One month in the books and the ears are rockin’ and the feet are stompin’. Awaiting scorching albums set to be released later in the year including another Band of Heathens record along with another appearance by Ray Wylie Hubbard.
The Scorpions are once again coming out of retirement with a new album coming out on February 22nd, and if “Rock Believer” is any indication it is set to be a winner.
The Cornwall-based Wille and the Bandits deliver a palate of bourbon and swagger-filled bottleneck Southern-Blues rock splendor.
And, the Pop supergroup The Split Squad featuring current and former members of Blondie, The Plimsouls, The Fleshtones, and The Baseball Project deliver on the picture-perfect Power Pop expectations on “Hey DJ” from their 2021 record, Another Cinderella.
But don’t leave now. Here are five particularly groovy records to hit your ear-waves this week.
Eels – Extreme Witchcraft
There is a lot to like on Extreme Witchcraft, the latest record from Mark Oliver Everett and The Eels. With a sound somewhat South of Big Star and North of the more melodic side of the Replacements, the record delivers a bouncy, eclectic, soulfully diverse groove that should warrant several spins in your upcoming listening schedule.
“Steam Engine” has a swampy ZZ Top meets prime-era Creedence Clearwater groove to it, and the opener, “Amateur Hour,” could have been a Plimsouls hit if they had more than one.
The vibe gets downright funky on “Grandfather Clock Strikes Twelve,” the killer bass line is worth the price of admission alone on this one, and the jaunty folkiness of “Learning while I Lose” has the burning essence of an extended Grateful Dead jam wafting all over it.
Take a drive down this autobahn of a record, shed yourself from the sameness of ordinary life, and lose yourself to Rock and Roll.
Lady Wray – Piece of Me
Technically this is not Lady Wray’s first album, that would be 2016’s Queen alone. But, Piece of Me is certainly her most sonically perfect effort to date. Very much soul-leaning with tinges of hip-hop and R&B, the touchpoints abound here all the way from Mary J. Blige to Minnie Ripperton, Queen Aretha, Princess Nina, and beyond.
“Come On In” is a powerful testament to letting people into your inner circle, “I Do” is another love song with a hint of Amy Winehouse in the DNA, and “Games People Play,” no, not that one, is pure ’70s, silky chanteuse Soul.
This is a contemporary record with an old-school soul.
Leo Sayer – Northern Songs
Should your ears have only treated you to the mid-seventies pop-perfect Leo Sayer record Endless Flight, a record that featured the iconic song “You Make Me Feel Like Dancing,” without excavating his entire catalog, they are doing you a disservice. And, you might be forgiven if Leo has been in the cut-out bin of your memory banks swimming in the “where are they now, whatever happened to” pool of late.
But, fear not. Your Leo Sayer ship has come in with Northern Songs, a set of Beatles covers with one original tune that might not make you feel like dancing, but is a pleasant overall listen that is South of great and several notches up from good. Overall the essence of a record produced with Pro Tools during this pandemic is prevalent, for sure, and the high notes are not as high and are not held as long as they used to be, but these are nits that don’t need to be picked.
Stellar cuts include “Get Back,” with the snarling back of the throat vocal range that is perfect for a singer of a certain age, uniquely arranged Joe Cocker stylings are employed on “A Hard Days Night,” and the Bob Marley, steel drums-and-all, tinged take on “Nowhere Man” is, let’s just say, interesting.
This is a soulful, labor of love record with unique arrangements, horns along with strings in just the right places, and vocals that are energetic, never mailed in, and are delivered with a passion of a singer that has been there, sung that.
Jethro Tull – The Zealot Gene
The thing the listener should understand before going ears-all-in with The Zealot Game, the latest record from Jethro Tull, is that these blokes have been doing their thing, releasing new material, for 50 years. And, the music is still great.
From the opening flute salvo on “Mrs. Tibbets” leading off the set with the searing Marting Barre-worthy guitar riffs, the essence of Tull is on full display front and center. Longtime fans of the band should be over the hedgerow and elf dancing in the moonlight over this one, the first proper Jethro Tull record since 1999’s J-Tull Dot Com. Sit and let sink in for a minute.
We won’t begin to unpack the lyrically dense songs presented here, if you are a fan of the band, let’s just say you will be quite pleased with the fact there is plenty of DNA sharing on this one with Songs From The Wood and Heavy Horses.
The headline on this one reads “The flautist and the fellas stay in their lane. Tull fans rejoice.” All of this, of course, is bad news for my friend Jim who virtually has every Jethro Tull album cover tattooed somewhere on his body. He is going to have to get some new ink.
Autoramas – Autointitulado
Mainstays on the Brazilian independent music scene, the Autoramas blend Punk Rock, nuggets style Garage Rock, and New Wave Pop into a blender of coolness. Part Devo, plenty of The Ramones, with a side order of Dick Dale, are all incorporated into the sound. And, regardless of your language of choice, the vocals presented here, exclusively in Spanish, will be easily recognizable and chorus-worthy after a few listens.
“Dia da Marmota” is The Replacements on steroids, “Erupto” could have been Devo smash hit back in the day, and “Sem Tempo” would have been bigger than “Rock Lobster.”
Ears, down the most fun record to be released this year, this is the must listen-to soundtrack at your next hipster Tiki party.