Friday, 13 October 2017

UFO - The Salentino Cuts, album review

Safe, Familiar, Fine

I am enjoying this UFO covers album, the vocal of original member Phil Mogg of this long-standing band – formed in 1969 – carrying all the cuts with authority. Familiars like Break on Through (To the Other Side), The Pusher and Mississippi Queen benefit from his deep growl of a voice and its otherwise fine rock tone; less familiars like Mad Season’s River of Deceit and well-known but oblique in this company Bill Wither’s Ain’t No Sunshine are pleasant surprises in this vocal respect. Otherwise the actual respect is in the faithful if also safe musical renditions with little changed apart from, perhaps unexpected, an often slowing down of pace. The full track list is:

01. Heartful Of Soul
02. Break On Through (To The Other Side)
03. River Of Deceit
04. The Pusher
05. Paper In Fire
06. Rock Candy
07. Mississippi Queen
08. Ain't No Sunshine
09. Honey-Bee
10. Too Rolling Stoned
11. Just Got Paid
12. It's My Life

Saturday, 7 October 2017

Into the Distance Music 61

Ronnie Montrose, Ricky Phillips & Eric Singer 10x10, album review

Well, that's 24 including Ronnie...

A project begun in 2003, nine years before his death, and since completed by bassist Ricky Philips and drummer Eric Singer – with stellar guest vocalists and guitarists – this final release of Ronnie Montrose’s 10x10 project is worth the commitment for its homage to his own legacy and that of the rock it exemplifies: heavy on the singing sass and guitar licks.

The tracks themselves are not gems of songwriting but are gems of generic platforms for the guests to continue a lineage of riff and roughshod – though in all honesty the polish of these performers put a glorious gloss on the noise. The listing of its ten songs illustrates the company and guarantee of what is delivered:

01. Heavy Traffic featuring Eric Martin & Dave Meniketti
02. Love Is An Art featuring Edgar Winter & Rick Derringer
03. Color Blind featuring Sammy Hagar & Steve Lukather
04. Still Singin' With The Band featuring Glenn Hughes, Phil Collen & Jimmy "Z" Zavala
05. Strong Enough featuring Tommy Shaw
06. Any Minute featuring Mark Farner & Ricky Phillips
07. The Kingdom's Come Undone featuring Ricky Phillips & Joe Bonamassa
08. One Good Reason featuring Bruce Turgon & Brad Whitford
09. Head On Straight featuring Davey Pattison & Marc Bonilla
10. I'm Not Lying featuring Gregg Rolie, Tom Gimbel & Lawrence Gowan

It isn’t easy to pick out favourites as all tracks slot neatly into the classic rock production line. I do have an early proclivity to the pairings of Edgar Winter & Rick Derringer and Sammy Hagar & Steve Lukather, though these are not surprising to single out. Closer I'm Not Lying is a beautiful song.

Monday, 25 September 2017

Into the Distance Music [Landmark] 60

Leon Russell - On a Distant Shore, album review

Yes - but - No

I’m not a Leon Russell aficionado, but I like his work and I do like this posthumous album, that distinctive growling vocal as powerful as ever, recorded a few months before his death at the age of 74. Anyone who could write and perform as he did A Song for You always was and is a musical great.

This album does continue a familiar long trajectory from that 1971 classic. But not being that knowing with his albums across this time, especially of late, I do not know how common massive orchestrations were. On On a Distant Shore they do, surely, overpower the whole. It is at times a seemingly add-on over-production, and I have no idea if this is the case for songs perhaps not quite finished before he passed?

The musical dichotomy is perfectly illustrated by two juxtaposed tracks on the album: fifth Black and Blue is a fine blues simply performed with tight band and a great guitar lick to enhance; sixth Just Leaves and Grass is as a composition and in Russell’s singing a highly charged, emotive song – he seems in performance emotively wrought – but the orchestration is lavishly naff to these ears – symphony-esque horn bursts and sweeping strings as well as a ridiculous echoing vocal chorus that mono-stabs Yes, then later Go. This does detract hugely from an otherwise potent love song. Check out the orchestration on the wonderful honky tonk of Love This Way which is large but playfully so, right down to the actual howling wind on the lyrical howling wind line, a vocal chorus of oh yeah with sass rather than silliness.

The album closes on A Song For You, here the orchestration slightly more in sympathy with the song’s apt meaningfulness as an ending, the pedal-steel in there fighting with those strings.

Saturday, 23 September 2017

Stephen Stills & Judy Collins - Everybody Knows, album review

Together Again Suite

Of a quintet of recent releases that got me interested – David Crosby; Steven Stills & Judy Collins; Chris Hillman; Van Morrison; Leon Russell – it is the second that has engaged the most, with Crosby, Russell and Morrison following, but all good.

The Stills/Collins is the most ‘familiar’ [along with Crosby], both sounding as good as ever and as original as ever. There are detailed reviews out there which plot the relationship between Stills and Collins in the 60s and how songs here reflect this, and Leonard Cohen’s Everybody Knows reminds of Collins and her influence on Cohen to become a singer. Judy Collins is as exquisite as ever in her vocal as I have observed in reviews of her more recent solo releases; Stills, who has hearing problems that have, apparently, affected his singing, still performs exact harmonies, no doubt set by Collins’ perfections: opener Handle Me With Care a good example where Stills holds his note and Collins takes on the melody [though this gets a highly critical take in Paste Magazine, panning Stills’ as painfully flat, not perhaps understanding his situation, and I think overstating as flat its intentional monotone]. But that’s opinion. Yes, this is, as I have said, ‘familiar’ territory, but that’s brilliant to me. Listening to second So Begins the Task, I don’t think the criticism of the harmonising holds, Stills sounding most like his past, and Collins again polishing.

There are songs where Collins is at the solo fore, like third River of Gold, though Stills does provide a fine foil to the chorus, and also in sixth Houses where she soars vocally. Fourth Judy is beautifully sung by both, and Stills on guitar is as crisp as ever. Tim Hardin and Bob Dylan get confident covers of their respective Reason to Believe and Girl from the North Country, while Sandy Denny’s Who Knows Where the Time Goes is elegantly echoed by Collins’ equally gorgeous voice, and the lyrics resonate with the reflection on these two former lovers and lifelong friends in their seventies now performing together.

Closer Questions from Stills’ Buffalo Springfield days reasserts the nostalgia, and his guitar work reminds of his prowess.