Genesis fans, unite! Guitarist Steve Hackett is back with his second exploration of the band’s 1970s-era triumphs, while a new reissue pays tribute to his former bandmate Peter Gabriel’s signature solo release So.
Other highlights across this New Music Monday include a long-awaited tour de force full-length from Gary Clark Jr. and a new solo project from guitarist Neal Schon — who reunites with former Journey drummer Steve Smith on the fiery The Calling.
For progressive rock fans, there’s also this sweeping new epic album from Glass Hammer, the American proggers who are sharing a frontman these days with Yes. King Crimson fans will also notice drummer Pat Mastelotto as part of Naked Truth, a newly formed fusion-prog band.
The Bar-Kays, that legendary Stax Records group decimated by loss in the same plane crash that claimed Otis Redding, are back with a new project — produced by the son of one of its surviving members.
Then there are intriguing jazz releases from David Virelles and Tim Bedner to dig into on this October 22, 2012 edition …
Anita Baker – Only Forever (R&B)
BAR-KAYS – GROWN FOLKS (R&B): The Bar-Kays have seen more than their share of tragedy, but appear to have a hit on their hands with the title track from this new project. The group started out as a studio sessions group for Stax Records, and were serving as a backing band for Otis Redding when the soul singer and four members of the Bar-Kays went down in a plane crash in 1967. Bassist James Alexander, who was on a second plane, still leads the group — which has continued to score a handful of post-1967 hits, including 1972′s “Son of Shaft” and 1980′s “Boogie Body Land.” Their new music, smooth and ultra-modern, was produced by rapper Jazze Pha, Alexander’s son.
Boyz II Men – Twenty (R&B)
Colbie Caillat – Christmas In the Sand (Pop/Rock)
DAVID VIRELLES – CONTINUUM (2012): Virelles’ ambition here was infusing the rich cultural tapestry of Cuba with the loosely composed and performed music of New York progressive jazz and even in some instances, the highly ordered tenets of European classical music. Mission accomplished. Only he knows where he’ll go from here, but with Continuum, he’s already made his own personal mark on avant garde jazz. (More here.) — S. Victor Aaron
GARY CLARK JR. – BLAK AND BLU (BLUES): For the uninitiated, this album finds Clark creating at a furious pace. Of course, the Austin singer-songwriter references a series of earlier EPs here, but that takes nothing away from the many moments where he works with fresh paint, fashioning a sweeping, impressionistic collection of African American styles. They don’t make records like this anymore, both in the sense that Blak and Blu aspires sometimes to more than it could possibly reach, and also that it pushes so hard against the boundaries that tend to enclose musical subgenres nowadays. (More here.) — Nick DeRiso
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GLASS HAMMER – PERILOUS (POP/ROCK): Glass Hammer, riding a wave of interest as its lead singer also serves a stint in Yes, has used that momentum to create its most ambitious concept album yet. Perilous, presented as one musical idea that’s broken up into 13 parts, also stands apart from their more recent work in that the cover art does not follow the fantasy-based imagery more in keeping with classic Yes. This new studio project instead features a gothic-inspired ringmaster, who seems to be welcoming the listener into a spooky netherworld. Jon Davison began a tandem assignment fronting Yes earlier this year, but said from the beginning that he intended to continue working with Glass Hammer. All of that is coalescing toward what looks like a breakthrough moment for the American prog-rock outfit. (More here.)
