. It’s one of my favorites. “Walking On The Road (To the Future)” is a great plea for people to take the best from the past but move forward into the future. It’s another track I really liked. In the chorus he follows up with his other theme beyond climate change, “No more war, only love.” Nothing wrong with those sentiments for this wannabe hippy blogger.

“The World’s In Trouble Now” is a more urgent tune. Its rocking sans guitar which is a weird thing to type. I guess there’s some guitar on the track. It could have been a real barrel house rocker but I dig the way they did it here. Neil isn’t beating you over the head he’s finessing you. I dug the lyric, “Because the earth has held me so, I will never let go.” “The Wonder Won’t Wait” is another similar track to “The World’s In Trouble Now.” It’s another track that sounds old-timey via the instrumentation but makes me wonder what it’d have sounded like with some electric guitar leading the charge. “Take some time to live before you die” is a great line and frankly, good advice. It’s another plea to act on climate change but with the laid back instrumentation it doesn’t feel like a crazy corner preacher yelling at you that the end is nigh.

For you Neil electric guitar fans out there – have no fear, we get some of that too. “I Walk With You” has an ominous guitar riff that opens it up. For a split second I was transported back to Psychedelic Pill but it’s not that incendiary. It’s more laid back than that. But man what a big riff drenched in squall. The bridge hammers it home, “The end of war, the price of life, the cost of care…””Break The Chain” is another feedback drenched guitar song. You can almost read emotion in Young’s guitar tone. It’s chugging rocker that was also one of my favorites.

The biggest, bad-ass track here is the 15-minute “Chevrolet,” an ode to cars. Which, when you think about the environmental themes on this record, it shouldn’t work at all here but it does. In the tune Young sees an old Chevrolet and wants to buy it, the car is “speaking to” him. But he asks himself, “How will it comfort me, burning all that fuel again?” It’s almost like a break up song… where he breaks up with driving down the highway in a gas guzzler. I really love this track. It’s worth the price of admission. The guitar interplay between Young and Nils is reminiscent of well, Young and Poncho Sampedro. If you do one thing after reading this review it’s crank up “Chevrolet.”

This is simply put, an outstanding Neil Young album. It’s shambolic. It might have benefited by more liberal use of guitars instead of the odd instrumentation but like the tune “Chevrolet” – it shouldn’t work but it does. For a man this deep in his career to still be putting out fantastic music with an urgent, important message it’s quite something to hear. I mean, you don’t hear Harry Styles pleading with people about climate change. And yeah, he’ll sell more albums than Neil but that doesn’t mean the music is better than Young’s.

Put this one on and use your headphones to wring out some of the nuance of the tracks. Pour a little something strong… maybe light something up if that’s your thing and groove on the power of Neil Young and Crazy Horse. Be good to each other out there. And maybe recycle… it can’t hurt.

Cheers!

New Song Alert: Metallica, “Lux AEterna,” + Announcement On New LP – We Compare “Lux” To Recent First Singles

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Those crafty guys in Metallica surprised me this week with a new song and have announced their new LP, entitled 72 Seasons, due out in April 2023. I keep a running list of upcoming albums in my head at all times – because I clearly have a problem – and early in 2022 I sort of took Metallica off that list. I had fully expected an album from them this year and I don’t really remember why I thought that. But then I read an interview with, I believe, lead guitarist Kirk Hammett where he said something along the lines of, “it would be impossible for Metallica to release an album any time soon.” I don’t know what the fascination is with these bands and acts wanting to surprise people with their album releases but kudos Metallica you caught me off guard!

Frankly I think I can attribute some of my surprise around this new Metallica song to the fact that I haven’t quite recovered from Thanksgiving yet. I got back from Colorado fully intending to focus completely on Neil Young’s new LP World Record. But then the sad, shocking news about Christine McVie of Fleetwood Mac passing away hit me. That was on the heels of guitarist Wilko Johnson finally losing his battle with cancer… it was a heavy week. I found myself going through all my Fleetwood Mac records pulling up the Christine songs. She really was fabulous. I even came across her version of “I’d Rather Go Blind” from when she was still Christine Perfect and it’s sensational. Everyone should hear that track.

On the flip side of all of that for some reason now that the holidays are actually here for real – not just Christmas music firing up on Halloween, the holidays are really upon us now – I find myself turning more and more to harder rock n roll. ‘Tis the season to crank up the righteous metal, I guess. I’ve been returning to the Guns N Roses Use Your Illusions box set to crank the live stuff (and I wake up with “You Could Be Mine” in my head most mornings), then I head to Aerosmith’s mid-70s LPs, and then it’s Ozzy’s new LP from earlier this year, Patient Number 9. I guess I’ve never been the biggest Christmas person, one might call me a bit of a reformed Grinch… but this year I’m skipping the carols and heading straight for the hard stuff, musically speaking. So this new Metallica song, “Lux AEterna” (you’ll have to excuse me misspelling the title I don’t have a key on my keyboard with a merged A and E), fits in perfectly with my holiday rocking.

This new track “Lux AEterna” is heavy. If I ever go into cardiac arrest, throw this track on the stereo, crank it up and throw my body onto the speaker. It should revive me. Hell, it could revive my grandfather and he’s been gone over forty years. But before we get to heavily into “Lux AEterna,” let’s look back and see how it compares to some of their more recent first singles. I have to admit to being more of a dabbler into Metallica prior to Death Magnetic. I liked the Black Album as did most people. I had the added benefit of seeing them at Lollapalooza and they played a bunch of songs from that LP so I went out and bought it the day after. I kind of liked Load but didn’t get into Re-Load at all. Then they went into total collapse – long time bassist Jason Newsted left, singer/guitarist James Hetfield ended up in rehab, and then they reached their creative nadir with St Anger. I was frankly kind of done with Metallica. And then I heard “The Day That Never Comes” from Death Magnetic. Something about Metallica just clicked for me in that moment. I was in the car when I heard that song and immediately diverted to the record store. That album took Metallica back to their early style of music – long epic tracks, intense guitar solos, multiple time signature changes – and I loved it. It was also the first LP to feature new bassist Robert Trujillo, formerly of Ozzy’s band. “The Day That Never Comes” is an almost 8-minute tour de force. It’s in my not so humble opinion one of their best songs. After I heard that LP, I went back and purchased all four of Metallica’s first albums and have been a big fan ever since. Sometimes it takes something weird to flip the switch in my head. That’s a hard first single to compare other stuff to, it’s that momentous.

