The Record Box for Wednesday, August 12th

CHAOS MAGIC featuring Caterina Nix & Timo Tolkki (Frontiers) ****Nix, a classically trained singer with pop chops from Santiago, was signed by the label to spearhead this new project, along with Tolkki, former guitarist for the symphonic metal outfit Stratovarius.  The result is, as you might imagine, is quite epic and rather dramatic.There’s a guy from back east (Dustin) that hooks me up with all kinds of European label releases, sometimes dozens in a month, from which I pick a few to check out.  Already a fan of Stratovarius, I knew this would be worth spinning.  Chaos Magic is so much more than the sum of its parts- heavy metal with a classical music attack- and far more dramatic than either of those elements could be on their own. Try to envision Metallica re-doing the soundtrack for Titanic… it’s kind of like that.Caterina and Timo’s connection goes beyond today’s album- a successful artist in South America fronting the band Aghonya, she participated in Tolkki’s Angels Of The Apocalypse release, and it would seem the die were cast from there.  With the range, power and control of her voice there’s nowhere she can’t go and nothing Nix isn’t capable of- an unbeatable combination with Tolkki’s bulldozing wall of riffs and intricate soloing.Chaos Magic melts beautiful and sweeping melodies with symphonic and grandiose musical landscapes, drawing its power from classical and metal elements, the equivalent of a leather tuxedo perhaps.  The melodies are catchy and the band’s performance (Tolkki on guitar, bass and keyboards plus drummer Jami Huovinen) is positively rockin’.  I’ve heard this style of music before with an operatic vocalist and it didn’t work- but Caterina Nix’s classical training gives her vocal power to spare, and her pop training lets her know where she can go melodically- the results are mesmerizing.  Sean, the guy that works at the desk next to mine at Newcap Broadcasting’s Lloydminster operations, heard me listening to this when he came in this morning and remarked “It sounds like Evanescence, but it doesn’t make me want to slit my wrists.”ESSENTIALS:  Dangerous Game, The Point of No Return, A Little Too Late BORN TO PLAY GUITAR Buddy Guy (RCA) *****Guy follows up 2013’s hugely successful double album Rhythm & Blues with what may be the defining record of his long career.  At the age of 79 he is still what Eric Clapton once called “the last real he-man of blues guitar”.Though Buddy and his guitar moved from the Delta to Chicago in 1957, I only discovered his music with his 1991 comeback record Damn Right I’ve Got The Blues­- good thing the over 70 albums he’s made (if the discography in Wikipedia is accurate) are still easy to find!  Producer Tom Hambridge worked with Buddy on the new album as he has his last 4 (I think), and plays drums too.  Tom’s talent is drawing the best out of the artists he works with, and that’s the case here as it has been on other records like Skin Deep and Living Proof.  He brings a cohesiveness, a sense of direction and purpose to Buddy Guy’s work that just keeps getting better each time out.Some impressive guests dropped by to lend their talents and support including Billy Gibbons (ZZ Top), Kim Wilson (The Fabulous Thunderbirds), Joss Stone and Van Morrison, who sings on Guy’s tribute to his late friend BB King, a song called Flesh & Bone.  Born To Play Guitar is a generally upbeat album and I’d say overall that Buddy has reigned in his wildness somewhat for a more controlled performance- and the result is a smoldering collection of songs.Some of these tunes are quite traditional blues fodder, such as the title track, Wear You Out and Thick Like Mississippi Mud, but a song like Crazy World is fresh from today’s headlines.  The disc feels very much like a celebration of life, as seen through the eyes of someone that still has the fire but is also cognizant that his own end is coming sooner rather than later.  Buddy Guy isn’t taking it easy or playing it safe by rehashing the same licks over and over.  He’s always been a great player, inspiring generations to pick up the guitar and find the blues- but with Born To Play Guitar that playing is deeper and richer than it has ever been before.  If you love great blues guitar, this disc should be at the very top of your shopping list.ESSENTIALS:  Wear You Out, title track, You Got What It Takes (with Joss Stonme), Come Back Muddy SHOCKWAVE SUPERNOVA Joe Satriani (Sony Legacy) ****The latest album from the guitar player‘s guitar player, out since July 24th, isn’t just a disc crammed to the nuts with fine playing- it is that, but it’s also one of the most varied and accessible discs he’s done since the 90’s.Instrumental guitar albums can be tough to get through.  Guys likes Steve Vai spend entire albums showing off and, while technically proficient, the playing can sound like the musical version of whacking off.  