New Music Monday: Dion, First Aid Kit, Beach Boys (together again already?)

Here’s a run down — with a few of our thoughts — on some notable music projects, both new and reissue, slated for release for the week of Jan. 23, 2012. That includes fresh product from Al Jardine of the Beach Boys, Dion, First Aid Kit, Rodrigo y Gabriela, Martin Sexton, ex-Black Sabbath vocalist Tony Martin and the Scorpions — as well as interesting updates of older items by Bill Medley, Charles Mingus, the Doors, the Grateful Dead, Judas Priest, Nina Simone, Queen and others.


AL JARDINE – A POSTCARD FROM CALIFORNIA (POP/ROCK): Here’s a rarity of considerably more recent vintage than SMiLE featuring a reunion of the Beach Boys. Jardine’s most recent project, seeing wide release just in time for their gala 50th anniversary reunion tour, was previously only available as a digital/burn-on-demand release. The album contains contributions from all of his fellow Beach Boys, along with Neil Young, Steve Miller, members of the band America and Flea. Waterfront Records is handling the physical CD release, which is highlighted by the song above — a complete Beach Boys reunion. “Don’t Fight the Sea” features the late Carl Wilson on vocals, in a recording dating back to 1988, along with Jardine, Brian Wilson, Mike Love, Bruce Johnston and David Marks. (More here.)Nick DeRiso

Beegie AdairSave the Last Dance for Me (Jazz)

BILL MEDLEY – 100 PERCENT; SOFT AND SOULFUL (POP/ROCK): This reissue from newly created Real Gone Records marks the initial pressings on compact disc for the former Righteous Brother’s first two solo projects. In some ways, it’s easy to see why it took so long — since both albums tend to move well beyond the towering, Phil Spector-produced blue-eyed soul that propelled his duo work with Bobby Hatfield to the top of the charts. In dabbling with over-produced orchestral pop, early rock sounds, even gospel-tinged balladry, Medley must have mightily confused his core fanbase. Moreover, some of these experiments have not aged very well. Just when it seems as if this two-fer has completely lost its way, though, Medley will rouse himself for a thrilling success like “When Something Is Wrong With My Baby.” He owns the moment on that old Sam and Dave tune, performing with a trembling, aching authority. – Nick DeRiso

Celtic WomanBelieve (International)

Charles MingusThe Black Saint And The Sinner Lady (Jazz)

CHARLES MINGUS – MINGUS MINGUS MINGUS MINGUS MINGUS (JAZZ): Bassist Charles Mingus, an enlightening yet stormy presence, clearly felt he had unfinished business with some of his earlier work. So, he used Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus and a move to the more creatively open Impulse! label to take another pass at them. That turned into a dramatic remodeling project for Mingus. In fact, he rips them up, pieces them back together, speeds them up, slows them down, drives them into the ditch, then reattaches all the dented parts. MingusX5, as I always called it, would eventually become less about reevaluation than about true rediscovery — and, for me, every bit the creative triumph of more widely praised efforts like The Black Saint And The Sinner Lady, Mingus Ah Um and the posthumous Epitaph. (More here.)Nick DeRiso

Craig FinnClear Heart Full Eyes (Pop/Rock)

DARIO MOLLO/TONY MARTIN – THE THIRD CAGE (POP/ROCK): Former Black Sabbath vocalist Tony Martin and Italian guitar virtuoso Dario Mollo team up for their third release, this one for Frontiers records. The music is very much in the vein of the Martin era of Sabbath, with a little of the 1970s hard rock vibe of Deep Purple and Whitesnake thrown in. — Fred Phillips

DION – TANK FULL OF BLUES (BLUES): Dion has since the early 1970s set about on a thematically appropriate wanderer’s search — exploring with varying degrees of success, in his post-heroin period, everything from folk to Christian music. It’s been a brave, if sometimes frustrating trek. Yet all of that somehow completely paid off, as Dion eventually arrived at something so meaningfully connective, so deeply redemptive, on Tank Full of Blues, the capstone of a recent trio of Delta-focused recordings. Along the way, Dion’s found the underlying notion of the best blues, the search for redemption, and made it real all over again. As deep as it is unlikely, this is roots music — American music — of the first order. (More here.)Nick DeRiso

