Monday, January 23, 2012

Rock 'n' Roll party

Johnny Winter

Rock 'n' Roll party is the latest from British guitarist Jeff Beck. Ostensibly a tribute to Les Paul, Beck and friends lovingly recreate several of the hits Paul enjoyed with Mary Ford in the 1950s. Mockingbird Hill, How High The Moon, The World is waiting for the Sunrise, and others are faithfully reproduced and may bring these charming pop tunes to a new generation of listeners. The rest of the recording consists of a couple nice guitar intrumentals and some random rockabilly. The point of this project isn't exactly clear, but the playing and singing are first rate. Fun party album.

Steve Cropper's new set also takes a look back. His recording is called Dedicated - A Salute to The "5" Royales, and he, too, brings guests in to help revisit some of his favorite music, that of R&B band the 5 Royales. To my ear, this is the more successful of the two projects. Cropper and friends don't sound like tourists in the gritty, gospel-influenced world of 1950s rhythm and blues. This albums rocks and swings with an ease and authenticity that Beck's recording lacks. Lucinda Williams, B.B. King, Delbert McClinton and Bettye LaVette make the music relevant to today's listener while honoring the tradition that gave birth to it. Great stuff.

The best of the veteran-looks-back trilogy is by Johnny Winter. Playing some old favorites with friends like Warren Haynes, John Popper and Derek Trucks, Winter has produced one of the best blues albums in recent memory. Great singing, lots of guitar and the obvious pleasure of the leader doing what he does best make Roots a bluesy delight all the way through. Instant classic.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Celestial Lineage

The new cd by Wolves in the Throne Room may or may not be Black Metal depending on who you listen to, but it's a scary and wonderful trip into the band's murky and dreamy music. Even the pieces featuring furious guitar and machinegun drums shift moods and attain a meditative aspect. Despite the characteristic horror-movie vocals, this band is not about aggression, or at least not just aggression. The lyrics suggest a mythical and magical world that evokes European folklore and is full of eagles, stags, trees and other natural phenomenon. According to Wikipedia, "The band is well known for their interests that lie beyond the usual topics of Black Metal, such as radical ecology, bio-dynamic farming and creating a nature-based occult worldview." This is not music for everyone and is not intended to be. It is music with a distinct and original voice, though, for those drawn to the dark, gothic corners of metal.