I always worry about whether I'll find ten "worthy" albums to make the top ten, and there have been some years where it was close. Not this year though. My final selection is pulled from eighteen candidates, the most I've had in a while. As a result, I've added a new section, titled "Close, But Not Quite" to hold the overflow. In general, this year's edition seems particularly big with fifty total entries. Yikes! That seemed like a lot, so I looked back. 2010 was my stingiest year with only twenty entries, and 2000 had fifty-eight. Double-yikes! And as far as text, this year's is definitely the largest, by quite a bit. Oh, and my dream Who box set finally came out this year. As a result, there's a whole separate page devoted just to that (the link is below in the review). It's gonna take you a while to get through this one. You're welcome … or … my apologies.

Enjoy the list.


cover art
Tom Verlaine

He plays lead guitar with angular inverted passion like a thousand bluebirds screaming. - Patti Smith

Tom Verlaine had a wildly influential career with a profile miles under the radar. Verlaine and his bandmates in Television literally built the stage at CBGB and were the first rock band to play at the legendary club back in 1974. A whole scene eventually developed around the club leading to influential albums from Patti Smith, Ramones, Blondie, Talking Heads and many others. He played lead guitar on Patti Smith's debut single "Hey Joe" in 1974 as well as on "Break It Up" from her celebrated 1975 debut, Horses, but Television's landmark debut album would wait until 1977.

Marquee Moon coupled Verlaine's wavering voice with an unbeatable twin guitar sound and eight stellar songs. Richard Lloyd (an all-time great in his own right) brought the rock and roll edge, and Verlaine brought a more avant-garde, jazz-influenced sound. The combination was perfect, but the rock radio didn't notice. The band recorded an excellent follow-up, Adventure, but neither album sold well, and the band broke up. Verlaine had a solo career that like Television is made up of excellent albums that went largely unnoticed. Since then, Verlaine reconvened Television for a third album, recorded a few more solo albums. Since his last solo album in 2006, he recorded with "The Million Dollar Bashers" for the soundtrack to I'm Not There and reunited Television for a show from time to time, but never really became a star. And who knows, that may have been the plan all along. Seems like he was better known as the Strand bookstore's best customer than as a guitar hero.

For anyone who's a fan of dazzling guitar work, Marquee Moon is an absolute must-hear. It's a little like the Velvet Underground's famous debut album in the sense that maybe not many people heard it, but it's influenced scores of other bands, and it's a total classic in its own right. The other two Television studio albums are stellar as well. Verlaine's solo career doesn't quite match the highs of Television, but Tom Verlaine and Flash Light are damn close. I've seen a quote attributed to Carlos Santana, "Your grandmother should be able to recognize your playing if she heard you on the radio." Tom Verlaine was one of those types of players. As soon as you've heard him, his sound is immediately identifiable, and always superb. We lost one of the greats.


cover art
Big Country
Driving To Damascus
Deluxe Edition

Back in 1991 I wrote:

The departures of 1991's No Place Like Home are long-gone, but the no-frills rock and roll and pretty ballads on Driving To Damascus make it Big Country's best album since that release. If it wasn't for the "one-hit wonder" stigma keeping them off US radio, I think Driving To Damascus could have produced some big hits. "See You" and "Fragile Thing" are terrific ballads, "Dive Into Me" and "Perfect World" are great driving rock. Lyrically, Stuart Adamson is sharp as ever, especially on "Trouble The Waters" and "Fragile Thing", although I'll confess I haven't the faintest idea what "The President Slipped And Fell" is supposed to be about! Ignore the "one-hit wonder" thing and forget the now-long-gone "bagpipe" guitars and check this one out.

The 4 CD deluxe edition of Driving To Damascus includes a ton of bonus material. The main album has been expanded to include the misleadingly titled six-song "Nashville Sessions". They were indeed recorded in Nashville, but these are not country versions of the originals. Instead, they're near-live versions recorded versions to be used for radio sessions when the band couldn't be in the station. Big Country recorded fresh versions of four of the songs from the album, plus two "oldies": "Chance" and "Look Away". The 2nd disc collects the B-sides from the various singles along with a bunch of alternate mixes. "I Get Hurt" and "John Wayne's Dream" are as good (and maybe better) than the album tracks. When the album was reconfigured for the US market, both of those songs were added, and the album title was changed to John Wayne's Dream. The alternate mixes are an interesting listen. They give a nice insight into the recording of the album, but the right mixes were used on the final album. The box closes out with two full CDs of demos showing off the wealth of material the band had to work with. The unused material is mostly on par with the album, with "Birmingham" the star of the show. It's also every bit as good as the selected songs. Like the other recent deluxe Big Country sets, these were recorded long after their initial buzz had faded, but Driving To Damascus was a superb final album.

tracks (Original Album and Nashville Sessions): "Driving To Damascus", "Dive In To Me", "See You", "Perfect World", "Somebody Else", "Fragile Thing", "The President Slipped And Fell", "Devil In The Eye", "Trouble The Waters", "Bella", "Your Spirit To Me", "Grace", "Driving To Damascus" [Nashville Session], "Perfect World" [Nashville Session], "Fragile Thing" [Nashville Session], "Dive In To Me" [Nashville Session], "Chance" [Nashville Session], "Look Away" [Nashville Session]

tracks (B-Sides and Alternate Mixes): "I Get Hurt", "John Wayne's Dream", "Dust On The Road", "Loserville", "This Blood's For You", "If I Had A Nickel", "Sleep Until Dawn", "Another Misty Morning", "Fragile Thing" [single edit], "Somebody Else" [single edit], "Dive In To Me" [Rafe Mix], "Perfect World" [Rafe Mix], "The President Slipped And Fell" [Vocal Up Mix], "Devil In The Eye" [Vocal Up Mix], "Bella" [Vocal Up Mix], "This Blood's For You" [Rafe Mix], "Fragile Thing" [Vocal Up Mix], "Your Spirit To Me" [Vocal Up Mix With Middle Eight Vocal In]

tracks (Demos 1): "Driving To Damascus" [first version], "Dive In To Me" [demo], "See You" [demo], "Perfect World" [demo], "Somebody Else" [demo], "Fragile Thing" [demo], "The President Slipped And Fell" [demo], "Devil In The Eye" [demo], "Trouble The Waters" [first version], "Bella" [demo], "Your Spirit To Me" [demo], "Grace" [demo], "I Get Hurt" [demo], "Loserville" [demo], "This Blood's For You" [demo], "You Want Me To Go" [demo], "I'm On This Train" [demo], "Small Town Big News" [demo]

tracks (Demos 2): "Driving To Damascus" [second version], "Trouble The Waters" [second version], "This Blood's For You" [alternative mix], "You Want Me To Go" [alternative mix], "I'm On This Train" [alternative mix], "Ages Of A Man" [demo], "Birmingham" [demo], "Sun And My Shadow" [demo], "Living By Memory" [demo], "Don't You Stay" [demo], "Cimarron" [demo], "Second Time Around" [demo], "Without Wings" [demo], "Daystar" [demo], "Medicine Show" [demo], "Sweet November Nothings" [demo], "Simple's Always Best" [demo], "Soldier Of The Lord" [demo]

cover art
The Mothers
Over-nite Sensation
Super Deluxe Edition

What is this shit? - Ike Turner after Tina played him the recording of her and the Ikettes nailing the "I'm pluckin' the ol' dennil floss" vocal on "Montana"

After Frank's detour into big band jazz-rock (see the review of Waka/Wazoo below), Zappa made another big change and began what became his defining seventies sound. Zappa reset the balance towards rock (while leaving some jazz flavor in the mix), stepped up his brilliant guitar soloing, and added lyrics that wandered between social commentary, silliness, and Frank's infamous smutty humor. This edition of The Mothers also included two band members with prestigous solo careers of their own: keyboardist George Duke and violinist Jean-Luc Ponty.

"I'm The Slime" is one of Frank's great commentary songs, combining a great riff with a monologue attacking network television and a fiery guitar solo at the end. "Camarillo Brillo" is a surreal song about an encounter with a woman who "ruled the Toads of the Short Forest and every newt in Idaho". The closing number is one of Frank's most famous, "Montana", his ode to the lonely dental floss farmer. And Ike's comment aside, Tina Turner and the Ikettes do a terrific job on background vocals on the album. Frank's smutty side comes back on "Dinah-Moe Humm" and "Dirty Love". While not as bad as the "groupie routine" from the Flo & Eddie era, neither song really fits a modern sensibility very well. And in a detour into the weird, Frank brought in Ricky Lancelotti who kind of scream-sings the lead on "Zomby Woof" and occasional background vocals elsewhere. His vocals are best in small doses. I've read Over-nite Sensation described as an accessible point for newbies. This era is definitely a good starting point, and while "Camarillo Brillo", "I'm The Slime" and "Montana" are great intros, I'd still aim newbies towards One Size Fits All or Apostrophe (').

The Super Deluxe Edition adds a bunch of rarities and sessions outtakes, a partial show from Hollywood and a shorter-than-normal show from Detroit. The "Bonus Sessions Masters" include early versions of four songs that would show up on albums released between 1975 and 1981 ("Wonderful Wino", "Inca Roads", "RDNZL". "For The Young Sophisticate") and single edits of two songs from the main album. "RDNZL" is a superb version, and "For The Young Sophisticate" is a terrific studio version of a song that would be officially released as a live version. The fact that Zappa bothered to make single edits is kind of amazing considering the utter lack of radio play he got on "Top 40" radio (although he was a favorite of Dr. Demento). "I'm The Slime" is a different mix with a shortened guitar solo, and "Montana" has a soulful intro added and the guitar solo removed. Both are really interesting listening.

The "Bonus Vault Sessions" are less polished and show more variations from the released versions. "X-Forts", a demo of "Echinda's Arf (Of You)", is an interesting listen, but doesn't have the power the final version would have on Roxy And Elsewhere. The alternate mix of "Camarillo Brillo" is really cool. The "Basic Track Outtake" version of "I'm The Slime" adds a different feel in general, and a much longer band outro. If you're a fan of the album, there's a lot of stuff in here you'll enjoy.

Both live performances were recorded before Over-nite Sensation was released, so most of the live tracks here were unheard by the audience at the time. The Hollywood Palladium show, recorded before the Over-nite Sensation sessions started, includes the soon to be recorded "Montana" and an early version of "I'm The Slime" along with twenty-minute-plus versions of "Dupree's Paradise" (which never did get a rock band studio recording), and "Don't You Ever Wash That Thing?" would show up on Roxy And Elsewhere (although without the epic improv section in this version). The show even includes a five-minute percussion piece featuring marimbist Ruth Underwood and drummer Ralph Humphries and Zappa himself on drums as well. The Cobo Hall show, recorded near the end of the album sessions, includes some old favorites like the "Dog Breath" / "Uncle Meat" medley and a medley of "King Kong", "Chunga's Revenge" and "Son Of Mr. Green Genes". The rest of the show focuses on material that would show up on the next album, Apostrophe ('): "Cosmik Debris" and the "Don't Eat The Yellow Snow" suite. The only Over-nite Sensation song that makes the cut is "Fifty-Fifty". It's kind of amazing. Frank hadn't even finished recording one album, and his band was already playing large chunks of material that would appear on its follow-up.

