New Music Monday: Spock’s Beard, New Kids on the Block, Killswitch Engage, Beth Hart, Steve Earle

Spock’s Beard hasn’t sounded so Spock’s Beard-y in years, as they return with a new lead singer and a throwback new release that recalls the glory years with Neal Morse. (It helps that Morse contributes two songs, as well.)

Meanwhile, Beth Hart’s Bang Bang Boom Boom, a recording we absolutely raved about last fall, is finally seeing U.S. release.

Looking for a jazz fix? We’ve got you covered there, too.

A trio of recordings are arriving from from Ivo Perelman, with much of it featuring key contributions from Matthew Shipp, as well as a hip new thing from Ben Sidran — perhaps most famous for his early association with Steve Miller.

Looking for something heavier? We’ve got Finnish metal, and the return of Jesse Leach to Killswitch Engage.

Something older? Choice reissues this week include Albert King, David Bowie (whose much-anticipated comeback offering The Next Day arrives on vinyl), Miles Davis and Steve Earle, among others …

ALBERT KING – BORN UNDER A BAD SIGN (BLUES): Looking back, of course, it’s easy to see how this would become such an influential album. After all, you had so many Stax players — Steve Cropper, Booker T. Jones, Isaac Hayes, the Memphis Horns — arriving here at the peak of their powers. And we all know King now as a newly inducted Rock and Roll Hall of Famer. Thing is, though, signing King was certainly no sure thing, not back in 1966. He’d already had a shot at fame, and had come and gone like a shooting star. But something clicked in Memphis, as this new reissue shows, and King’s life — not to mention blues, and rock — would never be the same. (More here.) — Nick DeRiso

Alkaline TrioMy Shame Is True (Pop/Rock)
Antonio AdolfoFine Mixtures (Jazz)
Beata PaterRed (Jazz)

BEN SIDRAN – DON’T CRY FOR NO HIPSTER (JAZZ): Don’t cry, indeed. For Ben Sidran — producer of Van Morrison and Rickie Lee Jones, co-writer of “Space Cowboy” with Steve Miller, sessions man with the Rolling Stones, NPR radio voice — being a hipster seems like such an effortless thing. So much so that Sidran can transform something like “Back Nine” (his album-opening paean to that most suburban of things: golfing) into the very definition of in-crowd cool. It swings in that easy-going Mose Allison way, even as Sidran makes his game sound like something on par with a street-level hustle. (More here.) — Nick DeRiso

BETH HART – BANG BANG BOOM BOOM (BLUES): Now seeing an America release, this new solo project includes 11 tracks across a swift-moving landscape of influences — from blues to jazz to gospel to soul. Produced by Kevin Shirley, the longtime Bonamassa helmsman, album highlights include Hart’s first ever piano solo (on “Swing My Thing Back Around”), the boisterous gospel elation of “Spirit of God,” and a devastatingly effective, Billie Holiday-influenced vocal on “Baddest Blues.” In the end, it’s a showcase for the volcanic singing style that had Hart appearing in the off-Broadway show “Love, Janis” — but also digs into the darker emotions surrounding her journey as a former “Star Search” standout who spiraled out of control into a haze of drugs, depression and an unmedicated bipolar disorder before finally finding her footing again through sheer force of will, talent and gumption. (More here.) — Nick DeRiso

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Bring Me the HorizonSempiternal (Pop/Rock)
Charles BradleyVictim of Love (R&B)
Christopher CrossA Night in Paris (Pop/Rock)
Cold War KidsDear Miss Lonelyhearts (Pop/Rock)
Dann ZinnGrace’s Song (Jazz)

DAVID BOWIE – THE NEXT DAY [Vinyl] (Pop/Rock): Bowie, just when everyone was sure he had left the game for good, returns with a triumph of revision, apotheosizing his past even as he dissembles it. (Not for nothing, I don’t think, is the cover of this new album simply an obliterated version of an older one.) Hailed as a return to the dark portent of his Berlin years, when Bowie issued a trio of transfixedly disconnected, odd and dangerous projects, The Next Day is bigger than that, more complex, more fidgety. It feels by turns like a valedictory, like cutting social commentary, like a series of autobiographical sketches, like complete bullshit. In other words, it’s Bowie at his absolute best. (More here.) — Nick DeRiso

Don NixLiving By the Days (Blues)

FINNTROLL – BLODSVEPT (POP/ROCK): I often wish I had any idea what this Finnish folk metal outfit was singing about. I’m sure it’s a lot of cool fantasy-based stuff that I’d really dig. It hardly matters, though, when the songs are delivered like this — incredibly heavy stuff with very cool folk melodies and instrumentation. — Fred Phillips

Gerald ClaytonLife Forum (Jazz)
Gin WigmoreGravel & Wine (Pop/Rock)
Gretchen WilsonRight on Time (Country)

