OPENING GIBBERISH

In late 1982, I caught my first Rush concert (on the "New World Tour" supporting Signals). A month later, I saw what I assumed would be one of the final Who concerts ever (on "The Who Tour 1982" supporting It's Hard). Fast-forward 33 years and again I saw Rush (for the 12th time) and The Who (for the 8th time). And as in 1982, the shows were a month apart. It's strange (and sad) to think that both of these shows will truly be the last time, but it sure sounds like it. Nicely, both have put out nice souvenirs (video and audio) from these tours (details on both follow). Who knows, if I'm lucky, I may be able to catch ELO for the first time since 1981 (assuming the current tour comes to the US). 1982? 1981? Yes, I'm old.

Anyway, here's this year's review. Like last year, there's a lot of albums on here - although I notice this one has a suprisingly high number of live albums. The related links this year include links to Soundcloud and Livestream along with YouTube, and the first time I haven't been able add samples links to an album (the reason will be obvious when you read that entry). Enjoy the list.


LIVE ALBUMS

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Eels
Royal Albert Hall

E introduces "Mansions Of Los Feliz" as "sweet, soft, bummer rock", and that pretty much captures the feel for the first half of the performance. They pick things up a bit in the second half, but the whole concerts really fits in with the feel of their last studio album, The Cautionary Tales Of Mark Oliver Everett. Nobody does "bummer rock" quite like Eels. The songs are emotional and mood of the music fits the lyrics perfectly. If you like Eels quieter side, you'll love this album. It's a tremendous performance.

tracks: "Where I'm At", "When You Wish Upon A Star", "The Morning", "Parallels", "Mansions Of Los Feliz", "My Timing Is Off", "A Line In The Dirt", "Where I'm From", "It's A Motherfucker", "Lockdown Hurricane", "A Daisy Through Concrete", "Grace Kelly Blues", "Fresh Feeling", "I Like Birds", "My Beloved Monster", "Gentleman's Choice", "Mistakes Of My Youth / Wonderful, Glorious", "Where I'm Going", "I Like The Way This Is Going", "Blinking Lights (For Me)", "Last Stop: This Town", "The Beginning", "Can't Help Falling In Love", "Turn On Your Radio", "Flyswatter", "The Sound Of Fear"

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The Jam
Fire And Skill

Fire And Skill is a career-spanning live box set, and it's done in a clever way. The box contains six discs. Each has a separate Jam concert - one for each year from 1977 (when their debut album was released) through their farewell tour in 1982. The sound is phenomenal, and the concept really shows the evolution of the band. By the time you get to the discs from the 80's, the band seems miles away from their 1977 form. The concept works especially well for The Jam because of their insistence on moving new material (including single b-sides) into the set for each tour. Across the six CDs, there's are 74 unique songs, and only 10 appear more than twice. Brilliant concept and extremely well done. I'd love to see other bands do something like this.

tracks: (Live At The 100 Club - 11th September 1977): "I've Changed My Address", "Carnaby Street", "The Modern World", "Time For Truth", "So Sad About Us", "London Girl", "In The Street Today", "Standards", "All Around The World", "London Traffic", "Heat Wave", "Sweet Soul Music", "Bricks And Mortar", "In The City", "Art School", "Back In My Arms Again", "Slow Down", "In The Midnight Hour", "Sounds From The Street", "Takin' My Love", "In The City"

tracks: (Live At The Music Machine - 2nd March 1978): "The Modern World", "London Traffic", "I Need You", "The Combine", "Aunties And Uncles", "Standards", "Here Comes The Weekend", "Sounds From The Street", "News Of The World", "London Girl", "In The Street Today", "Bricks And Mortar", "In The Midnight Hour", "Carnaby Street", "All Around The World", "Slow Down", "News Of The World" [sound check]

tracks: (Live At Reading University - 16th February 1979): "The Modern World", "Sounds From The Street", "Away From The Numbers", "All Mod Cons To Be Someone", "It's Too Bad", "Mr Clean", "Billy Hunt", "In The Street Today", "Standards", "Tonight At Noon", "Down In The Tube Station At Midnight", "News Of The World", "Here Comes The Weekend", "Bricks And Mortar / Batman", "The Place I Love", "David Watts", "Heat Wave", "'A' Bomb In Wardour Street"

tracks: (Live At Newcastle City Hall - 28th October 1980): "Dreamtime", "Thick As Thieves", "Boy About Town", "Monday", "Going Underground", "Pretty Green", "Man In The Corner Shop", "Set The House Ablaze", "Private Hell", "Liza Radley", "Dreams Of Children", "The Modern World", "Little Boy Soldiers", "But I'm Different Now", "Start!", "Scrape Away", "Strange Town", "When You're Young", "The Eton Rifles", "Billy Hunt", "Down In The Tube Station At Midnight", "To Be Someone", "'A' Bomb In Wardour Street", "David Watts"

tracks: (Live At Hammersmith Palais - 14th December 1981): "The Gift / Down In The Tube Station At Midnight", "Man In The Corner Shop", "Ghosts", "Absolute Beginners", "Town Called Malice", "Set The House Ablaze", "That's Entertainment / Tales From The Riverbank", "Precious", "Happy Together", "In The Crowd / David Watts", "Boy About Town", "Pretty Green", "Funeral Pyre", "Circus", "Going Underground", "Big Bird", "Little Boy Soldiers"

tracks: (Live At Wembley Arena - 2nd December 1982): "Start!", "It's Too Bad", "Beat Surrender", "Away From The Numbers", "Ghosts", "In The Crowd", "Boy About Town", "Get Yourself Together", "All Mod Cons", "To Be Someone", "Smithers-Jones", "The Great Depression", "Precious", "Move On Up", "When You're Young", "David Watts", "Private Hell", "Down In The Tube Station At Midnight", "Mr Clean", "Trans-Global Express", "Going Underground", "The Butterfly Collector", "Dreams Of Children", "The Gift"

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Jeff Lynne's ELO
Live In Hyde Park

NOTE: Normally, I only review albums and not DVD-only releases. Made an exception for this one.

