The Record box for Sunday November 16th

TELL ‘EM I’M GONE Yusuf (Legacy)This is Yusuf’s third album, following in the wake of Road Songs and An Other Cup, another breathtaking chapter in the re-emergence of the artist formerly known as Cat Stevens. Tell ‘Em I’m Gone is a combination of 6 originals and 4 songs that inspired him in his formative years as a young musician, making this a spellbinding collection.The liner notes include an informative and enjoyable essay from Yusuf about coming across the music of artists like Leadbelly and Bob Dylan, and how they inspired him to pick up a guitar and make his own music. “This album represents my tribute to the many musical influences that shone out in my musical history” he writes. “Artists like Leadbelly, Jimmy Reed and Ray Charles have all contributed. The songs may not always be logical, including Edgar Winter and Procol Harum for instance, but they are just part of an unpremeditated process which became part of the family whilst recording.”Tell ‘Em I’m Gone was produced in part by Rick Rubin and Yusuf, and mixed by the artist himself along with the producer from his Cat Stevens days, Paul Samwell Smith. Frankly, it’s a great sounding album. The songs have great spirit and heart, Yusuf’s voice is warm, relaxed and self-assured. After his conversion to Islam, Yusuf stayed out of the spotlight and away from the music business for many years, but when listening to this album you can feel his joy at making music again. Although I enjoy many of his songs from the old days, particularly the Tea For The Tillerman record (I want Miles From Nowhere played at my funeral), I’m a bigger fan of the music he makes today- it seems more spiritually fulfilling.Tell ‘Em I’m Gone is a wonderful record, a peek at some of what made Cat Stevens then Yusuf the musician, human, and spiritual seeker he has become. If you don’t give this is a spin, you’re missing out.ESSENTIALS: I Was Raised In Babylon, Dying To Live, Tell ‘Em I’m GoneLOVE GUN: DELUXE EDITION Kiss (Mercury/ Universal)This is a 2 disc version of the classic 1977 album Love Gun, including a full disc of demos and assorted artifacts. Are they testing the waters to see if rolling out further releases like this are warranted? Love Gun is one of the 2 best albums by the original lineup, the other being Rock & Roll Over, and members of the Kiss Army will buy anything with the band’s logo on it- so don’t be surprised if there’s more of this sort of thing in the months ahead.According to my math this is the 6th or 7th edition of Love Gun I have owned, including one destroyed in a misguided flirtation with Christianity and the recent purchase of the 180 gram vinyl reissue as I attempt to purchase every Kiss album on vinyl one more time. This is their 2nd studio record with producer Eddie Kramer and comes as close as anything to capturing their live vibe in the studio. There are no turkeys amongst the 9 original songs, I even like Peter Criss’s Hooligan, a simple bad boy rocker that fits his character. The only misstep, really, is a cover of The Shirelle’s The He Kissed Me, flipped to be sung from the male point of view. Hard to believe one of the guys couldn’t have gone for a dump with pen and paper in hand and come up with something else instead. Perhaps even more importantly, this is also the last full studio album to feature all 4 original members as Peter Criss was replaced in the studio for Dynasty and Unmasked by Anton Fig.As stated at the outset I call Love Gun one of their 2 best albums- Paul Stanley told me on the phone in 1991 that, although he has issues with it sonically, he agrees that it’s “a real special album”… but why in the world would I buy the album for a sixth time? Two words; bonus disc. As the ardent fan of any band will tell you, they want to hear every note ever played by their heroes, and the bonus disc here includes 11 things I’d never heard before. Demos include early versions of Plaster Caster and Love Gun, plus early songs like Much Too Soon, Reputation and I Know Who You Are that eventually ended up as other tracks. The bonus disc is then filled out by a Paul Stanley teaching demo of the title track, a 17 minute radio interview with Gene Simmons recorded by a station in Montreal on the Love Gun tour, and 3 live versions of album tracks that have never been released before. A generous helping of buried treasure for hard core fans, that’s for sure.As with most things Kiss, the piece de resistance is the packaging. Original art work is used, of course, plus unmasked photos from the era, and comments from all 4 band members on the tracks- though with the prickly relationship between Gene & Paul and Ace & Peter, I suspect the latter’s comments may have been re-used from the box set. Even so, if the Love Gun Deluxe Reissue is setting a standard for any possible future releases of this ilk, you can count me in- I love this band and always have, even Gene Simmons’ big, stupid mouth hasn’t changed that.ESSENTIALS: ORIGINAL ALBUM: I Stole Your Love, Shock Me, Love GunBONUS DISC: Gene Simmons Interview, Plaster Caster demo, Shock me (live)ENDLESS RIVER Pink Floyd (Columbia)It finally arrived last Monday- the latest and, we’re told, last Pink Floyd album. 