Then six years ago Metallica released “Hardwired” in anticipation of the LP Hardwired To Self Destruct. That was another awesome, heavy album. The track, “Hardwired” was one of the first things I reviewed for this blog. “Hardwired” was the opposite of “The Day That Never Comes.” It was hard and fast. It clocked in at only slightly over 3 minutes. It was so fast and hard it almost felt punk. Don’t get me wrong, I love the song, but it is a breakneck piece of rock n roll. The guitars snarl at you. Drummer Lars Ulrich hits the skins so hard you’d think he was mad at them. Although I have to admit with a chorus of “We’re so fucked, shit out of luck, hardwired to self destruct” the song seems a bit like self-fulfilling prophecy. Metallica always seems to deliver something special on those first singles.

“Lux AEterna” is definitely more in the “Hardwired” category. It is also a short track, only three-and-a-half minutes long. I really like this song. I played it for the Rock Chick and after declaring it “very heavy,” admitted it’s “very good Metallica.” I think Metallica plays as many notes on these short tunes as they do on the long, epic songs they just play the notes much, much faster. Hetfield’s frantic cry of “Lux AEterna” for the chorus sounds more like an anguished spirit calling out to the Gods than a metal singer. Kirk Hammett’s guitar solo is so unhinged it sounds like he’s about to lose control of his instrument half way through. One of the things that draws me to Metallica is the amazing drumming of Lars Ulrich. He is the engine and the engine is overhearing on “Lux Eterna.” This song sounds like a prize fighting champion working on the heavy bag… It is what every metal head out there needs to get them through a difficult holiday season. Here’s the track:

If you’re like me, a Metallica fan, or a fan of hard rock or heavy metal, put this track on for the holidays to drowned out Mariah Carey. My advice on this one is to turn it up as loud as it’ll go but beforehand secure all the fine china and glassware. It’s going to be a rocking spring with 72 Seasons.

Cheers and Devil Horns to all of you!!

Review: Guns N Roses, ‘Use Your Illusions – Super Deluxe’ – Like The Band, An Enjoyable Hot Mess of a Box Set Featuring 2 Complete Shows From 91-92

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Guns N Roses dropped the hotly anticipated (by me at least) box set for Use Your Illusions last weekend and I for one am stunned it’s been over thirty years since those great, albeit flawed, albums came out. I’m on record as a big Guns N Roses fan, even this current incarnation of the band with only Axl Rose (vocals), Slash (lead guitar) and Duff McKagan (bass) remaining from the incandescent original line-up. I actually saw that line-up on the ‘Not In This Lifetime’ tour over six years ago at Arrowhead Stadium (can it have been six years?). I saw that super cool blended cover art – strips of the yellow LP cover interchanged with strips of the blue LP cover and I fell immediately under it’s spell… I must have this box… until I saw the price tag. This was going to require some research…

I can still remember when Use Your Illusions I and Use Your Illusions II were released. I was working for a medical supply company out of Chicago that was owned by guys that had to be criminals. No matter how much product I sold I never seemed to see the commissions, working for the company store indeed… ah, the life of a traveling salesman. Anyway, in 1991 as soon as my day spent in hospitals and nursing homes was over I headed straight to the record store. This may be my faulty memory but I think I only purchased Use Your Illusions II (the blue one) on that late summer, September day. I had heard and loved the epic track “Civil War” prior to the album’s release as it had been put out on a charity album for Romanian orphans spearheaded by George Harrison’s wife, Olivia. I remember seeing my brother at the time and “Civil War” came on the overhead speakers at a sub shop where we were eating. I began cavorting in my chair and playing my always handy air guitar. I happened to look up at my brother who was sitting across the table from me, blank faced, staring at me impassively. I said, “Don’t you dig this?” Without even blinking an eye he said, voice full of contempt, “Yeah but I don’t have to look like an idiot to prove it.” Family…

I had also heard the rocking track “You Could Be Mine” from Use Your Illusions II since it also had been released prior on the Terminator 2 soundtrack. Having heard two songs that I already thought ranked amongst their best, Use Your Illusions II was an easy buy. I would like to think I’d have just gone ahead and bought both albums that day, but as mentioned, money was tight. I think I was in the “living with my parents again” phase of my life – always a sign of big time success. Much like when I was back  in junior high and even high school I always had a hard time committing to a double album or in this particular case two CDs released on the same day with the same title. And admittedly I was weirdly cautious about GnR. It took me until I heard the third single from Appetite For Destruction, “Paradise City,” before I bought that CD. The video for “Welcome To The Jungle” had me thinking these guys were just another hair band. “Sweet Child O’ Mine” caught my ear but it was a ballad and this was back when I was, let’s call it ballad-averse. Once I bought it, I was in, I was a fan but still cautious. By 1991 when the UYI albums were released it had been four years since their debut came out. That was a long gap in my mind.

Of course, in the time since their debut they’d released the odd follow up G N’ R Lies. While I had liked the song “Patience,” you couldn’t get away from it so who didn’t dig it, I had shied away from G N’ R Lies at the time because it seemed like a stopgap between “actual” albums. And admittedly I was deeply uncomfortable with some of the lyrics on “One In A Million.” Axl’s world view is certainly paranoid and misanthropic. I did go back to that same record shop and purchase Use Your Illusions I (the yellow one) a few weeks later after I heard “Dust N Bones.” Most people rushed out and bought that album for “November Rain,” which is a great, epic ballad but I preferred my GnR more menacing. On Appetite For Destruction they seemed like the most dangerous, threatening band on the planet – kind of like Aerosmith at their peak which coincidentally I had been listening to prior to this GnR deluxe release… It’s turning cold, the holidays are creeping up and I’m jumping around singing “‘Tis the Season for Hard Rock!”

The Use Your Illusions albums, taken together, to me sound a bit like the story of the Beatles’ self titled LP, aka The White Album. I’m not suggesting there is anything musically in common between The Beatles and the Use Your Illusions albums, but what has been said countless times about the Beatles’ record can certainly be said about the GnR albums: this is the sound of a band pulling in different directions. Use Your Illusions I seems to have the shorter, more focused, harder hitting rock songs. “Back Off Bitch,” “Bad Obsession,” “Dust N Bones” and “Perfect Crime” hit you like a prize fighter working the speed bag. I think that’s the direction Izzy Stradlin (rhythm guitar), Slash and Duff wanted to go. They wanted to stay in their lane. Axl, who had turned extraordinarily paranoid – he’d had beefs with neighbors, ex girlfriends/wives, the press, and had been excoriated for being racist and bigoted for “One In A Million” (rightly so) – wanted to indulge his Freddie Mercury/Queen/Elton John fantasies and go big. Use Your Illusions II is full of epic tracks: “Estranged,” “Locomotive” and “Civil War.” Of course “November Rain” and “Coma” were in that epic category and they were on the first album.

