New Music Monday: Michael Des Barres, Muddy Waters, Robert Plant, Yes

From cool jazz to spooky medieval metal, from honky tonk heroes to some ass-whipping white blues, there something for almost everyone in this exciting edition of Something Else! Reviews’ New Music Monday.

Among the notables on our teetering pile of sizzling hot musical freshness are Arturo O’Farrill, Blackmore’s Night, Hank Williams Jr., Michael Des Barres and Serj Tankian. We’re also digging into just-arriving reissues and live sets from Alice Cooper, the Beach Boys’ Bruce Johnston, Duran Duran, the Jimi Hendrix Experience (with an ultra-rare 1970 theater date), Muddy Waters (a ultra-cool 1981 set with the Rolling Stones), Robert Plant and the Band of Joy, the English Beat, Woody Guthrie and Yes.

Also out with new music this week are Antiseen, Harris Eisenstadt, Joe Morris, Kevin Coelho, Steve Davis and Watchtower, among many, many others.

SO AWAY WE GO, ON THIS JULY 9, 2012, EDITION OF NEW MUSIC MONDAY! …

Alexander von SchlippenbachHunting The Snake (Jazz)

ALICE COOPER – ALONG CAME A SPIDER; WELCOME TO MY NIGHTMARE (POP/ROCK): Alice’s 1975 masterpiece and his creepy 2008 concept album about a serial killer get re-releases from different labels this week. If your collection is missing either, they’re well worth picking up. (More here.) — Fred Phillips

Ani DiFrancoTrust: Live at the 9:30 Club (Pop/Rock)

ANTISEEN – FALLS COUNT ANYWHERE (POP/JAZZ): The 12-year-old kid in me loves an album cover that features “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan and Gordon Solie. I don’t know if I’ll care for this wrestling-themed record, but it’s got cool points up front. — Fred Phillips

ARTURO O’FARRILL – THE NOGUCHI SESSIONS (JAZZ): My first reaction, coming as it did in a period in which we are awash with them, was blunt: Not another solo piano jazz record. But O’Farrill won me over, as he added stirring colors and splashes of improvisation to composed songs about family (“Alisonia” and “In Whom” dedicated to his wife and son, respectively; and “Mi Vida,” celebrating the lengthy marriage of a favorite aunt and uncle), his complex ancestral roots (“Siboney” and “Oh, Danny Boy,” from Cuba and Ireland) and larger issues of conscience (“The Delusion of the Greedy”). Elsewhere, there are Charles Mingus and Randy Weston covers, but the album’s high point is found on the improvisational gem “Once I Had a Secret Meditation,” where O’Farrill’s delicate balancing of whites and darkness, of density and lightness, takes full flight. (More here.) — Nick DeRiso

Beyonce4 [Deluxe] (R&B)
Brendan JamesHope in Transition (Folk)

BLACKMORE’S NIGHT – A KNIGHT IN YORK (POP/ROCK): Yeah, I’d rather have some hard-rocking Rainbow or Purple tunes, but I have to admit a geeky admiration of Blackmore’s medieval balladry, too. — Fred Phillips

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BRUCE JOHNSTON – SURFIN’ ROUND THE WORLD [EXPANDED] (POP/ROCK): Before Johnston became the sixth Beach Boy, filling in for Brian Wilson on the road while singing and writing for the studio recordings beginning in 1965, he was part of a teen-music songwriting partnership with Terry Melcher for Columbia Records. As heard on this 1963 album, the results were very much in the mode of Jan and Dean and lesser Beach Boys songs about surfing and cars. For completists only: The LP’s original lineup is expanded with the addition of bonus tracks including two originally unissed instrumentals and an alternate version of the title track. — Nick DeRiso

Clare and the ReasonsKR-51 (Pop/Rock)
Connie EvingsonSweet Happy Life (Vocals)
Cornell DupreeI’m Alright (Blues)
Doc CheathamWishing You Were Here (Jazz)

DURAN DURAN – A DIAMOND IN THE MIND/LIVE (POP/ROCK): Filmed in hi-def and recorded at Manchester’s MEN Arena in December of last year, Diamond — due this week from Eagle Rock in DVD, Blu-ray and CD formats — represents Duran Duran’s first live release in almost a decade. In keeping, it includes a career-spanning group of hits like “Hungry Like the Wolf,” “Rio,” “Wild Boys,” “Notorious,” “Ordinary World,” “The Reflex,” and “View to a Kill,” along with key cuts from their latest release All You Need Is Now, produced by Mick Ronson. Bonus tracks include “Come Undone” and “Is There Something I Should Know.”

