Mar 2019

Love Hurts (CD)

GRAMMY-nominated guitarist Julian Lage adds bassist Jorge Roeder and drummer Dave King to his trio for new album, Love Hurts. Digging into the American songbook, Lage brings his enviable technique and creative interpretation to music by Ornette Coleman, Roy Orbison, Peter Ivers and more, and provides several originals. The well-known title track is elegantly rendered here, as is Orbison's “Crying,” paired with funky numbers like “The Windup” by Keith Jarrett. Wide-ranging, adventurous, and delightful.

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In The Key Of The Universe (CD)

On his new record, soul jazz organist Joey DeFrancesco basks in the talents of the legendary Pharoah Sanders who performs on three of the ten tracks, already rounded out by an excellent trio that includes drummer Billy Hart. DeFrancesco holds his own with songs like the lilting “Soul Perspective” and the meditative “A Path Through The Noise,” making it clear from the start with the upbeat opener “Inner Being” that this is a celebration of spiritual jazz. The return of Sanders is truly a treat, perhaps especially on the recreation of his classic “The Creator Has A Master Plan.”

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Trauma (CD)

Having survived a difficult period in which singer Brian Burkheiser recovered from a serious vocal injury, I Prevail return triumphantly with a new album that reflects their resilience and continued ability to craft their own hybrid sound of metal, electronic, and hip-hop. The intense “Bow Down” and “Gasoline” are testiments to the high energy they revealed on their highly successful debut, while “Breaking Down” is a slow-builder with crackling hip-hop elements and more than a nod to genre-founders Korn. The album features guest turns from Delaney Jane and rapper Justin Stone.

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Assume Form (CD)

James Blake returns with a new album after collaborating/producing with others for the past few years. Assume Form includes last summer's single “Don't Miss It,” with its chilly falsetto backing vocals and anxious static. The album boasts guests like Travis Scott and André 3000 – the latter adds a funky edge to “Where's The Catch” – and samples from the likes of The Manhattans. The lyrics may lean more towards hopeful romance than loneliness, but fans of his distinctive, melancholy ballads will still delight in these well-crafted tracks that blur the lines between chillstep, soul, and R&B, looping together sparse piano, digitally altered vocals, and sleepy beats.

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Anthem Of The Peaceful Army (CD)

Greta Van Fleet’s profile has risen steadily since last year’s breakout single “Highway Tune,” to the point that they’ve been hailed as everything from the next Led Zeppelin to the saviors of rock and roll itself. Hyperbole? Well, yeah, of course. Rock and roll is not in need of “saving,” in this year or any other, nor does anyone need another Led Zeppelin; there’s already one, and most would agree they’re pretty damn inimitable. Now is there merit behind these bold proclamations? Undoubtedly. With their slightly obtuse name and Stranger Things-worthy album artwork, Greta Van Fleet have tapped into an ephemeral artery of visceral, immediate gratifying hard rock music that hasn’t been satiated since the days of Wolfmother. Songs like “When The Curtain Falls” and “Lover, Leaver” maintain that subtlety is boring and stack howling vocal performance over flashy riffs and solos, while “You’re the One” and “Anthem” offer mellow, acoustic-led balladeering filled with sunny, hippie-fried sentiment. Yes, thanks to the uncanny, eerily Plant-like voice of lead singer Josh Kiszka, Greta Van Fleet remind a lot of Led Zeppelin, but these songs and riffs suggest a heavy absorption of Rush’s Fly By Night or AC/DC’s High Voltage as well. No, the '70s aren’t back, but a bit of that cavalier spirit lives on thanks to Anthem of the Peaceful Army.

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The Prophet Speaks (CD)

On The Prophet Speaks, his latest collaboration with Joey DeFrancesco and his band, Van Morrison sounds confident, cool and compelling. The legendary singer pays soulful homage to the talents who came before him with covers by Solomon Burke and John Lee Hooker. He brings effortless lounge lizard style to an excellent half-dozen new originals that rank among his finest work. Accentuated by Hammond organ and a robust horn section, this swinging LP has a timeless appeal, showing off the best traits of a master at work.

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Death By Metal (DVD)

Canadian filmmaker Felipe Belalcazar's Death by Metal digs into death and progressive metal legend Chuck Schuldiner's rise and premature fall due to a brain tumor. With testimony from the likes of Steve DiGiorgio, Richard Christy, Shannon Hamm, Rick Rozz, and Chris Reifert, the film examines both the positive and negative sides of Schuldiner's personality – his blazing talent and ingenuity vs. his pride and volatile relationship with other musicians. The doc also includes plenty of satisfying live footage.

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Spaceman (CD)

Ace Frehley shows no signs of slowing down at 67, with his third solo album of straightforward F-off rock n' roll. Several tracks on Spaceman were co-written with Gene Simmons, and most of them boast enough still-blistering guitar solos to satisfy KISS fans. “Your Wish Is My Command” is a clear highlight with its cruising, feel-good chorus, as well as the faster-paced rocker “Bronx Boy.” Instrumental closer “Quantum Flux” goes against the grain delving into prog-rock territory and adding a little extra texture.

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Wasteland, Baby! (CD)

Andrew Hozier experiments with different styles on Wasteland, Baby, his first album since his 2013 breakout, roving from the moody Americana of the title song to the funk rock of “No Plan” to the traditional Irish folk touches in “Shrike.” His powerful, expressive voice carries an earnestness through it all that counters the sometimes harsh realism of the lyrics. The strongest track may be the joyful “Almost (Sweet Music)” with its infectious melody, steady handclaps, and swells of gospel backing vocals.

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Bambi (CD)

The sophomore release from indie pop groovers Hippo Campus is less guitar-driven than their debut, leaning more on synthesizers and emphasizing singer Jake Luppen's falsetto. Avoiding a formula has given the band's still-sunny songwriting room to stretch and grow, as evidenced in the quirky title track. There is still plenty of unguarded vulnerability in their melodies and lyrics amid the poppy electronics of “Anxious” and “Doubt” or the funkier percussion of “Golden” and “Passenger.”

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