Sights and Sounds of Note – December 2016

If we tried to fit all of the releases we’ve received in the office this month into a stocking it would burst at the seams. Perhaps we would need a tree as large as the one at Rockefeller Center to spread them out under in all their sparkling glory. No need for that! Our elves have selected only the good girls and boys for your listening pleasure leaving the coal at the pole. May this music put you in a merry mood!

The Rolling Stones (www.rollingstones.com) have toured the world countless times but performing to hundreds of thousands in Havana Cuba was a first for the seasoned Stones. The historic, free concert on March 25, 2016 has been documented in various formats under the title The Rolling Stones Havana Moon. As is the Stones custom the lighting, stages and video were over the top. The band was tight as they delivered an energized show to an ecstatic crowd. The Stones opened strong with an animated “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” paired with “It’s Only Rock ‘N” Roll (But I Like It)”. The sound and visuals are crisp on both the DVD & CDs. Varied camera angles show the Stones in all their glory doing what they do best and from a distant angle Mick is still a thin, fashionable form with dark hair working the stage. Jagger could put men half his age to shame. The two hour plus concert is packed with classics such as “Angie”, “Gimme Shelter” and so much more. The Rolling Stones Havana Moon is a must have for Stones fans and rock historians as it captures one of the biggest bands of all time playing in a city that they were previously banned from. It was a changing cultural moment for the county of Cuba – an event that citizens of all ages wanted to be a part of and for the Rolling Stones it may have been the pinnacle point of their incredible five plus decade career.

The Rich Lynch Band (www.richlynchband.com) returns in 2016 with an important song that chronicles the plight of the Native Americans who are facing down the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota. This 3-minute and 20-second track is reminiscent of the reactionary work that Neil Young is known for. The moody and urgent songs swells on a swampy vibe that channels classic Bruce Springsteen sitting in on a session by The Doors. Give “You Can’t Push Over a Standing Rock” a spin and you might find you can’t stop listening.

Celtic Woman (www.celticwoman.com) for the past 12 years has done an amazing job of introducing some of Ireland’s most talented musicians to a global audience. Their current line-up has recently released the aptly named Voices of Angels. All four singers in fact have angelic voices that are backed by the 72-piece Orchestra of Ireland. This lavish, 18-track CD features popular tunes from their repertoire, a number of spiritual songs along with previously unrecorded tracks. The ladies start off strong with a stunning take on “My Heart Will Go On” enhanced with their multi-part harmonies. Irish flavored tunes such as “As She Moved Though The Fair” are tasteful tributes to their homeland. The ladies continue to soar on moving versions of “Ave Maria” and “Amazing Grace”. The collection also includes a number of classic Christmas songs – it does not get more joyful when these angels sing “Joy to the World”. Voices of Angels is a diverse and divine collection from a fully-orchestrated Celtic Woman that runs the range from serious to spirited.

The Fray (www.thefray.com) formed in 2002 in Denver, Colorado. They hit it big with their debut album How To Save A Life and the quartet have continued to build on its success. On November 4th, 2016 they released Through The Years: The Best of The Fray. The collection features nine of their most iconic songs in chronological order climaxing with three new tunes. The Fray’s relatable, reflective music is often moody yet still circles around catchy refrains. Their style is a blend of alternative and traditional rock with the piano taking center stage. Through The Years: The Best of The Fray opens with the now classic “Over My Head (Cable Car)” (2005) with a potent piano part propelling the piece. Harmonies, strings and other sound effects add to the overall fine song structure that the Fray has mastered during their career. “You Found Me” (2008) is still insightful with an interesting build up to the hook. The last three tracks includes their latest single “Singing Low” and the U2 influenced “Changing Tides”. Both are striking songs that are destined to be classics when The Fray releases their next greatest hits collection. The Fray and their fans have much to celebrate with How To Save A Life.

It wouldn’t be December if a couple of Christmas collections didn’t cross our threshold and sure enough these two did. Caitríona O’Leary (www.caitrionaoleary.com) is an internationally known Irish singer who excels in the realms of Irish traditional music and Early music. Her The Wexford Carols is a 2014 release that went to No.1 on the Billboard World Albums Chart thus securing its place as an annual seasonal favorite. Special guests such as Tom Jones, Rosanne Cash and Carolina Chocolate Drops singer Rhiannon Giddens really help these classic carols mainly composed by Bishop Luke Wadding (1684) and Father William Devereux (1728) sparkle and shine – and that’s a bit of a Christmas miracle in itself.

A very different side to the same coin is presented on the new project from Natalie MacMaster and Donnell Leahy who present A Celtic Family Christmas (www.acelticfamilychristmas.com) – and this pair ain’t fiddling around. Alright, they are but therein lies the joy and surprise of these uplifting takes on eleven family-favorite holiday classics. Award winning Cape Breton musician, Natalie MacMaster, began her fiddling career at 16 releasing her debut album Four on the Floor. Her musical venture now spans over three decades, completing 11 albums, performing thousands of shows and collaborating with a multitude of world renowned artists and in that time has become one herself. A Celtic Family Christmas exceeds all expectations with riveting performances by Natalie, her husband Donnell and their children, bringing the Cape Breton Christmas to you. Through a mix of both song and dance, they will take you on a journey of virtuoso performances, telling the story of the night before Christmas in the Leahy/Macmaster household. Our faves include – “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” – and we’ll be unwrapping this one every year for sure!

