CD reviews: McCartney & Wings' live album hasn't held its edge
‘Wings Over America: Deluxe Edition'
Paul McCartney & Wings (Hear Music/Concord)
“Wings Over America” is one of those live albums that, while well-received at the time of its release in 1976, hasn't aged well. It was the first post-Beatles tour for Paul McCartney & Wings and he treated his fans to a triple album clocking in at more than two hours. Hear Music/Concord give “Wings Over America” a deluxe edition treatment in multiple formats. The two-CD/one-DVD set contains a remastered version of the album plus a DVD that features the 75-minute television special “Wings Over the World.” It's nice to hear classics such as “Jet,” “Maybe I'm Amazed,” “Lady Madonna,” “The Long and Winding Road,” “Live and Let Die,” “Blackbird,” “Yesterday,” ““Listen to What the Man Said,” “Silly Love Songs” and “Band on the Run,” but this set underscores the fact that Wings was still light on first-rate material of their own at that time. The documentary is OK, but only Macca's most loyal fans need to upgrade.
‘The White House Sessions, Live 1962'
Tony Bennett & Dave Brubeck (Columbia Legacy)
In August 1962, jazz great Dave Brubeck and vocalist Tony Bennett had one of those serendipitous musical moments. Each performed separately at Washington's Sylvan Theater that night, then came together for a spontaneous, unrehearsed set that should set fans of both a-twitter. “The White House Sessions, Live 1962” captures the entire evening over the course of 17 tracks and 62 minutes. The Dave Brubeck Quartet open the album with six tracks, including killer renditions of “Take Five,” “Nomad” and “Castillian Blues,” before Bennett and the Ralph Sharon Trio entertain with seven songs of their own, highlighted by “Just in Time,” “Make Someone Happy” and “One for My Baby (And One More for the Road).” The final four tracks are what make this special, as Bennett and Brubeck team up for “Lullaby of Broadway,” “Chicago,” “That Old Black Magic” and “There Will Never Be Another You.” Groovy, man.
‘Book of Hours'
Cloud Boat (Apollo)
British electronic dance music duo Cloud Boat earned its stripes on the strength of a handful of singles. Coinciding with the rejuvenated American electronic dance music scene, Tom Clarke and Sam Ricketts test the waters with their debut full-length, the moody and compelling “Book of Hours.” With 11 tracks clocking in at a manageable 39 minutes, Cloud Boat is careful not to overstay its welcome. It scores with keepers “Lions on the Beach,” “Youthern,” “Wanderlust” and “Kowloon Bridge” and doesn't fall into the self-indulgent habits of many of its peers. Kudos.
The Stranglers (Fontana/NGrooves)
Though contemporaries like the Sex Pistols may be better known, the Stranglers were one of the pioneers of the British punk movement in the late 1970s. The Stranglers have endured over the decades and the solid “Giants” is the 17th studio album of their esteemed career. It's also their first since 2006's underwhelming “Suite XVI” and more notably their first without original vocalist Paul Roberts. While a noticeable step up from “Suite XVI,” this 10-track release might disappoint those hoping for another “No More Heroes” or “Aural Sculpture.” The tunes are good, not great, with the title track, “Adios (Tango)” and “15 Steps” the ones you'll remember.
Monster Truck (Dine Alone)
Canadian rock outfit Monster Truck started as a side project for Jon Harvey, Jeremy Wilderman, Brandon Bliss and Steve Kiely, but after a couple of EPs and a successful year of touring, the band has taken on a life of its own. “Furiosity” marks Monster Truck's full-length debut and it's a high-octane gathering of 12 tunes that should please hard rock fans everywhere. There's nothing especially original about songs like “The Lion,” “Sweet Mountain River,” “Psychics,” “Undercover Love” and “My Love Is True,” but the guys inject enough life and energy into the music to make “Furiosity” worth a few spins.
Blue Cheer (Rainman)
Bay Area power trio Blue Cheer emerged on the hard rock scene in the late 1960s and quickly scored a hit with a cover of Eddie Cochran's “Summertime Blues.” A series of personnel changes kept Blue Cheer from gaining more momentum, though the band soldiered on just under the radar for the next four decades. “Rocks Europe” is a two-disc live set that was recorded in 2008 in Germany, a year before frontman Dickie Peterson died and Blue Cheer called it quits for good. There are solid renditions of “Babylon,” “Rollin' Dem Bones,” “Summertime Blues” and “Doctor Please,” plus a pair of previously unreleased studio tracks. A nice swan song from an underappreciated band.
‘A Part of Me'
Madison McKenzie (Madi M)
Newcomer Madison McKenzie looks to elbow her way onto a crowded country music scene with the release of enjoyable full-length debut “A Part of Me.” The Illinois native wrote half of the 10 tracks on the record, but it's her strong vocals that might set her apart from the crowded pack. Opener “My Friend” does a nice job setting the tone and luring the listener in, and McKenzie impresses on personal favorite “Waiting on Your Love,” “Give Me a Reason,” “That Is the Truth,” “Leaving Loving You” and “Gone But Not Forgotten.” Here's hoping she manages to make a name for herself.
