‘Chicken Heads: A 50-Year History of Bobby Rush’
Bobby Rush (Omnivore)
4.5 stars out of 5
Bobby Rush is a living blues legend. The Louisiana-born singer/multi-instrumentalist has played alongside the likes of Elmore James, Muddy Waters, Jimmy Reed and Howlin’ Wolf over the course of a career that’s spanned more than half a century. The sprawling “Chicken Heads: A 50-Year History of Bobby Rush” pays tribute to a man who’s made countless contributions to blues, soul and funk.
“Truly I feel honored that someone would think enough of me to do this,” the 82-year-old Rush says of the four-CD, 74-track collection. “The record side of it is the glory side of me and that’s the side that I want people to know and I’, grateful for that. I’m happy that someone thought before I leave this land to tell my story.”
Rush is still going strong, performing more than 200 shows a year. He’s been nominated for three Grammys and 41 Blues Music Awards (winning 10 times). Clocking in at almost five hours, “Chicken Heads” is the definitive Bobby Rush collection.
The set is a must for longtime Rush fans and anyone who loves the blues. The songs hold up remarkably well after all the years, with Rush especially impressive on “Someday,” “GottaHave Money,” “Chicken Heads,” “Bowlegged Woman, Knock-Kneed Man Part 1,” “She Put the Whammy on Me,” “Sue,” “Making a Decision,” “What’s Good for the Goose Is Good for the Gander,” “Hen Pecked,” “She’s So Fine,” “Scootchin’,” “Tough Titty,” “Take Me to the River,” “Howlin’ Wolf,” “Down in Louisiana,” “Swing Low” and “If That’s the Way You Like It” (with Blinddog Smokin’). Good stuff. (Jeffrey Sisk)
Club 8 (Labrador)
3.5 stars out of 5
Swedish indie pop duo Club 8 first popped up on my radar in 2010 with the release of their masterful seventh full-length “The People’s Record.” That raised Club 8’s profile considerably for American audiences and whetted our appetite for 2013 follow-up “Above the City.” While that record was perfectly fine — Karolina Komstedt and Johan Angergard are too talented to deliver a clunker — I couldn’t help but be a little disappointed.
So it was with guarded optimism that I spun latest effort “Pleasure” for the first time. Happily, it’s another winner from the Swedish twosome and, though it isn’t quite on par with “The People’s Record,” the eight-track platter is more enjoyable than its predecessor.
“‘Pleasure’ is an album about love, sex and jealousy,” Komstedt says. “Musically, it is possibly our most focused release to date.”
It’s also an efficient record, clocking in at a too-short 24 minutes. That’s enough time to appreciate the pop-tastic abilities of Club 8, but it likely will leave listeners wanting a little more. Keepers include the opening tandem of “Love Dies” and “Skin,” along with Jealousy Remains,” “Movement” and set closer “Promises We Never Meany to Keep.” (Jeffrey Sisk)
‘One Long Saturday Night’
BR5-49 (Bear Family)
4.5 stars out of 5
Taking their name from an old sketch on “Hee-Haw,” retro country collective BR5-49 emerged on the Nashville scene in the mid-1990s and went on to become one the most critically revered (if commercially underappreciated) alternative country acts of the era. BR5-49 played a mix of classic honky tonk, Western swing, boogie, Bakersfiled country and rockabilly that was at its best in a live setting.
Such is the case on new CD/DVD set “One Long Saturday Night.” In October 1996, BR5-49 appeared on German television program “Ohne Filter” and stomped their way through a spirited 19-track set that included original tunes and covers of classics by Ray Price, Hank Williams, Carl Perkins and Bob Wills.