Jeff Lynne finally returned to ELO, although now billed as "Jeff Lynne's ELO". Long-time ELO keyboard player Richard Tandy is along for the ride, but the rest of the band are mix of Take That's backing band and the BBC Concert Orchestra. Having real strings again makes the songs come alive. This is how I'd always wanted to hear ELO live. The enthusiastic crowd response seemed to fire up Jeff for more ELO work (the album mentioned below and a UK tour). If you're an ELO fan, you definitely need to see this. The only disappointment is that the encore, "Roll Over Beethoven" was left out of the US release.

The disc also includes the 2012 documentary Mr Blue Sky: The Story of Jeff Lynne & ELO. The documentary is excellent, although they don't cover the ELO years as in-depth as I would have hoped for.

YouTube: "Mr. Blue Sky"

tracks: "All Over The World", "Evil Woman", "Ma-Ma-Ma Belle", "Showdown", "Livin' Thing", "Strange Magic", "10538 Overture", "Can't Get It Out Of My Head", "Sweet Talkin' Woman", "Turn To Stone", "Steppin' Out", "Handle With Care", "Don't Bring Me Down", "Rock 'n' Roll Is King", "Telephone Line", "Mr. Blue Sky"

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Johnny Marr
Adrenalin Baby: Johnny Marr Live

Adrenalin Baby catches Marr and his band on the tour for his second album, Playland. Along with songs from his two solo albums, Marr mixes in a few Smiths standards. I wasn't sure how they'd sound with Marr singing instead of Morrissey, but they sound great. Terrific live album - absolutely worth picking up.

tracks: "Playland", "The Right Thing Right", "Easy Money", "25 Hours", "New Town Velocity", "The Headmaster Ritual", "The Messenger", "Back In The Box", "Generate! Generate!", "Bigmouth Strikes Again", "Boys Get Straight", "Candidate", "Getting Away With It", "There Is A Light That Never Goes Out", "Dynamo", "I Fought The Law", "How Soon Is Now?"

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Rush
R40 Live

Announced as their final large-scale tour, "R40 Live" was one of the most clever concepts for a rock concert that I've ever seen. The band opened with a few songs from their last studio album, Clockwork Angels. The stage set looked similar to how it looked on that tour. Next, they played songs from the prior album, Snakes & Arrows. While those songs were playing, roadies were removing set decoration and replacing it with the corresponding pieces from that tour. Over the length of the tour, Rush basically "rewound" their career. The songs got progressively older and the stage decoration and amps kept getting smaller and smaller. During the seventies part of the set they pulled out the double-neck guitars and shot giant lasers over the crowd (like you did back then). They wound back all the way to what looked like the band was playing in a high-school gym. Really, really clever.

Along the way, Rush hit an interesting cross-section of their catalog. The obvious staples like "Tom Sawyer", "The Spirit Of Radio", "Closer To The Heart", and a big chunk of "2112" are in the setlist. They also dug deep, including songs like "Jacob's Ladder", "Lakeside Park", and "What You're Doing" that Rush hadn't played in well over 30 years. For the show recorded for R40 Live, they even throw in "Losing It", a song from Signals that they'd never played live and brought Ben Mink to perform his violin part from the original recording. The performances are top-notch (as you'd expect), and the film is really worth watching.

Over the course of the tour, Rush rotated some songs in and out of the set, and bonus tracks on the CD add all the other songs in (the video only has a few). An impressive career closer for Rush (assuming this is truly it). Both the CD and video are worth getting. If you didn't get to go to the tour, definitely get the video. It's a must-see for Rush fans.

tracks: "The Anarchist", "Headlong Flight", "Far Cry", "The Main Monkey Business", "How It Is", "Animate", "Roll The Bones", "Between The Wheels", "Losing It" [with Ben Mink on violin], "Subdivisions", "Tom Sawyer", "YYZ", "The Spirit Of Radio", "Natural Science", "Jacob's Ladder", "Hemispheres: Prelude", "Cygnus X-1 / The Story So Far", "Closer To The Heart", "Xanadu", "2112: Overture / The Temples Of Syrinx / Presentation / Grand Finale", "Lakeside Park", "Anthem", "What You're Doing", "Working Man"

bonus tracks: "One Little Victory", "Distant Early Warning", "Red Barchetta", "Clockwork Angels", "The Wreckers", "The Camera Eye", "Losing It" [with Jonathan Dinklage on violin]

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Roger Waters
Roger Waters The Wall

In 1979 and 1980, Pink Floyd played a handful of Wall concerts. Roger Waters performed a one-off show at the Berlin Wall (with loads of guest stars) in 1990. From 2010 to 2013, Waters finally mounted a real Wall tour. The arrangement of the music was basically the same as the previous shows, but added in "The Ballad Of Jean Charles de Menezes", which basically serves as an extended coda to "Another Brick In The Wall - Part 2". The big update was the visuals. As with the other shows, a physical wall was built in between the band and the crowd, but the dazzling, detailed images and animations projected on it were amazing. The projections could make the flat bricks look like they were carved out of stone, like the whole wall was revolving or exploding, or that giant banners were being rolled down on top of it. The effect is hard to describe in words. It's a cliché, but you really had to be there.