Hailing from Los Angeles, CA Mötley Crüe (www.motley.com) have moved millions of records and have sold out venues around the world for the past 35 years. In January of 2014 the four members of the band signed a “cessation of touring” agreement – a legal document preventing them from touring as Motley Crue past the year 2015. It was a first of its kind but the quartet decided they wanted to go out while still at their peak. They spent the next two years blowing audiences away with their over the top live production. The final show was performed at the Staple Center in Los Angles on New Year’s Eve (2015). The band went out with a bang in the town where 35 years ago they literally started out on the streets of the Sunset Strip. Mötley Crüe: The End Live in Los Angeles captures all the emotion and energy of that evening in crisp, clear sound and visuals. It does not get much bigger than state of the art lighting paired with pyro, a bass guitar spitting fire over 30 feet in the air and a drum roller coaster (Crucifly). In addition to the spectacle there were the songs that became mega hits for Mötley Crüe such as the giddy opener “Girls, Girls, Girls”, a potent “Primal Scream”, “Dr. Feelgood” and the moving closer “Home Sweet Home”. In addition to the historic concert Mötley Crüe: The End Live in Los Angeles which comes in multiple formats incudes bonus features and interviews with the band. It represents a group with a lavish and lengthy career saying good-bye in the live setting while still at the top of their game – a must have for Mötley Crüe fans.

The 1980’s were a rich time for Pete Townshend’s (www.petetownshend.net) solo career. The Who had left the scene in 1982 and the wind-milling guitarist was riding high on his critically acclaimed All the Best Cowboys Have Chinese Eyes and White City: A Novel projects. Now comes Face The Face from Eagle Rock Entertainment that captures Pete’s potent band Deep End in action during a broadcast of the famous German TV series Rockpalast at MIDEM in Cannes. Who joins Townshend on stage you ask? The lineup includes Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour on lead guitar, Simon Phillips on drums and more running through energetic takes of “Face The Face,” “Secondhand Love,” “Rough Boys,” “Slit Skirts,” “Give Blood,” “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” “Behind Blue Eyes,” “Pinball Wizard,” and more. Face To Face is a fascinating and compelling release. Pete Townshend and the band deliver an outstanding performance that showcases him as a solo artist daring and distinct from his work with The Who.

Glenn Hughes (www.glennhughes.com) has made a name for himself as a solo artist and fronting memorable hard rock outfits like Deep Purple, Black Country Communion and California Breed. But, it’s taken him nearly a half century in the business to finally resonate with the masses. The famous vocalist/bass guitarist/songwriter is a true original who blends of hard rock, soul and funk together in such notable fashion that Stevie Wonder once called Hughes his favorite white singer. And, Hughes calls Resonate his twelfth solo “the first kind of a complete Glenn Hughes album”. From album opener, “Heavy”, to the very last chords of the closer, “Long Time Gone”, this record promises to be a contender for numerous ‘Album of the Year’ lists. It features his live solo band members, Soren Andersen (guitars and co-producer), Pontus Engborg (drums) and newcomer to his band, Lachy Doley (keyboards), in addition to long-time friend and drummer, Chad Smith (of Red Hot Chili Peppers), who joined them in the studio for the first and last track.

Popa Chubby (www.popachubby.com) has been hard rocking the blues for more than 25 years. He has described his performance style as The Stooges meets Buddy Guy or Motorhead meets Muddy Waters. Popa blends hard rock with traditional blues in his own distinctive way. The Catfish reflects Popa Chubby’s endurance, experiences and attitude in a collection of tunes that are diverse. Blues and rock are the prominent sounds on this 12-track collection but Popa also adds a little funk and jazz into the mix. He opens with big chunky riffs and rhythms as he is “Going Downtown See My Old Gal Sue” that moves into the good grooves of “Good Thing” and then a cover of “Bye Bye Love’ with a hint of reggae. “Cry Till It’s a Dull Ache” is bold and bluesy. “Slow Down Sugar” with horns has a smoky vibe. The title track is agile and flavorful before finishing up with a tasty old-school style “C’mon In My Kitchen” (Robert Johnson). Popa Chubby is his own man for better or worse. He reflects, “I’m living in a wild time, and that is where the inspiration is drawn from. There are my issues, but the picture is much bigger than me and my situation. Everything is breaking down in the world. The lines are being redefined. We all need something.” So Popa Chubby does his part by serving up a vibrant platter of blues and more on The Catfish.