Frank Zappa was always a prolific composer. The bonus sessions and especially the live shows will show you how far ahead he was working. If you like his mid-seventies stuff, you really need to hear this.

Personal aside: "I'm The Slime" was the first Frank Zappa song I ever heard, although I didn't hear it until three years after it was released. I was almost fourteen, and Zappa performed on what was then called "NBC's Saturday Night" (you young'uns know it as "Saturday Night Live"). Frank performed "I'm The Slime" with his horn-driven Zappa In New York band, complete with Don Pardo reading the monologue and slime pouring out over an in-studio monitor. I loved it but didn't pick up a Zappa album until I heard "Dancin' Fool" a couple of years later. I've linked the video below. The picture quality is so-so, but it's an excellent performance.

tracks (Over-nite Sensation): "Camarillo Brillo", "I'm The Slime", "Dirty Love", "Fifty-Fifty", "Zomby Woof", "Dinah-Moe Humm", "Montana"

tracks (Bonus Session Masters): "Wonderful Wino" [Complete Edit], "Inca Roads" [1973 Version, 2023 Mix], "RDNZL" [1973 Mix], "For The Young Sophisticate" [Dolby EQ Copy], "I'm The Slime" [Single Version], "Montana" [Single Edit with Intro]

tracks (Bonus Vault Sensations): "Inca Roads [Bolic Take-Home Mix]", "RDNZL [Take 2]", "X-Forts (aka Echidna's Arf (Of You))", "Camarillo Brillo [Alternate Mix]", "Face Down (aka I'm The Slime) [Demo]", "I'm The Slime [Basic Track Outtake]", "Dirty Love [Session Rehearsal]", "Dirty Love [With Quad Guitar]", "Fifty-Fifty [Pipe Organ Intro Improvisations]", "Fifty-Fifty [Basic Tracks, Take 7]", "Dinah-Moe Humm [Session Rehearsal]", "Dinah-Moe Humm [Bolic Take-Home Mix]", "Montana [Bolic Take-Home Mix])"

tracks (Live In Hollywood, California, Hollywood Palladium - March 23, 1973): "Montana", "Dupree's Paradise (Intro)", "Dupree's Paradise", "Cosmik Debris", "The Dynamic Sal Marquez!", "Big Swifty", "…The Successor To Willie The Pimp", "The Curse Of The Zomboids (aka I'm The Slime)", "Don't You Ever Wash That Thing?", "FZ & The Percussion Section", "Palladium Jam - Part 1", "Palladium Jam - Part 2"

tracks (Live In Detroit, Michigan, Cobo Hall - May 12, 1973): "Cobo Hall '73 Band Intros And Sound Check", "Exercise #4", "Dog Breath", "The Dog Breath Variations", "Uncle Meat", "Fifty-Fifty", "Inca Roads", "FZ Introduces the Don't Eat The Yellow Snow Medley", "Don't Eat The Yellow Snow", "Nanook Rubs It", "Alfonzo's Pancake Breakfast", "Father O'Blivion", "Alfonzo's Pancake Breakfast (Reprise)", "Join The March", "Cosmik Debris", "King Kong / Chunga's Revenge / Son Of Mr. Green Genes"

Blu-ray contents:

  • Stereo, Dolby Atmos, Dolby TrueHD 5.1
  • Dolby TrueHD version of Frank Zappa's original 1973 Quadrophonic mix
cover art
Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers
Extra Mojo Version

Back in 2010 I wrote:

Mojo shows a whole different side of Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers. The sound is way bluesier than any other Petty album, and there are a lot more extended jams for the band to stretch out. "Running Man's Bible", "Let Yourself Go", and especially "Lover's Touch" are Chicago-style electric blues, but it's not all pure blues. "First Flash Of Freedom" sounds like it could be The Allman Brothers, and "I Should Have Known It" could have fit on an early Led Zeppelin album. Additionally, "Something Good Coming" is a terrific bluesy ballad that would have fit on any Petty album. There are a couple of weaker tracks on here, but overall, the album's terrific and definitely better than 2006's Highway Companion.

The digital-only "Extra Mojo Version" of Mojo adds two songs (three if you had a physical copy of the original) and a 13-minute documentary (at least on iTunes). The new songs are a cover of Sonny Boy Williamson's "Help Me", which sounds perfect on this bluesy album. It's a great performance. The other is an original. "Mystery Of Love" is fabulous. I have no idea why this didn't make the original cut of the album. If you had a physical copy before, the "Little Girl Blues" will be new to you, and it's excellent as well. The documentary looks to be from 2010, and it's an interesting watch.

If you really enjoyed Mojo, the extra tracks are worth it. It's an out-of-character album for Petty, so the new material isn't going to make converts. When I gave the album a fresh listen, the "couple of weaker" tracks don't disappoint me anymore. If anything, my opinion of the album just went up. It was a change-of-pace for the band, but it's a great, great album.

tracks: "Jefferson Jericho Blues", "First Flash Of Freedom", "Running Man's Bible", "The Trip To Pirate's Cove", "Candy", "No Reason To Cry", "I Should Have Known It", "U.S. 41", "Takin' My Time", "Let Yourself Go", "Don't Pull Me Over", "Lover's Touch", "High In The Morning", "Something Good Coming", "Good Enough", "Help Me", "Mystery Of Love", "Little Girl Blues"

cover art
25th Anniversary Edition

Back in 1998 I wrote:

As the sessions for Up began, drummer Bill Berry told the band he wanted out as long as he was assured the band wouldn't break up over his departure. The new trio started over on the album, looking for a new sound. The end result is another slight change of pace for R.E.M. Some of Up is reminiscent of the lighter songs on Out Of Time and Automatic For The People, and the rest is out of left field, especially the moody, atmospheric opener "Airportman". "At My Most Beautiful" is an attempt to write a Brian Wilson-style pure love song, and it's one of the best things R.E.M. has ever done. Other highlights include the edgy "Lotus", the gorgeous "Daysleeper" and the dramatic "Sad Professor". R.E.M. has somehow managed to keep reinventing itself over the years, and haven't lost a step along the way. In some ways, it's hard to believe the band that recorded Chronic Town and Murmur back in the early 80's is the same band that recorded Up, but it still does sound like R.E.M. Somehow, they've done it again.

The 25th anniversary edition of Up adds a 1999 performance recorded for the TV series "Party Of Five". The show only needed one song, "At My Most Beautiful", but the band used the taping as an excuse for a tour rehearsal and played an hour long, eleven-song set. Fortunately, the whole set was recorded, and it's included here. In the intro, Michael Stipe explains that the band hadn't seen each other "since Thanksgiving" (the show was recorded the following February) and warned the crowd that if they "fucked up", they'd probably stop and talk about it.

They didn't "fuck up"; well, generally not enough to stop mid-song, anyway. The exceptions being "I'm Not Over You" which got interrupted by a charming story by Michael about writing his first song on guitar, and they make a second pass at the chorus of "Parakeet". In general, Michael is a far chattier mood than he'd be at a conventional concert, so this is a very different experience. The band sounds terrific, especially if you consider the lack of preparation (this is a rehearsal, after all). The set is mostly songs from Up, with a few old favorites mixed in. The new songs sound great (and a bit different) live, although oddly enough "At My Most Beautiful" is not in the set, presumably because they already played that for filming. It's a wonderful little curio - not a proper live album, but really engaging anyway. Definitely worth upgrading an old copy to hear this.

tracks (Up): "Airportman", "Lotus", "Suspicion", "Hope", "At My Most Beautiful", "The Apologist", "Sad Professor", "You're In The Air", "Walk Unafraid", "Why Not Smile", "Daysleeper", "Diminished", "Parakeet", "Falls To Climb"

tracks (Party Of Five Taping): "What's The Frequency, Kenneth?", "Lotus", "Daysleeper", "Country Feedback", "Walk Unafraid", "Losing My Religion", "Parakeet", "The Apologist", "It's The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)", "I'm Not Over You", "Man On The Moon"

Blu-ray contents:

  • 5.1 and Hi-Resolution mixes
  • Electronic Press Kit ("This Way Up")
  • Performance on "Uptake" (five songs)
  • Music videos for "Daysleeper", "Lotus", and "At My Most Beautiful"
cover art
Life On Other Planets
Deluxe Expanded Reissue

Back in 2002 I wrote:

Life On Other Planets is a continuation of the changes Supergrass showed on their 1999 self-titled album. Along with the power pop of the last album, they also add in some lighter touches like the shuffling "Never Done Nothing Like That Before", and the harmony-laden "Grace". Mind you, they still blast full-volume rockers like the opening pair, "Za" and "Rush Hour Soul". A great album.

The new Deluxe Expanded Reissue adds two new discs to the set, titled Extras Terrestrial and Live Forms. Extras Terrestrial is a mix of B-sides to the album's singles, a bunch of demos, and some outtakes from the original album. The demos are very cool - they've got a rough energy that makes them almost sound live. The B-sides are a fun departure from the sound of the main album. The highlights there are a top-notch cover of Neil Young's "The Loner" and the high-energy "Tishing In Windows", and "That Old Song", which could really could've made the main album. The outtakes are four instrumentals, ranging from the ethereal "Tronic" to the odd "Dark Star" and "Life On Other Planets" which I could imagine bookending the album. As you'd expect, Live Forms is a collection of live tracks from several different sources: four different concerts, and some acoustic performances from radio appearances. The live tracks are tremendous and take nice advantage of new member Rob Coombes' keyboards. The four acoustic tracks are a real treat. It's a side of Supergrass you don't hear very often.

Absolutely worth an upgrade.

tracks (Life On Other Planets): "Za", "Rush Hour Soul", "Seen The Light", "Brecon Beacons", "Can't Get Up", "Evening Of The Day", "Never Done Nothing Like That Before", "Funniest Thing", "Grace", "La Song", "Prophet 15", "Run",

tracks (Extras Terrestrial): "Dark Star", "Za" [Helioscentric Demo], "Rush Hour Soul" [Helioscentric Demo], "Everytime", "Seen The Light" [Helioscentric Demo], "I Told The Truth", "The Loner", "Brecon Beacons" [Helioscentric Demo], "Can't Get Up" [Helioscentric Demo], "Evening Of The Day" [Helioscentric Demo], "Funniest Thing" [Helioscentric Demo], "Stinkfinger", "Velvetine", "Electric Cowboy", "Tishing In Windows (Kicking Down Doors)", "That Old Song", "La Song" [Helioscentric Demo], "Prophet 15" [Helioscentric Demo], "Tronic", "Life On Other Planets"

tracks (Live Forms): "Za" [Live At Elysée Montmartre], "Rush Hour Soul" [Live At Elysée Montmartre], "Seen The Light" [Live At Elysée Montmartre], "Brecon Beacons" [Live At Elysée Montmartre], "Can't Get Up" [Live At Heineken Music Hall], "Evening Of The Day" [Live At Wembley Arena], "Never Done Nothing Like That Before" [Live At Elysée Montmartre], "Funniest Thing" [Live At Wembley Arena], "Grace" [Live At Wembley Arena], "La Song" [Live At Wembley Arena], "Prophet 15" [Live At V2002], "The Loner" [Live At Elysée Montmartre], "Run" [Live At Elysée Montmartre], "Rush Hour Soul" [Live Acoustic], "Seen The Light" [Live Acoustic], "Evening Of The Day" [Live Acoustic], "Can't Get Up" [Live Acoustic]

cover art
Deluxe Edition

The first four Ultravox albums with Midge Ure are excellent. It's a close call, but for my taste, Quartet is the best of the four. The band got criticism at the time for "selling out" by switching producers to the legendary George Martin, but the album just sounds great. I don't hear any compromises in the band's sound. The album opens with one of their best ever songs, "Reap The Wild Wind", and runs from one terrific track to another. "Hymn" couples lyrics seemingly inspired by The Lord's Prayer with a spectacular vocal from Ure. "Cut And Run" is a catchy rocker with chilling lyrics about a suicide. "The Song (We Go)" closes out the album with a synthy rocker sung from the point of view of the song itself. Granted, Quartet doesn't have any that matches the title track of Vienna, but overall, it's the better album.