Now you can... sort of. The film Roger Waters The Wall uses songs from multiple venues to create a single complete show from the tour. Interspersed along the way is moving footage of Roger Waters traveling to visit and pay tribute at the graves of his father and grandfather, both of whom were killed in World Wars. It's a terrific performance - the band sounds amazing, but the live footage is the real stunner. It doesn't completely do justice to the scale of the actual shows, but it'll certainly give you a feel of just how massive everything was. If you're a Roger Waters or Pink Floyd fan, you definitely need to see the film. If you're a fan and you didn't get to go to one of the shows, then you really need to see it. The soundtrack album is excellent. It's simply the concert performance with no additions. The sound is better than on the older Pink Floyd live recording and certainly worth having, but the film is the must-see.

Oh, and get the version of the film with the bonus disc. You'll get the footage from the show that had special appearances by David Gilmour and Nick Mason, plus a load of other clips with behind the scenes footage and mini-interviews.

tracks: "In The Flesh?", "The Thin Ice", "Another Brick In The Wall - Part 1", "The Happiest Days Of Our Lives", "Another Brick In The Wall - Part 2", "The Ballad Of Jean Charles de Menezes", "Mother", "Goodbye Blue Sky", "Empty Spaces", "What Shall We Do Now?", "Young Lust", "One Of My Turns", "Don't Leave Me Now", "Another Brick In The Wall - Part 3", "The Last Few Bricks", "Goodbye Cruel World", "Hey You", "Is There Anybody Out There?", "Nobody Home", "Vera", "Bring The Boys Back Home", "Comfortably Numb", "The Show Must Go On", "In The Flesh", "Run Like Hell", "Waiting For The Worms", "Stop", "The Trial", "Outside The Wall"

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John Wetton and The Les Paul Trio
New York Minute

This is an unusual little live album. Asia singer John Wetton is backed by The Les Paul Trio, who backed Paul's apparances at the Iridium Jazz Club in New York in the mid-2000's. The trio has guitar, bass and piano, and Wetton is just singing, so the feel is very laid back, very jazzy and casual. The set list is an interesting set of covers that closes out with Asia's "Heat Of The Moment" and "Battle Lines" from one of Wetton's solo albums. Wetton's in fine voice (as expected), and the laid-back feel really works. Definitely worth a listen.

Livestream: Video recording of the whole show (John Wetton comes on at the 35 minute mark).

tracks: "Do It Again", "What's Going On", "God Only Knows", "Can't Find My Way Home", "All Along The Watchtower", "New York Minute", "Lady Madonna", "Heat Of The Moment", "Battle Lines"

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The Who
Live In Hyde Park
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The Who
Live Show Digital Downloads

Live In Hyde Park captures "The Who Hits 50" Tour (described by Roger Daltrey as "the beginning of the long goodbye") in full stride. When I saw the band here in Columbus, they sounded a little ragged, especially on "A Quick One While He's Away". For the Hyde Park show (recorded a month and a half later), the band is firing on all cylinders. "A Quick One" was dropped and "Pictures Of Lily" added (due to an email request from Paul Weller), otherwise the set's the same - and the band just tears through the material. Daltrey's voice is strong and Townshend's playing is superb. As has been The Who's recent history, it's a "greatest hits" set and they hit most of the big FM staples and fan favorites. You're gonna skip "Substitute"? Really?

The accompanying film has the whole show (although "The Seeker" is moved to the bonus tracks for some reason). Along the way are brief "cut-ins" with Pete, Roger, Johnny Marr, Iggy Pop and Paul Weller. They're a nice addition - they don't detract. Along with "The Seeker", the bonus features include the impressive background films for "The Kids Are Alright" and "You Better You Bet" and a cool little animated short film set to the studio version of "Squeeze Box" using John Entwistle's drawings from The Who By Numbers cover as source material.

For this tour, The Who also made FLAC and MP3 versions of each show available for download. Sound is great. If you saw a show, go buy a download (assuming they're still available).

tracks: (Live In Hyde Park): "I Can't Explain", "The Seeker", "Who Are You", "The Kids Are Alright", "Pictures Of Lily", "I Can See For Miles", "My Generation", "Behind Blue Eyes", "Bargain", "Join Together", "You Better You Bet", "I'm One", "Love, Reign O'er Me", "Eminence Front", "Amazing Journey", "Sparks", "Pinball Wizard", "See Me, Feel Me", "Baba O'Riley", "Won't Get Fooled Again"

tracks: (Live Show Digital Download for Columbus, OH): "I Can't Explain", "The Seeker", "Who Are You", "The Kids Are Alright", "I Can See For Miles", "My Generation", "Behind Blue Eyes", "Bargain", "Join Together", "You Better You Bet", "I'm One", "Love, Reign O'er Me", "Eminence Front", "A Quick One While He's Away", "Amazing Journey", "Sparks", "Pinball Wizard", "See Me, Feel Me", "Baba O'Riley", "Won't Get Fooled Again"

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Zappa/Mothers
Roxy: The Movie

After more than 40 years, Roxy: The Movie is finally here, packaged as a double set with Roxy: The Soundtrack.

