Saturday, April 1, 2017

Album Spotlight: Night Ranger - Don't Let Up

If you're a regular reader of this blog, you already know, if you're new, let me enlighten you. I only write about stuff I like. I don't have the time to listen to, much less, write about stuff I don't like. That being said, Night Ranger's new album Don't Let Up is excellent. Now I'm going to go off on a tangent before I get back to that album.

I grew up in the 80s, and by that I mean twelve to 22 years old. That's growing up time. Night Ranger always fell into a strange place in music. Historically they might get lumped in with the hair/sleaze/glam bands of the time. But it always felt like they were not at home there. They also weren't at home with other stuff that was popular at the time, Flock of Seagulls, Eurythmics, etc. They fell into a weird place between metal and techno (not that they ever came close to techno, but that's where they fell).

There were a lot of bands in that grey place, Bon Jovi, INXS, The Cult, Duran Duran, Def Leppard, etc. The 80s get a bad rap, but go back and listen to the music, there was a lot of good there.

While never reaching the commercial success, I've always thought Night Ranger was comparable to Bon Jovi: guitar driven hard rock that was softened enough to be palatable to the masses.

Fast forward to 2017. Night Ranger is still making that kind of music. Great songs featuring guitar, big choruses, big harmonies. This album Don't Let Up, along with their 2014 album High Road may be the best they've done in their career. Not that anyone will pay attention.

I just commend Night Ranger for putting out new music when so many of that era just tour based on their track record, which Night Ranger could certainly do. Hell, people would probably come out just to hear "Sister Christian".  But they are so much more than that.

Sure, age has taken its toll on Jack Blades and Kelly Keagey's vocal chords, but even though a bit gruffer, still sound excellent. The musicianship just keeps getting better. And that's saying something since guitarist Brad Gillis could have had a gig with Ozzy had he chosen.

35 years after the release of their debut album Dawn Patrol, Night Ranger are still bringing it and staying true to what they do. More mature? Sure. What you would expect. Rocks? Yep. And they keep expanding their boundaries. One song that stands out is the honky-tonk/Southern rock sound of "(Won't Be Your) Fool Again".

With so many bands not making new music because there is no money in it now, I commend the one's who still have to scratch that creative itch. Buy, stream, download, whatever you do, this album. It's good. Is it great? Probably not, but there is not a bad song to be found. And really, isn't that what we want in an album? No skipworthy songs?

Here's a taste of the new album:


Saturday, March 25, 2017

EP Spotlight: Delta Rae - A Long And Happy Life

As the weather warms up in late March, it is the perfect time for light, fun music. With their latest EP A Long And Happy Life, Delta Rae delivers.

A Long And Happy Life is just four songs, but four very good songs. Including the slower, more introspective "No Peace In Quiet". The other three are fun, upbeat and perfect for the changing of the season.

Is there anything groundbreaking here? Nope. Just four excellent songs that I've had on repeat for the past two days. There is just something infectious about the songs and the twin lead vocals and interplay of Britanny Holljes (pronounced "Hole-Jess) and Liz Hopkins.

Do I prefer nine to eleven song albums? Yes. But if you're going to make a four song EP, do it like this or like Lindi Ortega's. Make sure every song is killer and you have my attention.

Find A Long And Happy Life here:

itunes
Google Play
Amazon
Spotify


Monday, March 20, 2017

EP Spotlight: Lindi Ortega - Til the Goin' Gets Gone

I first found out about Lindi Ortega and her 2015 album Faded Gloryville. A great album. With Ortega's latest release, a four song EP Til the Goin' Gets Gone, there is none of the quirky playfulness found on  Gloryville or her previous release, Tin Star.

Ortega went through some stuff, moved back to her native Canada, leaving Nashville behind. From what I understand, she almost quit music altogether. The four songs on the EP are dark, brooding, somewhat cynical, introspective. There is some real heavy stuff packed into a small package.

And you know what? This is Lindi Orega's best work. I don't know where she goes from here. Maybe it's a catharsis which leads to something else. Maybe it's a farewell. Whatever it is, it needs to be listened to and celebrated.

The closing song is called "Final Bow". I hope it's not.

I can't equate this to anything, really, but I hope it follows the same trajectory as Butch Walker. Afraid of Ghosts was similar in it's introspection and darkness, then followed by the upbeat Stay Gold.

Who knows what is in store for Lindi Ortega going forward, but we will all be poorer if this is the last music she makes.

I purposefully didn't go into specific songs. Everyone needs to relate to them in their own way, but every song will relate to you in some way.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Album Spotlight: Sunny Sweeney - Trophy

There's not a lot I can write about Sunny Sweeney's latest album Trophy that hasn't already been written. But I'll do my best anyway.

Sweeney dabbled in Nashville in few years ago and had a bit of a radio hit with "From A Table Away" from her 2011 album Concrete. Now shes' with the indie artist friendly label Thirty Tigers and back in Texas recording the songs she wants.

She had quite the co-writers on the Trophy, but the one constant is Sunny Sweeney herself. She co-wrote all but two of the ten songs on Trophy, one being a cover.

Sweeney's previous effort, 2014's Provoked is very good, but on Trophy, she seems to put everything together to give listeners the full Sunny Sweeney experience. The biting sarcasm and humor is there. The introspection is deeper and more pointed.

I have been quite critical of the trend lately to put 13-16 songs on an album, and then it seems like there is too much filler when a nine to eleven song album would have been great and leaving the listener wanting more. Sweeney does this. Trophy is ten excellent songs and then when it's over, you want more. I'm an album guy, so this is perfect for me.