Like the box sets issued for the first two Midge Ure-era Ultravox albums, the Quartet box includes a Steven Wilson remix (a stereo mix on the CDs and a 5.1 mix on the DVD), rarities, rehearsal recordings and a full concert. The Steven Wilson stereo mix sounds great and there's a few tweaks to the album, but nothing radical. The changes work very nicely. It's a nice touch that four of the B-sides were included, but they're not that great. "Hosanna (In Excelsis Deo)" and "Monument" are moody instrumentals, "Overlook" is pretty bad, and "Break Your Back" worse.

The extended mixes and single mixes on the B-sides and rarities disc are interesting but none are better than the album versions. The three live singles are terrific, although there's more of that to come later. The cassette rehearsals are interesting listening. They're mostly instrumental run-throughs of the whole album for the band's use. The sound quality is certainly not perfect, but hey, they weren't intended for anyone outside the band to hear. The monitor mixes sound like rehearsal takes as well, but they're a lot closer to the final versions and in much better quality.

A year after Quartet was released, Ultravox released a live video (that combined live footage with clips from promo videos) and a soundtrack EP from the Quartet tour, both titled Monument. The soundtrack was made up of the instrumental B-side "Monument" and five songs from their four-night stand at the Hammersmith Odeon in December of 1982.As Monument is available as a CD/DVD set with a couple of bonus live tracks added to the EP, the box instead includes the complete final Hammersmith show. This time around, the band has three albums of material to choose from, so the set is all album tracks. For a band that has synths as such a big component of their sound, the band doesn't sound like they're just recreating the album. There's a lot more live feel than you might expect. A cool highlight is "The Voice" - the song ends with all four members on drums (well, Warren Cann is on his drum kit, the other three are on single synth drums) playing a long percussive outro to the song. The band sounds great on the whole show, and Midge Ure's powerful voice makes the transition from the studio to the stage with ease. The album is the sound of a band hitting their stride.

tracks (Quartet): "Reap The Wild Wind", "Serenade", "Mine For Life", "Hymn", "Visions In Blue", "When The Scream Subsides", "We Came To Dance", "Cut And Run", "The Song (We Go)"

tracks (Steven Wilson Stereo Mix): "Reap The Wild Wind", "Serenade", "Mine For Life", "Hymn", "Visions In Blue", "When The Scream Subsides", "We Came To Dance", "Cut And Run", "The Song (We Go)", "Hosanna (In Excelsis Deo)", "Monument", "Break Your Back", "Overlook"

tracks (Singles | B-Sides | Rarities): "Reap The Wild Wind" [extended], "Hosanna (In Excelsis Deo)", "Hymn" [single version], "Monument", "The Thin Wall" [live], "Visions In Blue" [single version], "Break Your Back", "Reap The Wild Wind" [live], "We Came To Dance" [single version], "Overlook", "We Came To Dance" [extended], "Serenade" [single version], "Serenade" [special remix], "The Voice" [live]

tracks (Cassette Rehearsals | Monitor Mixes): "Reap The Wild Wind" [cassette rehearsal], "Serenade" [cassette rehearsal], "Mine For Life" [cassette rehearsal], "Hymn" [cassette rehearsal], "Visions In Blue" [cassette rehearsal], "When The Scream Subsides" [cassette rehearsal], "We Came To Dance" [cassette rehearsal], "Cut And Run" [cassette rehearsal], "The Song (We Go)" [cassette rehearsal], "Reap The Wild Wind" [Monitor Mix], "Visions In Blue" [Monitor Mix], "Cut And Run" [Monitor Mix], "Mine For Life" [Monitor Mix], "Hymn" [Monitor Mix], "Serenade" [Monitor Mix], "We Came To Dance" [Monitor Mix]

tracks (Live At Hammersmith Odeon 1982): "Reap The Wild Wind", "When The Scream Subsides", "The Thin Wall", "New Europeans", "We Stand Alone", "I Remember (Death In The Afternoon)", "Visions In Blue", "Mr. X", "Sleepwalk", "The Voice", "Vienna", "Astradyne", "All Stood Still", "Passing Strangers", "Mine For Life", "Hymn", "The Song (We Go)"

DVD Contents:

  • Steven Wilson 5.1 and Stereo Mixes
  • Original 1982 mix
cover art
Midge Ure
The Gift
Deluxe Edition

After the fourth Ultravox album with Ure, Lament, the band took a break and Ure recorded his first solo album. Sound-wise, it's not that different from his work with Ultravox, although it's a little poppier. "If I Was" and "That Certain Smile" are sweet, if offbeat, love songs. "Living In The Past" is a surprising Jethro Tull cover that really makes it sound modern. The best track on the album is "Wastelands" about youth obsession with music. Surprisingly for someone with as powerful a voice as Midge Ure, three of the songs are instrumental. However, they do bog the album down a bit. They'd have made nice B-sides, but they're not as good as the rest of the album. Don't let that put you off those. It's got that hybrid of synthy music and rock with Ure's powerful vocals, so if you're a fan of his Ultravox albums, you should absolutely check this out.

The set also adds related singles and B-sides, some work-in-progress recordings, and a full show from The Gift tour. On the singles disc, two of Ure's 1982 solo singles steal the show. Tom Rush's "No Regrets" and David Bowie's "The Man Who Sold The World" are two perfect songs for Ure to cover. Both get fashioned into Ure's style and seem they should have been originals. "After A Fashion", his single with Japan bassist Mick Karn definitely shows Karn's influence his rubbery fretless bass is a big component of the sound. And the post-Gift single, "Call Of The Wild" is excellent. The 7" versions and extended mixes are nice to have, but don't replace the album versions. However, it's great to have the non-album A-sides together,

The early versions end up feeling like an alternative version of the album. Each of the versions sounds ready for release, but with quite a few differences to the album versions. "If I Was" and the second version of "Wastelands" have much heavier guitar than the album versions. "The Chieftain" is much longer (and in my opinion, better) in its early form. The BBC Session is a performance by Ure and Mick Karn of the A & B-side of their single along with another joint composition, "Remember The Day". The tour rehearsals include the former Spider From Mars Mick Ronson on guitar, although he's replaced by Sensational Alex Harvey Band alum Zal Cleminson for the show on the live disc.

The live set is an impressive performance of a confident set list. The show includes all ten of the main songs from The Gift (skipping only the reprise of the title track). I would have expected Ure to put a bunch of Ultravox material in the set, but only "Sleepwalk" makes the cut. "Fade To Grey" from his time in Visage is in the set, as are a couple of Ure's non-album singles. The show was recorded on December 23, so his co-write "Do They Know It's Christmas?" gets a solo acoustic performance before the band returns to close out the show with "If I Was". Great show.

tracks (The Gift): "If I Was", "When The Winds Blow", "Living In The Past", "That Certain Smile", "The Gift", "Antilles", "Wastelands", "Edo", "The Chieftain", "She Cried", "The Gift" [reprise]

tracks (B-Sides | Extended): "No Regrets", "Mood Music", "The Man Who Sold The World", "After A Fashion" - Midge Ure & Mick Karn, "Textures" - Midge Ure & Mick Karn, "If I Was" [7" Version], "Piano", "That Certain Smile" [7" Version], "The Gift" [Instrumental], "Wastelands", "Call Of The Wild", "After A Fashion" [Extended Version] - Midge Ure & Mick Karn, "If I Was" [Extended Version], "That Certain Smile" [Extended Version], "Wastelands" [Extended Version], "Call Of The Wild" [Extended Version]

tracks (Early Versions | BBC Sessions | Rehearsals): "Wastelands" [Early Version One], "That Certain Smile" [Early Instrumental Version], "The Gift" [Early Version], "If I Was" [Early Version], "Wastelands" [Early Version Two], "When The Wind Blows" [Early Version], "The Chieftain" [Early Version], "She Cried" [Early Instrumental Version], "Edo" [Early Version], "Living In The Past" [Early Version], "Remember The Day" [BBC Saturday Night Live Session], "After A Fashion" [BBC Saturday Night Live Session], "Textural Piece" [BBC Saturday Night Live Session], "Fade To Grey" [Tour Rehearsal 1985], "After A Fashion" [Tour Rehearsal 1985], "No Regrets" [Tour Rehearsal 1985], "Wastelands" [Tour Rehearsal 1985]

tracks (The Gift Live At Wembley '85): "Edo", "Antilles", "When The Wind Blows", "Living In The Past", "That Certain Smile", "Wastelands", "No Regrets", "The Gift", "After A Fashion", "The Chieftain / The Dancer", "Fade To Grey", "She Cried", "Sleepwalk", "Do They Know It's Christmas?", "If I Was"

cover art
The Waterboys
A Rock In The Weary Land
Expanded Edition

Back in 2000 I wrote:

After two brilliant albums recorded under his own name, Mike Scott has finally picked back up the Waterboys name and returned to the "big music" sound of the classic Waterboys albums (In A Pagan Place and This Is The Sea). Well, the name is certainly back, but the sound isn't quite the same as before. The grand sweep of those albums has been replaced by a grit that Scott hadn't attempted before. The result is a vast improvement over the last Waterboys release, Dream Harder, and nearly up to the level of those older gems.