Axl’s paranoid vision for GnR was diametrically opposed to the rest of the band which never bodes well. By the time they recorded the UYI albums they’d already fired addled Steven Adler for heroin addiction. They’d tried to wait for him to pull himself together but in the words of Neil Young “He tried his best but he could not.” They replaced him with former Cult drummer Matt Sorum. Izzy always said they lost a key ingredient when they lost Adler, who had more “swing” in his drumming than Sorum, who is more of a plodder. Axl’s megalomania eventually drove Izzy Stradlin, who had also gotten sober, out of the band shortly after the two LPs came out. Losing him was a tremendous blow. Not because his replacement Gilby Clark couldn’t play but because Izzy was key for their songwriting.

In the end, I think you can say about the Use Your Illusions albums what they say about most double albums. There is probably a perfect, single-LP masterpiece lurking in this double album. I will admit, I’m happy to have as much GnR music from that classic line up as I can get so I’m still glad they sort of vomited all of this music on us back then. As I said when I saw the price tag on this box set I couldn’t help but think, “I have these records, what is the bonus material like? I was hoping like the Black Crowes on Shake Your Money Maker we’d get some unreleased tracks and some live stuff. Alas, I think GnR threw everything they had at the time on the two original LPs so scratch any unreleased studio gems from your wish list. However I would have loved to have heard some stripped down demos of these songs (especially of “November Rain”) or if there were outtakes (like Axl taking lead vocal on “Double Talkin’ Jive”) I’d have liked them included… especially at this price. I will admit I was a little disappointed when I heard that they would only be releasing two complete shows from the era, New York from May of ’91 and Las Vegas from January of ’92, and I can’t explain that disappointment. I don’t know why I felt that way? Rush just put out a great live concert with the 40th anniversary edition of Moving Pictures and it was sensational. Where was this feeling coming from?

Maybe it was the checkered history of the Use Your Illusions Tour? They actually started the tour before the albums came out because they were taking so long to finish. They couldn’t agree on a final mix. As I read somewhere, if Axl liked the mix Slash didn’t and vice versa. The Use Your Illusions Tour started in early ’91. I think one of the things that fueled my disappointment in hearing the bonus material was just two live shows was my memory of the troubled history of that tour. All the iconic bad behavior that we associate with Axl and the band stems from that tour. The tour was marred by GnR showing up late, Axl being drunk, Axl having vocal issues, Axl jumping into the crowd and fighting audience members, Axl walking off stage after only a few songs and in the case of the July ’91 show in St Louis, Axl starting a riot. Hence in the liner notes of the Use Your Illusions you can find the immortal words “Fuck St. Louis.” As someone from Kansas City a mere car ride away, I can tell you, they weren’t exactly wrong about St Louis.

GnR had been out on the road for eight months when the albums actually came out that balmy September. By November, Izzy Stradlin had quit the band. Before he quit, he had stopped riding on the tour bus and would just follow them on his motorcycle. I remember after he quit, one of their videos showed Izzy’s picture on milk carton under the words “Have You Seen This Man?” During the summer of ’92 GnR teamed up with Metallica for a joint tour that lasted from July to October that saw James Hetfield being burned up by the pyro. There was just some bad juju around this band and this tour back then.

That said – and I’m not a big bootleg guy any more, so I’ve never heard either of these two concerts before – I enjoyed these two concert recordings. Now admittedly, GnR never put out a definitive live album – and we know our live albums around here – and these two concert documents aren’t going to change that. They’ve confounded the issue by releasing separately, beyond the box set, remixes of the individual version of I and II with a hodgepodge of live cuts from different shows than the ones released in the box. I guess they’re trying to get folks to buy the box and new versions of each album all at the same time. Cashing in? I will say on the individual new release for Use Your Illusions I they have a nice live cut of Lenny Kravitz joining the band to play his tune “Always On The Run” from Paris. Lenny and Slash were buddies in high school and Lenny was the drummer in Slash’s first band. I’m not sure the live cuts would be enough to get me to buy the individual albums again unless I didn’t own them already, which I think is going to be a limited number of people.

In terms of the box set bonus material I probably like the New York May ’91 set best. It’s almost like hearing them rehearse. Axl even admits it’s only like the third time they’d played the songs since he “never shows up to jam with these guys.” Axl certainly has a bad case of LSD – Lead Singer Disease. People may be sort of “meh” about these two concerts but any time you can listen to Slash, one of the most melodic guitarist of all time and Axl one of the greatest voices in rock history rocking out it’s a treat. They throw in snippets of covers songs from Alice Cooper (“Only Women Bleed” an interesting choice), Rod Stewart (“I Was Only Joking”) and Jimi Hendrix (“Voodoo Child (Slight Return)”). It’s a great mix of tunes from all their albums from the debut to the two then new LPs.

On the Las Vegas Jan ’92 we get more of what we got on GnR’s live album Live Era ’87-’93 with back up singers and horns. There are actually five tracks from Live Era from this Vegas concert so there is a bit of duplication. We even get a little taste of “Hotel California” on this set. While this may not be GnR at their absolute peak it’s still an enjoyable listen if you’re a fan and it certainly holds together than the live stuff they cobbled together for the individual LP releases. I’ve never understood why Axl chose to bring in back up singers and horns? During one track he yells, “Give me some reggae,” which is something I never thought I’d hear at a GnR show… and the band drops into what sounds like a meth fueled attempt to slow it down and play a reggae thing. Sigh.

Overall at the price their charging I can’t recommend this box set. Like a gambler in an old time western movie, I’m pushing away from the table while mumbling, “Too rich for me…” However, I do recommend everyone at least stream this stuff. Especially if you’re a GnR fan or if you dig live music. A definitive live album doesn’t exist for these guys but these two shows provide us a snapshot of a time when GnR and hard rock were on top of the world and spiraling out of control. What’s not to love? Also if you don’t own Use Your Illusions I or II now might be the time to pick up those essential hard rock albums.