Satriani serves the song and the melody above all else, and that’s what sets albums like this apart.  In a phone conversation back in May (featured elsewhere in Gonzo) we were talking about the influence of Jimi Hendrix on his life.  When I mentioned that Jimi was such a free form player while Joe was highly technical, he told me “I never think of myself as a technical player at all, I’m just a kid that was stuck between the jazz age, the blues, rock & roll and metal.  I have quite a few friends who are amazing players and can play rings around me.  I tend to concentrate on writing melodies- I don’t actually work on technique independent of composition.”What makes a record like Shockwave Supernova work is that approach to playing that he just mentioned, which results in a such a variety of textures and themes across the album.  You don’t get burned out by a ‘look how fast I can play’ attitude, as each song sets a distinct and separate mood from the other.  Looking at earlier work, the title track from 1989’s Flying In A Blue Dream was inspired by the death of his father, and you’ll feel that the next time you hear it.  .  Each song on Shockwave Supernova also has a story to tell, and the beauty of listening instrumental stuff (and I’d guess that Joe really likes this) is that you can make up your own mind as to what that story could possibly be.  Without lyrics to guide you it could be anything.  Crazy Joey, written on bass, actually started out as a basic track for a possible Chickenfoot record that would’ve allowed Chad Smith to show off on drums, but after that plan fell through, he changed the emphasis from drums to guitar and saved it for this record.No matter what mood you find yourself in, Shockwave Supernova has a track or two that will speak to you.  The title song starts out aggressive and syncopated, Crazy Joey is a cool groove track, and San Francisco Blue has kind of a swinging 60’s vibe that makes for pretty dang uplifting company.  Some great playing this album from all involved and, melodically speaking, this is one of his widest ranging and most satisfying albums to date- sound great at full volume in the car too!ESSENTIALS:  San Francisco Blue, On Peregrine Wings, If There is No Heaven, title track   DON’T LOOK BACK Royal Southern Brotherhood (Ruf)  *****Releasing their debut album in May 2012, this is already the RSB’s third album.  It’s unusual for a supergroup to be this prolific, and it’s also unusual for them to improve in leaps and bounds on each release- but Royal Southern Brotherhood has done just that with Don’t Look Back.The band has undergone a seismic shift since last year’s Heartsoulblood that could’ve easily derailed to whole enterprise, with the amicable departure of Devon Allman and Mike Zito to pursue their burgeoning solo careers but on DLB, Tyrone Vaughan (nephew of Stevie, son of Jimmie) and Nashville guitar slinger Bart Walker are clearly up to the task, even kicking things up a notch I daresay.Produced by Tom Hambridge (Buddy Guy) and recorded on hallowed ground in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, Don’t Look Back is a unique combination of swampy blues and funk with a touch of country, delivered with rock & roll fire and brimstone.  As Cyril Neville once noted, “To use a basketball analogy, anyone (in this band) you throw the ball to is a three point shooter.” It’s a powerful sound, a more seamless blend than you might expect from such a group of individually talented musicians.  All 5 of the guys contributed to the songwriting here and, as Cyril noted, they have an ‘anything goes’ policy when it comes to the music- “no rules in this band” he says.I guess you could say that funk is the framework on which everything else hangs here as the grooves are absolutely undeniable- almost enough to make a big, clumsy white guy get up and dance. I find myself getting into the lyrics, the singing, the playing and pulse elements of each song- sometimes separately, but more often all at once.  Don’t Look Back is thick, deep and multi layered- you’ll like it right away, but be startled at the treasures you continually uncover as you continue to dig deeper- the best records tend to be like that.ESSENTIALS:  Hard Blues, title track, Poor BoyWILD HEART Samantha Fish (Ruf) ****This is Fish’s 4th solo album, and the 7th one that she has been a part of.  Growing up in Kansas City, Missouri, Samantha sure knows her blues.  Switching from drums to guitar at age 15 has turned out to be a spectacularly good move.Samantha love for hill country blues is evident in these tracks, evidence of the solid foundation upon which her music career is slowly building.  She was lucky enough to meet some of her favorite musicians while attending the King Biscuit Blues festival when she was only 17.  