In 2001, A Rock In The Weary Land finally got a US release and two extra tracks were added and the running order slightly changed. This new Expanded Edition takes that US version and adds an entire second CD of outtakes, demos, and live tracks. As you might guess, the bonus disc is a mixed bag. The biggest highlight is the acoustic demo of the best song on the original, "Is She Conscious?". However, the "Funky Thumbs" version is skippable. The live version of "Dumbing Down The World" is pretty great, and the acoustic "Since The Fire Started Burning In My Soul" is tremendous. I'm surprised it wasn't fleshed out into a band version for the album. "Never Been Out Of Love" is a fragment, but it feels like it could have been a terrific rocker for the album. If you enjoyed the original, it's worth getting this as an upgrade.

tracks: "Let It Happen", "The Charlatan's Lament", "Is She Conscious?", "We Are Jonah", "It's All Gone", "My Love Is The Rock In The Weary Land", "Lucky Day / Bad Advice", "His Word Is Not His Bond", "Malediction", "Dumbing Down The World", "The Wind In The Wires", "Night Falls On London", "Crown", "My Lord, What A Morning"

bonus disc: "Fanfare By Thighpaulsandra", "Sad Procession", "Is She Concious?" [Acoustic Demo], "Dumbing Down The World" [Live], "Trouble Down Yonder", "In The Long Low Weary Land", "Wintermind", "Never Been Out Of Love", "Somewhere In The Bleak Mid-Distance Something Beautiful Is Born", "Anatomy Of A Love Affair", "Is She Conscious?" [Funky Thumbs], "Martin Decent", "Time, Space & The Bride's Bed", "Oh Yeah / I'll Be Satisfied", "Carolan's Weird Welcome", "Since The Fire Started Burning In My Soul", "The Height Of His Head", "My Love Is My Rock" [Instrumental with Choir], "It Bends Towards Justice", "The Last Rock Freak Out"

cover art
The Who
Who's Next | Life House
Super Deluxe Edition

It's the best non-concept album based on a concept that The Who ever made. - Pete Townshend

Let me start with a little back story for those of you that aren't Who fanatics.

The Who's Life House is one of the most famous unfinished rock albums. Intended as the follow-up to Tommy, Life House was an ambitious project, set to include a double album and a feature film. Eventually the project was abandoned, and Glyn Johns was brought in to help capture the best of the new songs as a single album. The result was the classic Who's Next, commonly considered to be one of the greatest rock albums of all time. However, Pete Townshend never quite gave up on Life House. In 2000, Pete issued a box set titled Lifehouse Chronicles, which included a slew of Townshend demos for the project and a dramatization of the story as a radio play. Unfortunately, the radio play story is less an adaptation than a completely new work. Townshend had talked about the plot of Life House in numerous interviews, and the radio play wasn't that story.

Many of Pete's demos for the project were released on a 1973 bootleg album titled The Genius Of Pete Townshend (and re-bootlegged under a bunch of other titles). In 1990, a CD titled From Lifehouse To Leeds raised the stakes. It contained top quality recordings of outtakes from the album (along with some similarly excellent outtakes from Live At Leeds). The Who's label finally caught up and Who's Next was reissued on a single CD in 1995 with a bunch of extras from the original project mixed in. It was reissued again as a double-CD "Deluxe Edition" in 2003, this time adding in a second disc drawn from a show at the Young Vic the band recorded for "reference" while the album was being made.

This COVID-delayed 50th anniversary edition of Who's Next looks to be the definitive take on this era of the band's history. Titled Who's Next | Life House, this massive box set contains 10 CDs, a Blu-ray with surround mixes, a 100-page book of liner notes, a 150-page graphic novel, and various tchotchkes. Along with a remastered Who's Next, the set includes two CDs worth of demos, three CDs worth of outtakes and singles and the like, and two complete concerts: The Young Vic show mentioned before, and a legendary show in San Francisco from later in 1971. The Who also did a little recording before and after the project, and those recordings are here as well. The earliest song on the box is an alternate take on the 1970 single "The Seeker", and the latest are the post-project singles like "Join Together" and "Relay" (which Pete had in mind as candidates for a revamped Life House).

The set is absolutely stunning. The sound is terrific, from the remastered album, through the demos and outtakes, to the live material. There's a ton of material I'd never heard before on this set, and it's uniformly excellent. The graphic novel does a nice job of finally telling the story the way Pete Townshend described it over the years, and the main liner notes have quite a few surprises in there, the biggest being Pete's rather emphatic statement that "Bargain" was in no way, shape or form part of the Life House project, even though it's always been included in various articles about it. There are a ton of highlights in the set. I'd call out these, right off hand:

  • A previously unheard demo, "Finally Over" (which was replaced in the story with "Song Is Over")
  • An unedited 13-minute instrumental demo of "Baba O'Riley"
  • Unedited versions of "Heaven And Hell", "Naked Eye", and "The Seeker"
  • Completely re-recorded versions of "Naked Eye", "Water" and "I Don't Know Myself"
  • A very cool warm up jam to kick off a rehearsal take of "Getting In Tune"
  • … and of course, the two brilliant complete concerts

This is a box set that I've wanted for decades (basically, since the concept of these massive super deluxe editions first appeared), so I've done a more detailed disc-by-disc review of Who's Next | Life House for those who really want to get into the details.

tracks (Who's Next): "Baba O'Riley" [2023 Remaster], "Bargain" [2023 Remaster], "Love Ain't For Keeping" [2023 Remaster], "My Wife" [2023 Remaster], "Song Is Over" [2023 Remaster], "Getting In Tune" [2023 Remaster], "Going Mobile" [2023 Remaster], "Behind Blue Eyes" [2023 Remaster], "Won't Get Fooled Again" [2023 Remaster]

tracks (Pete Townshend's Life House Demos 1970-1971): "Teenage Wasteland", "Too Much", "Going Mobile", "There's A Fortune In Those Hills", "Love Ain't For Keeping", "Bargain", "Greyhound Girl", "Mary" [Alternate Mix], "Behind Blue Eyes", "Time Is Passing", "Finally Over", "Baba O'Riley" [Original Demo], "Pure And Easy" [Home Studio Mix], "Getting In Tune" [Alternative Mix], "Nothing Is Everything (Let's See Action)", "Won't Get Fooled Again", "Baba O'Riley", "Song Is Over" [2021 Remix], "Pure And Easy" [Olympic Studio Mix], "Mary" [Original Mix], "Baba O'Riley" [First Editing Demo], "Song Is Over" [Original Demo]

tracks (Record Plant, NYC Sessions March 1971): "Baby Don't You Do It" [Take 2, Unedited 16 March 1971], "Won't Get Fooled Again" [Take 13, 16 March 1971], "Behind Blue Eyes" [Version 1, Take 15, 16 March 1971], "Love Ain't For Keeping" [Take 14, 17 March 1971], "The Note (Aka Pure And Easy)" [Take 21, 17 March 1971], "I'm In Tune (Aka Getting In Tune)" [Take 6, 18 March 1971], "Behind Blue Eyes" [Version 2, Take 10, 18 March 1971]

tracks (Olympic Sound Studios, London Sessions 1970-1972): "Pure And Easy" [New Unedited Remix], "I Don't Know Myself" [Original Mix With Count In], "Time Is Passing" [Original Mix / Stereo], "Too Much Of Anything" [Original Mix With Count In And Original Vocal], "Naked Eye" [Remake Version], "Bargain" [Early Mix With Single-Tracked Vocal], "Love Ain't For Keeping" [Unedited Remix], "My Wife" [Unedited Remix], "Getting In Tune" [Warm-Up Jam / Take 1], "Going Mobile" [Early Alternate Mix], "Song Is Over" [Backing Track], "When I Was A Boy" [Remix], "Let's See Action" [Unedited Original Mix], "Relay" [Unedited Remix With Alternate Vocal], "Put The Money Down" [Remix With Alternate Vocal], "Join Together" [Unedited Remix]

tracks (Singles & Sessions 1970-1972): "The Seeker" [Original Single A-Side Mix], "Here For More" [Original Single B-Side Mix], "Heaven And Hell" [Stereo Remix], "Water" [Unedited Remix / Twickenham Sessions / 1970], "I Don't Know Myself" [Unedited Remix / Twickenham Sessions / 1970], "Naked Eye" [Unedited Remix / Twickenham Sessions / 1970], "Postcard" [Original Mix / Twickenham Sessions / 1970], "Now I'm A Farmer" [New Remix / Twickenham Sessions / 1970], "The Seeker" [Unedited Version / Full-Length Remix], "Water" [Re-Make / Take 8], "I Don't Know Myself" [Re-Make / Take 16], "Let's See Action" [Original Single A-Side Mix], "When I Was A Boy" [Original Single B-Side Mix], "Join Together" [Original Single A-Side Mix], "Relay" [Original Single A-Side Mix], "Waspman" [Original Single B-Side Mix], "Long Live Rock" [Original Olympic Mix]

tracks (Live At The Young Vic Theatre, London, 1971): "Love Ain't For Keeping", "Pure And Easy", "Young Man Blues", "Time Is Passing", "Behind Blue Eyes", "I Don't Know Myself", "Too Much Of Anything", "Getting In Tune", "Bargain", "Pinball Wizard", "See Me, Feel Me", "Baby Don't You Do It", "Water", "My Generation", "Road Runner", "Naked Eye", "Bony Moronie", "Won't Get Fooled Again"

tracks (Live At The Civic Auditorium, San Francisco, Monday 13th December 1971): "Introduction", "I Can't Explain", "Substitute", "Summertime Blues", "My Wife", "Baba O'Riley", "Behind Blue Eyes", "Bargain", "Won't Get Fooled Again", "Baby Don't You Do It", "Magic Bus", "Introduction To Tommy", "Overture", "Amazing Journey", "Sparks", "Pinball Wizard", "See Me, Feel Me", "My Generation", "Naked Eye", "Going Down"

Blu-ray contents:

  • Steven Wilson Atmos, 5.1 and Stereo Mixes of Who's Next
  • Steven Wilson Atmos, 5.1 and Stereo Mixes of most of the singles & sessions tracks
  • Original 1971 Stereo Mix of Who's Next
cover art
various artists
The Midnight Special YouTube Channel

For those of you not old enough to remember, "The Midnight Special" was a TV series that ran from 1973-1981 and focused on live music performances, usually in their studio in front of a studio audience. There were a couple of shows that used live material recorded elsewhere: notably David Bowie's "1980 Floor Show" special from 1973 and lots of excerpts from a Fleetwood Mac concert from 1976. The music focused on rock, but country, R&B, and soul got quite a bit of time, and early stand-up comedy performances from Steve Martin, George Carlin and Richard Pryor were also in the mix. Yeah, there was a little lip syncing (The Tubes and ABBA) and I've seen at least one live vocal over pre-recorded music (ELO performing a shortened version of "Kuiama"), but I'd say a solid 95% was truly live.

As a 50th anniversary celebration, this YouTube channel was created. Once a week, an uncut episode is aired (they're releasing them in order, so we're up to late 1973 as of this writing). Additionally, a stand-alone song performance is released daily. The variety of artists is just stunning. Personal highlights so far are the original Steely Dan lineup doing "Reelin' In The Years" and "Do It Again", Focus performing a warp-speed version of "Hocus Pocus" that needs to be seen to be believed, Stevie Nicks singing alternate lyrics during Fleetwood Mac's "Rhiannon" and a touching version of "Operator (That's Not The Way It Feels)" by Jim Croce, who would be killed in a plane crash just three months later.

