An intimate moment with Alex Chilton provides incredible new musical insights into his off-beat genius, while Marc Cary takes his keyboard into a series of new intriguing directions.
Elvis Costello’s lengthy relationship with Steve Nieve will likely draw many to the keyboardist’s new solo project, but there’s much, much more to recommend on this all-star effort.
A timely new reissue focuses on Badfinger, the hard-luck pop group that’s back in a big way after being included on the dramatic conclusion of “Breaking Bad.” Elsewhere, we remember Dire Straits and Donna Summer.
Randy Brecker, in a move that mirrors that of the Allman Brothers Band, continues forward despite the terrible loss of his brother and musical partner. Gavin Templeton and Heather Stewart have emotional projects out, too.
Meanwhile, a new motion picture focuses on the nervy, layered scene surrounding the CBGB club, with a genre-busting soundtrack to boot.
William Shatner also beams in with another spoken-word project, this time with a group of ex-members of Yes on board — including producer/musical collaborator Billy Sherwood.
Alter Bridge – Fortress (Pop/Rock)
ALEX CHILTON – ELECTRICITY BY CANDLELIGHT: NYC, 2/13/97 (POP/ROCK): In a way, this kind of chaos — a darkened stage at the Knitting Factory — was the perfect setting for Alex Chilton, a performer who had made his legend drawing outside the lines. Electricity by Candlelight documents a free-form evening of often never-before-heard songs, played for the remaining customers after a power failure. As such, it isn’t a place to achieve a career vista for those unfamiliar with the late Chilton. Instead, Electricity by Candlelight plumbs more deeply into the playful eccentricity that kept Chilton from ever settling into any particular persona for long. (More here.) — Nick DeRiso
Amos Lee – Mountains of Sorrow, Rivers of Song (Pop/Rock)
Anathema – Were Here Because Were Here (Pop/Rock)
Anders Osborne – Peace (Pop/Rock)
Andrew Gold – Andrew Gold; What’s Wrong With This Picture (Pop/Rock)
BADFINGER – BADFINGER; WITH YOU WERE HERE; BBC SESSIONS (POP/ROCK): These arrive at a fortuitous time, what with Badfinger’s sudden resurgence thanks to the inclusion of “Baby Blue” in the hugely successful “Breaking Bad” finale. After 10 million people tuned in, downloads of Badfinger’s 1971 ballad shot up nearly 3,000 percent according to Neilsen — becoming the top-selling song on iTunes. At one point, streaming of Badfinger songs on services such as Spotify was up some 20,000 percent, according to Bloomberg. It’s all the more incredible considering that three of its classic-era members are dead; that leaves Joey Molland to carry on the band’s legacy. (More here.) — Nick DeRiso
Bing Crosby – Bing Sings the Johnny Mercer Songbook; Le Bing: Song Hits of Paris (Vocalists)
Chick Webb and Ella Fitzgerald – The Complete Chick Webb and Ella Fitzgerald Decca Sessions: 1934-1941 (Jazz)
David Gates – First; Never Let Her Go; Goodbye Girl; Falling (Pop/Rock)
DIRE STRAITS – BROTHERS IN ARMS (POP/ROCK): Released this week in the SACD format, this album doesn’t have the reputation that it should — likely because of jokey songs like the headband-couture video-hit “Money for Nothing,” and the silly baseball-park ditty “Walk of Life.” But elsewhere on the album, when they weren’t “playing guitar on the MTV,” Dire Straits shared what may be some of the band’s most interestingly topical, and deeply emotive tracks. (More here.) — Nick DeRiso
Diva de Lai – Dylan at the Opera (Pop/Rock)
DONNA SUMMER – I FEEL LOVE: THE COLLECTION (R&B): I’ve said many times that I was something of a liar back in the days of disco. While I wasn’t a huge fan of most of the music, there were a few artists (and sometimes particular songs) who I really liked despite my supposed membership in the “Disco Sucks” club. Donna Summer was an unavoidable force of musical nature back then. Clearly, she was on my “secret list.” That’s why the loss of Donna Summer still feels so heavy: I think it’s because she was this big pop music presence who was around for those years where I made that slow pivot from kid to young adult. (More here.) — Mark Saleski.