Many recall the Lynyrd Skynyrd tragedy in the late 70’s and while it’s a stretch to say anything positive came out of that event music fans did get more great music when offshoot Rossington Collins Band emerged from the wreckage. Now, principles from that project return as Rossington (www.loudandproudrecords.com/artists/rossington/) with namesakes Gary and Dale leading the charge on Take It On Faith. The couple work up a solid heartfelt and bluesy album’s worth of material and find the recipe for success on tracks like “Dance While You’re Cookin'”. On “Highway of Love” we find the pair cruising down familiar territory that yielded big returns for them in the past. If you recall the power of “Don’t Misunderstand Me” you’ll understand why Rossington is primed and ready to seize this new opportunity to bring their musical passion to world yet again.

Like so many other bands of their era The Outlaws (www.outlawsmusic.com) have had to deal with the unfortunate loss of their mortal musical idols. When the passing of their songwriter/vocalist/lead guitarist Hughie Thomasson hit the news in 2007, it was feared that The Outlaws’ trail had come to an end. But, founder Henry Paul pulled it together along with fellow founding members Monte Yoho and Steve Grisham to reform a particularly powerful version of the band. This new version of The Outlaws features several of Southern Rock’s most respected veterans: Co-lead guitarist and longtime Outlaw Chris Anderson is well known for his collaborations with artists that include Dickey Betts, Lucinda Williams, Hank Williams Jr., and Skynyrd. Keyboardist/vocalist Dave Robbins is a co-founding member of Blackhawk and has written hit songs for artists that include Restless Heart, Kenny Rogers and Eric Clapton. Bassist/vocalist Randy Threet has performed with Pam Tillis, Trisha Yearwood and Blackhawk, and is familiar to TV audiences from USA Network’s ‘Nashville Star’. On their new double live album Legacy Live you can hear the audience roar with approval as the group tears through some of Southern Rock’s favorite anthems including “There Goes Another Love Song”, “Hurry Sundown”, “Green Grass & High Tides Forever” and “(Ghost) Riders In The Sky”.

Melody Guy (http://www.melodyguy.com) is probably one of the hardest working gals in the indie music industry. On the cover of her most recent release, the aptly titled Diamond on the Street, we see the astutely observant artist sitting in the back of her stuffed van and that’s just where you might find her on any given night of the year. She’s out there as a true traveling troubadour honing her skills and songs and that refinement is all over the 15 selections on this disc. The opener “Return Again” starts the set off with an uplifting hopeful and happy jaunt that is the one you’ll most likely be returning to again and again.

EVEN MORE NOTABLE RELEASES! Mariannie (ww.mariannie.ca) is a singer-songwriter from Canada with a new timely track “Under the Mistletoe”. The pop-infused Christmas song is the complete package wrapped up nicely with some shiny Motown elements…

Cassady Southern (www.cassadysouthern.com) presents her new single “Breakdown” as a paean to broken love. The track showcases the ability of Cassady’s writing to uncover the vulnerable truths within all of us. Cassady’s heartfelt lyrics and unique delivery are enhanced by the signature sound of guitarist extraordinaire Wolf Mail, and the rock-solid rhythm section of current drummer for ‘Ratcat’ Reuben J Alexander and bassist Brad Fitter. Paul Najar fills out the band on piano and Sarah Hamad provided back-up vocals…

Maximum High (www.maximumhigh.band) has been called vibrant, dynamic and extremely innovative. The group aims to deliver complete entertainment through wild and untamed rock-music that incorporates funk, dub, dance & punk sounds into their own identifiable, signature-style. On their first EP they succeed in doing just that…

Daniel Land (www.danielland.co.uk) lands on his feet with his first album in three years In Love With a Ghost that is undoubtedly his most complicated and textured record to date. The recording chronicles a series of health issues that plagued the artist midway through making the album, including a chronic inner-ear infection that left him partially deaf for over a year and also prone to bouts of dizziness. Land says the struggles shaped the album in this way: “This is an album about cities. It is an album about reinvention, and starting your life over. It is an album about growing up, finding love, and settling down. And to a lesser degree, it is about the damage that can be done to a person, or a family, by falling in love with the wrong person”…

The innovative video for the new song from Max Koffler reveals the depth of this artist’s talent as he is portrayed as a one man band on the gripping “The Fire Is Yours”. The song is powered by a driving and addictive rhythm accentuated by a hypnotic guitar melody with a tempo and intensity that remain uniform at the beginning but accelerate near the end with the introduction of a throbbing electric base line. The vocals showcase Koffler’s clear and penetrating Jim Morrisonesque delivery. Give it a listen, he might light your fire…

See ya next month!

About Sights and Sounds of Note: SSON column editors Richard J. Lynch and Laura Turner Lynch are the founders of SoundPress.net, an Internet-based music industry magazine and review site, online since 1999. Laura is a published author of the inspirational Positive Power Secrets From A to Z (www.positivepowersecrets.net). Rich regularly interviews famous rock stars for the site’s radio show and he has recently launched his own recording career at (www.richlynchband.com).

 

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