New Music Monday: Ben Gibbard, Craig Chaquico, Donald Fagen, Jamey Johnson, the Fusion Syndicate

Shake off that weekend rust with gulp of fresh-roasted musical goodness from the likes of Death Cab for Cutie’s Ben Gibbard, Jefferson Starship’s Craig Chaquico and Steely Dan’s Donald Fagen — not to mention Jamey Johnson, John McLaughlin and the Fusion Syndicate.

Reissues this week include key moments from Alice Cooper, Buddy Guy, Dio, Iron Maiden and Professor Longhair. Also, keep your eyes peeled for new stuff from Bob Belden’s Animation and Dethklock, among many, many others.

Oh, and what’s a Fusion Syndicate? Refill that coffee mug with a savory new amalgam featuring Billy Cobham, Larry Coryell, Randy Brecker and a host of 1990s-era Yes member Billy Sherwood’s old prog buddies, from Rick Wakeman and Gavin Harrison to Chester Thompson and Tony Kaye.


A Fine FrenzyPines (Pop/Rock)

ALICE COOPER – KILLER (POP/ROCK): Alice fans get a vinyl-only reissue of his classic 1971 release just in time for Halloween. Certainly, tracks like “Halo of Flies” and “Dead Babies” are appropriate for the occasion, but the record is packed with great songs including rockers “Under My Wheels” and “Be My Lover” and the Doors-influenced “Desperado.” — Fred Phillips

AnberlinVital (Pop/Rock)

ANIMATION – TRANSPARENT HEART (JAZZ): Coming off of not one but two albums of the same live concert performing the songs of Bitches Brew, Bob Belden decided to wipe the slate clean on his exciting, hard-hitting fusion band Animation and turn inward for inspiration. “This record is not a jazz record, it’s about my life in Manhattan,” is how Belden plainly describes this new album. Despite him intending that this isn’t “jazz,” it’s full of the immediacy and improvisation closely associated with jazz. As a set of personal impressions and recollections, though, he’s right; Transparent Heart is more than just jazz. (More here.) — S. Victor Aaron

BEN GIBBARD – FORMER LIVES (POP/ROCK): I’m not sure Ben Gibbard, recording his first-ever solo album away from Death Cab for Cutie, has ever sounded more alone. And in that scary freedom, in that essential stillness, he experiments in ways we haven’t heard before. The album was written over a lengthy period that saw Gibbard get married and then divorced from actress Zooey Deschanel, bouncing from his native Seattle to LA and back again. In this way, Former Lives is no doubt properly named. Even so, Gibbard seems to be staking out, within moments that never fit into his many other projects, a whole new life in song. This is, without question, his most varied album. (More here.) — Nick DeRiso

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PinesKillerFormer LivesStone Crazy! [Vinyl]

BrandyTwo Eleven (R&B)
Black Market IIISongs That Shake The Cage (Pop/Rock)

BUDDY GUY – STONE CRAZY! [Vinyl] (BLUES): Originally issued on the Isabel imprint in 1981, this album — seeing reissue by Alligator on 180-gram vinyl — has been hailed by Rolling Stone for its ferocious guitar playing: The magazine said the project finds “the artist at his frantic and frenzied best,” with “savage guitar and fiery vocals.” Highlights include “I Smell a Rat,” which bears a striking resemblance to Guy’s subsequent “Damn Right I’ve Got the Blues.” The Isabel label was named after Guy’s late mother, who famously never had a chance to see her son perform. (More here.)

CopernicusDeeper (Pop/Rock)

CRAIG CHAQUICO – FIRE RED MOON (BLUES): There’s none of the brawny crunch associated with his mainstream Jefferson Starship hits, and none of the satiny ruminations of later solo successes like Acoustic Planet. Chaquico instead settles into a roots-rocking groove — occasionally betraying just a hint of his pop-chart-topping penchant for a hook (and, on “Blue on Blue,” a whiff of Chaquico’s smooth jazz past), but never straying too far from a blues-based, occasionally Santana-esque theme. Turns out Chaquico, who came of age in the polyglot-rock atmosphere of turn-of-the-1970s San Francisco, has a deep affinity for this, as well. (More here.) — Nick DeRiso

DETHKLOK – DETHALBUM III (POP/ROCK): I absolutely loved the early seasons of Cartoon Network’s “Metalocalypse” featuring the animated death metal outfit Dethklok (powered by show creator Brendan Smalls and well-respected extreme metal drummer Gene Hoglan), and the first Dethalbum ended up being one of my favorite records of that year — funny and absurd, but still pretty heavy and grooving. I’ve kind of wandered away from the show and the music in the years since, but I’m interested enough still to check this one out. — Fred Phillips

DIO – THE LAST IN LINE (POP/ROCK): The Audio Fidelity edition of Dio’s first solo album Holy Diver was a pleasant surprise, so I’ll look forward to this one. Though Holy Diver gets most of the praise in the early Dio catalog, The Last in Line can go toe-to-toe with it, and includes a couple of my favorite Dio cuts in the title track and “One Night in the City.” — Fred Phillips

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DeeperFire Red MoonDethalbum III (Deluxe Edition)Last in Line (24k Gold)