Both the DVD and CD feature all the songs performed on “Ohne Filter,” with the CD featuring four bonus soundboard recordings taken from a concert BR5-49 performed in Japan a week after appearing on German television. Among the many highlights here are twangy performances of “Even If It’s Wrong,” “Long Gone Lonesome Blues,” “Hearthaches By the Numbers,” “Honky Tonk Song,” “I Ain’t Never,” “Big Mouth Blues,” “Cherokee Boogie,” the title track and “Take Me Back to Tulsa.” Enjoy, y’all. (Jeffrey Sisk)
‘Jaco: Original Soundtrack’
Various Artists (Legacy)
4 stars out of 5
So I confess to knowing next to nothing about Jaco Pastorius when “Jaco: Original Soundtrack” came across my desk a few weeks back. Pastorius was a legendary electric bass player whose tragic life — ruined by mental illness, drugs and alcohol — came to an end in 1987 at the too-young age of 35. At the time of his death, Pastorius was living on the streets, his contributions to the world of music all but forgotten.
The full-length documentary “Jaco” chronicles the life, music and enduring influence of the electric bass pioneer and this 16-track album is the perfect companion piece for a film that I can’t wait to see. The album features Pastorius solo tracks, collaborations with the likes of Joni Mitchell, Herbie Hancock and Ian Hunter, along with brand-new entries courtesy of rapper Tech N9ne and classical guitar duo Rodrigo y Gabriela.
Among the highlights of the 75-minute set are Pastorius cuts “Continuum,” “Portrait of Tracy” and “Liberty City”; Tech N9ne’s “Shine”; Weather Report’s “River People” and “Barbary Coast”; and an all-star rendition of “Come on, Come Over” by Mass Mental, featuring Robert Trujillo, Armand Sabal-Lecco, Flea, Whit Crane, Benji Webbe, Stephen Perkins and C-Minus. (Jeffrey Sisk)
Dirty Streets (Alive Naturalsound)
3.5 stars out of 5
Memphis-based trio Dirty Streets came together almost a decade ago over a shared love of bands like Led Zeppelin, Cream and Humble Pie. Their music is a throwback to the classic blues-rock sound of their idols, with Justin Toland (guitar/vocals), Thomas Storz (bass) and Andrew Denham (drums) putting their own spin on a wonderfully retro sound.
“White Horse” is the band’s fourth studio effort and comes on the heels of well-received 2013 release “Blades of Grass.” “This album is definitely more fluid and natural,” Toland notes. “We made a big deal out of just feeling out the songs rather than getting them techinically perfect. Percussion was definitely a compass as far as groove on this one. If we couldn’t play the tambourine or shaker with felling, then it wasn’t cutting it.”
“White Horse” is rough around the edges in the best possible way, with Dirty Streets especially effective on “Looking for My Peace,” “Accents,” “When I See My Light,” “Good Kind of Woman,” “Good Pills” and “Dust.” Rock on, fellas. (Jeffrey Sisk)
‘To Love the Bee Gees: A Tribute to the Brothers Gibb’
Various Artists (80 Proof)
4.5 stars out of 5
When the history of pop music is written, Australian siblings the Bee Gees almost certainly will play a prominent role. Brothers Barry, Robin and Maurice Gibb were responsible for dozens of hit singles throughout the late 1960s, 1970s and early ‘80s and continued to make music together until Maurice passed away in 2003 at age 53.
“To Love the Bee Gees: A Tribute to the Brothers Gibb” is a loving compilation album featuring 28 covers by 17 artists. Curated by producers Todd Bisson and Bennett Freed, the set features songs from the entirety of the Bee Gees’ career performed by an eclectic group of guests.
“Our goal was to cover the waterfront musically and the Bee Gees career-wise,” Bisson explains. “I really do think we accomplished that. There is blues, rock, folk, soul, pop, funk, electronica and dub on this album and songs from 1967 to 1993, both well-known and obscure.”
You can’t really go wrong anywhere on the 100 minute set, but pay special attention to performances by Isobel Campbell (“How Deep Is Your Love”), Elayna Boynton (“To Love Somebody”), Dylan Gardner (“Massachusetts”), Martin Carr (“Stayin’ Alive”). Jess Delgado (“I Can Bring Love”), Emitt Rhoses (“How Can You Mend a Broken Heart”) and The Silver Seas (“I Started a Joke” and “Night Fever”). Highly recommended. (Jeffrey Sisk)
Terry Adams (Clang!)