So far, they've released clips from Aerosmith, Argent, Bee Gees, Chuck Berry, David Bowie, The Cars, Cheap Trick, Jim Croce, Electric Light Orchestra, Fleetwood Mac, Focus, Peter Frampton, Genesis (with Peter Gabriel), The Guess Who, Heart, The Hollies, King Crimson (in their Larks' Tongues In Aspic lineup), Curtis Mayfield, Steve Miller Band, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, Linda Ronstadt, Seals & Crofts, Steely Dan, Thin Lizzy, Joe Walsh (with Barnstorm), the Edgar Winter Group, and a ton more. This is a YouTube Channel you easily spend hours just looking around and still not hit it all. And more is coming.

Yeah, I know. This isn't a review of an album or a single, but I wanted to call this out 'cause it's really cool.


cover art
Fleetwood Mac
Rumours Live

We've only been together for a short while so we don't know any more songs so we're gonna jam for ya - John McVie (I think) introducing the three song encore.

The first live album for the late 70's lineup of Fleetwood Mac was the 1980 double album Fleetwood Mac Live, taken mostly from various dates on the Tusk tour. The "rumour" is that this album, while excellent, was heavily overdubbed to clean it up. The second was included in the 2013 deluxe edition of Rumours. Live: 1977 'Rumours' World Tour is a single disc from several different dates. Also excellent, but it felt incomplete. The new double CD Rumours Live tops both by capturing a single, complete performance from the "Fabulous" Forum in Inglewood, CA near the end of the tour. The performance is absolutely electric - easily the best of the three. Fleetwood Mac is only two albums into the Buckingham/Nicks era of the band, and except for "Oh Well (Part 1)", the entire set list is drawn from those two most recent albums. The two albums are the two best of the band's career, so the live album just goes from classic to classic with no let up. The big highlights are when the band stretches out. "Rhiannon" is extended to over eight-minutes with Stevie Nicks singing alternate lyrics and Lindsey Buckingham playing an explosive guitar solo. It gives the song a very different feel. "Gold Dust Woman" ends with a long jam taking the song over the seven-minute mark, and "World Turning" adds a moody center section and a short drum solo. Those aren't the only high points: the album is just packed with great performances. "Over My Head", "You Make Loving Fun", and "I'm So Afraid" are more intense here.

Rumours Live is a perfect complement to Fleetwood Mac and Rumours. Those two albums are picture-perfect pop. This album takes those same great songs and shows you that Fleetwood Mac was also a rock band. If you're a fan of this era of Fleetwood Mac, you need to hear this.

tracks: "Say You Love Me", "Monday Morning", "Dreams", "Oh Well (Part 1)", "Rhiannon", "Oh Daddy", "Never Going Back Again", "Landslide", "Over My Head", "Gold Dust Woman", "You Make Loving Fun", "I'm So Afraid", "Go Your Own Way", "World Turning", "Blue Letter", "The Chain", "Second Hand News", "Songbird"

cover art
BBC Broadcasts

The first CD of the five CD BBC Broadcasts set focuses on the Peter Gabriel years, mostly capturing recordings from BBC programs from 1970 to 1972. The 1970 recordings are gentle, folky performances that you'd probably never peg as Genesis if you didn't recognize Gabriel's voice. The 1971-2 performances are more the early Genesis you'd expect, the band considered one of the pillars of progressive rock. "Watcher Of The Skies", taken a BBC In Concert program recorded on Gabriel's final tour in 1975 rounds out the CD, and it's a great performance.

When you start the second CD, you'll have jumped to 1978 past the short-lived quartet lineup and the …And Then There Were Three lineup with Tony Banks, Phil Collins and Mike Rutherford joined by long-time touring members Daryl Stuermer and Chester Thompson. The first batch also includes several songs from A Trick Of The Tail and a short drum duet from Collins and Thompson.

Following the 1978 tracks, the set hits its centerpiece: a full concert from the Duke tour in 1980. As originally conceived, Duke was going to include a side-long suite made up of "Behind The Lines", "Duchess", "Guide Vocal", a shorter "Turn It On Again", "Duke's Travels", and "Duke's End". After opening with a few older songs, the band performs the full suite in order (with a full "Turn It On Again"). For my money, that suite is the pinnacle of the band's long career, and this performance is breathtaking. For me, this performance alone is worth the price of admission. The show also includes an early version of their "In The Cage" medley that would become the highlight of the Three Sides Live album a few years later.

From the 1980 show, the set makes another large jump forward to highlights of a 1987 show from the Invisible Touch tour. This show picks up highlights from Genesis as well. The band's pop side with "That's All" and "Invisible Touch" is balanced by the long epics "Domino" and "Home By The Sea" The show closes out with a longer, very impressive drum duet from Collins and Thompson and "Los Endos".

A surprising inclusion is two songs by the brief Ray Wilson era from a 1998 show. "Not One Of Us" is a surprising, and pretty acoustic number and "The Dividing Line" another long Genesis epic, but I've got to say it just isn't the same without Collins, Thompson and Stuermer. It's not bad at all, but it just doesn't feel like Genesis without Peter or Phil singing.

The set closes out with an hour-long set from 1992 reuniting the Banks/Collins/Rutherford/Stuermer/Thompson line up. The excerpt has five songs from their underrated reunion album We Can't Dance. When the band kicks into "No Son Of Mine", you know the real band is back. The show also includes a twenty-minute "Old Medley" including songs ranging from "The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway" to "That's All". Ends the set on a high note.

As you listen, you know these recordings come from the BBC because you'll hear various BBC announcers along the way. Nicely, they don't talk over the songs, so it's not a problem. I'm a little surprised nothing from the Steve Hackett quartet era is included and nothing from Abacab made the cut. Could be because Seconds Out and Three Sides Live cover those eras very nicely. As mentioned above, the set is very heavily weighted towards the Phil Collins years, so if you're exclusively a fan of the early years with Peter Gabriel, I'm not sure the full set is for you. But if you're a fan of the band in general, this is a terrific live retrospective.

tracks (various BBC programs, 1970-1975): "Shepherd", "Pacidy", "Let Us Now Make Love", "The Fountain Of Salmacis", "The Musical Box", "Stagnation", "Harlequin", "Get 'em Out By Friday", "Harold The Barrel", "Twilight Alehouse", "Watcher Of The Skies"

tracks (Knebworth Festival, 1978): "Squonk", "Burning Rope", "Dance On A Volcano", "Drum Duet", "Los Endos"

tracks (Lyceum Theatre, London, 1980): "Deep In The Motherlode", "Dancing With The Moonlit Knight", "The Carpet Crawlers", "One For The Vine", "Behind The Lines", "Duchess", "Guide Vocal", "Turn It On Again", "Duke's Travels", "Duke's End", "Say It's Alright Joe", "The Lady Lies", "Ripples", "In The Cage", "The Raven", "Afterglow", "Follow You Follow Me", "I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)", "The Knife"

tracks (Wembley Stadium, London, 1987): "Mama", "Domino", "That's All", "The Brazilian", "Throwing It All Away", "Home By The Sea", "Second Home By The Sea", "Invisible Touch", "Drum Duet", "Los Endos"

tracks (Birmingham N.E.C., 1998): "Not About Us", "The Dividing Line"

tracks (Knebworth Festival, 1992): "No Son Of Mine", "Driving The Last Spike", "Old Medley", "Fading Lights", "Hold On My Heart", "I Can't Dance"

cover art
The Hold Steady
Live In London 3-6-20 Live In London 3-8-20
cover art
The Hold Steady
Heaven Is Whenever 2021
cover art
The Hold Steady
Live At Brooklyn Bowl 11-30-22
cover art
The Hold Steady
Live In London 3-10-23
cover art
The Hold Steady
Live In Portland 4-29-23
cover art
The Hold Steady
Live At Music Hall Of Williamsburg 1-28-23 (20th Anniversary Show)
cover art
The Hold Steady
Live At The Salt Shed 7-1-23

This year's set of official bootlegs include a couple of shows supporting the band's latest, The Price Of Progress. The Brooklyn Bowl show from the 2022 "Massive Nights" residency has a few less-common songs in the set: "Spinners", "The Only Thing" and a cover of Dr. Feelgood's "All Through The City" (played in tribute to the late Wilko Johnson). Live At Music Hall Of Williamsburg 1-28-23 (20th Anniversary Show) captures the band's literal 20th anniversary show. 20 years to the day, same venue, and the band they opened for in 2003 now opens for them. They also make a point of playing every song from their debut album, Almost Killed Me, including every bonus track from the 2016 reiussue. Really clever idea. A particularly interesting set is Heaven Is Whenever 2021. Recorded at a livestreamed soundcheck, the set has the band running through a re-imagined version of Heaven Is Whenever which swaps in some songs and adds a killer guitar solo to the end of "We Can Get Together". Not sure why they titled the release Heaven Is Whenever 2021 though: It was recorded in 2020 and you can hear Craig Finn title it Heaven Is 2020 at the end of the set. Either way, it's terrific. As always, the albums are priced at whatever you want to pay, the proceeds go to charities, and are a must-hear for Hold Steady fans.

Live In London 3-6-20: "Constructive Summer", "Magazines", "Barfruit Blues", "Chips Ahoy!", "Party Pit", "Sequestered In Memphis", "Cattle And The Creeping Things", "You Did Good Kid", "Banging Camp", "First Night", "You Can Make Him Like You", "Denver Haircut", "Lanyards", "Stuck Between Stations", "The Weekenders", "Blackout Sam", "Hot Soft Light", "Entitlement Crew", "Massive Nights", "Your Little Hoodrat Friend", "Slapped Actress", "Hornets! Hornets!", "Stay Positive", "Chicago Seemed Tired Last Night", "Killer Parties"

Live In London 3-8-20: "Positive Jam", "Ask Her For Adderall", "Hurricane J", "Knuckles", "The Prior Procedure", "Stuck Between Stations", "Don't Let Me Explode", "Denver Haircut", "Chips Ahoy!", "You Can Make Him Like You", "The Sweet Part of the City", "Yeah Sapphire", "Sequestered in Memphis", "Blackout Sam", "Constructive Summer", "The Weekenders", "Sweet Payne", "Your Little Hoodrat Friend", "Stay Positive", "Most People Are DJs", "Certain Songs", "Charlemagne in Sweatpants", "Slapped Actress", "Killer Parties"

Heaven Is Whenever 2021: "The Sweet Part Of The City", "Soft In The Center", "Ascension Blues", "The Weekenders", "Hurricane J", "Criminal Fingers", "Our Whole Lives", "We Can Get Together", "Rock Problems", "Separate Vacations", "A Slight Discomfort"

Live At Brooklyn Bowl 11-30-22: "Positive Jam", "The Swish", "Cattle And The Creeping Things", "Party Pit", "Sequestered In Memphis", "Sideways Skull", "Lanyards", "Chips Ahoy!", "Heavy Covenant", "Hurricane J", "First Night", "Spinners", "The Only Thing", "Yeah Sapphire", "Stuck Between Stations", "Family Farm", "Stevie Nix", "Your Little Hoodrat Friend", "Entitlement Crew", "Massive Nights", "Southtown Girls", "Parade Days", "Constructive Summer", "All Through The City", "Killer Parties"