IVO PERELMAN AND MATTHEW SHIPP – THE ART OF THE DUET: VOLUME 1 (JAZZ): Perelman can alternately sound sweet and harsh but is entirely himself in both instances. Shipp is a logical extension of Monk going further into the avant garde (echoes of Thelonius can be most clearly heard on “Duet #09?), a refreshing alternative to the legions of free jazz pianists aping Cecil Taylor. Together, you have two guys who are very responsive to each other; thoughts and ideas never sound forced as they patiently let them come by naturally, and ending each performance before they begin to lose their freshness. (More here.) — S. Victor Aaron

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IVO PERELMAN WITH MATTHEW SHIPP, WILLIAM PARKER AND GERALD CLEAVER – SERENDIPITY (JAZZ): erendipity is ostensibly Perelman’s date, but the cooperative dynamism is the real story of the record. Pulling back the curtain on Perelman’s by turns swaggering, pleading sax personas, there’s a hard working rhythm section mixing it up behind him. Cleaver masterfully creates multiple, ambiguous rhythms to which Parker latches on while keeping a close ear on Shipp’s blanket of notes. Perelman traverses a range of emotions from his sax, spraying notes out like a lethal weapon or wailing with a wide vibrato Albert Ayler style, with a smattering of tender moments that refer to the mainstream jazz he played earlier in his career.(More here.) — S. Victor Aaron

IVO PERELMAN – THE EDGE (JAZZ): And so we reach the final piece of the Ivo Perelman/Matt Shipp trilogy of April, 2013. The Edge is where Perelman fronts Shipp’s widely renowned trio for the first time ever (though he has performed with bassist Michael Bisio and drummer Whit Dickey on separate occasions). The rapport between Perelman and Shipp is the element of this record that carries over from the other new Perelman releases, but it’s the supreme tightness of Shipp’s rhythm section that ends up bring the key element of this session. (More here.) — S. Victor Aaron

KILLSWITCH ENGAGE – DISARM THE DESCENT (POP/ROCK): This will likely be one of the “big” metal records of the year with the return of original frontman Jesse Leach. Lead single “In Due Time” isn’t bad, but I can’t tell a lot of difference. It just sounds like Killswitch Engage to me. — Fred Phillips

Kristin KorbWhat’s Your Story (Vocals)
Lisa KirchnerUmbrellas in Mint (Jazz)
Mad SeasonAbove: Deluxe Edition (Pop/Rock)
Margaret WhitingMaggie Isn’t Margaret Anymore; The Wheel Of Hurt (Vocals)
Martha Reeves and the Vandellas50th Anniversary: Singles Collection 1962-1972 (R&B)

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MILES DAVIS – IN A SILENT WAY (JAZZ): A reissue loaded with hypnotic, looped grooves, with Joe Zawinul’s graceful masterpiece in the middle of it. The original ambient album of the modern era. (More here.) — S. Victor Aaron

NEW KIDS ON THE BLOCK 10 (POP/ROCK): Seriously? Did I just step through a wormhole 25 years into the past? Strange definition of “kids” at this point. — Fred Phillips

NiacinKrush (Jazz)
Rilo KileyRKives (Pop/Rock)
Petula ClarkLost In You (Pop/Rock)

SPOCK’S BEARD – BRIEF NOCTURNES AND DREAMLESS SLEEP (POP/ROCK): The addition of new vocalist Ted Leonard, late of the band Enchant, has brought Spock’s Beard back to its complex but consistently upbeat roots with Neal Morse. That sense of going full circle plays out with their former founding vocalist’s return for in a pair tracks on Brief Nocturnes and Dreamless Sleep, but there’s more to it than that. Leonard takes over on the forthcoming project for former drummer-turned-frontman Nick D’Virgilio, whose own tenure succeeding Morse was marked by a turn toward darker, more straight-forward rock for Spock’s Beard — in keeping with his own melancholic vocal style. Brief Nocturnes, initially crowd-funded via Indigogo and now set for wide release, leaps out with a fizzy energy that those D’Virgilio-led albums rarely did — even as the band retains a patented sense of drama that goes back to their early days, as well. (More here.) — Nick DeRiso

STEVE EARLE – COPPERHEAD ROAD (POP/ROCK): Though he kind of lost me when he went off the political deep end, I still really enjoy Steve Earle’s early records — like this reissue. “Copperhead Road,” you can tell when you see him live, is that song that he has to play that he wishes he didn’t. I still can’t help cranking it up every time I hear it, though. — Fred Phillips

The Band PerryPioneer (Pop/Rock)
The EaglesThe Studio Albums 1972-1979 (Pop/Rock)
The Flaming LipsThe Terror (Pop/Rock)
The Four Tops50th Anniversary: Singles Collection 1964-1972 (Pop/Rock)
The Black AngelsIndigo Meadow (Pop/Rock)
Tom JansTake Heart; Tom Jans (Folk)
Tyler, The CreatorWolf (Pop/Rock)
Various artistsMusic Is You: A Tribute to John Denver [My Morning Jacket; Dave Matthews; Old Crow Medicine Show; Lucinda Williams; Evan Dando; Emmylou Harris; Mary Chapin Carpenter] (Pop/Rock)

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