DONALD FAGEN – SUNKEN CONDOS (POP/ROCK): There’s no concept this time, but there’s plenty of coherency. Mostly dwelling on themes of romance gained, maintained and lost, with just a touch of that Steely Dan absurdist humor and plenty of well-hidden jokes (most of which I’ve still yet to figure out, but that’s half the fun), Fagen is working in familiar territory with no erosion of his songcrafting mojo. He remains masterful at the mid-tempo groove, fully realized bridges, and will jump on any opportunity to add an extra, enriching chord or two to keep the progressions from getting too predictable. (More here.) — S. Victor Aaron

Denny FreemanDiggin’ on Dylan (Pop/Rock)
Ernest DawkinsAfro Straight (Jazz)
Holly Golightly & the BrokeoffsSunday Run Me Over (Pop/Rock)
Huey Piano SmithIt Do Me Good: The Banashak/Sansu Sessions (R&B)

IRON MAIDEN – IRON MAIDEN/KILLERS (POP/ROCK): Though they are being re-released here as picture discs, the first two Maiden records are not my favorites. I prefer Bruce Dickinson to Paul Di’Anno, but there are definitely some classic songs on these albums — including one of my favorite Maiden tracks that doesn’t get a lot of attention, “Prodigal Son.” Plus, how cool is it to have new reproductions of these album covers? – Fred Phillips

JAMEY JOHNSON – LIVING FOR A SONG: A TRIBUTE TO HANK COCHRAN (COUNTRY): Jamey Johnson is one of the few worthy artists you’ll find on country radio today, a throwback to the olden days of the genre, and here he pays tribute to a classic. He’s also packed a hefty guest list with country legends, including Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, Ray Price, Bobby Bare and George Strait, as well as some less expected artists, such as Allison Krauss, Elvis Costello and Leon Russell. — Fred Phillips

Jason AldeanNight Train (Country)

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Sunken CondosIt Do Me Good - The Banashak / Sansu SessionsKillersLiving for a Song: Tribute to Hank Cochran

JOHN McLAUGHLIN AND THE FOURTH DIMENSION – NOW HERE THIS (JAZZ): Twenty four albums in, and John McLaughlin is still blowing minds — both musically and, with the zen title here, conceptually. Still recording live, even in the digital age, even at the age of 70. Still kicking some serious, serious guitar ass. Whereas 2010’s To the One connected McLaughlin’s vocabulary with John Coltrane’s, Now Here This aspires to a more timeless, quintessential vista. McLaughlin plays with a power and accuracy that thrillingly recall his 1970s successes with Mahavishnu, combining the stone-free improvisational wonder of Jimi Hendrix with a groove-filled, very modern take on the jazz aesthetic. And, in many ways, he makes it all sound brand new again. (More here.) — Nick DeRiso

Kalle Kalima and K-18Out To Lynch (Jazz)
Louis Armstrong & All-StarsSatchmo at Symphony Hall 65th Anniversary: The Complete Performances (Jazz)
MikaOrigin of Love (Pop/Rock)

MARC RIORDAN QUARTET – BINOCULARS (Jazz): Marc Riordan might have made a name for himself as a drummer, but with his debut album Binoculars, he stands in danger of being known as a drummer fourth, after pianist, composer and bandleader. It’s a real possibility, because he does those three things all so well. (More here.) — S. Victor Aaron

Mike WheelerSelf Made Man (Blues)
Professor LonghairCrawfish Fiesta [Vinyl] (R&B)
Ron HackerLive In San Francisco (Blues)
Scotty McCreeryChristmas with Scotty McCreery (Country)
Stoney Curtis BandLive (Blues)
The Fat BabiesChicago Hot (Blues)

THE FUSION SYNDICATE – FUSION SYNDICATE [Rick Wakeman, Billy Sherwood, Billy Cobham, Steve Morse] (Jazz): Billy Sherwood, both with Yes and on his recent helming of the Prog Collective, has already established himself as a staunch advocate for the 1970s’ signature rock style. So why shouldn’t he do the same with 1970s jazz? This album recalls all of the genre-busting triumphs of Mahavishnu Orchestra — and even includes a pair of former members in Billy Cobham and Jerry Goodman. Why not? Fusion jazz, like its polyester-era counterpart prog, has been just as wrongly maligned in the intervening decades — cursed for its excesses far more than it has been rightly praised for the times when it pushed the envelope. (More here.) — Nick DeRiso

Various artistsFreedom Is A Hammer: Conservative Folk Revolutionaries Of The Sixties [Janet Greene, Tony Dolan and Vera Vanderlaan] (Folk)
Various artistsReturn of the Stuff That Dreams Are Made of [Bukka White, Charley Patton, Dennis McGee, Eck Robertson] (Blues)
Willie BuckCell Phone Man (Blues)

WADADA LEO SMITH AND LOUIS MOHOLO-MOHOLO – ANCESTORS (Jazz): Though they’ve performed on-and-off since the 70s, Smith and Moholo-Moholo had never made a record together until now. Ancestors makes clear that this duo has plenty enough rapport and ideas to justify an album. Or two. (More here.) — S. Victor Aaron

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Now Here ThisSatchmo at Symphony Hall 65th Anniversary: The Complete PerformancesCrawfish FiestaFusion Syndicate feat. Rick Wakeman, Billy Sherwood, Billy Cobham, Steve Morse, et al.

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