17 tracks in all and only one with a lead vocal. Endless River is exactly what I hoped it would be.The music on this record originated with the sessions for The Division Bell some 20 years ago, lots of ambient music- some 20 hours of exploratory jams- that was originally intended to turn that record into a double album until the band lost focus, ran out of time and/or lost steam- or perhaps a bit of all three. The project was resurrected a couple of years ago when Floyd’s studio engineer started horsing around with the music and presented it to David Gilmour and Nick Mason.Endless River’s purpose is two-fold; a final goodbye (as a group) to the fans, and a salute to the band’s keyboardist Rick Wright, who lost his battle with cancer in 2008. Wright’s keyboards dominate here, underlining his importance to latter day Floyd’s sound- perhaps a revelation to some fans, but not if they’ve been paying attention. A recent review in Billboard magazine says ER‘s music “approaches New Age Territory” and I suppose that’s fair enough, but as I listened for the first time on Remembrance Day, Wright’s atmospheric keyboards and David Gilmour’s supple, liquid guitar lines and solos had me thinking of Floyd’s Wish You Were Here and Gilmour’s solo record On An Island.I spend most days writing radio commercials, and writing and producing a couple of radio shows. By the time Friday rolls around the old noggin is getting pretty full, and the right music is required to pull me out of myself in order to enjoy the weekend and start the next week fresh, and by God Endless River is certainly up to the task. Echoes of classic Pink Floyd can be heard in these 17 tracks, loosely stitched together into 4 suites, and I can hear where much of this music would have settled in nicely with the songs from The Divison Bell that we’re already familiar with, as was originally intended. ER does something for me that today’s pop and rock music does not do- perhaps because I’m an older ‘get off my lawn’ kind of guy, it makes me feel. Isn’t that what music is supposed to do?Stephen Hawking puts in an appearance on the cut Talkin’ Hawkin’, but it’s the final cut Louder Than Words, that sums up Pink Floyd’s history incredibly well; we bitch and we fight/ diss each other on sight/ but this thing that we do/ these times together/ rain or shine or stormy weather/ this thing we do/ is louder than words. It’s a beautiful, wonderous thing they’ve done here- amen.ESSENTIALS: Louder Than Words, Talkin’ Hawkin’, Things Left UnsaidBLUES PEOPLE Eric Bibb (Stony Plain)An award winning roots artist, Eric Bibb has just released one of the bluest albums of the year, and perhaps of his career. A collection of originals, collaborations and covers, Blues People is about as soulful as music can get.”In the introduction to his classic book Blues People, Amiri Baraka (who published it as LeRoi Jones) wrote ‘The path the slave took to citizenship is what I want to look at” writes Bibb in the liner notes. “That same path, along with its continuation, provided much inspiration for this album called Blues People. This record is also a tribute to the tribe of blues troubadours that I’m grateful to be a member of and it features the talents of several friends and heroes of mine.” So yeah- this is pretty deep stuff.The heroes and friends Eric speaks of includeTaj Mahal, Guy Davis, The Blind Boys of Alabama and Ruthie Foster. An acoustic record, Blues People is as deep and rich as the history that informs it. “My intention with these songs was to focus on some of the history of African Americans, the original blues people, as a reminder of what we’ve been through and where the music is coming from” he says. That’s the darkness you feel in these songs, the spirit that draws you deeper into the album itself. As an old white guy I may never fully understand these experiences he sings about over these 15 cuts, but I can sure feel it.Blues People is the kind of album you can put on and get on with your day, but if you’re anything like me you’ll find that sooner rather than later, whatever you’ve been focusing on will dribble to a stop as you turn your full attention of this album and willingly let it draw you in. I simply can’t imagine an album in any genre more perfect than this.essentials: God’s Mojo, Silver Spoon (featuring Popa Chubby), Needed Time (featuring Taj Mahal, The Blind Boys of Alabama & Ruthie Foster)I’M CHANGING Lisa Mills (Millsbluz/ Burnside)Here is a wonderful album that came out of left field. A re-constructed new version of tracks originally recorded and released in 2005, this is an album that reaches in and gives your heart a good squeeze.Known as a blues, roots and gospel singer, Lisa is like a cross between Lucinda Williams, Sheryl Crow and maybe a bit of Edie Brickell. A Mississippi native who now calls Mobile Alabama home, Lisa admits that, during those original sessions in 2005 she was having some trouble with her voice, figuring she would have to re-record everything here… “but once (we) got started on the mixing, it became apparent that the vocals were actually really good.” There’s a sort of world weary raggedness to some of her phrasing here that really gives the lyrics morth oomph. Her voiced sounds quite lived in, and given the nature of songs like I Need A Little Sunshine and Tell Me, that is a very good an useful thing- the results are quite powerful.Comparions to