Ella FitzgeraldElla Swings Brightly With Nelson (Jazz)
Guns N’ RosesUse Your Illusion I-II [Vinyl] (Pop/Rock)

HANK WILLIAMS JR. – OLD SCHOOL NEW RULES (COUNTRY): The song “I’m Gonna Get Drunk and Play Hank Williams” alone is enough to make me check this album out. Then there’s “That Ain’t Good,” which is a mix. The first verse, obviously, is another reference to MNF, but after Hank gets that off his chest, it turns into a pretty solid song. It’s one of those blue collar, working man kind of songs, but it doesn’t seem overly contrived like so many of those kinds of tunes do now. There’s definitely a feel of his 1980s work to it, mixing country with some blues-rock guitar and piano, and the female backing vocals toward the end of the song are a nice touch. It’s not a bad way to introduce people to the record. I’m sure there will be some groaners, but from what I’ve heard, this record has more good songs than ones with Hank Jr. running off at the mouth. (More here.) — Fred Phillips

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HARRIS EISENSTADT – CANADA DAY III; CANADA DAY OCTET (JAZZ): Eisenstadt has a firmly established approach to modern jazz and doesn’t waver from it on either of these albums. There are more of the angular, thoughtful compositions, arranged in such a way to exploit the capabilities of everyone in the band. Perhaps it’s due to the presence of Eisenstadt’s ace vibrist Chris Dingman, but the music shares some similarities with Dave Holland’s quintet and sextet of the last fifteen or so years, especially when Ray Anderson joins in. However, Dingman does have the dynamism of Steve Nelson and Eisenstadt himself can at times resemble Billy Kilson. Eisenstadt likes for his compositions to unfold at a more gradual pace, though, and that comes as a result of working through the finer details of the compositions with the band. (More here.) — S. Victor Aaron

James Taylor QuartetThe Template (Jazz)
Jeff BeckThere And Back [Vinyl]; Collection (Pop/Rock)

THE JIMI HENDRIX EXPERIENCE – LIVE AT BERKELEY (POP/ROCK): Culled from a pair of May 30, 1970 concerts at an intimate California community theater, this rare film — featuring Hendrix along with Billy Cox and Mitch Mitchell — has been digitally restored through a hi-def transfer to DVD and (for the very first time) to Blu-ray. Included now are 20 minutes of previously unreleased footage, highlighted by newly discovered performances of “Voodoo Child (Slight Return)” and “Hear My Train A Comin,’” as well as some additional documentary material. The CD features the complete second show, in its original sequence — with highlights including “Stone Free,” “Hey Joe” and “Foxey Lady.” Of note, too, is a fascinating new interview with Hendrix road sound engineer Abe Jacob, who recorded these two performances. — Nick DeRiso

JOE MORRIS, WILLIAM PARKER, GERALD CLEAVER – ALTITUDE (JAZZ): Improvised music is far from being a spent force within jazz, and it never will be as long as the virtuosos are playing it. Altitude is a strong case in point. These exceptional musicians, all at the top of the heap for their respective instruments within the downtown New York scene have never worked together as three. Did they live up to the billing? Pffft, are you kidding me? (More here.) — S. Victor Aaron

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Johnny MercerSings Just for Fun (Jazz)
Joshua HyslopWhere the Mountain Meets the Valley (Pop/Rock)

KEVIN COELHO – FUNKENGRUVEN: THE JOY OF DRIVING A B3 (JAZZ): The wunderkind Coelho tosses in a couple of originals, but mostly he sticks with covers — which tends to occur more often in organ jazz, anyway, it seems. The cover that sticks out the most is Herbie Hancock’s “Cantaloupe Island,” a song familiar to anyone who has heard Hancock’s 1965 original if not Us3′s hip-hop take on it from 1994. Coelho and Cohorts turns the mid-tempo funk of the original into a perky boogaloo, with the theme re-harmonized just so to juice up the funk a little further. Everyone gets in on the action: Jackson adds a little James Brown seasoning to the beat, and Dicenzo’s octaves recall Wes Montgomery’s famous sides with Jimmy Smith. This remains, though, Coelho’s show, and from the beginning when you here those opening bass pedal notes, you realize he’s got a firm grasp of the B3 thing. (More here.) — S. Victor Aaron

Mel TormePure Velvet (Vocals)

MICHAEL DES BARRES – CARNABY STREET (POP/ROCK): Des Barres, a 40-year rock vet, returns fit, forceful and full of piss and vinegar amid bright blasts of gruff, old-school white blues. But it wouldn’t be enough if Des Barres wasn’t smartly building upon those roots, and keeping his gaze steadily fixed on the future. While others of his vintage have turned to the gauzy safety of lounge music, Des Barres is hanging tough, offering smart, below-the-waist groovers where there’s no irony, no winking — and no apologizing. (More here.) — Nick DeRiso

MUDDY WATERS AND THE ROLLING STONES – LIVE AT THE CHECKERBOARD LOUNGE CHICAGO 1981 (BLUES): On November 22, 1981, the Stones were criss-crossing America on one of their mammoth tours when they had a night off in Chicago, Illinois. What to do? The decision was a no-brainer. Waters, who would pass just two years later, was in town that night performing at his own juke-joint, the Checkerboard Lounge. It didn’t take long before the Master called up to the stage his students — vocalist Mick Jagger, guitarists Ron Wood and Keith Richards and piano player Ian Stewart. The four Stones wound up jamming with Muddy and his band to the absolute delight of the lucky patrons there that night. Now, with the advantage of DTS Surround Sound, Dolby Digital 5.1 and Dolby Digital Stereo, mixed and mastered by Bob Clearmountain, this 90-minute wang-dang-doodle has been lovingly preserved for the ages. (More here.) — Nick DeRiso

