Smashing Pumpkins:  “Oceana”

From the very first notes of “Oceana” there is no denying that this is a Smashing Pumpkins record.  The military drums, the low rumbling bass, the screaming vocals wrapped in the quiet-to-loud wall of sound is everything you’ve come to expect from Billy Corgan’s one man band. That said, there is something missing in these 13 new tracks, the hooks that got songs like “1979,” “Tonight Tonight” and “Cherub Rock” stuck in your head, and made them the soundtrack of the 1990s.


Duran Duran: “Live 2011: A Diamond In The Mind”

Although styles have changed, Duran Duran remains in fashion.  This live disc captures the fab four (sans guitarist Andy Taylor) during their 2011 tour and highlights include “A View To A Kill”, “Notorious” and “Rio.”  The surprise twist is live takes on newer tracks like “Blame The Machines” and “Girl Panic!” are more impressive than the band’s retro hits.


Loverboy: “Rock And Roll Revival”

Break out your headbands and red leather pants (on second thought leave the crimson trousers behind, they’ll never fit you now), Loverboy is back!  This collection of re-recorded hits and 2 new tracks sounds both revived and refreshed.  You’ll remember how great “The Kid Is Hot Tonight” and “Turn Me Loose” really were, plus new tracks “Heartbreaker” (NOT a Pat Benatar cover) and “Rock And Roll Revival” are fantastically retro-tinged modern rockers.


The English Beat:  “Live At The US Festival”

The US Festival was a lot like Live Aid, except there were no filmed public service announcements about starving African kids interrupting the rock.  (ouch! – Ed.) The California desert festival featured everyone from Van Halen to Oingo Boingo to Wall Of Voodoo and The English Beat, but sadly, legal issues have prevented material from the festival from seeing the light of day.  Until now! This disc happily captures new wave-ska gods at the top of their game.


Russ Irwin:  “Get Me Home”

In the early 1990s, Russ Irwin’s debut CD was so overhyped by the music business machine (calling someone the “The next Billy Joel” is always deadly) that he didn’t stand a chance.  So, in the following years, Irwin became the go-to touring piano man for everyone from Sting to Aerosmith. Twenty plus years later Irwin finally releases his second solo album full of impressive piano driven pop rock that we dare say is better than anything Billy Joel has done since “Glass Houses.”  Finally this incredibly talented songwriter will get his chance to shine.


Lita Ford:  “Living Like A Runaway”

John Lydon once said, “This Is Not A Love Song” and “Anger is an energy.”  Both are proven here on original Runaway-turned-queen-of-80’s-metal Lita Ford’s ultimate “fuck you!” record. Channeling the power from her messy divorce she rips up the joint on her first release after almost 2 decades away. Tracks like “A Song To Slit Your Wrist To,” “Hate,” and “Branded” show the sheer power of a woman scorned, and Ford has never sounded or played better in her life.


Dead Can Dance:  “Anastasis”

Although separately the music of Brendan Perry and Lisa Gerrard is intriguing, there is nothing quite as magical as when the pair come together as Dead Can Dance.  On their first CD of new material in 16 years, the ethereal duo revise the lovely Gothic soundscapes that made us love them in the first place.  Perry’s lush orchestrations enveloped by Gerrard’s angelic vocals will haunt you.


Rush:   “Clockwork Angels”

Although they may have never been “cool”, as any of their legion of fans can tell you, Rush is a rock and roll institution.  Twenty studio records in they remain Canada’s greatest rock export (sorry Loverboy), and the power trio show no signs of slowing.  That said, “Clockwork Angels” is not so much of an album, as it is a mystical journey full of steampunk adventure, lost worlds, and gnarly pirates.  Musically, it’s packed with with prog rock precision and arena sized solos (aka: RUSH).