Rock Doc reviews for Dec.5th

BLUES BEYOND BORDERS: LIVE IN ISTANBUL Mitch Woods (Club 88/Vizztone) 4/5It would seem that the blues is a truly international language.  Recorded in 2010 during a tour of Turkey, Mitch Woods and his band The Rocket 88’s took their brand of party blues onto foreign soil with satisfying results.Woods’ blend of boogie woogie, jump blues, swing and New Orleans R&B recall the old Downchild albums I used to listen to- a good time looking for a place to happen.  Blues Beyond Borders was recorded at the Efes blues festival in Instanbul, in the midst of a 5 week tour of Turkey.  In the writeup I received with the disc, Woods calls the country “a secular nation with a 99% Muslim population that straddles the border of east and west, geographically and culturally” which makes the existence of the particular album seem unlikely.  But as Mitch also notes, “the blues is everywhere!”The Rocket 88’s are a fine band with a great sense of groove and swing.  Keys, sax and guitar take their turns in the spotlight, and you can feel the joy spilling out of the speakers.  The accompanying DVD is excellent, including the live concert and several behind the scenes bits with the band, and a travelogue of their trip through Turkey.From the stage intro in Turkish to the final notes of the show, Blues beyond Borders will have you on your feet and asking for more.TOP TRACKS:  Long Lean & Lanky, Solid Gold Cadillac, Boogie-Woogie Bar-B-Q WELCOME TO THE FREAKSHOW Hinder (Republic/Universal) 3.5/5Another solid outing for these Oklahoma based rockers.  Dense and crunchy in an almost (dare I say it) Nickelback way, this is a rock & roll record the just feels good.Freakshow finds the band pushing some of their own boundaries for what might be their most far reach record yet. “We like to think we can do anything” says drummer Cody Hanson. “We don’t want to be stuck in a rut with one type of sound or formula. One song might have a country influence, while another might have a pop influence.  Then there are some heavy metal moments. We have every element covered on this record- you gotta do what’s best for the song.”  One listen to this album and you’ll find out he ain’t just blowing smoke.You want pop?  Talk To Me is a mid-tempo ballad with a bit of country soul  Wanna rock out?  The first single (and lead-off track) Save Me should fit the bill.  It’s a song that hits close to home for singer Austin Winkler, who went to rehab to defeat his own demons. “(Drugs) aren’t going to save me, but I can save myself” he says of the message in the song.Nearly a decade into their career, it feels like Hinder has done their best work yet- Freakshow is a tough album not to like.TOP TRACKS:  Save Me, Talk To Me, See You In HellAMOEBA COLLECTIVE Tippy Agogo & Bill Bourne (Busted Flat) 3/5I’ve had this in my desk for awhile, maybe a month or so, afraid to open it.  And now that I have it’s safe to say this disc is pretty much weird as the title suggested it would be.Amoeba Collective is the point at which several different music styles collide. Bourne is known as a blues and roots artist while Agogo’s palette is more eclectic, mixing global with experimental, folk, rock, dance, and pop influences.  Both guys share songwriting and lead vocals equally, aided and abetted by guitarist Madagascar Slim, drummer Michelle Josef, Tom Mennier’s piano and fat grooves courtesy of bassist Donato Scipioni.When worlds like this collide the results are debatable and almost always fascinating.  The coolest thing about Amoeba Collective is the total absence of fear.  You can debate whether you like a song like Marketplace or the somewhat gospel tinged Black Banks, but with the music heading in so many different directions you’re bound to find something here that speaks directly to you.I can’t see much fence-riding with this one- you’ll either like it, or not. The press release describes A-C as “a compelling blend of blues, rock, world beat, hip-hop electro-acoustic with a dash of country.” If such a combination piques your interest, then by all means dig in.TOP TRACKS:  Black Banks, Yo Mojo, Ascending/Descending SYNTHETICA(DELUXE) Metric (Universal) 4/5I consider myself a middle aged ‘rock guy’- favorite bands include Black Sabbath, Kiss and Deep Purple- so there ways NO WAY I was going to like this synthesized crap… but dammit,  I do.  Opened the file on my DMDS service on a whim then, just over an hour later, it was over and I was a fan.  Weird.Never been big into the synth stuff but there’s something about this album that just pulls you in.  Maybe it’s the 80’s pop sensibility, the subject matter or even front-person Emily Haines’ voice, but almost without even realizing it you’ll find yourself fully involved with the song’s high emotional content and those cheesy but somehow irresistible analog synthesizer melody lines and wondering how the hell that happened.Of the album Haines says it’s “about insomnia, (screwing) up, fashion, all the devices and gadgets attached to our brains, watching people die in other countries, watching people die in your own country, dancing your ass off, questioning the cops, poetic justice, standing up for yourself, sex, the apocalypse, doing some stupid (crap) and totally regretting it but then telling people it made you stronger, leaving town as a solution to unsolvable problems, owning your own actions, and owning your own time.”The album originally came out in June, but this deluxe edition also includes some acoustic remixes and a couple of bonus tracks, if that sort of thing interests you. After listening to Synthetica, I don’t think my world will ever be quite the same.TOP TRACKS:  The Void, Artificial Nocturne, Synthetica (acoustic) SLOWHAND 35TH ANNIVERSARY Eric Clapton (Universal)  5/5The most successful of Clapton’s 70’s albums, also one of my favorites, turns 35 this year.  Available in 5 different configurations, Slowhand represents the pinnacle of a stunning career that continues to unfold.Recorded in May of 1977 and produced by Glyn Johns, this record reached #2 on the hallowed Billboard chart, spending 5 weeks in that spot and a total of 74 on the chart overall- which just goes to show that a lot of people loved this album when it came out.  A mix of blues, rock and pop with a little country, Slowhand is a hard album not to like.  Hits from this one include Wonderful Tonight, Lay Down Sally and, of course, Cocaine– tracks still heard both on the radio and in Clapton’s current live set.  A mix of Eric’s original tunes alongside covers of some of his favorite songwriters (JJ Cale, John Martyn, Don Williams, Arthur Crudup) Slowhand remains as powerful today as it was in 1977.Remixed from the original analog masters, the sound quality will give you a chubby.  You also have your choice of 5 different formats;DIGITAL VERSION- The original album, re-mastered, with 4 session outtakes.VINYL LP- The original album, re-mastered.SINGLE CD- same as aboveDELUXE EDITION 2 DISC SET- the album, 4 session outtakes plus Live At Hammersmith Odeon, recorded a week before the Slowhand sessions started.  This is the version I have.SUPER DELUXE EDITION- 3CD’s, 1 audio DVD, 1 vinyl LP.  Also includes replica tour programmes, and ‘behind the scenes’ book detailing the record.This is well deserved deluxe treatment for a truly exceptional, career-defining record, I may not be able to listening to anything else between here and Christmas, but you’ll have to wait a few days as Slowhand 35th Anniversary doesn’t hit store shelves until Dec.11th.TOP TRACKS:  The Core, Cocaine, Knocking On Heaven’s Door, Looking At The Rain

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