Whoa! Did we just step through a time machine? It is still 2016 is it not? This month’s list contains many acts that made their biggest impact in the 1970’s. But, it’s been a tough year of loss for classic rock so it’s great to see many of the genre’s greatest road warriors still making a mark by keeping their influential music alive.
Come join Charlie Daniels (www.charliedaniels.com) and the Night Hawk (2016) as they travel on the trails that real cowboys do. Charlie Daniels latest record is a tribute to this hardworking class of people with ten tracks ranging from the spirited opener “Big Balls In Cowtown” to more serious moments such as “Goodnight Loving Trail”. “Stay All Night (Stay A Little Longer)” is a feisty and fun piece. Fans of traditional country music will appreciate the textures and tones of Night Hawk. Other high points include a tip of the hat to “Billy The Kid”, the classic “(Ghost) Riders in the Sky” followed by the edgy “Running With The Crowd” packed with solid life lessons. This album is similar to sitting around a campfire sharing stories with the added bonus of full instrumentation. With 50 plus years of making music under his big belt buckle Charlie Daniels is still a standout.
The powerful progenitors of British blues and hallowed hard rock Foghat (www.foghat.net) return with their 17th studio album. On Under The Influence they remain influential and innovative on a daring dozen tracks including one remake. Since the death of their two main front men control of the rock legends has ceded to drummer Roger Earl who has done a fine job putting together a vintage sounding band when he’s not brewing up a new batch of Foghat branded wine. Recording began in Florida before setting sights on Music City’s Dark Horse Institute to round out what is becoming a surprising candidate for record of the year in some parts. Production is crisp throughout as the album opens with a strong one-two punch with the title track and “Knock It Off” knocking it out of the park with vital vocals sure to make Brian Johnson proud. The record was three years in the making, completely fan-funded, and contains an eclectic blend of rock and blues with a little funk and R&B on the side for good measure.
Todd Rundgren (www.tr-i.com) has been a classic rock chameleon for decades now regularly changing up the style of music he delivers to his fans in a live setting. Sometimes that experience can be maddening for concert-goers if they didn’t do proper research before attending a gig such as the case during last year’s Global tour that featured a solo Todd, two back-up singers and a deejay. But, the man always goes back to his bread and butter offerings as demonstrated on the newly released An Evening With Todd Rundgren – Live At Ridgefield. The album and DVD combo features 18-solid tracks performed by Todd’s well-honed outfit made up of Todd Rundgren (guitar, vocals); John Ferenzik (keyboards, vocals); Jesse Gress (guitar, vocals); Prairie Prince (drums) and Kasim Sulton (bass, vocals). Recorded live at the Ridgefield Playhouse in Ridgefield, CT on December 15, 2015, Rundgren’s new release showcases some of his best known songs including “Hello It’s Me”, “I Saw The Light” and “Bang The Drum All Day”. There are also fan favorites that haven’t been performed live in decades as well as unforgettable Utopia and Nazz anthems. The stunning “Black Maria” reveals god in all his glory – throw money!
Troubled former AC/DC drummer Phil Rudd (www.facebook.com/PhilRuddOfficial/) has acted a bit like a head case in recent years but that hasn’t stopped him from releasing his long-awaited solo album Head Job in 2016. The title track finds a gritty voiced Rudd admitting he’s “crazy” underscored by the capable three-piece he assembled for the project. “Bad Move” gets going with a good groove pulled from the Sammy Hagar playbook. This is the first solo album by the hard rock stickman. Originally released in 2014 but newly put out again after its poor promotion the first time around started his current bout of legal problems. The album features guitarist Geoffrey Martin and bass guitarist/vocalist Allan Badger who help Rudd craft a record to be proud of. What’s missing is the dense two-guitar attack popularized by his former band. The first single “Repo Man” is Rudd’s attempt to reclaim his rightful place in rock and he does the job vocally somewhere between Scott and Johnson showing he was paying attention behind the kit all those years.
Prog Noir is the ambitious, highly anticipated album soon available in various formats from Stick Men (www.stick-men.net) – Tony Levin, Markus Reuter and Pat Mastelotto. The ten-track CD circles around cinematic themes, thick, thumping rhythms and intricate arrangements proving that the whole is indeed greater than the sum of its talented progressive parts. The tricky title track opens and sets the tone for this diverse mostly instrumental record. “Plutonium” blends vocals with explosive jams as does a tantalizing “The Tempest” The last four songs of Prog Noir flows in a progy pageantry of agile sometimes avant-garde progressions. Stick Men is a unique trio still at the top of their creative groove heavy game.
Many might remember the Dan Reed Network (www.danreed-network.com) from the late 1980’s. Their melodic rock style earned the band a spot on the charts paired with rave reviews. Fast forward to 2016 and after many years the Dan Reed Network is back with Fight Another Day (Frontiers). The record reflects the past in a modern context of funk, rock and soul. Their music is still infectious and inspiring now spiked with edgier, insightful lyrics. Dan Reed says “It’s been 25 years since our last studio album The Heat was released, and to be honest, I never envisioned making another DRN album despite countless people throughout the world encouraging us to do so”. For many fans Fight Another Day has been a long time coming but faith has been rewarded with a cohesive collection of catchy songs with a tip of the hat to the tuneful 80’s complete with sassy guitar solos, hooks and keys.
