What the selections lack in quantity this week they are more than making things up with the subtle nuances inherent in many of the releases. Given that the Christmas release blackout period is right around the corner lets try to savor some gems while we can.
If you were asking yourself if we needed another Elton John greatest hits re-packaging like we are getting in his latest hits-fest, Diamonds, the answer would be a resounding “heck no, enough already.” But, if living with this excess means we get to hear the psychedelic splendor of a never before released John/Taupin composition called “Regimental Sgt. Zippo,” color us all in.
And, if that is not cool enough for your delicate ears, AC/DC is back with the prodigal son Brian Johnson returning to the fold in fine vocal form. Their new record, Power Up, will blast your ears off in November.
And, if you are looking for a little more musical diversity, there’s always room on the Jazz train and the Big Band of Brothers celebration of all things Allman Brothers.
Here are five particular cool nuggets our ears were hip to this week.
Blue Oyster Cult – The Symbol Remains
Even though they never really have stopped touring, Blue Oyster Cult’s latest record The Symbol Remains is the band’s first proper record since 2001’s Curse of the Hidden Mirror. And, what a record this one is. With only two members remaining from the classic lineup in Buck Dharma and Eric Bloom, there is still a lot of rock in the roll energy exuded on virtually every track. Careening between classic hard rock, blues boogie, AOR, stadium anthems, and even rootsy garage rockers, the album is almost a track by track historical tour of the band’s entire career.
The lead-off single “That Was Me” could have easily snuggled in there on Agents of Fortune right there between “True Confessionals” and “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper,” “Box In My Head” is a perfect complement that belongs in the Secret Treaties era, and “Stand and Fight” is a perfectly framed biker anthem. Favorites include the Jon Lord organ inflected “The Return of St. Cecile” that has sort of a “Boy’s Are Back In Town” vibe, and “Train True (Lennie’s Song) is a high-stepping rockabilly rave-up.
Recorded and mixed mostly during a pandemic the production value is first-rate, the mixing polished as tight as the skin on an apple, and the sequencing and tempo changes are as ear-pleasing as you can get. I am not sure if Blue Oyster Cult has anything left in the tank after this magnificent effort, but unlike some of their ’70s rock peers including recently Tesla, Def Leppard, and Black Oak Arkansas, all releasing tepid album versions of their former selves, this new record rivals some of the bands best work, era be damned.
Bahamas – Sad Hunk
Sad Hunk is the fifth studio record that Afie Jurnaven has recorded under his moniker Bahamas making us glad that this Canadian artist has stepped out from backing the likes of Feist and Jason Collett to wander into his own space. Flowing like a bit more amped up Jack Johnson there is even a bit of the spirit of Prince in the two opening songs “Trick To Happy” and “Own Alone.” There is a spirited ’70s Folk-Rock soul on “Done Me No Good” and “Can’t” complain evokes the ghost of Cat Stevens. The song “Less Than Love” would have fit in quite nicely on Boz’ Silk Degrees. This one is the sorely needed escapist chill vibing beautiful noise you need in your life right now.
The Budos Band – Long in the Tooth
As referenced in the album title itself, this Staten Island-based horn-centric band has been around a long time, and yet still seem to be as vibrant as ever. Blending African rhythms, N.O. style second-line horns, funky organs, and psychedelic swirls into an eclectic mix of groovy soundscapes. The song “Sixth Hammer” has a baritone sax solo that will rattle your skeleton, “Snake Hawk” could have been used as the soundtrack for any ’60s science fiction movie, and “Dusterado” is a classic spaghetti Western gunfight in the middle of main street fare. Brevity is the order of the day on this record with no song exceeding 4:00 and most of them in the 3:00 or less range giving less room for expanded riffing and provides for a more textured and varied listen.
Garcia Peoples – Nightcap at Wits End
When a jam band decides to focus a bit more and write songs for those of us that don’t have the attention span to listen to 18-minute open-ended twin-guitar wranglings the results can be pretty ear-pleasing. Here, New Jersey’s own Garcia Peoples have distilled their sound into a less is more set of tunes that provides the listener with a perfect representation of the band in 12 songs weighing in at just under 49 minutes.
The through-line stretching out from from the Prog-lite of “Altered Times,” the Grateful Dead-inspired psychedelic inspiration of “Painting a Vision That Carries,” along with the Jefferson Airplane by way of Krautrock drone of “A Reckoning” will give you a glimpse of an immensely talented band that certainly will garner more ears into the fold with this set of highly digestible and enormously addicting tunes.
Brothers Osborne – Skeleton
As much as I have been really trying not to like Brothers Osborne with the Nashville hits-factory stench we rightly or wrongly associate with brothers John and T.J. Osborne, my ears won’t fail me now and with their latest long-player, Skeleton, they have suckered me back in. Here, on their third album the Rock and Boogie is amped up a bit more and the Honky Tonk vibe takes on more of an Outlaw Country flavor with a bit of Rock and a little bit of Roll thrown in for good measure. The opener “Lighten Up” is an out and out rocker and should be a terrific festival anthem, “All Night” is a bit of Bro-Country, but when done this earnestly that is not such a bad thing, and the spirit of Mighty Merle even joins the party on “Back on the Bottle.”
Throw in “Dead Man’s Curve,” definitely no relation to the Jan and Dean song, a burning tune of redemption as long as you make it through dead man’s curve, along with the gentle glide of “High Note” and what you have here is a band that blends Country, Pop, Rock, and Americana better than pretty much anyone in the business. And that is a beautiful thing and a feast for the ears.