To everybody in the U.S., Happy Thanksgiving next week. I’m being held hostage by family in a remote location… Anyway, turn this one up loud to drowned out the political arguments during your Turkey Day. “What’s that Uncle Bob, you think I’m a communist but you love Slash?” Well, who doesn’t love Slash? Finally something we can all agree on!

Cheers!

Review: The Beatles, ‘Revolver Super Deluxe Edition’ – Is It Worth It?

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What a great fall so far for rock n roll. I’ve been celebrating new releases from the Cult, Bush (which really surprised me) and a second album from the Chili Peppers and then the Beatles dropped the superb new box set focused on one of the greatest albums of all time, Revolver. This is the fifth Super Deluxe box set focused on a specific album that they’ve released (so far) and we always ask the question, is this thing worth buying? The first set released was focused on Sgt Peppers and it was a skip for me as was the set for Abbey Road. I’ve never purchased Abbey Road, that side 2 medley puts me off. The box sets for The Beatles aka The White Album and Let It Be were absolute must have’s for me but I’ve always been more of a fan of their later work. Like all previous sets, this one is produced by Giles Martin, famous Beatles’ producer George Martin‘s son.

Growing up in my parent’s house I merely had to walk down the hall to the next bed room to find a font of Beatles music and wisdom. My brother was a huge Beatles fan even before I started listening to rock n roll. I was always a late bloomer. When you walked by his room you could almost always hear tunes slipping out from under the door or through the wall adjacent to my bedroom. I remember, once I started listening to music and got my turntable/receiver/tape player combo stereo, boldly entering my brother’s room with a blank cassette tape and announcing my intention to tape his Beatles collection – but only their “good songs.” I’m sure my brother was sitting there thinking, “All Beatles songs are good, you knob.” Needless to say, I didn’t bring as many cassettes as I needed…it turns out you can’t condense the Beatles’ career into one cassette… Youth is sometimes wasted on the young.

Despite living next to the Yoda of Beatles fans, when I finally did get into music I turned out to be more of a Stones’ guy. My brother and I tend to head in opposite directions. Although I was never religious about it, Stones vs Beatles. I liked the Beatles too but the Stones were my alpha and omega probably because they were more blues centered. It wasn’t until I was in college that I started buying Beatles records. Believe it or not, my first Beatles’ LP was Let It Be purchased at a Used Record store. From there I went on to buy Rubber Soul, Revolver, and several of the early LPs. Despite having grown up next to the foremost Beatles expert in my house, I had no idea that many of the Beatles LPs were different in the US than in the UK. Those rapacious bastards at Capitol Records who distributed Beatles albums in the States for their parent company EMI would change the running order of albums and often pull tunes off the UK versions and put out Frankenstein-style, cobbled together albums like Yesterday And Today, which I also purchased, not knowing any of this.

Because of Capitol Records slicing up these albums like they were playlists, I always sort of liked Rubber Soul better than Revolver. In my defense, Capitol had stripped out three songs from the UK version of the album that I consider some of my favorite tracks – “I’m Only Sleeping” (which inspired our Sleep Playlist), “And Your Bird Can Sing,” and “Dr Robert.” No wonder I was confused. Of course Rubber Soul was equally chopped up. The US version starts with “I’ve Just Seen A Face,” which is one of my favorite Beatles’ acoustic tracks but it’s not even on the UK version. Now that I’ve heard and own both of the UK versions of Rubber Soul and Revolver, I’d have to say, while I still love the former, the latter is now my favorite of the two. While this may seem strange to the Beatles’ faithful out there, I’ve always had those two albums linked in my mind – I sort of consider it the most critical period of the Beatles career.

If the Beatles had called it quits after releasing their great early LPs, when they were still the lovable “Mop Tops,” and their two soundtrack LPs (Hard Days Night and Help!) they’d still be considered the greatest band ever. I mean, there’s no getting around how fantastic they were. They exploded onto the music scene like a super nova. I remember my uncle telling me that he and his buddies couldn’t get over their “long” hair. In 1965 when they put out Rubber Soul they completely changed the way artists and fans approached the entire concept of the album. An album previously had been a collection of singles and well, filler. People bought singles not albums. The Beatles went at Rubber Soul in an attempt to create an entire album that hung together as an artistic statement. Well, it worked. It inspired countless other artists. I’ve always considered Rubber Soul to be the Beatles pot album. I mean, not that it’s about pot… but they’d started smoking pot, turned on by Bob Dylan, and it expanded their artistic consciousness. Drugs aren’t always bad, people… I never use it as I’m naturally ebullient, but I’m off topic. Rubber Soul revolutionized the whole idea of an album and it’s a landmark LP. What do you do for an encore?

Well, first, you move from pot to LSD, yes, acid. Unwittingly turned onto LSD by a rogue dentist – I once knew an evil chiropractor – John (especially) and George really opened up their minds to creative possibilities. The Beatles were scheduled to film their third movie at the start of 1966 and luckily for the world, it was cancelled. With all this free time, besides taking acid, the Beatles were able to take some vacation time and recharge the batteries. They also had a lot more time to focus on the studio and producing another mind blowing album. At the time when record companies were expecting two albums a year even from the Beatles, they pumped the brakes and started to exert more control over their artistic lives.

Revolver may just be my favorite Beatles album. They say that listening to The White Album is like listening to a band growing apart and listening to Let It Be is the sound of a band breaking up – I sort of agree about The White Album, but I’m not so sure about Let It Be – the sound of Revolver is the sound of a band coming together with a singular focus to create the greatest variety of sounds they may have ever produced. The band comes together like a team. And, my god, they were so far ahead of their time. Everybody shows up strong. I’m going to start with George, because nobody ever starts with George. He gets the opening track, the iconic “Taxman” and it’s truly one of his best. He really shows his development as a songwriter here. I’m not a huge fan of his Indian stuff, but “Love You To” may be my favorite of that variety. I think it’s his first full blown Indian style track, although I know he’d flavored a few earlier songs with sitar. “I Want To Tell You” is one of his most underrated songs.

