Archive for the ‘CD review’ Category

Yusuf ‘Tell ‘Em I’m Gone’ Review: Peace Trained

October 26, 2014


The prince of music formerly known as the artist Cat Stevens is back. Yusuf’s Tell ‘Em I’m Gone arrives Tuesday with 10 tracks — half originals, half covers — as his first album in five years, with the former pop superstar/now roots musician further exploring themes of personal depth and spiritual quests — but not without winks of wry self-awareness.

And what could be more of a playful wink than covering innocent children’s chestnut You Are My Sunshine, a 1930s hillbilly song somehow fittingly enmeshed in this amalgam of folk, blues and American R&B — the sounds that spurred Cat Stevens to launch his pop career in the late ’60s. (The Tremeloes’ rousing turn for his Here Comes My Baby is still one of my favorite hits of that era.)

Those who only remember Yusuf’s work then may be put off by Yusuf, 66, now. His voice is older, huskier, as it should be, and he no longer caters to pop songwriting forms, though one original, I Was Raised in Babylon, would be radio-ready if radio dared to play it.

But largely this music finds Yusuf playing his own muse, reflecting on his life’s quest for spiritual peace while tapping his musical inspirations — even down to the melancholy innocence of You Are My Sunshine.

Enshrined earlier this year into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame, Yusuf emotionally is still the man whose Peace Train was a rousing 1971 anthem, and whose Foreigner Suite is the most ambitious, adventurous and moving epic music I’ve ever heard. But now he’s musically closer to the man who planted his roots in the rhythm and blues of ’60s London clubs.

Yet this album isn’t a “those were the days” reflection so much as a raw but potent tapping of those roots for today’s troubled times, with cutting lyrics such as “They used to call us civilized, those days are gone” in I Was Raised in Babylon crystalizing the gap between first and third worlds.

Still, the tender tunesmith also remains, as on a piano treatment of Edgar Winter’s Dying to Live — and on the sweet message of You Are My Sunshine. A lover of humanity, not just his fans, Yusuf almost could be singing about us.

— Bruce Westbrook

CD Review Art Garfunkel ‘The Singer’: All We Know

August 26, 2012

There’s no denying Paul Simon emerged as the top star of wildly successful ’60s folk duo Simon & Garfunkel, as evidenced by his solo career’s sustained excellence and the composing chops which led Columbia/Legacy to dub his 2011 collection Songwriter. But former partner Art Garfunkel also was the voice of many S&G songs, and given his own respectable solo career, it’s fitting that his own two-disc set, due Tuesday from the same label, is dubbed The Singer.

Featuring 34 songs hand-picked by Garfunkel, who also provides track-by-track liner notes, The Singer is a melodious, non-chronological journey from Garfunkel’s S&G salad days to solo hits (All I Know, Breakaway) and select album tracks. Two new songs from the singer, now 70, also are included for good measure (Long Way Home and the uncharacteristically rocking Lena, with Dean Parks on guitar). (more…)

CD Review Janis Joplin ‘The Pearl Sessions’: String of pearls

April 20, 2012

I must confess, I’ve never been a big Pearl man. For Janis Joplin’s brief recorded output, I’ve always more of an I Got Dem Ol’ Kozmic Blues Again Mama! guy, largely for the title track and Janis’ reinvention of the Bee Gees’ soulful To Love Somebody. (What was that about them being a disco group again?)

That said, I appreciate anything by rock’s greatest blues singer, and that includes Pearl’s second expanded reissue in the form of The Pearl Sessions.


CD Review: Meat Loaf’s ‘Hell In A Handbasket’

March 14, 2012

Legacy’s release this week of  Meat Loaf’s 11th studio album, Hell In A Handbasket, reminds me: I discovered him.

Well, not exactly. That would be some Columbia/Epic A&R guy’s honor. But when no one knew of Meat Loaf beyond grub which went with potatoes, I discovered Meat and former collaborator Jim Steinman for the state of Oklahoma.

Cut to the fall of 1977, when I worked my first full-time entertainment writing job for The Daily Oklahoman in Oklahoma City, the state’s largest newspaper. Weeks before its release, I received a vinyl copy of an album whose Rich Corben-painted cover caught my eye with its lurid grandiosity — as did the back cover shot of a big, beefy singer in an open-collar tux and a wiry little piano player and composer. (Oh yeah, and a babe.)

I had to listen. And when I did, I was blown away. (more…)

CD Review: ‘Live At the Carousel Ballroom 1968’ — Big Brother, Janis and ‘Bear’ are still rockin’

March 11, 2012

So many live recordings have been issued for Janis Joplin, with and without Big Brother and the Holding Company, that yet another may seem like scraping a barrel bottom. But this one is not. This one is special.

Live at the Carousel Ballroom 1968 (due Tuesday from Columbia/Legacy) is the first-ever release of a concert recorded in San Francisco — at a counter culture hotbed near today’s San Francisco Opera — by renowned soundman Owsley “Bear” Stanley. Tuesday’s release marks the one-year anniversary since Stanley died in a car accident in his adopted home of Australia, so it’s dedicated to Stanley, who supervised its mastering before he died.