The Movie: Absolutely wonderful. Roxy: The Movie catches a legendary version of the Mothers in peak form. Apart from Zappa's stellar guitar work, the real stars for me were the rhythm section of Chester Thompson (drums), Ralph Humphries (drums) and Ruth Underwood (percussion). The trio of "Echidna's Arf (Of You)", "Don't You Ever Wash That Thing?", and "Cheepnis - Percussion" are just amazing. Absolutely a must-buy for Zappa fans. An amazing video record of one of Frank's most-loved bands in peak form.

The Soundtrack: There's a lot of overlap between Roxy: The Soundtrack and last year's Roxy By Proxy (eight of the ten songs on the soundtrack CD appear on Roxy By Proxy with slight differences in editing and mixing). The two extras are a long, jazzy take on "Cosmik Debris" and longer version of "Be-Bop Tango (Of The Old Jazzmen's Church)" than appears on Roxy & Elsewhere. It's great stuff. But, you're not buying this for the soundtrack, you're buying it for the movie. Consider this a bonus.

YouTube: trailer

tracks (Roxy: The Movie): "Cosmik Debris", "Penguin In Bondage", "T'Mershi Duween", "The Dog Breath Variations / Uncle Meat: Main Theme", "RDNZL", "Inca Roads", "Echidna's Arf (Of You)", "Don't You Ever Wash That Thing?", "Cheepnis - Percussion", "Cheepnis", "I'm The Slime", "Big Swifty", "Be-Bop Tango (Of The Old Jazzmen's Church)"

tracks (Roxy: The Movie [easter egg tracks]): "Pygmy Twylyte", "The Idiot Bastard Son", "Dickie's Such An Asshole", "Cheepnis" [studio session]

tracks (Roxy: The Soundtrack): "Cosmik Debris", "Penguin In Bondage", "T'Mershi Duween", "The Dog Breath Variations / Uncle Meat: Main Theme", "RDNZL", "Echidna's Arf (Of You)", "Don't You Ever Wash That Thing?", "Cheepnis - Percussion", "Cheepnis", "Be-Bop Tango (Of The Old Jazzmen's Church)"


COMPILATIONS

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Pete Townshend
Truancy: The Very Best Of Pete Townshend

Pete Townshend's last solo album of new material was 1993's Psychoderelict. Since then, there's been a couple of greatest hits albums (a single disc in '96 and a double in '05), a series of live albums, resissues of his solo albums and the albums he contributed to for the Meher Baba society in the 70's, and a box set containing his demos for The Who's unreleased Lifehouse album. Truancy is yet another greatest hits album and it's a not a bad overview (although how "A Little Is Enough" got left off is beyond me). The highlight here is Townshend's first two new solo songs since '93. "Guantanamo" has a folk blues feel protesting exactly what you'd think. A little out of character for Pete, but a heck of a song. "How Can I Help You" is classic Townshend pop, something that would have fit on Empty Glass.

Truancy isn't the best introduction to Townshend's solo career (I'd recommend either Empty Glass or the 1996 single disc Coolwalkingsmoothtalkingstraightsmokingfirestoking: The Best Of Pete Townshend if you want a compilation). If you're a big Townshend fan, you definitely need to hear the new songs though. They make the album worth the purchase.

tracks: "Pure And Easy", "Sheraton Gibson", "(Nothing Is Everything) Let's See Action", "My Baby Gives It Away", "Heart To Hang Onto", "Keep Me Turning", "Let My Love Open The Door", "Rough Boys", "The Sea Refuses No River", "Face Dances Part Two", "White City Fighting", "Face The Face", "I Won't Run Anymore", "English Boy", "You Came Back", "Guantanamo", "How Can I Help You"


OTHER NOTEWORTHY RELEASES

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The Anderson Council
Listening Party!

The latest Anderson Council release mixes three originals (one by each long term member) and three covers. Of the originals, the rocking "Almost Anything" is the highlight, but "Questions About Animals" abnd "Yeah" are pretty great as well. The three covers include "My Friend Jack", a cover of a 1967 single by The Smoke. This one's right in the band's wheelhouse - 60's poppy psych. Peter Gabriel's "And Through The Wire" is an unusual choice, but the band nails it. The final cover is Jellyfish's "Joining A Fan Club" and like "My Friend Jack", it's a perfect choice for the band. Overall, a terrific release, although I wish is was a little longer than 20 minutes. You can check it out on cdbaby.

tracks: "Questions About Animals", "Almost Anything", "Yeah", "My Friend Jack", "And Through The Wire", "Joining A Fan Club"

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Black Rivers
Black Rivers

Black Rivers is the new band from former Doves Andy and Jez Williams. Where Doves' lead singer/bassist Jimi Goodwin went in a completely different direction (several of them, actually), Black Rivers sticks their former band's sound - moody, dreamy and hypnotic. The songs are pretty good (although you miss Goodwin's powerful voice). Definitely worth a listen if you (like me) miss Doves, but I'm really hoping the band's hiatus ends soon.