Listening to this album again I’m amazed at what a great drummer Ringo is/was. I always dismissed him when compared to guys like John Bonham or Keith Moon when I first got into rock n roll, but the guy is money. He drumming is always in service to the songs. He is also the perfect person to sing “Yellow Submarine,” a “groovy uncle.” McCartney’s song craft is perhaps at a pinnacle on Revolver. “For No One” is perhaps his saddest song ever and the sound of the clavichord points the way towards Sgt Pepper. “Eleanor Rigby” is simply iconic. “Got To Get You Into My Life” is psychedelic soul at it’s finest. While all of that is great, my highest praise is for Lennon. “Tomorrow Never Knows” – with its way ahead of it’s time tape-loops – where he quotes the Tibetan Book of the Dead may be the greatest Beatles’ song ever. What a trippy tune. “She Said, She Said,” inspired by a conversation he’d had with Peter Fonda who kept saying, “I know what it’s like to be dead” is another stellar track. The aforementioned tracks that were left off the US version are absolute knockouts, “I’m Only Sleeping,” “And Your Bird Can Sing,” and “Dr Robert” about the rogue dentist who gave them LSD. There is no Sgt. Pepper without Revolver. All these years later it’s still a breathtaking listen.

On this Super Deluxe Edition, I must say, this is a must have, not just for Beatles fans. As mentioned, the remix is produced by Giles Martin. His new stereo mix sounds fantastic. I’m not one of those Beatles audiophiles that can tell you if he dropped a backing vocal here or a drum beat there – I can only share my feelings about the listening experience. The Beatles, as was the custom of the time, were more focused on the mono mixes back in the 60s. Predominantly all music was released in mono. People were listening on transistor radios or stereos with one speaker, it was the dominant style. It wasn’t until the late 60s and really into the 70s that stereo came to the fore. Frankly I don’t know if there has been a really good stereo mix of the old Beatles records, until now. It sounds fabulous, especially turned up loud. There is also a mono version of the album for those of you who want to compare. And there are some subtle differences between the mono mix and the stereo mix if you listen carefully…

Like previous Beatles box sets, the two discs beyond the stereo and mono remixes of the album are all outtakes of earlier versions of the released tracks. This isn’t like say, Prince’s 1999 where there are a bunch of unreleased never-heard-before tracks. And while I know it’s cliche, I have to say this is a fabulous glimpse into the Beatles’ creative process, which I for one find fascinating. There’s so much cool stuff here. “Tomorrow Never Knows – Take 1” sounds like a baby singing from the womb over his mother’s heartbeat, like a singing sonogram… it’s amazing for a first take. There are several versions of “Got To Get You Into My Life” – “Take 5” is driven by Paul driving the tune on an organ with Ringo’s loping drums. The second version of the song is fuzzy guitar driven and I might like it better than the released version… George’s “Love You To” strummed on an acoustic guitar is a great demo. “Rain – Take 5” sounds like it was recorded on speed, way too fast, but the next version “Rain – Take 5 (Slowed Down),” brings out all the trippiness of the song.

The different versions of “And Your Bird Can Sing” bring out the rock n roll in the song. Once again Ringo’s drumming is perfect for the track. Not everything they do works. “Taxman – Take 11” has some additional backing vocals that were best left in the can. The versions of “I’m Only Sleeping” take us on a journey from acoustic, folky strummer to the full blown rock tune. “Eleanor Rigby – Take 2” is just the strings… and I kind of dug that but I’ve been listening to more classical stuff of late. The versions of “Yellow Submarine” are nothing short of a revelation. It starts with John singing with an acoustic guitar on “Yellow Submarine – Songwriting Work Tape Part 1” and “Part 2” and it changes the song to me. Paul wrote it, John demo’d it, and Ringo sang it. The demos almost sound kind of sad. I also really found “She Said, She Said – John’s Demo” fascinating listening… it’s just John again with only an acoustic guitar. To think where that song went from such humble beginnings.

The last disc in the box is a mocked up single with just “Rain” and “Paperback Writer” – in both a new stereo mix and the mono mix. I love both of those song – which weren’t on the actual album, they were released as a single – but even I’ll admit it feels like they’re padding the package to charge a bit more. I don’t usually comment on packaging but the book in this box is something else!

This is a set of songs and demos that I know I’m going to be returning to and listening to over and over much like I did with Let It Be Super Deluxe. I advise everybody to listen to this and remember Xmas is coming…this would look good under any tree. This box is certainly worth it.

Cheers!

New Song Alert: Shirtless Icon Iggy Pop’s New Aptly Titled “Frenzy” – Primal Rock N Roll Recalls ‘Raw Power’

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“I’m the guy with no shirt who rocks…” – Iggy Pop, 2022

I must admit I spent most of last week still in that Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Dream Canteen haze I’ve been in lately. But then Friday, like a thunderbolt, Iggy Pop released a brand new song, the aptly titled “Frenzy” and the next thing I know I’m jumping around with my shirt off, pumping my fist in the air. Music just… hits me sometimes.

I’ve admitted in these pages before, I didn’t grow up listening to Iggy Pop. Growing up in a conservative, small city in the Midwest, Iggy Pop wasn’t something you were going to hear on the local radio. The powers that be – the suits – who tightly controlled what people hear on the radio, weren’t going to put something as visceral and subversive as Iggy on during drive-time. The suits likely thought Pop was dangerous. I’m not sure I knew who Iggy was until I got to college and started reading Rolling Stone. His 1977 albums (2 in one year!) The Idiot and Lust For Life produced by David Bowie were always in those Rolling Stone “Best Albums Ever” issues and in college I had started religiously reading Rolling Stone so I’d heard the name… well, I’d read the name. I sort of relegated Iggy to that list I had in my head of artists that critics dug but no one else did… although ultimately I did end up listening to most of those bands (Digging In Deeper: Artists/Albums To Expand Your Music Collection; Don’t Be Afraid!). And in those very same pages of Rolling Stone every artist who they interviewed, if they were punk influenced, hard rock at all, would mention Iggy Pop as an influence. I thought he was just one of those artists other people name-dropped to sound cool. I figured most of them had never really listened to him, they just wanted the street cred. Even on cooking shows I’d see Iggy – Anthony Bourdain worshiped him.  At best I may have heard Iggy on MTV, likely something from 1986’s Blah Blah Blah, his final collaboration with David Bowie but it didn’t connect with me at the time.

