GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, AWESOME MIX VOL.2 Various Artists (Hollywood Records) ****This is the soundtrack to the latest installment of Marvel’s Guardians Of The Galaxy franchise, of course. Like that from the first movie, this is a classic rock collection so how you feel about it will depend on how well you know and enjoy these 14 songs, and how many you already have in your collection.My ex-mother in law once wondered if my CD collection wasn’t already big enough. “When is it going to be enough?” she asked. “When I have it all”, I said. Roughly half of these songs are already on my shelves, so adding the others to the pool was worth the $12.95 at Walmart. I have not yet seen the movie so have no idea how this music compliments the action onscreen, but it seems safe to assume the results would be similar to the first flick.If your CD or I-Tunes collection doesn’t include much for classic rock then this would be a good purchase. You’ll find fairly standard fare such as Sweet’s Fox On The Run and Brandy by Looking Glass, but look a little deeper and you’ll find Fleetwood Mac’s The Chain and Glen Campbell’s Southern Nights. Songs on this disc debuting in my CD collection include ELO’s Mr. Blue Sky, Sam Cooke’s Bring It On Home To Me and Wham Bang Shang-A-Lang by Silver. A Kitschy bonus here is Guardians Inferno by The Sneepers featuring David Hasselhoff.Listening to Guardians 2 is also a lot like listening to 70’s radio, with a little bit of everything instead of the bland, homogenized, rigidly segmented and formatted wasteland that it has become- and that alone is worth the admission price.
ESSENTIALS: Mr. Blue Sky- ELO, The Chain- Fleetwood Mac, Southern Nights- Glen Campbell
FAITH LIFT Harry Manx (I-Tunes purchase) *****This is Harry Manx’s new album, out since April 21st. Assisted by the Sydney Lyric Quartet, Manx re-does a number of songs from his catalogue to stunning effect, with new arrangements giving them new life. The sole cover song this time is Al Green’s Love And Happiness. If you liked Harry’s music before, be ready to fall in love.As if combining East Indian music with the blues wasn’t adventurous enough, in a phone interview in early 2016 Harry told me of his plan to record with a string quartet, hoping to have the record out by that fall- but judging by the results, the wait was worth it. Fans of his previous work will recognize new versions of songs like Death Have Mercy, Summertime and Sometimes. Melodically the songs are very similar to their antecedents, but the new arrangements allow room for the string quartet and add an extra layer of drama, giving the songs a ‘classical’ feel.East Indian and traditional blues may sound like strange bedfellows on paper, but Manx’s intuition told him that was not the case. In that interview mentioned above, Harry said that “the blues is really very old African music, and Indian music is also very old and deep. So it’s sort of natural that those two types of music, there’s gonna be times when they overlap. What I mean is they use the same notes and even the same phrasing to get their message across, and it’s so kinda overlapping in places that I really try to get into and use in my music.”If you like what Harry Manx does, generally speaking, you’re going to LOVE Faith Lift- I know I do… but the last song on my download, the Al Green song, is gibbled. I-Tunes, you got some ‘splaining to do.
ESSENTIALS: Working On A Railroad, Death Have Mercy, Summertime
POCKET THE BLACK: LIVE AT CHAPEL LANE Lazy Eye (independent) *****Some albums take a while to absorb, others hit you instantaneously. I got Pocket The Black right away- with an extremely suave sense of groove, this reminds me a lot of the disc Doors keyboardist Ray Manzarek did in 2011 with blues guitarist Roy Rogers, Translucent Blues- Hammond B3 is the lead instrument here, and the music is sublime.When it comes to the blues I’m usually a guitar freak but for it to really have soul, the Hammond B3 is a non-negotiable requirement. Australia’s Lazy Eye has done a ton roadwork, and they have it down. They won group of the year for 2015’s Australian Blues Music Awards amongst others in their home country, but to my ears they have a Memphis vibe with a Booker T. Washington sort of feel. A 3 piece with Evan Whetter on vocals organ and harp, Erica Graf on guitar and backing vocals, and Mario Marino on drums and backing vocals, Lazy Eye’s sound is lively and fluid.Pocket The Black was recorded live, inspiring the band to give a loose and casual but in the pocket performance. In the liner notes they remark that “Our original intention was not to create a live album, but to offer people the opportunity to experience the recording of a studio album, inviting small groups of around 15 people to join us in the room. However it soon became apparent that the energy exchange between artist and audience was an integral part of the performance, to the point where the line between spectator and participant is non-existent.” That’s not unlike Joe Jackson’s 1986 album Big World, but Joe didn’t use an audience noise in the final product.The description of this disc in the PR one-sheet I got with it says of Pocket The Black “Think Booker T. sharing a scotch with BB King at the crossroads after midnight”, and that’s pretty accurate. This disc is definitely another “must have”.