Karyn White – Carpe Diem (Pop/Rock)
Kasey Chambers – Wreck and Ruin (Pop/Rock)
Lady Antebellum – On This Winter’s Night (Country)
Leona Lewis – Glassheart (R&B)
Martina McBride – The Essential Martina McBride (Country)
NAKED TRUTH – OUROBOROS (JAZZ): Just a little more than a year after Italian power bassist Lorenzo Feliciati introduced the Naked Truth fusion-prog supergroup to the world with Shizaru, they’re back with another simultaneously fierce and fragile effort. Joining Feliciati once again are keyboardist Roy Powell and drummer Pat Mastelotto in yet another set of loosely structured music that downplays soloing and places emphasis on collective improvisation and barren, harshly colliding soundscapes and a careful balance of hand-made and technologically-assisted music. (More here.) — S. Victor Aaron
NEAL SCHON – THE CALLING (POP/ROCK): Neal Schon touches on every element of his guitar legend, from his early days in Santana, through to Journey’s initial fusion and prog-laced efforts and into its later platinum-era successes. He even reunites with former collaborators Jan Hammer and Steve Smith in this tour de force effort. That means you’ll hear everything from arena-rattling tracks like “Carnival Jazz” and “Back Smash,” to the crunchy jazz-rock of the title track, to the soaring pop-balladry of “Six String Waltz” and “True Emotion.” All that’s missing, really, on each of those cuts is sweet, long-gone tenor of Steve Perry — or, better yet, the powerful co-mingling of his voice with original Journey lead singer Gregg Rolie. (More here.) — Nick DeRiso
Night Ranger – 24 Strings and a Drummer [Live & Acoustic] (Pop/Rock)
PETER GABRIEL – SO [20th ANNIVERSARY IMMERSION BOX] (POP/ROCK): Working within a sound palette that gives him some room to stretch, Gabriel actually gets within himself — avoiding the kitschy, bare-knuckle sax fills and sometimes too-jaunty pop stuff that had marred earlier efforts at updating the prog-rock framework. Radio-ready offerings like “Sledgehammer” haven’t aged as well, but this album’s enduring pleasures were always found as “Red Rain” erupts, “Don’t Give Up” tearfully overemotes, “In Your Eyes” descends from the heavens, and “That Voice Again” comes crashing in. If you can afford it, spring for the limited edition deluxe package, which includes the remastered original album, a 2CD concert performance from 1987, and the “So DNA” disc that takes listeners through each song’s creative evolution. (More here.) — Nick DeRiso
Red Hot Chili Peppers – Californication [Vinyl] (Pop/Rock)
Run-DMC – The Essential Run-DMC (Hip hop)
Rufus – Party Till You’re Broke (R&B)
Sassparilla – Magpie (Pop/Rock)
STEVE HACKETT – GENESIS REVISITED II (POP/ROCK): For all of the compositional wonder of Peter Gabriel-era music from Genesis, his vocals could be a difficult and acquired taste. Though Gabriel would begin to handle lyrics with a far more intriguing complexity as a solo artist, he hadn’t yet developed that nuance and power. Occasionally, he simply grates. At the same time, Hackett was (with a tip of the old chapeau to Phil Collins at the drums) the most involving instrumentalist in the band. Is it any wonder, then, that Hackett’s solo reworkings of classic Genesis, most of which have boasted both superior vocalists and a more mature approach to his own contributions, often seem every bit the equal (and sometimes the better) of the original versions? (More here.) — Nick DeRiso
Taylor Swift – Red (Pop/Rock)
Ten – Heresy and Creed (Pop/Rock)
The Doors – Live At The Bowl 68 (Pop/Rock)
The Staves – Dead and Born and Grown (Pop/Rock)
TIM BEDNER – OF LIGHT AND SHADOW (2012): Though Bedner sometimes favors Pat Metheny, he is no straight clone. Witness how he occasionally uncorks some edgy licks on cuts like “Umbra” or “Bluenote” that call to mind John Scofield or Steve Khan. And speaking of “Bluenote,” he does a fine B-3 imitation on his guitar during the blues shuffle segments of a song that’s complemented by breezy Brazilian interludes. Elsewhere, we hear much evidence of an advanced fingerpicking technique that Bedner chooses to use chiefly for accompaniment, but it’s adapted quite satisfyingly on the gentler numbers such as “Aurora” and “Waltz for Elise.” Along the way, Bedner reveals himself to be the complete package as a guitarist, and as a composer, too. (More here.) — S. Victor Aaron
Tony Bennett – Viva Duets (Vocals)
Will Scruggs Jazz Fellowship – Song Simeon: A Christmas Journey (Jazz)
Wintersun – Time I (Pop/Rock)