I don’t know how I avoided Iggy for as long as I did. I knew he was pals with Bowie and I’ve been a huge Bowie fan since the early 80s. I just never jumped the fence over to Iggy’s side. Sometimes we take circuitous routes to find an artist, but my journey to Iggy was beyond odd. In 2013 I was driving in my car and the local radio station had just got their copy of the Queen of the Stone Age’s then new LP …Like Clockwork and they went old school and played the whole thing on-air. I connected with that album immediately… I seem to remember pulling my car over and parking in a lot near my house so I could hear the whole thing. That sent me deep into the QOTSA catalog. Then in 2016 I heard Josh Homme of the Queens was producing and playing on a new album of Iggy Pop’s entitled Post Pop Depression. I figured Iggy and Homme would be an interesting pairing. I heard the single, “Gardenia” and I was hooked. I bought the album and man, I loved it. The next thing I know I’m buying The Idiot and Lust For Life, the very records I’d scoffed at in college. Those albums are simply put, masterpieces. Iggy’s career has been a little up and down since so picked up albums scattered through his solo career from New Values to Blah Blah Blah to American Caesar. I even dug parts of his last LP Free with it’s horns and jazz-style tunes. It was a cool stylistic left turn. At the time, I may have been clandestinely video taped by my daughter in Snapchat while dancing to “James Bond” from that record. I was doing a Travolta in Pulp Fiction twist thing… it felt right at the time… although I’m not sure I wanted that captured for posterity, there may have been drink involved.

It took me a while but eventually I took the plunge and went deeper into Iggy. I started buying albums from his first band, the Stooges. The Stooges were formed in Detroit Rock City by Iggy and the Asheton brothers after Iggy had seen Jim Morrison and the Doors in concert. The Stooges just RAWK. If you’re looking for visceral, proto-punk, off the chain rock and roll, it’s the Stooges you’re looking for. Listening to their three LPs – The Stooges (1969), Fun House (1970), and especially Raw Power (1973, produced in part by yes, Bowie) – you begin to understand why every punk rocker in the late 70s and hard rocker of the 80s would name check Iggy. The Stooges era was when Iggy would tear his shirt off and crowd surf… occasionally either cutting his chest with broken glass or smearing peanut butter thrown at him from the crowd all over his chest… which would have been my choice rather than self harm with broken glass. The Stooges were primal rock n roll. They tapped directly into the Id, into that lower brain stem. I’m not sure Iggy has worn a shirt since those days…

Don’t get me wrong, Iggy has really rocked hard in his solo career at times, but I don’t think too many will disagree with me that he hasn’t rocked as hard as the Stooges, well, ever since. And then yesterday I heard “Frenzy.” Oh my god does this song rock. It takes me right back to Raw Power. It’s produced by Andrew Watt who I have quickly become a big fan of. He’s produced some modern pop stars, Post Malone and Miley Cyrus but he seems to be a neo-classicist when it comes to rock n roll and produced stellar albums from Eddie Vedder (Earthling) and Ozzy’s last two LPs (the comeback Ordinary Man and the recently released Patient Number 9). Watt also plays guitar on “Frenzy” with what appears to be his “go-to” rhythm section of drummer Chad Smith (Red Hot Chili Peppers) and bassist Duff McKagan (Guns N Roses). They make a helluva band. They played metal for Ozzy now they’re playing punk for Iggy. The circle is complete.

The track starts off with a dash of feedback before the heavy, fuzzy guitar riffs start. The drums and bass hit like a division of Panzer tanks invading the town square. Iggy sound viciously unhinged, spitting out lines like “I’m in a frenzy you fucking prick, I’m in a frenzy you god damn dick.” The man has never been known to mince words. And let’s admit it, we’ve all been there a time or two. For a guy who I thought might hang it up after Free, Iggy is back and better than ever and when he sings “My mind is on fire, I will not retire,” I think we have to believe him. Watt, with Chad and Duff, have captured the real spirit of the Stooges here. And I love that Iggy can still embrace that kind of well, raw power. Here’s the video:

Again, I thought Iggy had shuffled off into retirement. There’s no retirement shuffling for Iggy fucking Pop folks. The good news is that this isn’t just a one off single from Pop and Watt. It appears Andrew and his all star rhythm section are sticking around to record an entire album. I don’t know when it’s coming or what it’s called, but if this is how it’s going to sound it’s going to be a very, very rocking fall.

Turn this one up to 11, pour some Woodford, take your shirt off, get some peanut butter and behold the power (raw or otherwise) of Iggy Pop! And don’t be surprised if you hear me mumbling, “I’m a street walking cheetah with a heart full of napalm…”

Cheers!

LP Review: Red Hot Chili Peppers Return With 2nd LP of 2022, ‘Return Of The Dream Canteen’

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“I’m at the county fair, haystack ride, I pull your hair…” – Red Hot Chili Peppers, “Tippa My Tongue”

The Red Hot Chili Peppers have released their second double LP – yes their second double LP – of 2022. That’s a whopping 34 tunes – 36 if you count the Japanese bonus tracks – in one year. That’s 1972 level output, when artists put out two or three albums in a calendar year. Or maybe we should be comparing this to latter day Prince who was always extraordinarily prolific but especially toward the end. I had read before Unlimited Love came out that the Peppers had something like 50 tunes finished…which may mean a third LP is waiting in the wings? The auspicious return of guitarist John Frusciante really sparked the creative energy with these guys. I’m always a huge believer in the chemistry of specific individuals creating music together but man, there is A LOT to digest. But I can also say there is A LOT to like here.

I really liked Unlimited Love and having gone back and re-listened to it this week I stand by those feelings. I will admit I’m surprised they decided to release that album first. It was a little restrained and you had to hunt for Frusciante’s very distinctive guitar solos. This new album, Return Of The Dream Canteen, is to my ears more upbeat and bright. This is absolutely not an album of “leftovers.” It stands on it’s own artistic merits. I have to admit I like this album much better than Unlimited Love and I’m on record as really digging that album. This album does remind me more of Stadium Arcadium, but that may just come from the sprawling nature of this album. While Frusciante’s wonderful guitar is all over this album – and it’s glorious to behold – Flea is also all over this record as well. Or, as I described it on the first record of the year, this album is also very Flea forward… he is the greatest bass player of his generation. Drummer Chad Smith is also quietly becoming one of my favorite drummers.

