New Music Monday: Curtis Fuller, Raconteurs, Return to Forever, Mike Stern

Sit back as we sort through a stack of tasty new music goodness, including items from Chris Smither, Curtis Fuller, Lita Ford, Mike Stern and Return to Forever, along with intriguing reissues and concert documents from Anthrax, Black Sabbath, Charlie Daniels, John Lee Hooker, Motorhead, Staind and the Raconteurs.

Also out with new stuff this week are Firehouse, Johnnie Bassett, Lettuce, Manowar, Michael White, Ralph Peterson, Seth Walker, Steve Poltz and Surface to Air, among many, many others.


Al JarreauAl Jarreau and the Metropole Orkest: Live (Jazz)

ANTHRAX – I’M THE MAN (POP/ROCK): The original rap-metal EP returns. It’s a bit cartoonish, as much of Anthrax’s music was in those days, but still a lot of fun. The album features three versions of the title rap — dirty, clean and live — along with a cover of Black Sabbath’s “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath” and live versions of “Caught in a Mosh” and “I Am the Law.” — Fred Phillips

B.J.ThomasThe Complete Scepter Singles (Pop/Rock)

BLACK SABBATH – DEHUMANIZER; MOB RULES (POP/ROCK): Black Sabbath’s 1992 reunion with Ronnie James Dio, Dehumanizer, is quite possibly the band’s most underrated record. Done before reunions were the cool thing, this album is heavy, catchy and everything you want in a Sabbath record. Mob Rules, of course, is a classic. — Fred Phillips

Bradley KincaidMan and His Guitar: Selected Sides 1927-50 (Country)
Bukka WhiteBig Daddy (Blues)
CanLost Tapes (Pop/Rock)

CHARLIE DANIELS BAND – LIVE AT ROCKPALAST (COUNTRY): Charlie Daniels in the prime of his power. Recorded in November of 1980, Rockpalast showcases a Southern rock powerhouse of a band that delivers an absolutely scorching set of songs, many of them deep tracks from the albums Million Mile Reflections and Full Moon. The performance is much more of an Allman Brothers-type jam session with some hot guitars and honky tonk piano. I’ve enjoyed every CDB show I’ve ever seen, but they were nothing like this. (More here.) — Fred Phillips

CHRIS SMITHER – HUNDRED DOLLAR VALENTINE (FOLK): A tireless troubadour for more than four decades, Smither’s pipes have over the years settled into a leathered warble that only reinforces the depth and maturity of his reflective, forthright prose. That’s not the only quality that puts Smither a cut above so many other folk singers; he’s a country blues man at heart, and he can — and always does — deliver it in the simplest, matter-of-fact ways. That makes his acoustic guitar just as crucial in his delivery as his singing, a style Smither self-describes as “one third Lightnin’ Hopkins, one-third Mississippi John Hurt and one-third me.” (More here.) — S. Victor Aaron

CURTIS FULLER – DOWN HOME (JAZZ): Sounding something like the classic Blue Note recordings of Fuller’s youth, Down Home has an in-the-pocket joy that’s contagious. The trombonist, who soared early on as a 22-year-old sideman during John Coltrane’s Blue Train in 1957, is again joined by tenor man Keith Oxman and a regular group of collaborators who’ve been together since 2005. That lengthy association has imbued the work here, even more so than on the deeply emotional The Story of Cathy and Me from last fall, with a sense of animated camaraderie. The aptly named Down Home, featuring six originals by Fuller, three other new songs from the band and a lone cover, swings with a mature passion. (More here.) — Nick DeRiso

DellsOne Step Closer (R&B)
Don WilliamsAnd So It Goes (Country)
Fairport ConventionBabbacombe Lee Live Again (Folk)
Fiona AppleThe Idler Wheel Is Wiser (Pop/Rock)

FIREHOUSE – FULL CIRCLE (POP/ROCK): So after my Trixter experience a few weeks ago, I probably shouldn’t do this, but … are we really clamoring for a new Firehouse album, especially one that’s a bunch of re-recordings of old songs? — Fred Phillips

Glen HansardRhythm And Repose (Pop/Rock)
Grace Potter and the NocturnalsThe Lion the Beast the Beat (Pop/Rock)
Jimmy BuffettWelcome to Fin City (Pop/Rock)
John ZornHermetic Organ (Pop/Rock)

JOHN LEE HOOKER – COOK WITH THE HOOK: LIVE 1974 (BLUES): A lost treasure, this rare video of a July 6, 1974 appearance by the legendary Hooker at an all-day festival called “Down in the Dumps” — reportedly the first in what was proposed as a series of musical events to be held in the city of in Gardner, Massachusetts’ landfill area. Only about 6,000 lucky souls were there, at the time. But Hooker’s performance was captured on a three-camera shoot, and broadcast on cable television in the area. It ends up as a short but sweet event, now transferred to DVD, but we find Hooker in his late-period prime, chugging through a 45-minute set that includes “It Serves You Right to Suffer,” “Sweet Sweet Thing,” “Whiskey & Women,” “Boogie,” a medley of favorites (as the encore) and — of course — the ageless “Boom Boom.” — Nick DeRiso