THE DOORS – L.A. WOMAN: 40TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION (POP/ROCK): This marked the band’s final album with their charismatically controversial front man, who was found dead in Paris just a few short months later. A bittersweet affair it was, for the record staged something of a comeback for the Doors. The band’s last couple of discs were not that well received and in certain circles they were considered done and finished. It didn’t help matters any that Jim Morrison battled a serious drinking problem and could be quite a public nuisance. Flourishing with power and excitement, “L.A. Woman” is a gold-plated collection of hard rocking blues battered tunes. The Doors are at their absolute best here, and if this was the only album they had ever waxed they would still be fondly remembered and revered today. (More here.)Beverly Paterson

THE DOORS – MR. MOJO RISIN’: THE STORY OF ‘L.A. WOMAN’ DVD (POP/ROCK): What Doors fans will find most interesting is the inclusion of a brand new, previously unreleased track from the L.A. Woman sessions. “She Smells So Nice” is a blues number much in the same vein as other recordings from the project, and is also included on the new 40th anniversary remastered version of the album. But on this DVD, you get the actual studio footage. Here, the song eventually morphs into a sprawling jam, including a brief cover of the blues standard “Rock Me, Baby” (as in “rock me all night long”). This footage alone makes Mr. Mojo Risin’ a keeper. Beyond that, all of the usual bases that students of Doors history will instantly recognize are covered here. The infamous Miami bust (that essentially ended the Doors career as a live concert act), as well as Morrison’s tragic descent into alcoholism, leading up to his death in Paris are all discussed in detail. (More here.)Glen Boyd

Eckhart TolleMusic for Inner Stillness (New Age)

Evan VoytasFeel Me EP (Pop/Rock)

FIRST AID KIT – THE LION’S ROAR (POP/ROCK): Could the newest breakout Americana indie sensations actually be a pair of siblings … from Sweden? It’s been five years since Klara and Johanna Soderberg released their close-harmony teen-folk smash Drunken Trees, and they’ve continued to grow musically since its well-regarded 2010 follow up — adding a full band, including their father on bass, under the watchful eye of Mike Mogis, of Monsters of Folk and Bright Eyes fame. The result: A woodsy acoustic alchemy that could finally move First Aid Kit out of the long shadows of the Fleet Foxes and Joanna Newsom. — Nick DeRiso

Foxy ShazamThe Church of Rock and Roll (Pop/Rock)

GLEN CAMPBELL – LIVE IN JAPAN (COUNTRY): Stricken with Alzheimer’s, Campbell announced last year that Ghost on the Canvas would be his final album — and it was widely praised, save for the auto-tuned whiff on Guided By Voices’ “Hold On Hope.” Turns out, however, that there’s at least one more treasure to be discovered with this long-lost disc. Released in Japan more than three decades ago and only just now seeing world-wide release, Live includes updates of Conway Twitty’s “It’s Only Make Believe” and Paul Anka’s “My Way.” (More here.)Nick DeRiso

GRATEFUL DEAD – DICK’S PICKS VOL. 33 (POP/ROCK): The thirty-third installment of this rare live concert series is a terrifically recorded four-CD set focusing on two consecutive complete shows from October 9-10, 1976 at California’s Oakland Coliseum Stadium. Key tracks include “Cassidy,” “Tennessee Jed,” “Ramble On Rose” and “Sugar Magnolia” as well as covers like Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode,” Marty Robbins’ “El Paso,” Buddy Holly’s “Not Fade Away” and Merle Haggard’s “Mama Tried.” Each volume of Dick’s Picks so far has cautioned fans about the quality of these old recordings, but not this one, which enthuses: ‘This space is usually reserved to warn you of sound quality anomalies on these two-track recordings. Disregard that for this Dick’s Pick. There aren’t any. It sounds great. Enjoy.’ — Nick DeRiso

iCarlyiSoundtrack II- Music From And Inspired By The Hit TV Show (Stage and Screen)

Ingrid MichaelsonHuman Again: Deluxe Edition (Pop/Rock)