tracks: "Diamond Days", "The Ship", "The Forest", "Harbour Lights", "Voyager 1", "Beyond The Pines", "The Wind That Shakes The Barley", "Age Of Innocence", "Coral Sea", "Deep Rivers Run Quiet"

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Coldplay
A Head Full Of Dreams

After the doom and gloom of Ghost Stories, I was ready to give up on Coldplay. A Head Full Of Dreams surprised me. It's definitely a step back in the right direction, The depressing, muddy sound of Ghost Stories is gone, and the songs are way brighter and upbeat. Feels like it's an album designed to be danced to, especially the lead single "Adventure Of A Lifetime". I don't think it rates with Coldplay's best albums, but it's very good and worth a listen.

tracks: "A Head Full Of Dreams", "Birds", "Hymn For The Weekend", "Everglow", "Adventure Of A Lifetime", "Fun", "Kaleidoscope", "Army Of One", "X Marks The Spot", "Amazing Day", "Colour Spectrum", "Up&Up"

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Gaz Coombes
Matador

Gaz Coombes' solo debut, Here Come The Bombs, could easily have been a Supergrass album. On his second solo album, Matador, Coombes seems to be starting to veer off into his own sound. Matador is a mix of the more laid-back, dramatic Supergrass of Road To Rouen with some electronica mixed in. It's interesting to hear Coombes evolving, but overall, the songs aren't as strong. It's not a bad album, but not the gem that Here Come The Bombs was.

tracks: "Buffalo", "20/20", "The English Ruse", "The Girl Who Fell To Earth", "Detroit", "Needle's Eye", "Seven Walls", "Oscillate", "To The Wire", "Is It On?", "Matador"

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Craig Finn
Faith In The Future

Like Finn's debut, Clear Heart Full Eyes, Faith In The Future has a mellower, folkier feel than his day job with The Hold Steady. "Maggie I've Been Searching For Our Son" is the best of Finn's solo songs. "Newmyer's Roof" and "I Was Doing Fine (Then A Few People Died)" sound like they could easily be Hold Steady songs if you swapped out the acoustic guitars for electric. The album is very good, and overall, I like this album better than his debut. But I really want another Hold Steady album.

tracks: "Maggie I've Been Searching For Our Son", "Roman Guitars", "Newmyer's Roof", "Sarah, Calling From A Hotel", "Going To A Show", "Sandra From Scranton", "Saint Peter Upside Down", "Trapper Avenue", "Christine", "I Was Doing Fine (Then A Few People Died)"

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Foo Fighters
Saint Cecilia

Release as a free "thank you" to the fans, the Saint Cecilia EP is a heck of a thank you. The five songs are terrific top to bottom. "Saint Cecilia" and "Sean" are Foo Fighters at their catchiest. "Savior Breath" (nice pun) is heavy rock, "Iron Rooster" is a nice ballad, and "The Neverending Sigh" cranks the amps back up to wrap the EP. It's excellent, and it's FREE. Go get it.

tracks: "Saint Cecilia", "Sean", "Savior Breath", "Iron Rooster", "The Neverending Sigh"

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Pink Floyd
1965

This double-single caused quite a stir when it appeared on Black Friday Record Store Day in the UK. Unannounced and limited to 1,000 copies, 1965 captures the first six songs recorded by Pink Floyd. Two of them, "Lucy Leave" and a cover of Slim Harpo's "I'm A King Bee" have floated around in collector's circles for ages, but the other four songs are brand new.

If you're expecting something along the lines of Pink Floyd's debut album The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn, you're way off base. In 1965, the Floyd was an R&B band (and a pretty good one). The music on this single would slot in nicely on the Nuggets compilations. Four of the songs are Syd Barrett originals (though you'd never realize it). "Double O Bo" combines the Bo Diddley beat with a secret agent theme ("Bo Diddley was a private eye / Hand was fast and his IQ high / DA said "Double O" you won't last / Slow down boy, you livin' too fast"). "Remember Me" and "Butterfly" are really good garage rock. "Walk With Me Sydney", a Roger Waters composition with Richard Wright's then-wife Juliette Gale on backing vocals, is a conventional 60's pop song. You'd never, ever peg that as Roger Waters' writing.

Nitpicking: The sleeve makes it appear like the single would be an outtake from 1968's A Saucerful Of Secrets with the oil slide, the Saucerful font and use of "pinkfloyd" as a single, lower-case word. That visual style is from a whole different era from the music. Heck, I think this incarnation of the band (Syd Barrett, Roger Waters, Nick Mason, Richard Wright, and Rado "Bob" Klose) was called The Tea Set at the time. They later became "The Pink Floyd Sound" after Klose left the band (although the official Pink Floyd Facebook page credits him as a former member of the band).

Release Weirdness - Part 1 (written in early December):
Because of the limited edition, 1965 is now fetching big bucks on eBay if you can find it. The songs were up on Soundcloud for a very brief time, but are now long gone. The band has announced that this material should get a wider release before the end of 2016, but in the short run, you know it'll circulate amongst bootleggers. The rumor has it that this release was done to assert the band's copyright over the material (otherwise, it would expire after 50 years). If they were trying to get something out quickly, why not do a digital release and let more fans have it? Doesn't make sense to me. On the positive side though, it'll be interesting to see if other 60's legends start opening up the vaults for the same reasons. Could be great.