It was there she met a young Lightnin’ Malcolm, who guests on a couple of tracks here. “Working with Malcolm was a long time coming as I’d known him since I was a teenager” she says.  “Hearing hill country blues made me fall in love with blues music and he was one of the first artists who let me jam with him.”  Wild Heart is a rockin’ album to be sure, but when she takes it back home on a cut like Jim Lee Blues Pt.1, one of the songs Lightnin’ Malcolm plays on, you’ll catch  yourself wondering if there’s anything she can’t do.Samantha Fish isn’t a good guitar player for a woman, she’s a good player period.  As this record rocks and swaggers along you’ll find the hair on your arm standing up more than once and she leans back and just lets it rip.  As a singer she is confident and passionate, equally so as a songwriter.  She spent a few days in Nashville writing with Jim McCormack who has written for folks like Trisha Yearwood and Keith Urban- being from New Orleans, Jim is certainly no stranger to the blues.  They wrote 5 of the 12 songs on this disc including the title track, which echoes the power of early Zeppelin- come to think of it, Show Me would’ve sounded perfectly at home on Led Zep II for that matter.Lots of different moods and styles here shows the different sides of Samantha Fish’s wild heart, each one as spell binding as the next.  I love it when she rocks out, but a song like Lost Myself really gets past my defenses, echoing a couple of relationships I’ve been through.  That’s what the best music does, holds up a mirror that you can see yourself in.I’ve been into Samantha Fish’s stuff for a while now, but this feels like the album where the world at large is going to start finding out who she is. From introspective numbers that will have you thinking about stuff to rockers that will have you pounding your steering wheel without mercy, Wild Heart is a kick-ass album.ESSENTIALS:  Lost Myself, Jim Lee Blues Pt.1, Roadrunner MOJO DELUXE Bob Malone (Delta Moon Records)   **** +When I first popped this CD out of the envelope from a PR guy I know in Atlanta, my first thought was “Who the f**k is Bob Malone?”  Then I read the bio page as I listened.  If you dig keyboard based blues and rock, Mojo Deluxe is as good as it gets.Whether you know it or not, you’ve heard this cat play.  Currently the keyboard player in John Fogerty’s band he has shared stages with Springsteen, Jackson Browne, Jimmy Buffet, Rickie Lee Jones, The Neville Brothers, Al Green, Dr. John and lots of others.  Mojo Deluxe is his 8th solo album, and I suspect having a high profile gig with Fogerty (he played on John’s last album too) will help this delicious piece of work get noticed.This disc is a mix of cool covers and some fairly excellent originals as well, a mix of spiritual and party blues along with some real honest moments that you’ll be touched by.  Of the song Watching Over Me, Bob notes that “(after) I moved to Los Angeles from the east coast, before long I had a few gigs with country music legend Freddy Fender.  There was this one show in Las Vegas and I completely underestimated how much gas money I would need to get there in my aging piece of s**t Dodge van.  By the time I arrived my gas tank was empty, as was the half pint of cheap whiskey in my glove box. I had no functioning credit cards, no money in my bank account, and the gig paid by check.  With nothing left to lose I took the one single dollar I had left to my name and put it in a slot machine- I won 200 bucks.”  Of that experience, Bob sums it up by saying “To this day, that’s really the only spiritual experience I’ve ever had.  I’m still not a religious man, but I have to wonder…”I’m used to digging on guitar based blues but this keyboard-based gumbo of dirty blues, classic rock and New Orleans piano boogie is really hitting the spot.  Though a guitar freak I’ve always had a soft spot for the Fender Rhodes sound, and Mojo Deluxe has plenty of that. More than just an excuse to perform and show off, this collection of a dozen songs is like having a good conversation about life- complete with tumblers of whiskey, headlocks, noogies, hugs and slurred declarations of “I love you too, man!”Produced by Bob DeMarco and mixed by Ross Hogarth it has a great vibe and feel that really suits the songs.  It was recorded at various studios in LA and New York, and features a guest list of artists too long to recount here.  Some songs I connected quite deeply with, like Certain Distance, a song Malone wrote about being an introvert and others I enjoyed more for the performances, but overall Mojo Deluxe is pretty good company at home and on the road.  Despite some heavy themes, this disc will show you a good time.ESSENTIALS:  Certain Distance, Rage & Cigarettes, Watching Over Me

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