Israel VibrationReggae Knights (International)

JOE COCKER – HARD KNOCKS (POP/ROCK): On the standout title track, Cocker makes a bold return to the nasty R&B that made his first recordings so essential, having lost none of his ability to bray along with a robust, whiskey-soaked howl. Sure, his vocals have grown a little less flexible, but the setting here — versus say, the icky pop sheen of his chart-topping 1982 hit “Up Where We Belong” with Jennifer Warnes — is so perfectly suited for him, that this ends up as nothing more than a quibble. You remember, all over again, what made Cocker special. (More here.)Nick DeRiso

Karen Dalton1966 (Folk)

Kellie Pickler100 Proof (Country)

JazzanovaUpside Down (Dance)

The Jerry Garcia BandKeystone Berkeley: September 1, 1974; Warner Theatre, March 18, 1978 (Pop/Rock)

Jody MillerComplete Epic Hits (Country)

JUDAS PRIEST – THE COMPLETE ALBUMS COLLECTION (POP/ROCK): Not so fast. There are three records missing from this “complete” collection by Judas Priest, those being the two studio albums with Tim Owens – Jugulator and Demolition – and the 1998 live record with Owens. Yeah, I understand they want to pretend that Rob Halford never left the fold, but it’s a shame because a couple of those records, Jugulator and the live album, are really good. That quibble aside, this 17-CD collection is pretty awesome, featuring remasters of the band’s first two records Rocka Rolla (1974) and Sad Wings of Destiny (1976) and every other official live and studio album of the Halford eras. If you’ve got a couple hundred bucks to drop and don’t already own all of these on CD, enjoy. — Fred Phillips

Kirk FranklinThe Essential Kirk Franklin (Gospel)

LACUNA COIL – DARK ADRENALINE (POP/ROCK): Once a goth metal act, Italy’s Lacuna Coil has gone through some changes since first catching the ear of the general public with 2002’s melancholy Comalies. Karmacode, released in 2006, was a bouncier, more nu-metallish effort, and 2008’s Shallow Life had a poppy, almost dance vibe in places. Dark Adrenaline features a mixture of all of those sounds, but fans of their earlier records should be pleased to hear some of that darkness creeping back in around the edges. There’s also an interesting interpretation of R.E.M.’s “Losing My Religion.” And Cristina Scabbia is still, hands-down, the best female voice in the metal world. You can’t go wrong with that. — Fred Phillips

LAMB OF GODRESOLUTION (POP/ROCK): It seems that it’s been a while since metal had that one big unifying band. In the 1970s, you had Sabbath; in the 1980s, Metallica; in the 1990s, Pantera. Since then, no one seems to have risen to take that crown. In today’s musical atmosphere, I’m not even sure it’s possible, but Lamb of God keeps trying. I’ve not heard this one yet, but expect a healthy mixture of thrash and groove metal with moments of extreme aggression, but the occasional good hook as well. — Fred Phillips

London Cast RecordingWar Horse (Stage and Screen)

Maggie and Terre RocheSeductive Reasoning (Pop/Rock)

MARTIN SEXTON – FALL LIKE RAIN (FOLK): Not so much so-called “new folk” as an interesting distillation of country, blues, gospel and soul, Martin Sexton since his out-of-nowhere self-produced 1991 cassette debut has become the very definition of modern-day troubadour. Some of that is simply due to the remarkable emotional power of his voice. Sexton sings with a stirring flexibility, from chirpy optimism all the way over to soaring anguish. It’s like a next-gen combination of Van Morrison and Al Green. Yet his approach, the songcraft itself, is deceptively simple, disarmingly direct — something underscored by the advance title-track single from this new release. What makes Sexton’s work so intriguing, though, is its topical sweep. Elsewhere, Sexton balances delicate insight into relationships with broader commentary on the world today. It’s as welcome as it is bracing. (More here.)Nick DeRiso

Mighty Clouds of JoyUltimate Collection (Gospel)

moe.What Happened To The La Las (Pop/Rock)

Nada SurfThe Stars Are Indifferent to Astronomy (Pop/Rock)