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ROBERT PLANT AND THE BAND OF JOY – LIVE FROM THE ARTISTS DEN (POP/ROCK): Concert footage from a new Plant-led grouping that blends country, blues, folk and vintage rock ‘n’ roll. Those are areas, of course, traversed there and back by Plant over his career with Led Zeppelin, solo, and even the original Band of Joy — the moniker for a band that Plant and John Bonham were in before being recruited by Jimmy Page to join a new incarnation of the Yardbirds. (That “new incarnation,” of course, soon adopted the name Led Zeppelin and the rest is rock history.) Plant seems to look back a lot, but not necessarily to that band. He is looking back to Zeppelin, his prior solo records, and yes, most definitely just a couple of years back to Raising Sand, while moving forward with facets he’s revealed over a period of four decades. (More here.) — S. Victor Aaron

SERJ TANKIAN – HARAKIRI (POP/ROCK): I know a lot of people who praise him, but I’ve never understood the appeal. There are a couple of System of a Down tunes I like, but I find Tankian’s vocals annoying just as often as I find them interesting. — Fred Phillips

STEVE DAVIS – GETTIN’ IT DONE (JAZZ): A very sharp set of performances, Former Jazz Messenger Steve Davis and his crew produce enjoyable coves of John Coltrane’s “Village Blues” and Bobby Hebb’s “Sunny”, both recognizable but also fresh renditions. The rest of the fare are Davis’ own tunes, a great mixture of toe-tappin shuffles, hot blues and smooth, melancholy ballads. The result is another flawless exhibition of triple horn, 60′s style jazz. Davis might not have the name recognition of his Blakey forbear Curtis Fuller, but he’s no less a talented trombone player. (More here.) — S. Victor Aaron

Suzanne VegaClose Up Vol 4: Songs of Family (Pop/Rock)
The Dirty ProjectorsSwing Lo Magellan (Pop/Rock)

THE ENGLISH BEAT – THE COMPLETE BEAT; KEEP THE BEAT: THE VERY BEST (POP/ROCK): Certainly their greatest stateside triumph remains “Save It For Later,” later regularly covered by Pete Townshend and the Who, as well as Pearl Jam. Appearing on the career-closing Special Beat Service (a polyglot first-ever Top 40 album-length explosion of skanky retro-reggae, Byrdsy guitar jangles, dub-infused Carribbean riddums and new wave cool), this minor hit may be as far afield as the English Beat had ever been from its original angsty punk roots. Of course, it says something profound about the English Beat that even their closest brush to a bonafide mainstream breakthrough continued to incorporate these bizarrely effective moments of creativity — from this sloshing-through-molasses beat to a crazy-odd instrumentation: Is that a viola? A honky-tonking saxophone? On MTV? (More here.) — Nick DeRiso

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The MonkeesInstant Replay (Pop/Rock)
Tommy SandsDream With Me (Vocals)

WATCHTOWER – CONTROL AND RESISTANCE (POP/ROCK): This often-overlooked Texas outfit was at the forefront of the progressive metal scene that Dream Theater would come to dominate. These late 1980s small-label albums sound awful, but there are some great songs on them. I prefer the debut Energetic Disassembly with singer Jason McMaster to this one with Alan Tecchio, but both are good records. — Fred Phillips

WOODY GUTHRIE – WOODY AT 100: WOODY GUTHRIE CENTENNIAL COLLECTION (FOLK): A stirring 150-page large-format book containing three CDs with 57 tracks, including Woody’s most important recordings — such as the complete version of “This Land Is Your Land,” “Pretty Boy Floyd,” “Pastures of Plenty,” “Hard Travelin,’” “Jesus Christ,” “I Ain’t Got No Home in This World Anymore,” and “Riding in My Car.” The set, due four days before the treasured musician would have turned 100 years old, also contains 21 previously unreleased performances and six never-before-heard original songs, including Woody’s first known — and recently discovered — recordings from 1939. (More here.) — Nick DeRiso

YES – OPEN YOUR EYES [VINYL] (POP/ROCK): What we find, in this warmer, more spacious aural environment, is a record that connects the recently departed Trevor Rabin’s heavily produced hitmaking era with the quirk-filled, Britpop-flavored recordings from Yes’ initial incarnation like 1969′s self-titled debut (casually referenced, it seems, on the Open Your Eyes cover design) and 1970′s Time and a Word. There still are, to be sure, a few moments when the record betrays its troubled genesis, yet to my ears Open Your Eyes stands on its own within this intriguingly connective context. Of course, Open Your Eyes isn’t Yes’ most complete album, and no vinyl release can bolster it to that level. Still, the passage of time, and the richer textures of this new format, make it clear just how much there still is to discover about it. (More here.) — Nick DeRiso

Zac Brown BandUncaged (Country)

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The Something Else! webzine, an accredited Google News affiliate, has been featured in The New York Times and NPR.com's A Blog Supreme, while our writers have also been published by USA Today, Jazz.com and UltimateClassicRock.com, among others. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.