We’ve reached the halfway point of another year. But, we received so much product to preview this month that we haven’t been able get through even half of the stack. Here’s the best of the batch!
Many rock bands have a back story where the famous product is really only the final evolution in a series of incarnations. Such is the case with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. Before their rise in the mid-70’s they went to war in the trenches as Mudcrutch (www.mudcrutchmusic.com) the proto band who is now getting a shot at the glory themselves with their second album titled 2. Initially formed in 1970 in Gainesville, Florida the quintet consists of the heart of the Heartbreakers and two guys dropped off on “Depot Street” in 1975. The band made up of Tom Petty (bass/vocals), Tom Leadon (guitar/vocals), Benmont Tench (keyboards/vocals), Mike Campbell (guitar/vocals), and Randall Marsh (drums/vocals) is really a group project as all members get a shot behind the mic. In so many ways this is a parallel universe Heartbreakers as most of the correct parts are there but something is different. There’s a swampier swagger that helps these five guys soar on Petty’s “Dreams of Flying” with a cargo full of licks and a nod to “Here Comes My Girl” in the break. “Welcome to Hell” is a boogie woogie bop with Beelzebub courtesy of Benmont Tench singing about a love gone wrong. “Victim of Circumstance” finds Mike Campbell putting the pedal down on this up-tempo rocker that proves that he’s picked up more than a little vocal influences from his bandleader boss over the years. Petty and Co. also shine on the rollicking feel-good kiss-off “Save Your Water” and the satisfying closer “Hungry No More”. Forty years on Mudcrutch has avoided the sophomore jinx with their tantalizing 2.
“I just think of it in terms of authenticity, just capturing where I’m at,” Keith Urban (www.keithurban.net) says in reference to his latest release Ripcord. This 13-track collection is diverse starting with the up-tempo, banjo infused “Gone Tomorrow (Here Today) flowing into the catchy “John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16” a fine piece of Americana imagery. “Wasted Time” is also a visual tune full of carefree youthful moments. “Sun Don’t Let Me Down” is a feisty number with Nile Rodgers & Pitbull adding to the fun. The album also has its serious moments with “Blue Ain’t Your Color” and the pensive piano based “That Could Still Be Us”. “The Fighter” is a surprising dance number featuring country superstar Carrie Underwood. “Boy Gets A Truck” runs on an Edgy U2 influence. Ripcord is a vibrant and varied record that reflects the artist’s innovations and inspirations – an album that should have Keith Urban fans flying high.
In this year of the long-awaited kind-of Rainbow [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rainbow_(band)] reunion comes an unreleased live gem from Ritchie Blackmore and the boys called Boston 1981 that feature’s the charismatic singer who would finally lead the colorful hard rockers to the pot of gold and commercial radio success. Joe Lynn Turner and his good looks combined with his ability to deliver silky, sultry, raw and powerful vocals as needed had the temperamental Blackmore finally trotting down the yellow brick road with this band whose dominant feature was their ever-changing personnel. “Spotlight Kid” explodes to kick the set off and immediate illumination is offered to show why JLT was the right man for the job. This recently unearthed collection features crystal clear audio that captures the vibrant energy and emotion pouring through the band. “Can’t Happen Here” is very happening. The frenetic and fast-paced tune is nearly as compelling as the music video version that aired early and often on the nascent MTV. Of course, JLT was filling in big shoes during his tenure competing with the legacy of fan-favorites Ronnie James Dio and Ian Gillan from Blackmore’s other band. But, like a quick click of Ruby slippers, Turner proved he was up to the task of tackling the complete obligatory back catalogue with aplomb. It’s just too bad he wasn’t able to make the trip back to Oz with the boys in 2016 but a guitar wizard retains control behind that curtain.
Even though Joe Lynn Turner (www.joelynnturner.com) didn’t get the coveted spot in the Rainbow reunion that he lobbied so hard for that’s no reason to feel sorry for him. The New Jersey rocker still tours around the world playing for adoring audiences and he is also constantly releasing new music though countless other musical vehicles. Take his band Sunstorm for instance. Their new Edge Of Tomorrow is the fourth release for this Melodic Rock/AOR project. The fiery five-piece of Joe Lynn Turner – lead vocals; Alessandro Del Vecchio, Hammond organ, keyboards, backing vocals; Simone Mularoni, guitars; Nik Mazzucconi, bass; and Francesco Jovino, drums – set the tone for this record right out of the gate with the Journeyesque “Don’t Walk Away From A Goodbye”. The smoldering title track finds JLT with his solid pipes intact with hot harmonious accompaniment from the band. The latest release from Sunstorm accomplishes their goal of creating a slightly harder rocking platter while advancing their warm organic sound and melodious mission at the same time. Mission accomplished!
Since Rod Morgenstein, John Myung and Ty Tabor are all active members of other bands it’s a treat when their group The Jelly Jam (www.thejellyjam.com) releases a new record. Profit is a cinematic, complex tale of The Prophet who takes it upon himself to warn people that progress with no thought to any future payments could have negative impacts which of course many do not see or want to hear about. The lyrics and music are often heavy yet catchy hooks are woven into the compositions that journey through a landscape of sonic and visual styles. The 12-tracks are packed with intriguing word play and intense instrumentation. We liked this album from the opening note to the last but really dug the hard hitting “Care”, the progressive slightly poppy “Stop”, a dreamy “Perfect Lines (Flyin’)” and an atmospheric “Heaven”. In addition to a flavorful album fans of The Jelly Jam can anticipate a tour in support of Profit.