As far as the songs themselves on Trophy, there is traditional country, there is some swamp, some Southern rock influence, but what resonates throughout is that it seems to be all Sunny Sweeney all the time. Sweeney is never going to be known for soaring vocal prowess, but her voice and vocal stylings fit perfectly in the context of her songs. That authentic Texas twang is not forced. It's the way she talks as well. Full of sass and vulnerability at the same time.

Go buy the album, whether by download or a physical copy. Support the people who make good music.




Saturday, March 4, 2017

Retro Album Spotlight: Meat Loaf - Bat Out Of Hell

In October of 2017 it will be 40 years since Meat Loaf's debut album Bat Out Of Hell was released.

At that time, I was nine years old, so when it was initially released it had no effect on me or my musical tastes. Several years later, when I discovered what I really liked in music and started getting into hard rock, the revelation of Bat Out Of Hell was a game-changer. Not that it changed my taste in music, but that it changed how rock music could be viewed.

Was Bat Out Of Hell a rock album or a rock opera? Or did/does it even matter? Was it a concept album or a collection of songs that told stories? Was it both? Was it an epic opus or a story of teenage sexual repression and exploration?

It was probably parts of all of that. Or none. But what it was, was something no one had ever heard before. What songwriter Jim Steinman and singer Me)at Loaf (Michael Aday) did on that album broke ground in the rock scene that is still evident today.

I'm sure a lot of people re-discovered or found out for the first time about Bat Out Of Hell when Bat Out Of Hell II: Back Into Hell came out in 1993 with the big hit "I'd Do Anything For Love (But I Won't Do That), but even that was almost 25 years ago.

Meat Loaf and Steinman had a hell of a time selling this album 40 years ago in 1977. They'd have no chance now, although they could just record it and see what happens in 2017.

If you are vaguely familiar with Bat Out Of Hell, I would implore you to listen to the whole album. It may not be your thing, but there is no denying that it is one of the most unique pieces of American music in the past century.




Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Album Spotlight: Beth Hart - Fire on the Floor

Grammy-nominated and doing vocals for the likes of Jeff Beck, Joe Bonamassa and Slash, Beth Hart is not the kind of artist you are accustomed to seeing spotlighted in this space. That being said, how many of you are actually familiar with her work?

I'll admit, I was not until I stumbled upon a video a couple of months ago on YouTube. Then I dropped the ball on the February 3 release date of Fire on the Floor.

Fire on the Floor is not a straight up blues album, though the blues threads heavily throughout, along with jazz, pop and rock. Doesn't really matter though as Hart's sultry, smokey, alluring voice carries the album from start to finish.

Beth Hart can sing anything if she wanted, I'm convinced. On Fire on the Floor, she almost does. Where her voice really shines is when she booms the lower register. So powerful.

This is thirteen songs for grown-ups, with grown-up subjects, dealt with in grown-up ways. No pettiness, no fluff, just real songs about life.

Fire on the Floor is not for everyone, and that's okay. All music is not for everyone, but all music is for someone. But for those that get it, this album is fantastic. Beth Hart has outdone herself with this one.

Official Lyric Video for "Fire on the Floor"


Live version of "Fat Man"

Monday, February 20, 2017

Album Spotlight: Eliza Neals - 10,000 Feet Below

There is no such thing as a perfect album. But there are good albums and great albums. Eliza Neals' 10,000 Feet Below falls into the latter category.

Neals' latest record is 11 songs of fantastic music. 10,000 Feet Below is a rocking blues album with more texture and nuance than you would expect. Neals' powerful, sexy, sultry voice is complemented by a wide array of excellent musicians to make a cohesive yet diverse album of musical genius.

If you even only think you might like blues, check this record out.

This was one album I was genuinely looking forward to this year. So many times, I'm disappointed. 10,000 Feet Below exceeded all expectations. Seriously, I don't know what songs to choose to put here, so I'm just gonna put out a couple that resonate with me the most (and of course, they won't be the traditional ones).




Monday, January 30, 2017

Album Spotlight: Cris Jacobs - Dust to Gold

A veteran of the Baltimore music scene with his former band The Bridge and then as a solo artist, Cris Jacobs is no newcomer. My fist introduction to Jacobs was his most recent album Dust to Gold, released in late 2016 and finding my ears in early 2017.

Jacobs' smooth vocals compliment perfectly his musical style that is reminiscent of The Guess Who and a laid back Allman Brothers.

The big take away from this album? It's good songwriting combined with excellent vocals and fantastic instrumentation.




Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Friday, January 20, 2017

Album Spotlight: Susto - & I'm Fine Today

There is some heady stuff on Susto's most recent album & I'm Fine Today. I'll leave that for listeners to parse out. I'm not qualified to comment on social commentary.

Musically and lyrically, it's a mess. And I mean that in good way. Susto lilts their way through difficult subjects, making one think while not coming across as preachy or divisive or angry. Maybe it's in the way the lyric is delivered, Much of it deadpan and nonchalant.

And then you have the music, which is all over the place. Not just throughout the album, but within songs. Just when you think you're locked into a song, it takes a hard left and takes you to another place.

You have to be an album listener to fully appreciate & I'm Fine Today. One or two songs won't do it.

Where does & I'm Fine Today fit in the today's music spectrum? Hell if I know. It checks off the one line that matters to me; good music. Other than that, I don't know, Americana? maybe. But that seems too much of a catchall. I'll just say this; if you like Houndmouth and HoneyHoney, then this album is for you. If you don't know who they are, just listen and decide for yourself.