Live In London 3-10-23: "Hornets! Hornets!", "Constructive Summer", "Hurricane J", "Party Pit", "Sixers", "Chips Ahoy!", "Cattle And The Creeping Things", "Sequestered In Memphis", "Spices", "Lord, I'm Discouraged", "Yeah Sapphire", "On With The Business", "Don't Let Me Explode", "Sideways Skull", "The Weekenders", "Stuck Between Stations", "Your Little Hoodrat Friend", "Massive Nights", "Crucifixion Cruise", "Slapped Actress", "First Night", "Denver Haircut", "Confusion In The Marketplace", "Killer Parties"

Live In Portland 4-29-23: "Stuck Between Stations", "Barfruit Blues", "Hurricane J", "On With The Business", "Chips Ahoy!", "Denver Haircut", "Perdido", "Sequestered In Memphis", "T-Shirt Tux", "Sideways Skull", "We Can Get Together", "Flyover Halftime", "Entitlement Crew", "Family Farm", "Don't Let Me Explode", "Constructive Summer", "Confusion In The Marketplace", "Your Little Hoodrat Friend", "Massive Nights", "Unpleasant Breakfast", "Most People Are DJs", "Hornets! Hornets!", "Ask Her For Adderall", "Girls Like Status", "Killer Parties"

Live At Music Hall Of Williamsburg 1-28-23 (20th Anniversary Show): "Positive Jam", "The Swish", "Curves And Nerves", "Stuck Between Stations", "You Gotta Dance (With Who You Came With)", "Hostile, Mass.", "Knuckles", "Sketchy Metal", "Constructive Summer", "Barfruit Blues", "Milkcrate Mosh", "Sideways Skull", "Sequestered In Memphis", "Hot Fries", "Heavy Covenant", "Modesto Is Not That Sweet", "Entitlement Crew", "Sweet Payne", "Your Little Hoodrat Friend", "Massive Nights", "Most People Are DJs", "Certain Songs", "The Weekenders", "Chips Ahoy!", "Killer Parties"

Live At The Salt Shed 7-1-23: "Stuck Between Stations", "Barfruit Blues", "You Can Make Him Like You", "Family Farm", "Stevie Nix", "Multitude Of Casualties", "Carlos Is Crying", "Sequestered In Memphis", "Heavy Covenant", "Sideways Skull", "The Sweet Part Of The City", "Yeah Sapphire", "Sixers", "Chips Ahoy!", "Banging Camp", "Constructive Summer", "Hot Soft Light", "Unpleasant Breakfast", "Your Little Hoodrat Friend", "Southtown Girls", "Slapped Actress", "First Night", "Hostile, Mass.", "Girls Like Status", "Killer Parties"

cover art
Amy Rigby
Live At The Hi Fi Bar

An official release of a good-sounding audience recording, Live At The Hi Fi Bar captures a show from Amy Rigby's 2015 residency at the Hi Fi Bar in Manhattan. The show is primarily solo, but Amy's daughter Hazel joins her on bass and vocals for a couple of songs, and her husband Wreckless Eric adds guitar and vocals to another eight songs late in the set. Amy sounds great, and her mix of tunefulness and humor shines through. She pulls in a few songs from her early bands ("Dark Angel" from The Shams and "At The Wheel" from Last Roundup) and they hold up nicely with her solo work. She even goes for a comedy bit around a phone call that doesn't work ('cause you can't hear the fake phone call), but somehow that makes it all extra charming. Again, the sound is definitely not soundboard, but it's a great performance.

tracks: "Rode Hard", "Playing Pittsburgh", "Dark Angel", "How When Where", "The Summer Of My Wasted Youth", "At The Well", "Wheels", "As Is", "Keep It To Yourself", "Down Side Of Love", "Needy Men", "Til The Wheels Fall Off", "Are We Ever Gonna Have Sex Again?", "Property Shows", "Slow Burner", "Genovese Bag", "We're Stronger Than That", "Do You Remember That?", "Don't Ever Change", "Beer & Kisses"

cover art
The Who
The Who With Orchestra: Live At Wembley

The Good:

For The Who's 2019 tour, the band toured with a violinist, a cellist and a conductor to lead a local fifty-strong orchestra each night. The shows were broken into three main sections: a handful of songs from Tommy and some other hits, a middle section with just the band, and a final section with the orchestra back mainly focusing on Quadrophenia. The results are tremendous. The orchestra doesn't soften the band's impact, it just adds extra depth and really fills out the sound. The gigantic highlight for me was the instrumental "The Rock", from Quadrophenia. The original recording included horns and strings and hearing the band tear through the song with those horns and strings present is a treat. The tour started before the album Who came out, but "Hero Ground Zero" (seemingly built for this format) and "Ball And Chain" made the set anyway. A big surprise was the inclusion of the ballad "Imagine A Man" from The Who By Numbers. It's nothing The Who would have ever played live before, but it worked nicely with the orchestral backing. Another surprise was that "Won't Get Fooled Again" was not the set closer as it's been for decades. Instead, it was played with Roger singing over Pete's acoustic guitar during the middle section. It was an interesting thing to try, but I would have liked to have heard it with the full orchestra. "Baba O'Riley" was the closer instead, and it's a real highlight.

Don't let the strings put you off: This is a tremendous live album. Roger Daltrey's in fine voice, Pete Townshend's guitar sounds ferocious, and the orchestra just makes everything bigger.

The Bad:

OK, this is the section where I whine about a live album I really like.

Whine #1: I was disappointed that there isn't a 3 CD edition with a complete show. In order to fit the show onto a double-CD, they've cut almost all of the Tommy section of the show (except for "Pinball Wizard", which is out of place in the set list now). As with the closing Quadrophenia section, the orchestral elements worked really well with the Tommy material. The real show opener, "Overture", was breathtaking with strings.

Whine #2: Why no DVD or Blu-ray release of the show? Since there's a live video for "Baba O'Riley", I have to assume the whole show was filmed. Would've loved to see that.

tracks: "Who Are You", "Eminence Front", "Imagine A Man", "Pinball Wizard", "Hero Ground Zero", "Join Together", "Substitute", "The Seeker", "Won't Get Fooled Again", "Behind Blue Eyes", "Ball And Chain", "The Real Me", "I'm One", "The Punk And The Godfather", "5:15", "Drowned", "The Rock", "Love Reign O'er Me", "Baba O'Riley", "Tea & Theatre"

cover art
Frank Zappa
Zappa '80: Mudd Club / Munich

The name of this song is 'The Mudd Club.' This is a song about the place in which you're now standing. Based on real events that actually took place here, performed by real denizens of the area, some of whom may be in the audience tonight, although we can't be sure.

Another set dedicated to a short-lived Zappa band, Zappa '80: Mudd Club / Munich captures two shows from an unusually small lineup that toured from the end of March through the beginning of July 1980. The tour featured the premiere of a bunch of songs from the upcoming You Are What You Is album, with the title track being performed in a much slower style than it would be on the final album.

Up first is an abbreviated show at New York's Mudd Club. The club was name-checked in Talking Heads' "Life During Wartime" ("This ain't the Mudd Club or CBGB / I ain't got time for that now"), but Zappa debuted a song about the club on this tour. "City Of Tiny Lights" is edited (presumably due to missing tape), but the overall sound is quite good, and the band sounds terrific. Frank seems unusually chatty on this show, which lends a loose feel to the whole show.

The second half is the final show of the tour. It was originally recorded for The King Biscuit Flower Hour radio show*, and the recording of their edited broadcast has made the rounds on the bootleg circuit forever. Zappa '80: Mudd Club / Munich includes the complete show, and it's absolutely amazing. Along with the You Are What You Is material, Frank also works in a few songs the album that followed that one, Tinsel Town Rebellion. If you're a fan of those two albums, this is a must-hear.

For those of you familiar with the King Biscuit broadcast, the version of "Chunga's Revenge" that opens that broadcast was recorded in Frankfurt, but the rest of the KBFH show was recorded in Munich. The broadcast used around half of the show, rearranged the running order, and used a little clever editing to cover a naughty word or two. I recorded that King Biscuit show off the radio back in 1981, and that was my first exposure to Zappa live. I played the daylights out of that tape, and eventually picked up a bootleg CD of the show later to get a chance to hear it again. So, I'm a little biased on this release. This is an old favorite expanded to its full length.

tracks (Mudd Club): "Mudd Club Show Start", "Chunga's Revenge", "Keep It Greasey", "Outside Now", "City Of Tiny Lites" [edited], "A Pound For A Brown On The Bus", "You Are What You Is", "You Didn't Try To Call Me", "I Ain't Got No Heart", "Love Of My Life", "Easy Meat", "Mudd Club", "The Meek Shall Inherit Nothing", "Joe's Garage", "Why Does It Hurt When I Pee?"

tracks (Munich): "Munich '80 Show Start", "Chunga's Revenge", "Keep It Greasey", "Pick Me, I'm Clean", "City Of Tiny Lites", "A Pound For A Brown On The Bus", "Cosmik Debris", "You Didn't Try To Call Me", "I Ain't Got No Heart", "Love Of My Life", "You Are What You Is", "Easy Meat", "Mudd Club", "The Meek Shall Inherit Nothing", "Joe's Garage", "Why Does It Hurt When I Pee?", "Dancin' Fool", "Bobby Brown", "Ms. Pinky", "Stick It Out", "Nite Owl", "The Illinois Enema Bandit"


cover art
The Beatles
Now And Then

The original plan for The Beatles' 1995 Anthology albums was to end each volume with a "new" Beatles song, constructed by using a John Lennon demo with the other three adding vocals and instruments. "Free As A Bird" showed up on Anthology 1, "Real Love" showed up on Anthology 2, and "Now And Then" was planned for Anthology 3, but was never finished. Reports are that the band only worked a day or two on it, and George was not fond of the song. Additionally, there were more technical issues with this demo making it a more difficult restoration. Using software developed for Peter Jackson's Get Back series to help separate voices from instruments, John's lead vocal was isolated. The resulting single uses John's lead vocal from the tape, some of George's guitar from 1994, fresh piano, bass, drums and vocals from Paul and Ringo, and a string arrangement by Giles Martin. Additionally, some harmony vocals ("ahhhhhhh") were pulled in from other Beatles recordings like "Because". And the slide guitar solo is actually Paul playing in homage to George's style. So yeah, it's a mishmash of sources, but it really is the four Beatles along with some strings.

How's the song? It's a wonderful, bittersweet song that serves as a beautiful final moment for the Beatles career. I don't think it's quite as good as the other two restoration songs ("Free As A Bird" and "Real Love"), but it was certainly a worthy project, and I'm very glad they did it.

In a clever touch, the B-side is a fresh mix of The Beatles debut single, "Love Me Do", using the same sound separation software to allow a fresh remix. The results sound terrific.

First side note: The reports about AI software being used led to speculation that some of the performances were simulated. Giles Martin has strongly denied this. AI is a component of the sound separation software that was used to isolate John's vocal, but all the assembled performances were real.

