Five Cool Ones: Five New Records Released This Week (October 9, 2020)

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.

 

Five Cool Ones: Five New New Albums Released This Week (August 7, 2020)

 

We haven’t quite hit the summer stride as yet, but things are starting to heat up quite nicely. We are getting some sneak peeks to some cool ones that are just around the bend and there are some subtle beauties that are announcing themselves.

Robert plant, yes, that Robert Plant has released a teaser tune that has our ears a-buzz as he turns it up and takes a ride down Charlie Patton Highway as only he can.

The boys in Deep Purple, Mach 65, or whatever version of the band is in vogue these days are really bringing it in fine Hall of Famer fashion.

And, newcomer Jordan Lehning is out with one of the more beautiful ballads of the year with “Oolaloom.”

Here are five records we think are really cool this week.

Mary Chapin Carpenter – The Dirt and the Star

Mary Chapin is back with her the first new record of new stuff since 2016 with The Dirt and the Stars, and its almost as if she has not been gone and all. Written in her Vermont home before the pandemic hit, Carpenter waxes politically on old age, politics, life changes, and the importance of empathy along with with other home-spun subjects as only she can. When she tells us “It’s Ok to Be Sad” and shows us “Where The Beauty Is” It’s like sitting on your front porch with an old friend.

Cary Morin – Dockside Saints

Exploring the musical landscape on the dirty side of roots-based Americana this eclectic guitar-slinger will have you riveted from the opening bell with “Nobody Gotta Know” a voodoo blend of Cajun, Swamp Rock, with hints of Bluegrass that seemingly shares some DNA with Dr. John. With Exception to the Rule” Cory’s sensitive side comes out along with his ear-friendly voice, and on “Prisoner” and on “Tonight” we find out just how the guitar Gods have blessed this exciting new talent.

Jenny O. – New Truth

There is definitely a whole lot of the Best Coast vibes swirling all around this eclectically new record from Jenny O. Vintage Pop meld in perfect harmony with the So. Cal. Laurel Canyon vibe most particularly on “Color Love” and “What About the Day.” This is a sit in the garden and watch the butterfly’s sort of listen.

Tough Age – Which Way Am I

A new wave masterpiece for the new millennium, Tough Age, the latest record from Tough Age, harkens back to the Post Punk glory days of the late ’70’s early ’80s. Heavily influenced by The Feelies and Television, their music is taught and full of simmering just under the surface energy. Whether it’s the anthemic “Penny Current Suppression Ring” or the power riffing bass-forward “Anti-Anxiety Exercises, this band would have had a permanent residence at CBGB’s back in the day.

Blue Oyster Cult – Live in London (45th Anniversary Edition)

Released for the first time on CD celebrating the 45th anniversary of their Live in London concert, this set is a must-have not only for BOC completists but for any fan of good old fashioned Rock and Roll. Memorable for being the first, and to date only, time the band has played their debut self-titled record start to finish in a live setting. This also stands this live performance apart and ahead of the somewhat tired “Some Enchanted Evening.” And, its terrific hearing this iconic band at the peak of their powers. The highlight from this part of the set, “The Cities on Flame With Rock and Roll” is delivered with the passion we had come to expect from one of the more underrated Rock and Roll bands in the game.

Once the record is finished and after the brief interlude in the form of the instrumental “Buck’s Boogie” the monster hits kick in with “Godzilla” and “Don’t Fear The Reaper” back to back. Song placement is key here as it is always better when the band doesn’t wait for the encore to dial-up their mega-hits. Editors note: Don’t expect to hear “Burning For You” on this set. The song had not been written yet.

Live Video of the Day: Blue Oyster Cult – True Confessions

On a day when Def Leppard comes out with a new song and Blue Oyster Cult rises up from the ashes promoting their new upcoming record, our collective ears are spinning not really understanding what to make of these developments. One side of our musical coin says let me enjoy these rockers the way they were meant to be heard in all their “Don’t Fear The Reaper and “Godzilla” glory, the other says why not enjoy listening to our favorite bands getting another bite at the apple. Either way, everybody wins.