Violinist Jerry Goodman (jerrygoodman.bandcamp.com) of the Mahavishnu Orchestra has released Violin Fantasy a creative collection of new and rare recordings. Highlights of this 12-track CD included two never before heard compositions – the magical “In The Realm Of The Netherworld” and the visionary “Violin Fantasy”. This diverse instrumental CD is packed with classical interpretations of rock’s biggest songs starting with a stellar “Enter Sandman” (Metallica) and ending with a winning one two punch of “Eye of the Tiger” followed by “The Final Countdown”. An alternative mix of “Baba O’ Riley” along with an orchestrated “Rock On” were intriguing. Prog also makes an appearance with a lavish “The Laws Of Nature featuring Tony Levin and Billy Sherwood. Later Rick Wakeman adds wizardly elements to “Random Act Of Science”. If we were still living in the days of “perfect album sides” Jerry Goodman’s Violin Fantasy would win for both sides of the platter.
Acclaimed singer/songwriter Jack Tempchin (www.jacktempchin.com) is best known for penning the Eagles classic “Peaceful Easy Feeling” and co-writing their hit “Already Gone” before collaborating with Glenn Frey on “You Belong to the City”, “Smuggler’s Blues”, “The One You Love” and “I Found Somebody”. On his latest One More Song out now on Blue Elan Records his talent pours through the speakers on a dozen acoustic Americana tinged tracks. Known for composing some of the most durable songs in American music, Tempchin’s 10th solo album features “Slow Dancing,” which reached Top 10 for Johnny Rivers in 1977, “Song For You,” co-written by Keith Harkin of Celtic Thunder, and the title track. This satysfying effort was produced by musician and producer, Joel Piper, who also performs on most of the songs on the album, and recorded almost entirely in San Diego, California, which Jack considers his hometown. Jack says: “It’s the record I wanted to make. Very simple production all about just the heart of the music. Two songs that have been recorded and nine songs no one has heard. Please enjoy.” We are and we’re sure you will, too!
Richard Christy (www.richardchristy.com) is best-known as the musician and comedian who by the strength of his song parody writing talent won Jackie “The Jokeman” Martling’s job on the Howard Stern Radio Show. Even before that notable event Christy was a known quantity on the broadcast as a regular caller who impressed the shock jock with his talented drumming. His band Charred Walls of the Damned is now prepping their new album Creatures Watching Over the Dead for release via Metal Blade Records and we can tell you there’s nothing funny about it. This is serious metal that burns around the edges with true authenticity. Fronting the group is none other than Tim “Ripper” Owens who came to metal prominence when he joined Judas Priest in the mid-90’s. Christy offers more than the darkness and doom that so often dominates the genre, he says: “I try to be positive with my lyrics because there’s so much negativity in the world when you watch the news right now. I like to write about my personal experiences, things that inspire me and things that have had a positive impact in my life, and hopefully other people can relate to them and find something that inspires them.” Listen up – one of the most immediately apparent aspects when listening to Creatures Watching Over The Dead is how damn direct and punchy it is; the majority of the songs clock in under four minutes, containing both the catchiest and most face-destroying music released under the Charred Walls name.
EVEN MORE NOTABLE RELEASES! Lissie (www.lissie.com) has officially announced her new live acoustic album Live at Union Chapel set to include 13 solo acoustic songs recorded at her show in London last year, including a special cover of Joni Mitchell’s “River”. Lissie is fronting a career that has seen her open for renowned artist Lenny Kravitz Tom Petty and she was even asked to perform at Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore’s wedding. No doubt we’ll be hearing more from her soon…
Toronto’s Adult Future (www.adultfuture.com) is back with a new album and the lead track is an electric acoustic number called “Leaf House”. The trio compose bass heavy songs with organic keyboard melodies and other layers of acoustic atmospheres. Their vocal harmonies are often presented with a unique perspective. The band says all of the songs on In The News were inspired by personal stories and were utilized as a method to reconcile those feelings of estrangement. They got us paying attention…
Liz Wiegard (www.lizwiegard.com) is a self described “folk-pop” singer songwriter and cat-lover. As a relative unknown, Liz has begun to generate some buzz on the indie music blog circuit on the strength of her emotionally evocative tracks like “Girl You Called Sweet”. As a songwriter, Liz is heavily influenced by artists like Ed Sheeran, Passenger, and Florence + The Machine amongst many others. Her songs usually feature an expressively percussive rhythm in both the vocal melody and accompanying guitar. The total package is pretty sweet…
Dave Rudolf (www.daverudolf.com) is a long time performer and a multi award winning singer/songwriter who has just released his 31st and 32nd albums! He’s a Gold Record, Grammy nominated artist, 15 time nominee for Entertainer of the Year awards from NACA. He’s shared the stage with The Beach Boys, The Everly Brothers, The Mamma and Pappas, Steve Goodman, John Hartford, The Smother Brothers, Michael Smith, Megon McDonough, The Gatlin Brothers, Sha Na Na, and weirdly back in the day, Cheech and Chong to name a few. The title track to Let It Roll tells you everything you need to know about his approach to artistry and clearly shows that he’s got the goods to back up all the accolades…
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).