I have heard many people complain – or in my case chuckle – about Anthony Kiedis’ lyrics. I’m beginning to think he just tries to find cool syllables that go well together than actual words that make sense. I mean, the guy has never been accused of being the second Bob Dylan… he’s no John Prine or Bruce Springsteen. Kiedis is more like David Lee Roth in that it’s all about vibe and feeling. All I can tell you is that I’ve been singing the words I quoted above for weeks…”Haystack ride, I pull your hair…” The words just put a smile on my face. I will say, while the Chili Peppers have always been the “Good Time Boys” – they’re only a few  years older than me and they remind me of cool upper class guys from my high school – there is a bit of nostalgia that has crept in, much like when I get together with my old drinking buddies from college. Kiedis references Van Halen, Hall and Oates, the Clash, Frank Sinatra and Cheech & Chong. Even these goofballs get caught looking backwards.

As I said, I probably like this album better of the two released this year. Frusciante in an interview about Unlimited Love said they’d left the best stuff for the second album and I’d say he was right. I think if they’d released this album first they might have seen a little more momentum – this stuff feels more summery and Unlimited Love seemed more autumnal. There’s a classic trope in rock and roll that in every good double album there lurks a classic single album. I was never sure that was really true until I heard the outtakes from Tom Petty’s Wildflowers. Yes, they were great but releasing only a single album at that time was the right move, Wildflowers as it was originally released is a stone cold classic. And just like Unlimited Love, I think Dream Canteen would have benefited from a few cuts/edits. I think you could amend the classic trope in this instance to say there is probably one classic double album lurking in these two double albums. I’m waiting to see people start doing their edited, combined playlists for these two records to refine them into one great album. “Tippa My Tongue” followed by “Black Summer” and such? Maybe I’ll take a stab at that like I did Springsteen’s Human Touch and Lucky Town, distilling those down to just one album. Personally, I like having all of this music, one big smorgasbord of funky tunes.

This album is, if anything, funky. It’s like the Peppers have rediscovered their funk-metal roots. There’s a bit more pop here than in the old days. There’s not as much menace in their tunes this time around. Perhaps they’re just happier or maybe they don’t rock as hard without their demons. I always thought Robin Williams was funnier when he was on coke, which is probably a terrible admission on my part. I do appreciate their willingness to experiment with different sounds. This album is certainly less… shall we say… monochromatic than their classic Stadium Arcadium. There were rumors Frusciante only returned because he’d gone through a messy divorce and needed money. Even if that’s true, he brought his A game to this music. I feared he’d lost his ability to write rock songs after Unlimited Love. He allays all fears on this record.

The album starts with the first single “Tippa My Tongue” which I already reviewed, but man it’s an earworm extraordinaire. It’s in my head most mornings when I wake up. “Peace and Love” is another great pop tune with a heavenly bass line. It’s laid back, midtempo, joyfulness makes me wonder if the Chili Peppers are actually… happy? “Copperbelly” is another great pop tune towards the end. It’s more of a ballad really. While there are some lighter, poppier moments, these guys still can rock with the best of them. “Reach Out” starts mellow but then Frusciante carpet bombs us with heavy riffs. It reminds me of “Ready Made.” “Fake as F@ck” is another great rock tune here. It also starts slow and then explodes. The tune just shimmies and shakes and has a really trippy ending. “Bag of Grins” is a throbbing tune with great tribal drumming from Chad.

I love the Van Halen tribute “Eddie.” Kiedis crams more VH references into that song than I can even think of. You can’t sing about the greatest guitarist ever without a tasty guitar solo and Frusicante blows me away on this track. It’s not an attempt to imitate Eddie, just a tribute about him. “Bella” is a funky track where Kiedis is trying to convince a young woman to move out of L.A., which is counter to everything he’s ever written about California. “The Drummer” is another cool throbbing track that sounds like a loose electric wire is shocking me…very jittery. I love that song with it’s soaring chorus. “Carry Me Home” has Frusciante’s most blistering solo of the album. “Afterlife” is pure funk and it’s impossible to stay seated while it’s playing. “Handful” actually conjures the aforementioned Clash’s song “Ghetto Defendant” but maybe that’s just me.

I could literally go on and on about the tracks on this record. There are a lot of great ones. If I was going to edit this thing, there are a few tracks that I didn’t connect with as much and might consider cutting. I didn’t like “My Cigarette” the first time I heard it but it has grown on me. I do like the sax solo on the tune. “La La La La La La” is a piano driven ballad that misses the mark, badly. The final track, “In The Snow” is just ok. It sounds like they employed a drum machine and Kiedis does some spoken word pieces that are… ridiculous. But those are the only misses to me on an album that stretches out over 17 tracks.

If Unlimited Love didn’t scratch your Peppers itch, Dream Canteen will certainly do the trick. This is truly the strongest album they’ve put out since Stadium Arcadium. It’s a real triumph. Would these two double albums been better as perhaps just one, more focused double album? Probably. But then it wouldn’t be the Chili Peppers if they’d shown some restraint. And believe me, restraint is overrated. Turn this one up loud with a tumbler of rye and get ready for the funky rock n roll, baby.

“Please don’t remember me for what I did with DavidYou know I’m talkin’ David LeeAm I ready?Please don’t remember me, for what I did last night, ohI guess I played a flying V.”

Cheers!

LP Review: The Cult, ‘Under The Midnight Sun’ – A Sublime Listening Experience

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I can’t believe it’s been six years since the Cult’s last album, Hidden City. As Dylan sang, “time is a jet plane, it moves too fast.” When a band I really like waits that long between LPs, and they all seem to wait that long between albums these days, I worry that my anticipation will get the better of me. Sometimes when we let our anticipation run wild we can be disappointed. I know that happens to my buddy Arkansas Joel every time U2 puts out a new LP, but then they did hit a rough patch there for a while so that’s understandable. The Rock Chick was disappointed with Unlimited Love from the Chili Peppers, released earlier this year but again, that was anticipation fueled by Frusciante’s return. I actually liked that album… But for every LP we’ve been disappointed by there are many albums that utterly satisfy – Ozzy’s Patient Number 9 or Billy Idol’s new EP The Cage were both wonderful recently released albums.

And yet, even knowing the Cult would likely deliver, I too was worried about that old monster, anticipation. My excitement for the new album was given a shot of jet fuel only a few weeks ago when I saw the Cult live here in KC at the Uptown Theater. It was a great, great show. I feared that anticipation would somehow cloud how I felt about the album. Then I saw that the album was only eight songs long. That’s what, barely over a song a year since the last record. I heard rumors that it was all pretty “midtempo” or “monochromatic.” Critics were a bit “meh.” And yet as I’ve spent the last four or five days listening to nothing but Under The Midnight Sun – a title inspired by a show they played in Finland where the sun was up all night – all I can think about the Cult (Ian Astbury, vocals; Billy Duffy, guitar; John Tempesta, drums; and I’m unclear who played bass… Grant Fitzpatrick may have played on the LP, Charlie Jones is touring with them) is “My God, they delivered.” The Tom Dalgety produced Under The Midnight Sun is a wonderful, nuanced, spiritual listening experience.