Release Weirdness - Part 2 (written in very early January):
On Christmas Day, 2015, the 1965 EP appeared on iTunes in the UK. No official word about this, so I'm not sure if it will hit the US or not. So, my rant needs an update. Yes, it's nice that they put out a digital version. The fans who were lucky enough to score the single still get a very cool collectable, and the rest of the fans still get a chance to hear this rarity. By why just the UK? Why not iTunes everywhere? If anything, this will make any bootlegging issue even worse because UK fans can now burn a CD of 1965, which can spread even faster. C'mon guys. Just release it everywhere.

Recommended? If you're fan of the early Floyd you really need to hear this. It's so different from anything else Barrett did with the Floyd, and it's a fascinating listen. Hope you can find a copy.

tracks: "Lucy Leave", "Double O Bo", "Remember Me", "Walk With Me Sydney", "Butterfly", "I'm A King Bee"

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Pete Townshend
Classic Quadrophenia

Classic Quadrophenia couples a Royal Philarmonic Orchestra performance of the classic Who album using arrangements by Pete Townshend's partner Rachel Fuller, Alfie Boe filling in for Roger Daltrey on vocals, and guest appearances from Pete Townshend, Billy Idol and Phil Daniels (who played "Jimmy" in the 1979 film). On a strictly musical level, the album is amazing. The orchestral arrangements are very true to the original and the power of them is stunning. The highlights are the twin instrumental pieces "Quadrophenia" and "The Rock". The problem with the performance is the vocals. Boe has a tremendous voice but for some reason it just sounds wrong to me. On the 1972 orchestral version of Tommy, the singers were all rock singers, and the voices fit the material better. Overall, Classic Quadrophenia is an interesting listen, especially to hear how well the music works. But overall, it's really just for Who nuts like me.

tracks: "I Am The Sea", "The Real Me", "Quadrophenia", "Cut My Hair", "The Punk And The Godfather", "I'm One", "The Dirty Jobs", "Helpless Dancer", "Is It In My Head", "I've Had Enough", "5:15", "Sea And Sand", "Drowned", "Bell Boy", "Doctor Jimmy", "The Rock", "Love, Reign O'er Me"

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Neil Young + Promise Of The Real
The Monsanto Years

On The Monsanto Years, Neil teams up with Promise Of The Real, a band led by Willie Nelson's son Lukas. But this isn't a country album - most of it sounds more like Neil with Crazy Horse. "Wolf Moon" is the lone execption - it's got a folky, country feel that's kind of out of step with the rest of the album. Like 2009's Fork In The Road, The Monsanto Years is basically a concept album. The focus is on agrochemical company Monsanto, but the influence of corporations in general are part of the mix. The most blantant song is "A Rock Star Bucks A Coffee Shop", a rail against Starbucks for the allegations of using GMO products ("Yeah, I want a cup of coffee but I don't want a GMO / I like to start my day off without helping Monsanto"). The song itself is sloppy garage rock that feels kinda forced, like Neil came up with the title and tried too hard to use it. "Big Box" is right out of the Crazy Horse playbook, and it's the best thing on here. Overall, a much better album than I was expecting. OK, "Wolf Moon" feels like it's on the wrong album. Apart from that, The Monsanto Years is a really good album of Neil's garage-rock.

Nitpicky critique: For some reason Neil and the band pronounce "Monsanto" as "Mon-SAHN-to" instead of "Mon-SAN-to". Maybe that's the Canadian pronounciation, but it sounds really weird every time I hear it.

tracks: "A New Day For Love", "Wolf Moon", "People Want To Hear About Love", "Big Box", "A Rock Star Bucks A Coffee Shop", "Workin' Man", "Rules Of Change", "Monsanto Years", "If I Don't Know"


THE TOP TEN FOR 2015

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#10
Dweezil Zappa
Via Zammata'

Since 2008, Dweezil Zappa had been focused on Zappa Plays Zappa, his touring tribute to his father's music. The band has released several excellent live albums, and they pull off the intricacies of Frank's music surprisingly well. Via Zammata' uses the same band, but the material is all Dweezil's, making this his first solo album since 2006. I'd heard a bit of his very early solo stuff, and what I heard had a metal edge that wasn't really my thing so I haven't followed his solo career so this album was a very nice surprise. The knotty instrumental opener, "Funky 15", feels like a little poppier version of Frank's more complex works. However, the album isn't just Dweezil mimicking his dad's style. "Malkovich" couples a bizarre monologue from John Malkovich to a rocking melody and "Just The Way She Is" sounds like it wants to be a hit (but it's just a touch too weird).

"Dragon Master" is the one song that doesn't quite fit with the rest of the album. It's a collaboration - Frank wrote the lyrics for Dweezil to set to music. Dweezil's described the lyric as Frank parodying metal clichés, but Dweezil's taken it to it's end point by giving it a full metal treatment. The Middle-Eastern flavor of the intro (played on an oud) is really cool, but the metal of the main song isn't really my taste - but it is really well done.

The comparisons are natural (especially given the ZPZ project), but Via Zammata' doesn't sound like a Frank Zappa pastiche, it's a great album on its own merits.