‘Blaze of Glory'
Marshall Chapman (Tallgirl)
Marshall Chapman has been making twang-tastic rock ‘n' roll since the late 1970s and at age 64 clearly has no intention of going gently into the good night with the release of her 13th full-length “Blaze of Glory.” Chapman's voice still sounds terrific and she gets some help on the 11-track gem from high-profile pals like Todd Snider, Will Kimbrough and Casey Wood. Chapman and Snider set the tone with opener “Love in the Wind” and she also soars on “I Don't Want Nobody,” “Beyond Words,” “Blues Stay Away From Me,” “Waiting for the Music” and the set-closing title track.
‘Not Without Work and Rest'
Last Good Tooth (Team Love)
I'm not sure why it took Last Good Tooth's “Not Without Work and Rest” two years to see the light of day, but at least we now have an opportunity to revel in this near-perfect 12-track collection of tunes. Mixing everything from indie folk and Americana to indie rock and slacker punk, Last Good Tooth have fashioned one of the year's best debuts. Recorded in the summer of 2011, the songs still sound fresh and original. There are no misfires on “Not Without Work and Rest,” but the quartet soar highest on “Look What I Made,” “What's What I Do,” “Some Kind of Pair,” “Gambling,” “To Whatever,” “Problems Leave Out of Mouths” and “For Sleep.” Highly recommended.
‘Songs From the Vanished Frontier'
Yellowbirds (Royal Potato Family)
Sam Cohen thought his musical career might be over when indie outfit Apollo Sunshine (sadly) called it quits in 2009, but the talented singer/songwriter has soared to even greater heights with new project Yellowbirds. Debut album “The Color” generated some buzz upon its release in 2011, and Yellowbirds take things to the next level on stellar sophomore set “Songs From the Vanished Frontier.” This is a remarkably eclectic gathering of nine songs that finds Cohen dabbling in folk, pop and rock to tremendous effect. After a middling start with “Stop Tonight,” Yellowbirds find their wings with “Mean Maybe,” “Love Stories,” “Young Men of Promise,” “The Vanished Frontier” and “What's Out There.”
When Saints Go Machine (!K7)
Danish electronic/indie pop four-piece When Saints Go Machine earned heaps of praise for its 2011 full-length debut “Konkylie” and I was eager to hear what frontman Nickolaj Manuel Vonsild and his mates would come up with next. By itself, “Infinity Pool” is a good record ... but compared to its predecessor, the 12-track release doesn't stack up. Sure, there are some terrific moments — “Love and Respect” with Killer Mike, “System of Unlimited Love,” “Degeneration,” “Webs” — but they seem to be fewer and farther between. I'm not ready to write off WSGM, it's far too talented, but they've shown us it can do better.
‘The Wrong Way'
Rotting Out (6131)
Hardcore outfit Rotting Out try to make your ears bleed on latest album “The Wrong Way,” a blisteringly relentless 11-track release that steamrolls by in just 26 minutes. The Los Angelenos create plenty of mayhem on a record that should help them broaden their fan base beyond the Southern California hardcore community. The title track launches the slab in breakneck fashion and Rotting Out doesn't ease off the throttle until the dynamite “Bangarang” brings things to a close. Along the way are keepers “One More Kiss,” “Stab,” “No Clue” and “Three of Us.” If you're looking for an outlet for that pent-up aggression, “The Wrong Way” is the right choice.
‘Directions for Daylight'
The Trophy Fire (Greyday)
Alt-rock trio the Trophy Fire first caught my ear a couple years ago with rock-solid sophomore album “Modern Hearts.” It seemed a less-wimpy version of bands like Coldplay and Snow Patrol and I figured a bright future was in store. Well, the Bay Area lads have yet to capture the mainstream's attention and they're back for more of the same on third full-length “Directions for Daylight.” The 10-song record is good, though not quite essential, and finds the Trophy Fire burning bright on “Hey Dreamer,” “Spinning,” “Crystal Skyline,” “Greedy Files” and “Young Blood.” Perhaps someday soon it will put everything together for a special album.
Highness (Magic Bullet)
With a lineup that includes five members with experience in almost a dozen other bands, Highness is no stranger to the music business. That said, “Hold” is its first album together and it's a nine-track release that flirts with greatness. These experienced musicians blend elements of post-hardcore, indie rock, emo — with a healthy dose of experimentation thrown in for good measure — and the results are (mostly) excellent. My favorite song, oddly enough, is the quiet instrumental “Forking Roads,” which offers a respite from hard-driving tunes like “If You Found Out, I Would Stay,” “We're All We Need” and “Crepuscular Rays.”
‘Second Hand Rapture'
MS MR (Columbia)
Boy-girl chillwave duo MS MR (Lizzy Plapinger handles vocals, while Max Hershenow takes care of the music) rode Bat for Lashes-meets-Adele single “Hurricane” to a tasty record deal and first effort “Secondhand Rapture” shows some promise. The aforementioned “Hurricane” is the highlight of the 12-track platter, though MS MR also score with “Bones,” “Fantasy,” “Salty Sweet” and “No Trace.” Plapinger's voice is the duo's biggest strength and it's put to good use here. This could be the start of something special.
To the Wind (Pure Noise)
Screamo newcomers To the Wind bring the needed energy — if not much originality — to the party on by-the-numbers debut slab “Empty Eyes.” Fans of the genre should get a jolt out of the 10-track release, but I don't think those who don't care much for hardcore are going to rethink their stance. “Without Warning” is a very good song, as are the title track, “New Note,” “Counterfeit” and “Downpour.” But even though the record clocks in at less than half an hour, I found my attention wandering down the homestretch.
Jeffrey Sisk is an editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161 ext. 1952, or firstname.lastname@example.org.