NINA SIMONE – FINE AND MELLOW: HER FIRST RECORDINGS 1958-60 (JAZZ): Includes her devastating take on “I Loves You, Porgy,” an album-closing highlight. Simone — a classically trained pianist born Eunice Kathleen Waymon in Tryon, North Carolina — fully explored a depth of pain, of humiliation and fear, only hinted at in readings of the DuBose Heyward/Ira Gershwin lyric by so many others. To my ear, she matched the shattering fragility of Billie Holiday’s once-definitive 1948 take, an inspiration undoubtedly for Simone, but then pushed the song to more emotionally challenging places. There’s a textured sadness to Simone’s harrowing take, but also a lasting bravery — something that forever cured the central problem with the original Gershwin play from which it came: Betraying its vintage, ‘Porgy and Bess’ suffers moments of Amos ‘n’ Andy-style minstrelsy. In Simone’s interpretation, however, “I Loves You Porgy” faced fully the horrors of separation and rape experienced by African-American women in the pre-Civil Rights era. It was her song after that. — Nick DeRiso

Pablo CasalsCello Suites: Bach (Classical)

PRIMAL FEAR – UNBREAKABLE (POP/ROCK): You’ll get no surprises from these German power metallers, but you likely won’t be disappointed. They’re not likely to blow your mind, but if you like their sound, they’re not likely to disappoint either. — Fred Phillips

Pulled Apart By HorsesTough Love (Pop/Rock)

RODRIGO Y GABRIELA – AREA 52 CD/DVD (POP/ROCK): I can’t pretend to know much about flamenco guitar, but I can say this: This duo’s 2007 self-titled album was rich with invigorating music that could barely be contained by that genre alone. The pair, having fled both Mexico and a metal band for Europe and acoustic guitars, have developed a style that bridges deep tradition with their roots in metal to give listeners something unique: dark, sometimes disturbing flamenco guitar. What makes it all work so well: heart. For all their technical prowess, behind it all is a great love of playing all this music and entertaining listeners. Rodrigo y Gabriela’s music is plainly driven by a giddy “what next?” desire. And now, for us listeners, we’re left with that same excited desire to see what’s next for these two, song after song. (More here.)Tom Johnson

THE SCORPIONS – COMEBLACK (POP/ROCK): I’m not a big fan of bands re-recording their classic material, but that’s what The Scorps give us here. Seven of the 13 tracks are remakes of some of their biggest hits, including the iconic “Rock You Like a Hurricane.” The remaining six tracks are an interesting mixture of cover songs ranging from the Kinks to T-Rex to the Beatles. The strangest track here has to be a version of Soft Cell’s “Tainted Love.” — Fred Phillips

SealSoul 2 (R&B)

Sons Of The PioneersLet’s Go West (Country)

TIM McGRAW – EMOTIONAL TRAFFIC (COUNTRY): It took a court case to free McGraw from his old label Curb, leaving this album in a state of limbo. That is, until this week — as this much-delayed, over-lawyered release finally hits records stores. Amongst its 12 cuts are “Felt Good on My Lips,” originally released in September 2010 as the lead single from McGraw’s compilation album Number One Hits. It went on, and this was fitting, to become the Louisiana native’s 23rd No. 1 hit on the Billboard country chart. — Nick DeRiso

Tine Thing HelsethStoryteller (Classical)

U2From the Sky Down DVD (Documentary)

VARIOUS ARTISTS – CHIMES OF FREEDOM: THE SONGS OF BOB DYLAN (POP/ROCK): A giganto 75-track box set of Bob Dylan covers benefiting Amnesty International, with an appropriately grandiose group of contributors including Sting, Mark Knopfler, Elvis Costello, Pete Townshend, Steve Earle, My Morning Jacket, Lucinda Williams, Diana Krall, the Kronus Quartet, Sugarland, even Miley Cyrus and Ke$ha. There are sure to be some potholes along the way, but a genre-busting project of this scope and sweep is also bound to include a few fun offbeat surprises, too. (More here.) — Nick DeRiso

Various Artists2012 Grammy Nominees (Various)

Wynton MarsalisMusic of America: Wynton Marsalis (Jazz)

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