ESSENTIALS: Do You Know How It Feels, Shack O’ Mine, Swing For Marz
WELCOME HOME Zac Brown Band (Southern Ground/ Elektra) ***This is the 7th album for these Nashville rebels, harkening back to the classic sound of their beginnings. In many ways, Welcome Home is a traditional country album- perhaps shockingly so.I was anticipating, even hoping for something a little (a lot) more off the beam and so was taken aback by this record. “We decided to write the most personal record we’d ever written” Zac says, “about the things that matter the most to us, the struggles and celebrations of life and our relationships with our families. That’s where this began.” The more you listen to the album, the more evident those emotional truths become, and that’s what sets Welcome Home apart from much of what passes for country music today.Produced by David Cobb, Welcome Home is a mature sounding country record. It returns the band to the core values once espoused by country music at large, as opposed to trite ditties about fast cars, fast home wreckin’ women and honky tonks. As the title suggests, this is a collection of songs about family and relationships, aimed, one would assume, at the band’s older fans. Another way this record is ‘traditional’ is the length; 10 songs long, quite typical back in the LP days.One song to note is Trying To Drive. It’s a re-recording of a song that originally appeared on 2010’s live album Pass The Jar, presented here in studio form for the first time. Critical reception of Welcome Home has been mixed, with Rolling Stone labeling it as “an anxious defense of fame and fortune, a reactionary right turn in response to the mixed reviews the band received for their most recent global pop grab”, and I think there might be some validity in that. I expected something more musically adventurous than this, given the ZBB’s rep, and can’t help feeling a bit let down by the deliberate country-ness.Who knows? Maybe, like a good pair of boots, some time and wear is need to break this record in… but if I never hear the song Roots again, I’d be okay with that.
ESSENTIALS: Real Thing, My Old Man, Trying To Drive
THIS IS THE LIFE I CHOOSE Zoe Schwartz Blue Commotion (33 Records) *** ½ This is the 4th album in 3 years for these British blues rockers. Gigging and recording together since early 2012, they have a definite musical connection that can be heard as well as felt, a breath of fresh air in an often suffocating and repetitive music business.The first thing you’ll notice with This Is The Life I Choose is Zoe’s weathered, occasionally leathery voice, seemingly born to sing this kind of music and shout it from the rooftops. She and guitarist Rob Koral are the creative nucleus of the band, writing most of the songs. There’s an energetic, almost punk-ish energy to the tunes that’s hard to shake, built on catchy riffs, interesting arrangements and steaming grooves. The CD booklet includes brief notes from Schwarz on the inspiration of each track- it’s easier to get into a song when you know where it comes from, creatively speaking.The band also includes Pete Whittaker on Hammond organ and Paul Robinson on drums, with Ian Ellis and Andy Urquhart lending sax and trumpet to a handful of tracks and Julie Staines with some backup vocals. What they do together isn’t exactly blues per se, more a combination of blues, pop and rock touched by soulful jazz. Their performance of Jack Bruce’s We’re Going Wrong is mesmerizing, and when they thunder through Hold On, the opening cut, you know it’s time strap in and take the ride.I was expecting a more straight-up blues experience and so it took me awhile to get into This Is The Life I Choose, but by the second pass I was all in. Pretty cool stuff.
ESSENTIALS: My Baby Told Me So, We’re Going Wrong, I Can’t Live Like That