Second side note: The cover art for the single is… well… terrible. This is the self-proclaimed "last Beatles song" and you send 'em out with something that looks like it a placeholder image bashed out over a lunch hour? The flip side of the cover would have been a better choice. While not perfect, it wouldn't have been as embarrassingly awful as the front.

tracks: "Now And Then", "Love Me Do" [2023 mix]

cover art
Eels So Good: Essential Eels Vol. 2 (2007-2020)

Eels' second best-of covers the last decade-plus of their work. There are a couple of real favorites that didn't make the cut, but overall, it's a really nice intro to Eels' more recent albums. Like Neil Young, E seems to like to switch the band's style around from album to album. You get noisy rockers like "Fresh Blood" and "Peach Blossom", more poppy material like "Today Is The Day" and "Wonderful, Glorious", and melancholy ballads like "Little Bird" and "That Look You Give That Guy" and the oddly positive "Spectacular Girl" and "I Like The Way This Is Going". Five non-album tracks are included as well. "Royal Pain", "Man Up", and "Man I Keep Trying" are taken from various soundtracks. "Jazz Hands, Part I" is previously unreleased, and a new Christmas song "Christmas, Why You Gotta Do Me Like This" is included as well. "Jazz Hands, Part I" sounds like a B-side to me, but the other four are terrific, The extras make it worth picking up for the hard-core fans ("Man Up" is a classic), and it's a great intro to the band for newbies.

tracks: "Fresh Blood", "That Look You Give That Guy", "A Line In The Dirt", "Little Bird", "Spectacular Girl", "I Like The Way This Is Going", "Peach Blossom", "Wonderful, Glorious", "Where I'm From", "Mistakes Of My Youth", "The Deconstruction", "Today Is The Day", "You Are The Shining Light", "Are We Alright Again", "Earth To Dora", "Royal Pain", "Man Up", "Man I Keep Trying", "Jazz Hands, Part I", "Christmas, Why You Gotta Do Me Like This"

cover art
Five Grand Stereo
Dancing Mary

Five Grand Stereo's debut album, Sex And Money, was a real surprise. It's an actual rock opera (complete with libretto) and a period-perfect 1970's sound. It's been a while, but they've finally released new music. "Dancing Mary" was released as a one-track single last year, but the three-song EP came out this year. Turns out it's just as good as the debut album. The title track is catchy seventies pop, "Roses" is a nice ballad that gives a nice spotlight vocal to Jane Fraser, who's got a terrific voice, and "Young Science" pairs both Chris Stapleton and Jane Fraser on lead vocals on a rocker that's the best of the set. Hope a full-length follow-up album is in the works.

tracks: "Dancing Mary", "Roses", "Young Science"

cover art
Juliana Hatfield
Juliana Hatfield Sings ELO
cover art
Juliana Hatfield
I'm Alive

For Juliana Hatfield's third "Juliana Hatfield Sings" album, she's chosen an interesting selection of ELO tracks to cover. It's a mix of radio staples like "Showdown", "Strange Magic", "Don't Bring Me Down", and "Telephone Line" mixed in with some interesting "deep cuts" like "Bluebird Is Dead", "Ordinary Dream" and "Sweet Is The Night". The album's opening pair, "Sweet Is The Night" and "Can't Get It Out Of My Head" and the closing "Ordinary Dream" are the big highlights to me. The covers are pretty faithful, but the string parts have been moved to keyboard or guitar. As a result the songs are focus instead of the production. A really interesting listen.

As I was wrapping up this year's edition, my friend Phil Obbard (who originally hipped me to this album), let me know that Juliana had also released a single with two more songs from the project: "I'm Alive" from the unfairly maligned Xanadu album and "When I Was A Boy", from the first "Jeff Lynne's ELO" album, Alone In The Universe. Both would have been worthy additions to the main album. Grab the single if you like the album.

By the way, give Hatfield ELO nerd points for getting "chicane" and "groosss" right in the lyrics.

tracks: "Sweet Is The Night", "Can't Get It Out Of My Head", "Showdown", "Strange Magic", "Don't Bring Me Down", "Telephone Line", "Secret Messages", "Bluebird Is Dead", "From The End Of The World", "Ordinary Dream"

cover art
Robyn Hitchcock
Life After Infinity

Robyn Hitchcock has included the occasional instrumental on his albums, but Life After Infinity is his first all-instrumental album. Despite missing Hitchcock's distinctive voice and surreal lyrics, the songs still very much sound like him. The songs are all generally on the mellow side, but not "samey". Heck, "Come Here, Little Ghost" features a banjo as the main instrument, and I don't recall hearing one on a Hitchcock album before. Hitchcock is backed by Charlie Francis on bass and percussion, so the songs have a full sound. The result is a pretty, laid back collection of songs. It's not an album I'd be likely to pull out and play, but I do a lot of shuffle listening, and I'll enjoy one of these songs popping up now and then.

tracks: "The Eyes In The Vase", "Daphne, Skipping", "Plesiosaurs In The Desert", "Tubby Among The Nightingales", "Gliding Above The Ruins", "Come Here, Little Ghost", "Nasturtiums For Anita", "Celestial Transgression", "Veronica's Chapel", "The Sparkling Duck", "Mr. Ringerson's Picnic"

cover art
Johnny Marr
Spirit Power: The Best Of Johnny Marr

Like Noel Gallagher's recent best-of album, Johnny Marr's Spirit Power: The Best Of Johnny Marr is a double album drawn from four solo albums (one being a double) and a handful of singles. And like Noel, Marr's got the goods to warrant it. It took him ages to finally launch a true solo career after the end of The Smiths, but the results have been worth the wait. All four albums are really solid, and this album does a decent job of picking the highlights.

As seems traditional now, the album also includes two new songs, "Somewhere" and "The Answer", both are quite worthy of inclusion. They're every bit as good as the hits here. Three non-album single tracks are included: "Armatopia", a cover of Depeche Mode's "I Feel You" and his single with Maxine Peake, "The Priest". The latter was the soundtrack for a short film and works better in that context. But the other two are terrific. And for the hard-core fans, there are three demos and a couple of early takes on songs recorded in his Crazy Face studio. The album's a terrific intro to Marr's solo career.

tracks: "Armatopia", "New Town Velocity", "Easy Money", "Spirit Power & Soul", "Hi Hello", "Somewhere", "The Messenger", "European Me", "I Feel You", "The Answer", "Dynamo", "Spiral Cities", "The Priest" - Johnny Marr & Maxine Peake, "Night And Day", "Sensory Street", "Walk Into The Sea", "Upstarts", "Candidate", "Tenement Time", "Hi Hello" [Demo], "Somewhere" [Demo], "The Answer" [Crazy Face Version], "The Messenger" [Demo], "Speak Out Reach Out" [Crazy Face Version]

cover art
Lou Reed
"Open Invitation"

An outtake from Reed's excellent 1984 album New Sensations, "Open Invitation" is about Reed's love of tai chi. Laurie Anderson compiled Reed's writings and photos on the topic into a book, The Art of the Straight Line: My Tai Chi, and the single is clearly a tie in: it even uses the same cover art. The song's pretty good, although it's not quite up to the standard of the rest of the album. But if you're a fan of the album, it's absolutely worth a listen.

track: "Open Invitation"

cover art
Amy Rigby
Cut Two

Like last year's Cut & Run, Cut Two is a collection of covers and a few demos that Amy Rigby recorded for her podcast, "Diary Of Amy Rigby". "Over And Over" and "The Cover Of 'Rolling Stone'" are my two favorites of the covers, but the new original "Don't Play Danny Boy", a song about Amy's dad, is the gem of the collection. Worth at least popping over to Bandcamp for a listen. Like last year's collection, this is for the hard-core fans.

tracks: "Over And Over", "Early Morning Rain", "The Flyer", "Lonesome Valley", "Life Is Change", "Looking For The Magic", "The Cover Of 'Rolling Stone'", "All My Little Words", "The Devil's Been Busy", "Closer To Fine", "I've Made Up My Mind To Give Myself To You", "Don't Play Danny Boy"

cover art
Vivian Stanshall
Dog Howl In Tune
cover art
Vivian Stanshall
Rawlinson's End

First, a little background. The late Bonzo Dog Band singer Vivian Stanshall had an unusual solo career. Along with a clutch of singles, he released four solo albums in his lifetime. His debut, 1974's Men Opening Umbrellas Ahead was a mix of pop and world music with comedic lyrics. He followed that up in 1978 with Sir Henry At Rawlinson End which tells the story of the Rawlinson family first mentioned in his monologue "Rawlinson End" from the final Bonzos album. It's a surreal mix of narration and vignettes with a rambling, barely-there story told with Stanshall's impeccable upper-class accent with a little music mixed in. It's bizarre and weirdly funny. In 1981, Stanshall released Teddy Boys Don't Knit, a more "conventional" comedy rock album that's closer to the Bonzo Dog Band album in spirit. His final release was 1984's Sir Henry At Ndidi's Kraal which sent Sir Henry on an African safari. The story's a bit more coherent, there's less music, and it's an occasionally uncomfortable listen. I get that Stanshall is having Sir Henry say offensive things to mock colonialist attitudes, but it's a little hard to listen to.

At the time of Viv's passing in 1995, he had two projects in the works. One was a new rock album to be called DoG NeW TrickS and a continuation of Sir Henry's story, The Further Adventures Of Sir Henry At Rawlinson End.

The rock album, renamed to Dog Howl In Tune, was drawn from sixty or so tracks that were in contention for the new album. A few of the songs had airings in Viv's 1985 musical "Stinkfoot", and two were performed as part of Stanshall's 1991 show "Rawlinson Dog Ends". The rest were previously unreleased. The result is a varied album, including blues rock ("Dog Howl In Tune", "I'd Rather Cut My Hands", "Boy In Darkness"), songs seemingly built for the theater ("Goodbye Mother", "Gecko"), and pop/rock songs like "A Good Woman" and "No Time Like The Future". Viv's vocals are a mix: sometimes he sings conventionally, sometimes he adopts a deep, deep growl, and some vocals just sound like first takes. Given that it was rescued from several incomplete projects, the results are pretty impressive.

