New releases & re-releases not to miss: Information Society, Game Theory, Beato Band, Loretta Lynn, Jeff Buckley, Steel Panther, Storm Large, Michael Jackson, & Emmit Rhodes all with video/audio preview.
Emitt Rhodes: “Rainbow Ends”
The history of rock and roll is littered with musical geniuses who cracked under the pressure of fame; Syd Barrett, Brian Wilson, Sly Stone to name but a few. While I’m not sure if that is the case with Emitt Rhodes, he does share a similar backstory with Wilson. He was the leader of a popular sixties band, Merry Go Round, scored hits with “Live” and “You’re a Very Lovely Woman,” and his 1971 solo debut was considered power pop’s greatest masterpiece. Then, in 1973, Emitt Rhodes stopped. He all but disappeared, until now, with the release of “Rainbow Ends,” an album forty-three years in the making – and man, was it worth the wait! The disc is a pop revelation of audio genius. Joining in the homecoming are half of Jellyfish (Roger Manning Jr and Jason Faulkner,) Aimee Mann, Susanna Hoffs of The Bangles and modern pop wizard Jon Brion. The result? The best record you have heard in the past forty-three years.
Game Theory: “Lolita Nation”
After almost twenty-five years out of print, Scott Miller-and-company’s long out of print masterpiece is back. Omnivore Records’ new, expanded double CD edition features the original double album along with a plethora of b-sides, live tracks and oddball covers. Ever thought you would hear Game Theory cover “God Save The Queen,” “Public Image” or “ Love Will Tear Us Apart?” Me neither. But they’re here! When I interviewed Miller in the 1980s on the “Lolita Nation” tour I knew he wasn’t right for this mundane world. Sadly, with his untimely passing in 2014, time has shown I was right. At least we have this stunning document of Miller’s time among the mortals to remind us of his brilliance.
Michael Jackson: “Off The Wall” Deluxe
Let’s forget “Thriller” for just a minute, because that album would have never happened if not for the King of Pop’s true masterpiece “Off The Wall.” This non-stop boogie party brought Michael and Quincy Jones together in a creative partnership of unbridled brilliance and the songs that resulted are undeniable; the dare-you-not-to-dance-title track, “Rock With You,” “Working Day and Night,” “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough,” and the heartbreaking ballad “She’s Out of My Life.” This remastered 2-disc set features the original album and a DVD, Spike Lee’s heartfelt tribute “Michael Jackson’s Journey from Motown to Off The Wall.”
Information Society: “Orders Of Magnitude”
80’s synth-pop trio Information Society give a tip of the hat to their musical influences on this trippy tribute disc. Less of an album, more of a cobbled together compilation of odds and ends, “Order Of Magnitude” takes on Gary Numan, Devo, The Human League, Sisters Of Mercy and Heaven 17 among others with mostly cool, creative, and danceable results. As a fan of covers, you’ll love this album for the pure fun of it, but it may leave you longing for the originals.
Beato Band: Beato Band
Reconnecting with your old high school bandmates after decades away can be a dangerous proposition. Look at what happened when Tom Petty got back together with Mudcrutch. Yikes! So I approached this release from David Pack, the musical mastermind behind ‘70s AM-Radio godheads Ambrosia and his high school pal drummer Fred Beato with trepidation. At fifteen, the pair won the US battle of the bands, with Pack going on to be a star, and Beato creating a successful line of drum accessories. Forty-five years later their debut CD finally arrives, a collection of originals and covers. And while their version of classic tracks like “And Your Bird Can Sing” are solid, the real treat here are the originals: the Latin-flavored “Cuba BC” which tells the fascinating tale of Fred Beato’s arrival in America, and “Someday” which is easily the best song Pack has written since “How Much I Feel.”
Storm Large: “Le Bonheur”
Best known as the co-lead singer of Pink Martini / the rocker chick from the TV show “Rockstar Supernova” Storm Large is a musical chameleon. Her latest CD is a dark and lovely collection of well-known rock songs twisted into cabaret gold, including versions of Black Sabbath’s “N.I.B.,” Lou Reed’s “Satellite of Love,” and a slow burning “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” that is downright creepy. My favorite? Whitney Houston’s “Saving All My Love For You” where Storm duets with everybody’s favorite 7 foot clown Puddles Pity Party.
The Feelies: “Only Life”
Although their albums were full of smart, imaginative tunes, The Feelies never got to be as big as REM, and that’s a damn shame. So with the re-issue of their third album, it’s a perfect time for college rock fans who may have known the band during their A&M years to reflect, or for new music fans searching for something a hundred times better than any of the crap out there today. Remastered as a digital only release with four bonus live tracks, it features perhaps their best known “Hit” the peppy “Away.”
The band’s fourth CD “Time for a Witness” is also newly available with bonus tracks including a fantastic live cover of The Stooges’ “I Wanna Be Your Dog.”
Steel Panther: Live from Lexxi’s Mom’s Garage
This acoustic live CD recorded live in the actual garage of the band’s bass player is an awesome collection of acoustic versions of Steel Panther’s best known tunes including: “Fat Girl (Thar She Blows),” “Gloryhole” and “Bukkake Tears.” Plus the brand new power balled: “That’s When You Came In.” Does unplugging showcase the band’s more sensitive side? Hell no! But the stripped down versions of these filthy rockers are even more hilarious when you can hear all the lyrics. For those of you who have never been able to “Feel the Steel” live, the accompanying DVD is an excellent showcase for their music prowess and straight up comedy genius. Link:
Loretta Lynn: “Full Circle”
In a year where we have lost so many legendary musicians it’s nice to know Loretta Lynn is still with us. Her latest CD sees the “Coal Miner’s Daughter” in fine form singing a collection of classics including “Secret Love,” “Band Of Gold” and “Always On My Mind.” For good measure Elvis Costello and Willie Nelson both appear, duetting with Miss Loretta.
Jeff Buckley: “You & I”
It’s hard to believe that Jeff Buckley has now been gone almost twenty years. This collection of unearthed gems lovingly curated by his mother, makes you wonder what Buckley would have done had he lived. Although the record is mostly covers, the raw emotion of his soaring falsetto ripping through the Sly & the Family Stone’s “Everyday People” and Bob Dylan’s “Just Like a Woman” will move you to tears, while his take on The Smiths’ “The Boy with The Thorn In His Side” and “I Know It’s Over” reminds you that music is glorious.