Janice Joplin are inevitable, given the timbre of her voice and the fact that she has toured with Janice’s band Big Brother & The Holding Company. The fragile balance between vulnerably and raw power in Joplin’s stuff, while not as pronounced here, is certainly present in the grooves of I’m Changing.With its combination of gospel and blues and expert playing this disc is forceful, almost frighteningly so. It’s like listening a mesmerizing story that you feel like you know but have never heard before, foreign and familiar at the same time. I’m Changing is a well full of cool soul-refreshing water, one that I plan to draw from deeply and often- simply gorgeous.ESSENTIALS: Little Wing, Tell Me. I Don’t Want To Be Happy.VOODOO BOOGIE Jack DeKeyzer (Blue Star)Named after JB Lenoir’s classic tune, this is the followup/ companion to his Juno winning CD The Corktown Session. A blues album with funk power and jazz smarts, Voodoo Boogie will rock you ’til you drop.In a lot of ways, DeKeyzer reminds me of Stevie Ray Vaughan on this album. His rhythm section has a very similar sense of grooviosity, and while Jack may not be given to the same histrionic soloing, at least not all the time, his phrasing feels quite similar too. Many of these 10 tracks have a sort of Cold Shot locomotion to them that’s almost sensual and hypnotic as he coaxes some of the bluest notes you’ll ever hear out of his Epiphone guitar. As a singer, he’s passionate and smooth at the same time.I’m kicking myself now for not having made it to the Come By Hills Festival in Mistahaya, Alberta last summer in time to catch his set. Voodoo Boogie is a delicious combination of DeKeyser originals and well chosen covers, like a funkalicious version of Marvin Gaye’s I Heard It Through The Grapevine and a jazz inflected take on Dylan’s All Along The Watchtower that owes much to Jimi Hendrix’s definitive take. Then there’s his slinky midnight hour take of the Willie Dixon classic You Shook Me that most of us know best by Led Zeppelin that’ll make the hair on the back of your neck stand up.Voodoo Boogie has a swing to it, a vibe that makes it damn near irresistible, and history is sure to judge this collection as classic blues- it’s a beautiful thing.ESSENTAILS: All Along The Watch Tower, You Shook Me, Pleasure Is My BusinessIT’S THE GIRLS! Bette Midler (Warner)Funny, I thought she retired. Bette’s new record is a collection of covers of classic 60’s tunes by girl groups like The Shirelles, The Shangri-La’s and The Ronettes. For the most part the arrangements are fairly faithful to the originals, which begs the question- why?I like this record well enough, but with the original versions readily available and superior in almost every way, you gotta question the wisdom of a release like this. Certainly Midler’s musical stock in trade has been nostalgia for many years, modern pop hits in the 80’s notwithstanding, no doubt her longtime fans find It’s The Girls to be a delightful piece of entertainment, but I’ve always felt album full of nothing but cover tunes to be artistically lazy- and that’s not just a knock against Bette.All that aside, I can freely admit that these songs fit Midler quite well. She’s in her element with these classic melodies, and whomever produced and arranged these songs clearly loves them as much as she does. It’s The Girls makes a good backdrop at dinner parties for older people like me, or perhaps the romantic feeling of these songs can serve other purposes. I’m going to put this CD in my wife’s F-150 and I’m willing to bet (pardon the pun) that she’ll really enjoy it.ESSENTIALS: One Fine Day (originally by The Chiffons), Mr. Sandman (originally by The Chordettes)SKIN AND BONES Lyriel (AFM)Here is the 5th album by Lyriel, a curuiously refreshing mix of Celtic rock, goth metal, folk and alternative musics. With a pedigree like that this could have easily turned into a dog’s breakfast, but in fact the opposite is the case.Skin And Bones is a smartly produced album, powerful and, at times exotic for its unlikely blend of influences. Singer Jessica Thierjung’s voice suits the material well as the big riffs, powerful double kick work and keyboard textures offer a dramatic experience of almost Wagnerian proportions, almost a hard rock opera. Synthesizers which, according to the bio, were more prominent on past releases are more of a textural element here.Much of the musical power on this disc can be directly attributed to the fierce and passionate work of the guitars and drums. Strings are an essential part of Lyriel’s sound too, with cello and violin adding an unexpected classical element to this pummeling display of maximum heaviosity. The music itself moves like classical pieces would, quiet passages like about halfway through Black And White that allow you to catch your breath before death metal vocals and heavy yet melodic riffs pin you to the wall.Admittedly a heavy band fronted by a female vocalist isn’t exactly commonplace, but there is a range of dynamics here that make for a genuinely exciting listen. Much bigger on European stages than they are over here, Skin And Bones has the muscle and intent to make Lyriel a bigger deal over here to- watch for themESSENTIALS: Days had Just Begun, Black And White, Worth The Fight

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