Embrace Rock, Synthpop, Blues and Country Excellence 

by Robert Kinsler

Classic rock icons The Zombies, synthpop-dance rock heroes New Order, blues harmonica master Charlie Musselwhite and country music giant George Strait have all released outstanding new albums.

the-zombies_still-got-that-hungerArtist: The Zombies
Title: Still Got That Hunger (The End Records)
You might like if you enjoy: The Zombies, The Kinks, Colin Blunstone

Tell me more: It makes perfect sense that a band named the Zombies would outlive and artistically thrive beyond every single one of its 1960s-spawned contemporaries. While fellow British bands the Who and Rolling Stones sometimes tour and occasionally record, it is truly the Zombies that impress with the same power the quintet displayed when they burst on the rock scene 50+ years ago. On the band’s aptly-named forthcoming collection “Still Got That Hunger” (available Oct. 9 via The End Records), singer Colin Blunstone and keyboardist Rod Argent lead an ensemble that masterfully blends the jazz-tinged psychedelic rock they pioneered in the early ’60s with blues and contemporary styles.

Across “Still Got That Hunger,” Blunstone sings with power, range and emotion; the full band (including the aforementioned Argent, drummer Steve Rodford, lead guitarist Tom Toomey and bassist Jim Rodford) play with nuanced emotion and authority. The top-flight musicianship and vocals wouldn’t mean a thing without brilliant songwriting and that’s where the Zombies reconnect with the spirit of their ’60s beginnings. Just as the band’s 1968 masterwork “Odessey & Oracle” blended a number of styles together in the creation of something greater, “Still Got That Hunger” allows the Zombies to magically conjure up that approach here.

The mix of baroque pop (“Chasing the Past,” “Never Get Over You”), jazz-rock (“New York,” “And We Were Young Again”), blues (“Edge of the Rainbow”) and a dash of psychedelia throughout the 10-song album work wonders.  The Zombies are currently on tour in the U.S., and upcoming dates include New York City on Oct. 9, Denver, Colorado on Oct. 19 and in Beverly Hills, CA on Oct. 24. Information: thezombies.net.

new-order_music-completeArtist: New Order
Title: Music Complete (Mute)
You might like if you enjoy: New Order, Duran Duran, Pet Shop Boys

Tell me more: Not many synthpop and dance rock bands to emerge in the 1980s have soldiered on without their sound becoming dated. New Order has outdistanced the competition for sure and remained more than relevant; listening to the best tracks on the British outfit’s 9th proper studio album (“Music Complete”) is to hear songs that would have lit up dance clubs 30 years ago and likely will today too.

Coming a full decade after 2005’s epic “Waiting for the Sirens’ Call,” the ensuing span saw the departure of founding bassist Peter Hook (replaced by Bad Lieutenant Tom Chapman) and return of original keyboardist Gillian Gilbert. Whatever the dynamics, singer Bernard Sumner and company deliver propulsive and driving dance rock throughout, layering the infectious beats with compelling melodies and textures. Highlights include the longing “Restless,” ambitious “Plastic” and sweeping “Academic.” Information: NewOrderNow.net.

charlie-musselwhite_i-aint-lyinArtist: Charlie Musselwhite
Title: I Ain’t Lyin’… (Henrietta Records)
You might like if you enjoy: James Cotton, Little Walter, John Lee Hooker

Tell me more: Mississippi-born Charlie Musselwhite, 71, has been an essential part of the bridge between traditional and contemporary blues since the mid-1960s, and his latest album “I Ain’t Lyin’…” celebrates his potent talents as both a top-tier blues harp virtuoso and compelling vocalist. Backed by a fantastic trio (guitarist Matt Stubbs, drummer June Core and bassist Steve Froberg), Musselwhite’s new 11-track collection has a loose and fun feel (especially on “Long Lean Lanky Mama”), but allows for moments where romantic loss, regret, hard times and other well-worn themes itself are celebrated amidst the lively music making.

The blues ballad “Always Been Your Friend,” buoyant harmonica-anchored “My Kinda Gal” and lively “Blues, Why Do You Worry Me?” are all standouts here. Information: CharlieMusselwhite.com.

george-strait_cold-beer-conversationArtist: George Strait
Title: Cold Beer Conversation (MCA Nashville)
You might like if you enjoy: George Strait, Tim McGraw, Jamey Johnson

Tell me more: One of the most successful country music artists of all time, George Strait’s streak of stellar releases continues via his new disc “Cold Beer Conversation.” A strong effort that blends upbeat commercial country cuts (“Goin’ Goin’ Gone,” “Rock Paper Scissors”), Western Swing (“It Takes All Kinds”), country blues (“Cheaper Than a Shrink”) and melodic ballads (“It Was Love,” “Even When I Can’t Feel It”). “Cold Beer Conversation” is available exclusively via Apple Music and at Walmart. Information: georgestrait.com.

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