Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Shannon McNally Small Town Talk 2013

This gem was recorded back in 2007, when Bobbie Charles was still alive, and only released now in 2013. McNally and Dr. John (Mac Rebennack) produce, and the good Dr. is everywhere.

The slinky, cooking funk of Street People leads off, followed by the luscious country-swing honky-tonk of Can't Pin A Color. Charles could write a fine tune, and while few of his tunes were hits, they deserve their revered status. This one is right up there.

The beautiful String Of Hearts follows, and McNally's vocal, with Vince Gill's harmonies, make the song indispensable, and outright beautiful. Cowboys and Indians (Charles' empathetic blues ode to native Americans) and Homemade Songs (a slow country blues ballad) round out side one, and unless this thing falls apart on side two, we may have a classic.

Side two breaks out with Long Face, a Dr. John classic duet, and this girl can express herself.  Shannon McNally sings in a wonderfully laid back alto that reminds the listener of Ronstadt or Raitt, but she's every bit the singer either of them is, and since she's a tad younger, she can outsing them right now. Small Town Talk follows, and it's one of Charles' best, written with Rick Danko of The Band, and presented here in a pretty straightforward arrangement that features Dr. John's piano and guest harmonica.

I Don't Want To Know is another beautiful country ballad of the heartache kind, and Charles could certainly add his name to the greats of the genre. Nice piano from the Dr. Vince Gill adds his enormous (and oft over-looked) guitar talent to But I Do, and McNally provides a casual, and yet perfect, vocal. She makes it sound so easy you almost miss how exceptional she is. I Must Be In A Good Place Now finishes off the record, with McNally singingc her heart out on another precious Charles lyric, with a full pop ballad arrangement, and Dr. John's wonderful keys.

The core band is Dr. John on piano and B-3, Hermann Ernest III on drums, David Barard on bass, and John Fohl on guitar. There are small string and horn sections used to fill out the arrangements, and Derek Trucks makes an appearance. It's available on very clean vinyl from Sacred Sumac Music in Nashville, distributed by Select-O Hits. Get ready to spin.

It might not blow you away the first time, but with repeated listenings, it will creep into your psyche, and you will fall prey to it's charms.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Richard X. Heyman X 2013

Richard X. Heyman has been making fine power-pop rock and roll since 1986. He plays all the instruments and sings all the vocal parts. That he does this does not make him so unusual. That he does it so well sets him apart from the crowd.

Influences? Beatles, Byrds, Raspberries, Yardbirds, Rascals, all manner of splendid sixties rock & roll, especially those rocking garage bands like the Standells, the Shondells, the Choir, Beau Brummels, and Paul Revere and the Raiders.

The beauty of his songwriting is that while all of the influences can be heard, he melds them together into something new that is his own sound. He is also a first rate lyricist, avoiding the lazy cliche.

He's a darn fine drummer, singer, and guitarist, and his keyboard skills also shine on this new one. X is his tenth full-length record. It may very well be his best ever, although I'm very fond of Hey Man! from 1990. If you haven't heard him, this is as good a place to start as any.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Graham Parker and the Rumour Heat Treatment 1976

Early on, Graham Parker and the Rumour were on fire. This, their second long-player, contained so many rocking songs you mostly have to listen standing up.

Heat Treatment, That's What They All Say, Pourin' It All Out, Something You're Going Through, and Help Me Shake It never let up. The ballads are here, too, and that's why he got compared to Elvis Costello sometimes. Parker's songs are brilliant. He's young and angry. The music the Rumour cooks up sounds more like Springsteen than any English bar band ought. The horn section adds depth to an already fat sound. If this is the sound of a young artist, then forget maturity, it won't help.

Most critics site later works as his best, but for a super hot band and a front man out to prove himself, this one is my pick.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Roy Orbison All-Time Greatest Hits 1972

Sometimes when artists change record labels throughout their careers, there is no place to go for a comprehensive collection. In Roy Orbison's case, there is no such problem. While Orbison recorded for at least eight different labels from 1956-1988, every one of his top-ten singles was recorded for Monument between 1959-1964.

That is the period covered by this gem.

The songs are outstanding. Orbison was always a strong songwriter, and wrote the teen drama with adult passion.

These recordings feature a big orchestral sound and Orbison's near-operatic voice, and the recordings are clean and well-mixed. In fact, this level of quality of recording was rare in popular music of the day. Fred Foster's original production is stunning.

It was digitally remastered from the original analog tape for CD in 1997. Steve Hoffman also mastered the record for reissue in 2004 on Sony/S&P Records 180 gram vinyl, which sounds superfine. There is a newer vinyl version made by Mobile Fidelity in it's Original Master Recordings series that has also gotten raves. If you're at all into vinyl, it's indispensable.

Or even if you're at all into rock and roll in the sixties. You need it then, too.