Five more quick reviews of new or recent album releases. Today features a couple of the best of the week’s bunch.
Mike Eldred Trio – Baptist Town
Nick Curran‘s Reform School Girl was one of the best albums of 2010. JD McPherson‘s Let the Good Times Roll was among the finest releases of 2015. If you don’t own those albums – modern-day examples of the true rock and roll aesthetic – stop right now and go get them. And while you’re out there, pick up Baptist Town, a worthy addition to what we can call a trifecta of timeless, hard-charging roots rock. With a foreboding snarl, Eldred and his pals rip shit up. And you won’t believe what they do with The Beatles‘ “Can’t Buy Me Love.”
Fractal Mirror – Slow Burn 1
If you’re not an aficionado of prog, you might not even know that the genre has been classified (by its fanatics, of course) into no less than nineteen subgenres. The one called “symphonic prog” is perhaps the most accessible. No actual symphonies need be employed; in fact those sounds are best left to the mighty Mellotron. International (Holland and USA) prog outfit Fractal Mirror fits nicely into the genre with this supremely tuneful outing; the pop sensibility of the album’s eleven one-word-titled tunes will appeal to fans of Spock’s Beard and Porcupine Tree. In other words, they’re pretty damn good.
Dana Gould – Let Me Put My Thoughts In You
The inherent problem with stand-up comedy albums is their short shelf-life: unlike songs, comedy routines don’t usually bear repeated listening. (A notable exception is The Firesign Theatre, though they’re not to most people’s tastes.) But Gould’s latest album transcends the genre: it’s side-splittingly funny, topical in a way that should age well (unlike, say Rodney Dangerfield‘s homophobic-leaning material or Richard Pryor‘s drug humor). His persona and observational humor hits its mark without being overly on-the-nose. His timing is superb; his routines elicit a wide range of subtle shades of emotion. It’s not all fun and games, but it mostly is.
Gretchen’s Wheel – Behind the Curtain
Despite Gretchen’s Wheel’s last album being produced by The Posies‘ Ken Stringfellow, it’s this album – self produced by Lindsay Murray – that hits the bullseye as power pop with an ever-so-subtle Americana flavor. The guitars jangle and shimmer in all the right places, and Murray’s dulcet (and often multi-tracked) voice rides atop the melodies. There’s melody and muscle in equal measure, and even Murray’s songwriting – already her strong suit – seems to have improved on this go-round. It’s her show, but I must note the involvement of Andy Reed; his name is fast becoming a trademark of quality.
Knight Area – Hyperlive
Knight Area is a modern-day progressive rock band from Holland. I stumbled across their album Realm of Shadows way back in 2009, not long after I started this blog. The group combines heavy riffage with turn-on-a-dime prog musical pyrotechnics, and tops it all off with solid songwriting. This live set – a CD and DVD – documents a 2015 show in front of an enthusiastic crowd in Katowice, Poland. Vocalist Mark Smit sounds more than a little like Steve Perry. As is often the case with live albums, it’s the lengthy set-closing medley where the band shines brightest. Heartily recommended.