GAVIN TEMPLETON – IN SERIES (JAZZ): You know how one bulb goes out on a strand of Christmas lights and the whole strand goes dark? That’s because the lights are connected “in series.” Gavin Templeton makes the same observation in life and society in general: if one thing goes really bad, it tends to darken the outlook on everything around it. These lows — and a few highs — are such things that informed the alto saxophonist’s second album In Series. (More here.) — S. Victor Aaron
Gretchen Wilson – Christmas in My Heart (Holidays)
HEATHER STEWART – WHAT IT IS (POP/ROCK): With the sophomore disc What It Is, Heather Stewart steps completely into her own, presenting a disc of deep emotional honesty amid agelessly created music. The album sounds, at once, like the arrival of a completely new voice — and something that’s been with you for ages. She’s taken full advantage — of her crack band of musical confederates, of the material, of this often fleeting opportunity. The results are simply unforgettable. (More here.) — Nick DeRiso
Joe Grushecky – Somewhere East of Eden (Pop/Rock)
Jim Brickman – Love (Pop/Rock)
Kenny Rogers – You Can’t Make Old Friends (Country)
Korn – The Paradigm Shift (Pop/Rock)
Lee Ranaldo and the Dust – Last Night on Earth (Pop/Rock)
MARC CARY AND FOCUS TRIO – FOUR DIRECTIONS (JAZZ): Calling this CD Four Directions is helpful, because there are so many directions the music on Marc Cary’s his latest album, I’ve lost count. And in this case, that’s a good thing. As a pianist, composer, bandleader, Cary has been steadily building up a lot of well-earned cred in jazz circles, primarily through his forward-looking Focus Trio. Coming fast on the heels of his solo piano tribute to his former employer in the late Abbey Lincoln, Cary seemed anxious to get back to his main project, and the vigor he invests into Directions shows. Again disregarding the artificial boundaries set up between acoustic jazz and electric jazz, Cary in front of a synthesizer, Fender Rhodes, or plain ol’ piano is inventive all the same. (More here.) — S. Victor Aaron
Miley Cyrus – Bangerz (Pop/Rock)
Nektar – Sounds Like This (Prog/Rock)
Panic! at the Disco – Too Weird To Live, Too Rare To Die! (Pop/Rock)
Patrice Rushen – Patrice; Pizazz; Posh (R&B)
Patty Griffin – Silver Bell (Folk)
RANDY BRECKER – BRECKER BROTHERS BAND REUNION (JAZZ): Ostensibly, this was meant to be just a Randy Brecker solo album (and officially, it is), borne out of a week-long engagement at New York’s famed Blue Note club in 2011. But it didn’t take long for Brecker to realize that the stellar roster of musicians he assembled for both the gig and the record had been supporting musicians in some version or another of the Brecker Brothers. (More here.) — S. Victor Aaron
Robert Wyatt – ’68 (Pop/Rock)
Seasick Steve – Hubcap Music (Pop/Rock)
Steve Hillage – Phoenix Rising [with ROVO and System 7] (Prog/Rock)
STEVE NIEVE – TOGETHER (POP/ROCK): Nieve is likely an unknown quantity to anyone other than Elvis Costello fans. Still, for those who have followed this endlessly entertaining collaboration back to its late-1970s roots, ToGetHer provides the welcome addition of a new song to the canon in “Tender Moment (Kairos).” Costello also wrote the lyrics for the Sting-sung Nieve original “You Lie Sweetly.” But the real magic comes from Nieve’s work here with life partner Muriel Teodori, with whom the keyboardist memorably paired on the 2007 opera Welcome to the Voice. (More here.) — Nick DeRiso
Steve Wariner – This Real Life (Country)
Stone Temple Pilots – High Rise [with Chester Bennington] (Pop/Rock)
Tony Bennett – Live at the Sahara: Las Vegas 1964 (Vocalists)
Travis Sullivan’s Björkestra – I Go Humble (Jazz)
VARIOUS ARTISTS – CBGB: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (POP/ROCK): Through a confluence of happenstance and location, CBGB would become ground zero in an explosion of late-1970s punk, underground rock and new wave sounds. The club would herald, as a new movie reminds, the arrival of its next big cataclysm. Of course, framing those complex times is no easy task, despite the accepted safety-pin imagery that’s grown up around the era. CBGB actually featured several scenes within the scene, representing a confluence of attitudes, approaches and styles. Brisk, yet definitive, CBGB finds a way to capture it all. (More here.) — Nick DeRiso
Vertical Horizon – Echoes from the Underground (Pop/Rock)
WILLIAM SHATNER – PONDER THE MYSTERY (PROG/SPOKEN WORD): Billy Sherwood — a 1990s-era Yes alum — produced Ponder the Mystery, composing new music to go with Shatner’s poetry. (The former Star Trek star will be making a trio of Los Angeles-area concert performances with Sherwood’s band Circa, which also features Tony Kaye, Yes’ co-founding organist.) Rick Wakeman, who succeeded Kaye in the keyboard chair, is also featured on the forthcoming album, along with Steve Vai, Edgar Winter, Robbie Krieger of Doors fame, Al Di Miola, and others. (More here.) — Nick DeRiso