Genre-Spanning Titles That Rock

EDITOR’S NOTE – As MNN ceases publication, we would like to thank Robert Kinsler for his years of dedicated service and contributions to our magazine. Robert’s columns have been a mainstay of our weekly updates, with CD reviews, concert reviews and more. We cannot express in words alone how appreciative we are of Robert’s work, and thank him for everything he has done to help us be the information resource we are.

by Robert Kinsler

Live albums, reissues, an impressive debut and an inspired return from Garbage are among the field of highly-recommended titles that will satisfy music lovers from across the spectrum.

Neil Young_EarthArtist: Neil Young + Promise of the Real
Title: Earth (Reprise)
You might like if you enjoy: Neil Young and Crazy Horse

Tell me more: Neil Young is truly rock’s most enduring explorer, challenging himself and his audience with songs bolstered by socially-minded lyrics and expansive rock that incorporates folk, alt-country, blues and other styles. On his latest album “Earth,” Young + Promise of the Real (a group headed by Lucas Nelson and Micah Nelson, Willie Nelson’s sons) utilize 2015 concert recordings and studio  overdubs adorned with sounds both tranquil and jarring (mostly animal cries, but also sonics captured in the city such as car horns) that add up to something that is never less than captivating.

The 13-track recording fills two audio CDs, and includes an ambitious 26-minute take on “Love and Only Love.” Other standouts include the beautiful harmonica- and organ-anchored “Mother Earth,” melodic country rocker “My Country Home” and lush “Western Hero.” Information: NeilYoung.com.

AsiaArtist: Asia
Title: British Live Performance Series (Rainman)
You might like if you enjoy: Yes, John Wetton, Carl Palmer, Geoff Downes

Tell me more: Recorded at Central Television Nottingham studios in 1990, Asia’s “British Live Performance Series” concert release is a wonder. Capturing the supergroup as they performed top-flight material from their first decade together, the 13-track set includes virtuoso prog-rock (“Wildest Dreams,” “Time Again”), tuneful anthems (“Voice of America,” “Days Like These”) and energetic takes on their biggest hits (“Sole Survivor,” “Don’t Cry,” “Only Time Will Tell,” “Heat of the Moment”). “British Live Performance Series” is a must-have for fans of Asia. Information: rainmanrecords.com.

Charlie FayeArtist: Charlie Faye & the Fayettes
Title: Charlie Faye & the Fayettes (independent)
You might like if you enjoy: She & Him, the Shirelles, the Ronettes

Tell me more: Some of today’s most exciting artists are those who have tapped into a retro vein and made it their own. Indeed, She & Him, Gary Clark Jr. and St. Paul & the Broken Bones are among the ’00s breakout acts who have artistically balanced old and new. Now comes Austin’s Charlie Faye & the Fayettes (Faye is lead vocalist, and is joined by backup singers BettySoo and Akina Adderley). The glorious “Green Light,” haunting “Loving Names,” Burt Bacharach-styled “Carelessly,” and rock ‘n’ soul romp “Eastside” are among this writer’s favorites. Information: charliefayeandthefayettes.com.

The Record CompanyArtist: The Record Company
Title: Give It Back to You (Concord Music Group)
You might like if you enjoy: Moreland & Arbuckle, 7Horse

Tell me more: Los Angeles trio The Record Company has been doing for blues-rock what Vintage Trouble has done for rock ‘n soul. The Record Company (singer-guitarist-harmonica player Chris Vos, bassist-vocalist Alex Stiff and drummer-vocalist-piano player Marc Cazorla) have released a debut, “Give It Back to You,” that not only harkens back to some of the group’s influences (John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters, the Rolling Stones), but equally establishes the threesome as a contemporary and fully contemporary music champ.

The performances are energetic and the songs are explosive. The blistering “Off the Ground,” heavy bass-filled hypnotic rocker “On the Move” and gospel-infused “Hard Day Coming Down” are undeniably catchy, and everywhere the sparse but intoxicating arrangements are a delight. Information: therecordcompany.net.

The BanglesArtist: The Bangles
Title: Ladies and Gentlemen…the Bangles! (Omnivore Recordings)
You might like if you enjoy: The Bangles, Susanna Hoffs

Tell me more: Some of the Bangles’ earliest recordings are gathered together on the delightful “Ladies and Gentlemen…the Bangles!” The wonderful 16-track disc offers up standout studio takes, demos and live recordings chronicling the Los Angeles-spawned group’s formative years (the ensemble was originally known as the Bangs before adopting the permanent moniker the Bangles).

The mix of propulsive instrumentals and melodic power pop is infectious and the songs really shine across the re-mastered set. My faves include the surf-minded instrumental “Bitchen Summer/Speedway,” harmonies-rich “The Real World” (both the demo and final versions appear on the disc), Beatles-worthy “I’m In Line” and garage rocker “Want You.”  Information: omnivorerecordings.com.

GarbageArtist: Garbage
Title: Strange Little Birds (STUNVOLUME)
You might like if you enjoy: Garbage, the Pretenders

Tell me more: Garbage’s sixth album “Strange Little Birds” finds the rock quintet exploring the better part of its electronica and alt rock personalities with equal zeal. Singer Shirley Manson remains one of modern rock’s greatest lead vocalists, and is backed by a quartet of talented musicians able to unleash powerful and affecting songs that are never anything less than original.

The ethereal “Blackout,” propulsive “Empty” and alluring electronica-tinged “Night Drive Loneliness” provide more than enough reasons to pick up Garbage’s brilliant “Strange Little Birds.” Information: garbage.com.

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