Security Project (www.securityprojectband.com) is a slightly strange undertaking. The outfit formed by members of King Crimson, Shriekback, and Peter Gabriel’s original band gather for what they call “a unique celebration” of the progressive rock icon’s work. What’s weird about it is that they recreate his soundscapes, style, mood and muse so well that it almost begs the question – what’s the point? On Live 1 + West Coast Tour the band members provide the answer enthusiastically. Guitarist Trey Gunn says, “This material is ridiculously special. Of course, Peter is a special artist. But the material on his first few records, especially the 3rd and 4th ones, are productions with no peer. The Security Project can really play these epic pieces. We bring the same level of detailed precision to the arrangements that are present in the originals. And then some. We not only play some of the pieces authentically, we also take many pieces and put our own twist on them.” Drummer and percussionists Jerry Marotta concurs saying, “Peter was always great at setting the table for us as musicians; he always got us started with great ideas… As we were creating the SECURITY record we had no idea we were making something so unique… I’m proud that with Security Project we’re able to deliver the deepest of those songs, and do it with real conviction – playing them live.” Vocalist Brian Cummins is convincing throughout especially on catalogue favorites “I Don’t Remember”. “Biko” and “Games Without Frontiers / Of These, Hope”.
Takin Back Our Country is not only the name of John Crabtree’s (www.johncrabtreemusic.com) latest record but more importantly his pledge to old school country music. He plays and sings with conviction as he tips his hat to the other greats in the genre. Crabtree has a rich baritone voice well-suited to tell tales of sorrow. John’s songs runs the range from foot tapping fun to tear-jerkers all punctuated by the banjo, fiddles and pedal steel. The catchy title track opens with John’s declaration to traditional country thus setting the tone for the rest of the record that is packed with strong storytelling and solid musicianship. Other highpoints include a slow simmering “10 Proof Memories”, the patriotic “Shipping Out” and a descriptive “11 Months and 29 Days”. John Crabtree is an old school country outlaw for all generations.
For years, bluesman Tinsley Ellis (www.tinsleyellis.com) has performed worldwide as an ambassador of the blues. Georgia is his home state and his latest album Red Clay Soul reflects Tinsley’s musical roots. It features a number of guests including Oliver Wood from the Wood Brothers, and keyboardist/producer Kevin McKendree. It was Kevin who suggested they record Red Clay Soul live in the studio to heighten the energy on this ten-track CD. The album reflects different levels of the blues and soul starting with “All I Think About” a flavorful blend of guitars and keys with a nod to Freddie King. “Givin’ You Up” has a jam-band vibe perhaps a tribute to the Allman Brothers. Other highlights included the snappy, sturdy but slightly sinister “Circuit Rider” and the Santana inspired “Estero Noche”. Tinsley Ellis tills different shades of the blues on Red Clay Soul to unearth a fine set of originals with a lot of heart and soul.
Pennsylvania’s blue-grass troubadours Mason Porter (www.masonporter.com) return with Heart of The Mountains – their new 6-song EP that immediately elevates with their warm ode to the natural beauty of their homeland. Driven by an uptempo backbeat and a fierce fiddle the opener makes you want to journey farther with the quality quintet. “See America” opens up the vista to a wider scope as we tour the nation powered by the same positive energy found on track one. This record is actually a concept album that takes stock and celebrates many of the most favored tourist destinations in the United States. The release is timed to the National Park Service’s Centennial so if you won’t be making it to “Shenandoah” or “Yosemite” this year you can now courtesy of Mason Porter and their fine new disc that is filled with wonder and majesty – just like the nature it celebrates.
EVEN MORE NOTABLE RELEASES! Summer just got a little hotter courtesy of Em George (www.facebook.com/EmGeorgeMusic) and the Em George EP. The sultry and sexy Australian cites mainstays as diverse as Leonard Cohen, Stevie Nicks and Lou Reed as her chief musical influences and her single “Paper Hearts” will have yours burning up and longing for more…
“Hold On” is the latest single from Øyvind Weiseth (www.oyvindweiseth.com), a Norwegian singer/songwriter who writes uplifting and anthemic pop in both English and Norwegian. Inspired by artists such as John Mayer, Coldplay and Bernhoft, ‘Hold On’ is infectious, guitar driven Indie Pop showcasing Øyvind’s keen ear for melody and strong vocals.
MJ12, featuring Brand X bass legend Percy Jones (www.percyjones.net) are set to release their eagerly awaited debut album on Gonzo Multimedia UK. Recorded in the summer of 2015 at Shelter Island studios in Manhattan, MJ12 is jazz/fusion/prog music at its finest. Featuring virtuosic performances by all four band members, in many ways this album is an extension of what Percy Jones created with Brand X! They took their name Majestik 12, which was supposedly a group of 12 scientists and engineers assembled in the late 40’s to investigate UFO’s – so you know it’s bound to be far-out!…
Back 2 Jupiter (www.back2jupiter.com) Pop/Rock band from Southern California made up of four members ranging in age from 13-18. Although still teenagers, these singer/songwriters are an up and coming group of extremely gifted young musicians, with a great look. The multi-talented band is creating lyrically meaningful and genre-bending music in a refreshingly humble way. Case in point is their new engaging and colorful track “Dirty Roses” that is full of well-produced hooks and not a thorn in sight…
Multi-instrumentalist Christopher the Conquered (www.christophertheconquered.com) traveled to Ardent Studios in Memphis and recorded “I’m Giving Up on Rock & Roll” which proves one thing – maybe he should reconsider. The ambitious nine-track album is so infused with blues, R&B and earnest musicality that it could be the saving grace of the genre. The performer says, “I’ve put everything I have into this record. Every last bit of emotional, creative, and financial capital to make it right” and it shows. Why give up now, it seems you’re just getting started!…
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).