YouTube: sneak peek

tracks: "Funky 15", "Rat Race", "Dragon Master", "Malkovich", "On Fire", "Nothing", "Hummin'", "Truth", "What If", "Jaws Of Life", "Just The Way She Is", "Billionaire's Son"

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#9
Paul Weller
Saturns Pattern

Saturns Pattern shows Weller mixing and matching styles, and it really works. The album opens with the hard rock and distorted vocals of "White Sky". After that, the album quickly shifts gears into the piano pop of the title track and the excellent "Going My Way" and back into guitar rock on "Long Time". "Pick It Up" and "These City Streets" are unusually long songs that let Paul experiment a bit and both sound great. It's not up there with his classics like Wild Wood and Stanley Road, but it's a big improvement over the dance experiments of the disappointing Sonik Kicks.

tracks: "White Sky", "Saturns Pattern", "Going My Way", "Long Time", "Pick It Up", "I'm Where I Should Be", "Phoenix", "In The Car...", "These City Streets"

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#8
Julia Holter
Have You In My Wilderness

Have You In My Wilderness is a collection of lush, dreamy pop and it's pretty amazing. The elegant opener "Feel You" (with its strings that keep reminding me of the soundtrack to Once) and the Pet Sounds-flavored "Sea Calls Me Home" are the big standouts, but the rest of the album is just as good. The epic "Lucette Stranded On The Island", the moody "How Long?" and "Night Song" add a much quieter feel. "Everytime Boots" peps things up a bit, but in general, this is a very laid-back, quiet, beautiful listen.

tracks: "Feel You", "Silhouette", "How Long?", "Lucette Stranded On The Island", "Sea Calls Me Home", "Night Song", "Everytime Boots", "Betsy On The Roof", "Vasquez", "Have You in My Wilderness"

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#7
David Gilmour
Rattle That Lock

Just David Gilmour's fourth solo album, and his first in seven years, Rattle That Lock is a mix of songs that could easily slot onto a latter-day Pink Floyd album and a songs that are more out-of-character. On the Floyd side, you have the instrumentals that show off Gilmour's signature guitar sound ("5 A.M.", "Beauty", "And Then...") and mellower songs like "A Boat Lies Waiting". In the surprise category you have the subtle funk/dance feel of "Rattle That Lock". "Faces Of Stone" makes me think of Pink Floyd crossed with Kurt Weill. "Dancing Right In Front Of Me" has a jazzy feel, and "The Girl In The Yellow Dress" goes all the way to cocktail jazz - it's a big change of pace, but it kinda works. As always, Gilmour's guitar work is superb and his voice has aged well. It's been a long time since Gilmour's last album - I hope Rattle That Lock isn't the last.

tracks: "5 A.M.", "Rattle That Lock", "Faces Of Stone", "A Boat Lies Waiting", "Dancing Right In Front Of Me", "In Any Tongue", "Beauty", "The Girl In The Yellow Dress", "Today", "And Then..."

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#6
Glen Hansard
Didn't He Ramble

Glen Hansard's first solo album stayed pretty faithful to the sound of the Once soundtrack and the two Swell Season albums. On his second, Hansard seems to be going in a little quieter direction, but the songs are still powerful. "Grace Beneath The Pines" is a dramatic slow burn, and a big highlight. "Paying My Way" has a similarly dramatic feel. On the Once soundtrack, Hansard covered Van Morrison's "Into The Mystic" - "Her Mercy" on this album channels a bit of Van's sound (and it works perfectly). "McCormack's Wall" brings a Celtic flavor, especially the fiddle outro. Overall, this album is a little more folky than the last one, but it's a stunner.

tracks: "Grace Beneath The Pines", "Wedding Ring", "Winning Streak", "Her Mercy", "McCormack's Wall", "Lowly Deserter", "Paying My Way", "My Little Ruin", "Just To Be The One", "Stay The Road"

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#5
The Everlasting Yeah
Anima Rising

The Everlasting Yeah, made up of four former members of That Petrol Emotion, roll out groove after groove on their debut, Anima Rising. The opening song, "A Little Bit Of Uh-Huh & A Whole Lotta Oh Yeah", sets the tone - coupling a repeated chant with a killer hook that feels like it you could just let it play on and on. The album isn't all full-blast though - "Hoodlum Angels" and "Everything Is Beautiful" add some mellower touches. The album ends huge though, with the Velvet Underground groove of "All Around The World" and the epic closer, "The Grind", which ends up being both a closer and a summary of the album. "The Grind" rocks, it has mellow moments, it's catchy as hell, and it builds up to an intense finish. A superb debut.

tracks: "A Little Bit Of Uh-Huh & A Whole Lotta Oh Yeah", "(Whatever Happened To The) Hoodlum Angels", "New Beat On Shakin' Street", "Taking That Damn Train Again", "Everything Is Beautiful", "All Around The World", "The Grind"

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#4
The Waterboys
Modern Blues

The first Waterboys album since 2011 (and the album of Waterboys originals since 2007), Modern Blues is a slight change in sound for The Waterboys. There's a lot of the rockier feel of A Rock In The Weary Land and a few hints of the Waterboys Celtic influences every now and then, but a soul feel is in the mix now, and it sounds great. "Destinies Entwined" opens the album with the folky fiddles overrun by loud guitars. "November's Tale" almost sounds like Paul Weller's soulful side. An interesting pair of songs is the bluesy "Rosalind (You Married The Wrong Guy)" followed by the rocking love song "Beautiful Now" which pairs a charming lyric backed by driving Hammond-fueled rock. Best Waterboys album since the Nineties.

