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Semi-Sweet Emotion!

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Paul Kelly: Spring And Fall (Gawd Aggie) Here's the first new album in several years from distinguished Australian singer/songwriter Paul Kelly, and it is fine indeed. The singer, highly regarded in his homeland and equally by songwriters who recognize the staggering consistency of his catalog–this is his 19th album–has rarely repeated himself, and this latest, an emotional song cycle, is one of the year's unexpected jewels. Listened to from start to finish, the mostly acoustic tracks detail aspects of a personal relationship that are accurate, often jarringly intimate, and penned with a degree of intelligence and warmth that few contemporary songwriters can match. Highly recommended.

 

Creedence Clearwater Revival: Ultimate Creedence Clearwater Revival: Greatest Hits & All-Time Classics (Fantasy) For its price and the music contained within, you'd be hard-pressed to find a better deal than this 3-CD collection of tunes by Creedence Clearwater Revival, the John Fogerty-led band whose diverse music throughout the '60s sounded timeless the moment it was recorded. Jam-packed with familiar hits still heard regularly on the radio--and on movie soundtracks attempting to document life in the '60s–the album features two discs of familiar tracks and a third disc of live performances that still sound freakishly fresh. In retrospect, it's interesting how the band rose to fame during a period when its contemporaries were focusing on albums rather than singles; while this set collects the hits, their over-familiarity to people of a certain age might indeed make the band's first two albums (with their extended "Suzie Q" and "Keep On Chooglin'" landmarks) an even more inspired purchase. But who could ever argue with the goods on display here?

All India Radio: Red Shadow Landing (Inevitable) Must continue to sing the praises of Australian combo All India Radio, who while being neither All or India or Radio, are nonetheless masters of putting together dreamy instrumental rock music that evokes Italian film soundtracks, the sort of music you want to hear while you are watching credits rolling down a screen and wondering who wants to drive you to the liquor store, or the stuff you'd want playing in the background were someone to film you driving into the ocean from a steep cliff and play it in extremely slow motion. Largely the work of one Martin Kennedy, who has worked with many people whose names you'd probably recognize–though, sadly, neither Mitt Romney nor Herbert Hoover–Red Shadow Landing is precisely the album you'd want to hear if you were watching your blood sugar levels and the waitress forgot you ordered a Diet Coke! No tip for her!

Simon Townshend: Looking Out Looking In (Eagle Rock) I've got more than a few albums by Simon Townshend; if you don't know, he is a guitarist and singer/songwriter much like his famous brother Pete, and is, in fact, also a touring member of the Who at this late stage. While I'm sure he's sick of seeing the name of Chris Jagger–Mick's brother, who managed a few respectable albums of his own in the past–what the heck? It gave me something to write about a second ago! But as albums go, this is not bad at all; he's got quite a bit of his Pete's melodic ear and is apparently less self-consciousness about penning lyrics that will be examined ad nauseum by generations of the future--and as the album cover illustrates all too well, has absolutely no idea where his big brother has hidden his guitar! Hah!

Bert Jansch: Heartbreak (Omnivore) A legendary figure in early British folk circles, and a hugely influential guitarist, Bert Jansch left us an extensive and quite wonderful catalog upon his passing in 2011. Whether by himself, paired with fellow guitarist John Renbourn, or in Pentangle, the pioneering group in which they both rose to considerable fame, Jansch was heard and deeply appreciated by a diverse lot of musicians that included Jimmy Page, Neil Young, Donovan, and Johnny Marr, among many others. This set, a fine one recorded in 1981, is now reissued and bolstered by the inclusion of a separate live set recorded at McCabe's Guitar Shop in Santa Monica, California. Those who've heard his name but not his work might want to explore his early '60s catalog first–but for fans, this is welcome indeed.

All That Remains: A War You Cannot Win (Razor & Tie) An unexpected reunion album by one-time Nickelodeon stars Kenan and Kel, this fab set boasts a surprisingly "hip" cover considering its subject matter! Still, devoting an entire disc to a "never ending war against kitchen grease" may be just the thing you'd expect from these orange soda-lovin' mofos! You bet it rocks!

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Song Stories

“Nightshift”

The Commodores | 1984

The year after soul legends Marvin Gaye and Jackie Wilson died, songwriter Dennis Lambert asked members of the Commodores to give him a tape of ideas. "And the one from Walter Orange has this wonderful bass line," said co-writer Franne Golde. "Plus the lyric, 'Marvin, he was a friend of mine' ... Within 10 minutes, we had decided it should be something like a modern R&B version of 'Rock 'n' Roll Heaven,' and I just said, 'Nightshift.'" This tribute to the recently deceased musicians was the band's only hit without Lionel Richie, who had left for a solo career.

More Song Stories entries »
 
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