4 stars out of 5
For Terry Adams, “Talk Thelonious” is the culmination of almost 50 years of admiration of legendary jazz pianist Thelonious Monk. Recorded live at the Flynn Space in Burlington, Vt., the 12-track, 52-platter features Adams and his NRBQ mates performing a series of Monk classics.
“There’s an air about Monk’s music that I feel should go beyond the written parts,” Adams notes. “You can hear it on his performances even when he’s not playing. Some people don’t approach it that way. The music is in a special place and the performer of it should be, too.”
Adams & Co. pay tribute to Monk, who passed away in 1982 at age 64, with captivating arrangements of “Reflections,” “In Walked Bud,” “Monk’s Mood,” “Think of One,” “Ask Me Now,” Straight, No Chaser” and a studio recording of “Ruby, My Dear.” This one’s an essential addition to the collection of jazz fans everywhere. (Jeffrey Sisk)
‘Eagle Fort Rumble’
Stephen Young & The Union (Ragged Company)
4 stars out of 5
Leave it to a group of talented Irishmen to make one of the better Americana records of the year. Up-and-comng quintet Stephen Young & The Union have been building a following in Europe the past couple years and come into their own on sophomore full-length “Eagle Fort Rumble.”
“Our self-released debut (2011’s ‘Wilderness Machine’), stylistically, was more of a ‘singer/songwriter with a band for hire’ kind of album,” Young explains. “This time around, with a new lineup, the direction shifted more positively to a ‘band album.’”
Young & The Union suck listeners right in with “Shiver,” “Duty Free 200” and “Lately I’ve Rescued a Rose,” and later deliver the goods with keepers “Land Leg Blues,” “Shadowman,” “Beautiful Dead” and set closer “Someone You Dream Of.” Do yourself a favor and seek out this enjoyable 11-track release. You’ll be glad that you did. (Jeffrey Sisk)
Western Star (Saustex)
3.5 stars out of 5
There’s a wonderfully retro feel to “Fireball,” the debut album from Baltimore-based rockers Western Star. They’ve cultivated a classic garage rock sound, with just a hint of alt-country twang, making their 12-track, 43-minute platter an enjoyable listen.
Western Star — frontman Max Jeffers, guitarist Justin Myers, Nick Jeffers and drummer Bob Shade — are rough around the edges in the best possible way and have honed their sound with steady touring over the past couple years. They caught the attention of Old 97’s guitarist Ken Bethea, who produced “Fireball,” and Salim Nourallah, who mixed it.
The quartet comes out of the gate firing on all cuylinders with the title track and “Ghostchaser,” and later score with standouts “Thousand Heartaches,” “Aeroangel,” “For Cryin’ Out Loud,” “Closer to the Edge” and sprawling closer “Orable.” I’m guessing these guys are even better live than they are on record and I can’t wait for Western Star to roll through the Burgh. (Jeffrey Sisk)
‘The Legendary Live Tapes: 1978-1981’
Weather Report (Legacy)
4 stars out of 5
Jazz supergroup Weather Report were at the forefront of the fusion movement in the 1970s and early ‘80s with their groundbreaking blend of jazz, rock and funk. The Joe Zawinul-founded collective reached their creative zenith between 1978-1981, when their concert performance become the stuff of modern jazz legend.
That fertile period is chronicled on the new boxed set “The Legendary Live Tapes: 1978-1981.” The 28-track, set includes more than four hours of music spread out over four discs. It’s a must for fans of Weather Report and anyone who loves jazz.
This period featured the classic Weather Report lineup of Zawinul (keyboards), Wayne Shorter (saxophone), Jaco Pastorius (electric bass), Peter Erskine (drums) and Robert Thomas Jr. (hand drums). The chemistry between the musicians is evident throughout “The Legendary Tapes” and makes this a compelling — if lengthy — set from beginning to end.
Among the many highlights here are renditions of “Sightseeing,” “Brown Street,” “Three Views of a Secret,” “Badia/Boogie Waltz,” “Birdland,” “A Remark You Made,” “Gibraltar,” “Madagascar,” “Night Passage,” “Rockin; in Rhythm,” “Elegant People,” “Black Market” and “Directions.” Good stuff. (Jeffrey Sisk)