tracks: "Destinies Entwined", "November Tale", "Still A Freak", "I Can See Elvis", "The Girl Who Slept For Scotland", "Rosalind (You Married The Wrong Guy)", "Beautiful Now", "Nearest Thing To Hip", "Long Strange Golden Road"

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#3
Jeff Lynne's ELO
Alone In The Universe

Depending on how you want to look at it, Alone In The Universe is either the studio debut of "Jeff Lynne's ELO", or it's the 13th Electric Light Orchestra studio album. Either way, it's Jeff Lynne's first album of new material since the last ELO album, 2001's Zoom. Like Zoom, this album is basically a one-man show. Jeff Lynne is credited with lead and background vocals, guitars, piano, bass, drums, keyboads and vibes. The only other musicians are engineer Steve Jay (tambourine, shakers), and Jeff's daughter Laura (background vocals on two songs). Long time ELO keyboard player Richard Tandy is in the live band, but not on the album.

So, how's the album? Terrific. Like Zoom, Alone In The Universe is generally along the lines of ELO's eighties albums, especially Time. The biggest highlights are the autobiographical opener "When I Was A Boy", the soulful "Love And Rain", and the lovely "The Sun Will Shine On You". "When The Night Comes" adds in a surprising reggae beat, and "One Step At A Time" hints at ELO's late 70's disco phase. As a long-time ELO fan, I still miss the strings (there are keyboards taking the place of strings), but the songs are great and Lynne's voice sounds basically like it did in ELO's heyday. Another terrific comeback.

tracks: "When I Was A Boy", "Love And Rain", "Dirty To The Bone", "When The Night Comes", "The Sun Will Shine On You", "Ain't It A Drag", "All My Life", "I'm Leaving You", "One Step At A Time", "Alone In The Universe"

Amazon.com bonus tracks: "Fault Line", "Blue"

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#2
Richard Thompson
Still

Despite a big-name producer (Wilco's Jeff Tweedy), Still sounds like vintage Richard Thompson showing off his brilliant guitar work and terrific songwriting. It's more electric that his last release, Electric. Only "Josephine" is an acoustic ballad. The rest are all electric, ranging from the high-energy "No Peace, No End" and "All Buttoned Up" to the moody opener "She Never Could Resist A Winding Road". The album closes with "Guitar Heroes", a clever twist on Chris Spedding's "Guitar Jamboree". Thompson sings about his guitar heroes (Django Reinhardt, Les Paul, Chuck Berry, James Burton, The Shadows) with a little burst of playing in that hero's style between verses. Even though he's copying other players, Thompson's wizardry shines through. Thompson's albums are usually very good, but this one is especially good. Excellent stuff.

The deluxe edition of the album includes the Variations EP, recorded (but not released) last year by Thompson's "Electric Trio" touring band, and the sound is in the same style as the main album. "Fork In The Road" is a classic Thompson rocker that he debuted on the last Richard Thompson Eletric Trio tour. It was great live, and it's amazing here as well. "The May Queen" is a dramatic ballad, and a slab of folky snark ends the album with "Fergus Laing" ("Fergus he builds and builds / Yet small is his erection / Fergus has a fine head of hair / When the wind's in the right direction"). I'll let you guess who the target of the song is. You got that it's Donald Trump, right?

tracks: "She Never Could Resist A Winding Road", "Beatnik Walking", "Patty Don't You Put Me Down", "Broken Doll", "All Buttoned Up", "Josephine", "Long John Silver", "Pony In The Stable", "Where's Your Heart", "No Peace No End", "Dungeons For Eyes", "Guitar Heroes"

tracks (Variations EP): "Fork In The Road", "Wounding Myself", "The May Queen", "Don't Take It Laying Down", "Fergus Laing"

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#1
Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds
Chasing Yesterday

"Riverman" opens Noel Gallagher's second solo album on a surprising note. It's far moodier than anything on the debut (and even throws in a little Dark Side-style sax along the way). "The Right Stuff" has a slinky seventies feel to it (and the sax is back on this one). Of course, Noel is not going to completely reinvent himself. "Lock All The Doors" (with shades of David Essex's "Rock On") and "You Know We Can't Go Back" are classic Gallagher rockers in the mould of Definitely Maybe or Morning Glory-era Oasis. The mellow "The Dying Of The Light" would slot in nicely on Noel's first solo album. The best song on the album is the closer, "Ballad Of The Mighty I". There's a little of the dance groove of "AKA... What A Life!", a string arrangement, and some guest guitar from Johnny Marr. It's Gallagher's best yet. Chasing Yesterday is every bit as good as the debut, maybe even better.

Definitely go for the deluxe edition, by the way. Yes, it has a long remix of "In The Heat Of The Moment" that didn't do much for me, but the rocking "Do The Damage" is one of the best songs on the album, and the excellent "Freaky Teeth" (debuted on the first tour) makes a studio debut here.

tracks: "Riverman", "In The Heat Of The Moment", "The Girl With X-Ray Eyes", "Lock All The Doors", "The Dying Of The Light", "The Right Stuff", "While The Song Remains The Same", "The Mexican", "You Know We Can't Go Back", "Ballad Of The Mighty I"

bonus tracks: "Do The Damage", "Revolution Song", "Freaky Teeth", "In the Heat of the Moment" [Toydrum Remix]