JOHNNIE BASSETT – I CAN MAKE THAT HAPPEN (BLUES): The self-taught Bassett never thought much of the barriers between styles, and I Can Make That Happen is better for that. It’s not just that he combines jump blues and Delta stylings, something that’s interesting but not unexpected. Returning with the same group that made 2009′s The Gentleman Is Back such a crackling success, Bassett mixes soul, R&B and jazz influences into a set that includes a series of originals (most by keyboardist/co-producer Chris Codish) along with some smartly selected older favorites. Together, this comingling of styles is the fuel that gooses I Can Make That Happen along. (More here.) — Nick DeRiso

Justin BieberBelieve (Pop/Rock)
Kenny ChesneyWelcome to the Fishbowl (Country)
Kylie MinogueThe Best of Kylie Minogue (Pop/Rock)
Lee RitenourOvertime (Jazz)

LETTUCE – FLY (FUNK): Lettuce is funk powerhouse of a supergroup, a rare supergroup where the group was formed before many of its members become “super” from other projects. The menu for Fly is the same thing on tap for any Lettuce record: funk songs, mixed in with some funk songs, and for a change of pace, they might toss in a funk song or two. You can cue up this record at the beginning for any get-down party, let it run uninterrupted to the end, and then play it over again, and no party-minded person is ever apt to complain. (More here.) — S. Victor Aaron

LitView From the Bottom (Pop/Rock)

LITA FORD – LIVING LIKE A RUNAWAY (POP/ROCK): After a long vacation from the music business to raise a family and a disastrous sex-obsessed industrial return album, Lita Ford finally gets back to what she does best: good, old-fashioned hard rock. The title is both a nod to her past in the all-girl rock band the Runaways and her current life situation, and the music ranges from angry metal to some ’70s influenced rock ballads. (More here.) — Fred Phillips

LUCA TURILLI’S RHAPSODY – ASCENDING TO INFINITY (POP/ROCK): This band has been through so many names — Rhapsody, Rhapsody of Fire, Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody — I’m not sure what to call them anymore. Rhapsody became Rhapsody of Fire due to trademark issues. Then, the two founding members, Turilli and Alex Staropoli, had an amicable split into two versions of the band, Rhapsody of Fire and this one. Whatever it’s called, this album should have the same bombastic symphonic metal as usual, though. — Fred Phillips

MANOWAR – THE LORD OF STEEL (POP/ROCK): It’s Manowar — unchanging, ever-consistent, chest-pounding, bravado-filled, testosterone-driven metal. Now, where did I put my sword and loincloth? — Fred Phillips

Men Without HatsLove In The Age Of War (Pop/Rock)

MICHAEL WHITE – ADVENTURES IN NEW ORLEANS JAZZ, PART 2 (JAZZ): As much as famous folks like Wynton Marsalis and Harry Connick Jr. have burnished the city of New Orleans’ role in jazz, they didn’t do it by playing in the style that made the city famous. That would be Michael White, an artist seemingly untouched by the successive waves of R&B, soul, funk and hip hop. White’s work here, as on Part 1 from last year, harkens back to an earlier time — a much, much earlier time. But White’s records, unlike Marsalis’ sometimes too-studious efforts, often include both an indigenous found-art looseness and material of a much more recent vintage, too. That continues on Part 2, with boisterous takes on Hank Williams Sr.’s “Jambalaya,” Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Midnight Special,” Janis Joplin’s “Me And Bobby McGee” and the Turtles’ “Happy Together,” to go with the standout original “Eternally Blue.” (More here.) — Nick DeRiso

MIKE STERN – ALL OVER THE PLACE (JAZZ): There might not be a more accurate title for a Mike Stern album — All Over The Place highlights the musical personality of one of jazz’s most original guitarists of the last thirty years. Deservedly belonging in any sentence that includes Scofield, Frisell and Metheny, Stern took advanced courses in improvisation and phrasing from Miles like Sco, has developed a singular style no matter the setting like Frisell and is keen on the intricacies of melody and harmony like Metheny. Like all of those three, his comfort zone is as big as music itself. Stern is very consistent, too; the qualities found on his 1986 debut Upside Downside can be located All Over The Place, through different personnel and changing production values. As always, Stern’s own guitar is at the center. (More here.) — S. Victor Aaron

MOTORHEAD – ACE OF SPADES (POP/ROCK): If you don’t already own this, your metal card is hereby revoked and you are no longer allowed to throw horns. If you pick up this re-issue, we will allow you to make an appeal for leniency. — Fred Phillips

Nicolette LarsonSay When; Rose of My Heart (Pop/Rock)
Norman Brown and Gerald Albright24/7 (Jazz)
Omar and the HowlersI’m Gone (Blues)
Paul HardcastleChill Lounge (Jazz)
Paula WestLive At Jazz Standard (Vocals)