Inevitably when folks talk about the Cult, they’re thinking of their late 80s heyday when they released a trio of iconic albums: Love (1985), Electric (1987) and of course, Sonic Temple (1989). But back in those days, toward the end of my college party experience and the beginning of my corporate, first job exile in Arkansas, I wasn’t paying any attention to new rock n roll. I was immersed in the past. I was listening to stuff from the 60s (the Beatles, The Band) or the 70s (Aerosmith, Led Zeppelin, Faces, and the Allman Brothers). It’s like I felt I had to catch up on all the music that had passed before I started listening to rock n roll. And admittedly after my corporate masters exiled me to Ft Smith, Arkansas – something I’ve never forgiven them for – my main conduit to new rock was MTV. All hard rock bands basically made the same video so I became numb to the then current music… I should have been paying attention, especially to the Cult.

It wasn’t until I met the Rock Chick that I was turned onto the Cult. The first LP they put out in the new millennium, while I was actually paying attention, was Beyond Good And Evil. My main experiences with their music have been with their latter career. Don’t get me wrong, I love those late 80s masterpieces. I saw them on both the recent tours for Love and Electric when they played those albums in their entirety. But beyond that I have really enjoyed everything they’ve put out since Beyond Good And Evil. To gear up for the release of Under The Midnight Sun I put on Born Into This, not Electric. And so because of that, shall we call it, delayed perspective on the Cult I tend to look at their new albums in the perspective of what they’ve done since 2000 vs what they did from ’85 to ’89. And frankly I think 1991’s Ceremony deserves to be in the conversation as well – it’s a super album but Kurt Cobain and grunge killed everything that came before it including Ceremony.

Yes, I will admit I was disappointed we only got eight tracks on the new album. It is, as advertised, a mostly midtempo experience. There are two wonderful ballads that serve as great change of pace moments. And yet despite any hard rock anticipation I was fostering, I find this music utterly captivating. While the music is immediately identifiable as the Cult it only has echos of stuff they’ve done in the past. I feel like this is new ground for them. I’m like most Cult fans, I’d have loved a screaming rocker like “Dirty Little Rock Star,” or “Rise” to pump things up a bit… or yes a “Fire Woman” would be nice. But that’s just not where these guy’s heads are at. I would have thought they could have pulled a few more tracks together – at least two but I’d have loved four more to get us to 12, the standard CD length – and had they done that and made those additional tracks screaming rockers this album would likely rank amongst their best. In my mind, it still does rank quite highly.

There is a passion and urgency to the songs on UTMS. Billy Duffy is really the hidden star here. His guitar is less aggressive than what I’m used to but his playing is shimmering, smokey guitar riffs and solos. Maybe because half the band was in England and Astbury was in New York there’s a yearning in this music. Although it’s mostly a spiritual or universal yearning. A hope that we can come together on this planet. “Give me mercy, a new language.” That line, “a new language,” really resonated with me. It’s like we’ve forgotten about compassion and love and this music is a spiritual touchstone to guide us back. There is a certain majestic quality to this music that bores into my brain. Lyrically it’s as if Astbury – whose baritone is in fine form, what a voice! – is looking at the universe and needs to express the existential angst. And did I mention his voice? One of the best in all of rock n roll.

There were two songs released prior to the album coming out. I reviewed “Give Me Mercy” already so I won’t beat that horse but the more I hear it the better I like it. As mentioned, the lyric “Give me mercy, a new language, give me mercy, love will find you” is like a lost Buddhist mantra. The second track they put our prior to the album release was “A Cut Inside” which is probably the heaviest riffing, hardest rocking song here. Even I’ll admit it’s more of a simmer than an explosion but I still really connect with this song. It was both great in concert and in the car… some tunes just have to be cranked up while you’re speeding on the parkway… “A Cut Inside” has a soaring chorus, “Caught in a lie, tears in my eyes…” I love Tempsta’s drumming on the track. He now may be the longest tenured drummer in the Cult.

“Mirror” is the opening track and it sets the sound palette for much of the rest of the record. Duffy’s plaintive guitar weaves in and around of Tempesta jungle drumming. Billy plays a great solo on this track as well… Ian’s baritone is sensational, “Love, love, love, forget what you know…” “Vendetta X” may be my favorite track here. It’s got a slightly, dare I say, funky riff/drums thing going on. It’s got a low key intensity and kind of reminds me of some stuff on Dreamtime (for you really long time Cult fans). Astbury keeps singing “Sucking on a dirty blade, fighting over Love and Hate,” and you believe him the way he spits out the words. “Impermanence” is another great track in that midtempo vein. “Outer Heaven” is slightly mellower, but I wouldn’t call it a ballad. It starts with a nice wash of strings. Billy works up a bit of a squall on the track over Tempesta’s now galloping drums. That one ends as almost a religious chant. It’s another highlight here.

As mentioned there are two ballads on the record and they’re some of my favorite moments. “Knife Through A Butterfly Heart” ranks amongst their best ballads ever – right up there with “Edie (Ciao Baby)” and “Nico,” two of my favorites. It’s all haunting acoustic guitar – which we don’t get to regularly hear on a Cult album – and strings. Billy does lay in some nice electric notes weaving around the edges of the track until the end when he delivers the killer solo. It’s another personal favorite on this record. The title track, which ends the album is also a highlight. It’s a very cinematic track. It has strings that had me thinking about James Bond and the Rock Chick thinking about the show Dexter. It also has a lot of acoustic guitar. I’ve heard it described as a “spaghetti Western of a song,” and I get where they get that description. I just think it’s a cool. “Under midnight sun, with creatures of the wild, lost in love’s illusion, all will fade in time.” Damn, that’s some heavy stuff right there.

This is a really great album. Don’t let any of your expectations or anticipation get in your way on this one. It maybe a grower for some people. Put this one on and turn it up, pour something strong and let the lyrics and guitar was over you. It’s not going to rattle your fillings but it may just move your heart. I’m just happy we’ve finally got some new Cult to listen to.

Namaste!