RALPH PETERSON – THE DUALITY PERSPECTIVE (JAZZ): As with early mentor Art Blakey, drummer/trumpeter Ralph Peterson’s work with youthful sidemen — both in a quartet format, which he imaginatively has redubbed a “fo-tet”; and with a sextet — has not only sparked new creative ideas, it’s helped Peterson establish his own unique voice in jazz. So, as personal as The Duality Perspective, which features both groups, can no doubt be — the fo-tet’s sweetly charming “Addison and Anthony,” inspired by Peterson’s grandchildren; the sextet’s seductive and elegent “You Have Know Idea,” dedicated to Peterson’s wife — there is always this very real sense of collaboration. That ends up giving the album yet another level of complexity, as it spins. Peterson is, without question, the leader. But as with Blakey before him, he gains strength from being followed. (More here.) — Nick DeRiso

Ravi ColtraneSpirit Fiction (Jazz)

RETURN TO FOREVER – THE MOTHERSHIP RETURNS (JAZZ): There was always more to Return to Forever than something so bulky and specific as “jazz rock,” from co-founding leader Chick Corea’s intelligent comingling of Latin and classical styles at the piano, to the fonky thump favored by bassist Stanley Clarke and drummer Lenny White. That core group remains as effortlessly imaginative as ever, from the crystalline and then dancingly rhythmic performances by Corea, the thundering slap-bass showmanship of Clarke (in particular on the ageless “School Days”), and the soul-deep cool of White. Here, too, we have Frank Gambale, a veteran of bands led by Corea, Billy Cobham and Steve Smith, replacing longtime RTF member Al Di Meola. He adds splashes of color and intrigue throughout. But I kept coming back to fellow new member Jean-Luc Ponty, whose lithe violin contributions very nearly steal the show. (More here.) — Nick DeRiso

Sara GazarekBlossom and Bee (Vocals)
Senses FailFollow Your Bliss: The Best of Senses Fail (Pop/Rock)

SETH WALKER – TIME CAN CHANGE (FOLK): Nashville-based Seth Walker hits a sweet spot of soulful folk-blues where Keb Mo, Eric Lindell and Eric Bibb intersect, and like those three, he has little trouble communicating the intended feel of his lyrics. His vocal style has been compared to Ray Charles and Delbert McClinton, but there’s a smooth Harry Connick croon lurking within his weary voice, too. (More here.) — S. Victor Aaron

Smashing PumpkinsOceania (Pop/Rock)
Spiders and SnakesLondon Daze (Pop/Rock)

STAIND – LIVE AT MOHEGAN SUN (POP/ROCK): Having seen Staind live a couple of times and struggled to keep from falling asleep, I can’t imagine a recorded version holding my interest. — Fred Phillips

STEVE POLTZ – NOINEEN NOINY NOIN (POP/ROCK): With a tenor voice that can at times can be confused for Tom Petty when the mood strikes him, or he can sound as lithe as a ballet dancer, there’s no mistaking Poltz’s style: he writes songs with humor, romance, heartache, despair, self-reflection and philosophy. Those aren’t topics that make him peculiar, it’s his ability to wrap all of these topics with a single song that does. The wit he injects into songs that are often a little startling serve to take just enough of an edge off to make them digestible. (More here.) — S. Victor Aaron

SURFACE TO AIR – SURFACE TO AIR (INTERNATIONAL): This album uses time and space well to create distinct moods, quiet drama that moves from one imaginary scene to another of a serious, low action movie. The most obvious branding of this acoustic trio’s music is “world fusion” but it’s not really a “-jazz” kind of fusion, but rather a mélange of the East Indian/new age/folk variety. Think of a more elemental variation of the seminal band of this arena in music, Oregon. Together, Surface to Air combines to make group music in a literal sense; there’s little soloing individually as everyone contributes equally. (More here.) — S. Victor Aaron

THE RACONTEURS – LIVE AT MONTREUX (POP/ROCK): Jack White simply oozes passion for his craft, and on this particular concert document, he does so to the point of making you almost forget that the rest of the guys in the band are even there. I love the way he determinedly follows his own artistic muse — much as Brian Wilson, Bob Dylan, John Lennon and Neil Young did before him — regardless of any potential commercial fallout. But more importantly, like those other giants of rock and roll, his artistry lies far less in his technique at his particular instrument, than it does with his creative imagination, and his ability not to be limited by the constraints of any one particular format. (More here.) — Glen Boyd

Tim ‘Too Slim’ LangfordBroken Halo (Blues)
Todd RundgrenHealing (Pop/Rock)
Towner GalaherUptown! (Jazz)
Various artistsAll Time Greatest Jazz Vocal Standards [Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughan, Chet Baker, Dinah Washington, Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong] (Vocals)
Various artistsHollywood Blues: Classic West Coast Blues [Soldier Boy Houston, Sonny Boy Johnson, Big Son Tillis, Charles Lacy, James Tisdom] (Blues)

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