The Further Adventures Of Sir Henry At Rawlinson End also got a rename, partially to acknowledge the end of the "story". Like Dog Howl In Tune, Rawlinson's End is also a mix-and-match. There are parts of three projects here but given the general chaotic feel of the Sir Henry projects, it's hard to tell which is which. It's all very seamless, and very much in the same vein as the original Sir Henry At Rawlinson End with its mix of short songs and storytelling which seems like it should make sense, but ultimately doesn't. Ignore the ill-advised Sir Henry At Ndidi's Kraal. If you enjoyed the original, you'll enjoy this.

tracks (Dog Howl In Tune): "Dog Howl In Tune", "Made Of Stone", "I'd Rather Cut My Hands", "A Good Woman", "Goodbye Mother", "No Time Like The Future", "Strongth", "Gecko", "Landing On My Feet", "Only Being Myself", "Boy In Darkness"

tracks (Rawlinson's End): "Lady Rawlinson's Lilt / Under The Sea", "Eggs Is Eggs", "In The Pipes", "The Crackpot", "The Great Eating", "Buzzing", "Spreading His Light", "Scrotum's Lullaby", "Under The Sea", "Cackling Gas / Under The Sea", "Octavia", "Cul-De-Sac", "The Quiet That The Spider Knows", "Tour De Farce", "Entre Act", "Diplodocus v Concreton", "Achmedillo", "Peristaltic Waves"

cover art
The Swell Season
"The Answer Is Yes"

The Swell Season (Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová) were the duo who starred and performed in the 2007 film "Once". They recorded an album around the same time and a second in 2009 but have since worked apart. As part of preparation for a reunion tour to celebrate the film, Markéta wrote a lovely song called "The Answer Is Yes" that she and Glen recorded. The song is clearly about their relationship and their brief romance around the time of the film. As a result, the song feels like a coda to the original, and would fit very easily on the album. If you're a fan of the film, you should check this out. And if you haven't seen it, definitely do.

tracks: "The Answer Is Yes"

cover art
Pete Townshend
Can't Outrun The Truth

Hyped as Pete's first solo single in 29 years, "Can't Outrun The Truth" is a slight, country-flavored song inspired by the frustrations of the COVID lockdown written by Pete's wife Rachel. The physical copies raised money for a good cause, but the song itself is pretty weak. Rachel co-wrote "It's Not Enough" with Pete, and that's one of the best latter-day Who songs, so I had some hope. It's a B-side at best, definitely only for the Townshend completists.

track: "Can't Outrun The Truth"

cover art
Songs Of Surrender

A companion of sorts to Bono's autobiography Surrender: 40 Songs, One Story, Songs Of Surrender collects forty stripped-down reworks of previously released U2 songs. Largely a COVID lockdown project, the album is almost an Edge and Bono project instead of a band one. The album is broken into four volumes of ten songs each with each volume given a band member's name. However, the four volumes are all of a similar style, so I'm not sure the band member designation means much. The stripped-down sound replaces U2's signature sound with a quiet, dramatic feel. It's a really interesting rework, but at over two-and-a-half hours in length, it's a little much to take in one blast, check it out volume-by-volume. This is an album for the U2 hard-core fans. Not sure these versions are going to convert new fans.

tracks (Edge): "One", "Where The Streets Have No Name", "Stories For Boys", "11 O'Clock Tick Tock", "Out Of Control", "Beautiful Day", "Bad", "Every Breaking Wave", "Walk On (Ukraine)", "Pride (In The Name Of Love)"

tracks (Larry): "Who's Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses", "Get Out Of Your Own Way", "Stuck In A Moment You Can't Get Out Of", "Red Hill Mining Town", "Ordinary Love", "Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own", "Invisible", "Dirty Day", "The Miracle (Of Joey Ramone)", "City Of Blinding Lights"

tracks (Adam): "Vertigo", "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For", "Electrical Storm", "The Fly", "If God Will Send His Angels", "Desire", "Until The End Of The World", "Song For Someone", "All I Want Is You", "Peace On Earth"

tracks (Bono): "With Or Without You", "Stay (Faraway, So Close!)", "Sunday Bloody Sunday", "Lights Of Home", "Cedarwood Road", "I Will Follow", "Two Hearts Beat As One", "Miracle Drug", "The Little Things That Give You Away", "40"

cover art
Roger Waters
The Dark Side Of The Moon Redux

I wrote The Dark Side Of The Moon. Let's get rid of all this 'we' crap! Of course, we were a band, there were four of us, we all contributed… but it's my project and I wrote it. So… blah! - Roger Waters, in an interview for The Telegraph

Roger Waters has attracted controversy in recent years for his political comments. Now, he's generating controversy around his former band's most famous work. Waters opened his "This Is Not A Drill" tour with "Comfortably Numb 2022", a spooky version that removed the guitar solos and set a somber mood. The Dark Side Of The Moon Redux takes a similar approach. Despite Roger's quote above, it's pretty well known that he did not write all of the music on the original. For instance, "The Great Gig In The Sky" and "Us And Them" are famously Rick Wright compositions. Roger brought the concept and wrote the lyrics. As result, Redux puts the emphasis square on those lyrics, removing the sound effects and the guitar heroics. The instrumental pieces in the album have monologues from Waters read over them, adding more lyrical depth. The opening "Speak To Me" has Waters reciting the lyrics to "Free Four" (from Obscured By Clouds) which fits the mood of the album perfectly. For "The Great Gig In The Sky", Waters doesn't recreate Claire Torry's famous wordless vocal, instead he talks about the loss of his friend, former US Poet Laureate Donald Hall, to cancer. It's bleak, but it fits. The vocal parts of the album are recorded in a slower style with Waters singing at the very bottom of his register. Musically, they're a reasonable remake, and Waters vocals add to the dour mood to the album.

Overall, it's not as unlistenable as its detractors would have you think. It's an interesting alternate take with a focus on the lyrics and monologues. Yes, the music takes a back seat, so it's definitely not going to be for everyone.

tracks: "Speak To Me", "Breathe", "On The Run", "Time", "The Great Gig In The Sky", "Money", "Us And Them", "Any Colour You Like", "Brain Damage", "Eclipse"

cover art
Frank Zappa
Funky Nothingness

Originally hyped as an unreleased sequel to Hot Rats, Funky Nothingness is really more of a transitional recording, more of a bridge between Hot Rats and the follow-up Chunga's Revenge. The guitar heroics started on Hot Rats is here, and vastly expanded. There are nine tracks on Funky Nothingness that exceed the 10-minute mark, with "Tommy/Vincent Duo" (a jam by Frank on guitar and Aynsley Dunbar on drums) runs over 20 minutes. So, if you like Frank's Shut Up 'n Play Yer Guitar albums, you'll love this album. In addition, there's a lot of early Chunga's Revenge material on here with three versions of the title track, expanded versions of the percussion piece "The Clap", an unedited "Transylvania Boogie" and two very different takes of "Sharleena". The surprise for me on this release the covers: Lightning Slim's "I'm A Rollin' Stone", The Penguins' "Love Will Make Your Mind Go Wild" and The Royals "Work With Me, Annie". All three are done relatively faithfully and are the easy highlights of the set.

If you're a fan of this era of Frank's work, definitely check it out. As mentioned above, if you're a fan of Frank's soloing, this is a must.

tracks: "Funky Nothingness", "Tommy/Vincent Duo I", "Love Will Make Your Mind Go Wild", "I'm A Rollin' Stone", "Chunga's Revenge" [Basement Version], "Basement Jam", "Work With Me Annie / Annie Had A Baby", "Tommy/Vincent Duo II", "Sharleena" [1970 Record Plant Mix], "Khaki Sack", "Twinkle Tits", "Chunga's Revenge" [Take 5], "Love Will Make Your Mind Go Wild" [Take 4], "Transylvania Boogie" [Unedited Master], "Sharleena" [Unedited Master], "Work With Me Annie / Annie Had A Baby" [Alternate Edit], "Twinkle Tits" [Take 1, False Start], "Twinkle Tits" [Take 2], "The Clap" [Unedited Master - Pt. I], "The Clap" [Unedited Master - Pt. II], "Tommy/Vincent Duo", "Chunga's Revenge" [Take 8], "Halos And Arrows", "Moldred" [Take 8], "Fast Funky Nothingness"

cover art
Frank Zappa

After the last encore at The Mothers' 1971 show at the Rainbow Theatre in London, Frank Zappa was shoved into the orchestra pit, making him wheelchair bound for a year. The "Flo & Eddie" edition of The Mothers was done, and Zappa went in a completely different direction. The comedy music was shelved and instead Zappa wrote and recorded two albums of mostly instrumental big band jazz-rock. The first, Waka/Jawaka, was released as a Zappa album and the second, The Grand Wazoo, was released as an album by The Mothers. After recording these albums, and recovering enough for two tours of the material, Zappa went in yet another direction (see the review of Over-nite Sensation above).

The albums were recorded simultaneously, and Waka/Wazoo is a 4 CD collection of session recordings, live recordings, and some demos by George Duke using the same band (including Zappa). The early versions give nice insights into what could have been. For instance, Zappa's classic "Eat That Question" has the horn players carrying the melody of the song, where the final version used guitar and keyboards. The final version is better, but it's really cool to hear this stuff. The alternate mixes aren't radically different. It's nice to have, but not a crucial part of the set. George Duke's demos are fascinating listening. They're using the power of the band Zappa assembled (including his own guitar) and using them to record less eccentric jazz music. The big highlight of this section is the instrumental demo of "Uncle Remus". Both Duke and Zappa would eventually release their own versions, but it's cool to hear the demo. The live content captures one of the few shows by Frank's "Petit Wazoo" lineup. The band plays a mix of older songs (nothing from Waka/Jawaka or The Grand Wazoo), but applies the horn-driven, big band jazz sound to them. It's a very, very different live sound for FZ, but admittedly not a favorite of mine.

Overall, the set is a bit of a mixed bag. The early versions are terrific, and the George Duke demos are a great listen. The live bits and alternate mixes aren't something I'd pull back out to listen to. If you're a big fan of this era of Zappa's work, this is definitely worth a listen. If those two albums aren't big favorites, I'd skip this.

tracks (Album Recording Sessions And Outtakes): "Your Mouth" [Take 1], "Big Swifty" [Alternate Take], "Minimal Art (Eat That Question)" [Version 1, Take 2], "Blessed Relief" [Outtake], "Think It Over (The Grand Wazoo)" [Outtake], "For Calvin (And His Next Two Hitch-Hikers)" [Outtake], "Waka/Jawaka" [Outtake], "Cletus Awreetus-Awrightus" [Alternate Take], "Eat That Question" [Version 2, Alternate Take]

tracks (Album Mix Session Outtakes): "Big Swifty" [Alternate Mix], "For Calvin (And His Next Two Hitch-Hikers)" [Alternate Mix], "It Just Might Be A One-Shot Deal" [Alternate Mix], "Waka/Jawaka" [Alternate Mix], "Cletus Awreetus-Awrightus" [Alternate Mix], "Eat That Question" [Alternate Mix]

tracks (George Duke Demos): "For Love (I Come Your Friend)" [demo], "Psychosomatic Dung" [demo], "Uncle Remus" [instrumental demo], "Love" [demo], "For Love (I Come Your Friend)" [George Duke Session Outtake - Basic Track, Take 1] - George Duke with, "Psychosomatic Dung" [George Duke Session Outtake - Basic Track, Take 2], "Love" [George Duke Session Outtake - Basic Track, Take 1]

tracks (The Grand Wazoo - Live): "Approximate" [Live - FZ Record Plant Mix]

tracks (10-Piece/The Petite Wazoo - Live): "Winterland '72 Opening and Band Introductions", "Little Dots", "America Drinks", "Montana", "Farther O'Blivion", "Cosmik Debris", "Chunga's Revenge"


cover art
Blue Rev

After Tom Verlaine passed, I was looking around on YouTube for some videos of him to use in the "goodbye" section at the top of the page. I wanted the killer live version of "Always" from The Miller's Tale, but YouTube kept giving me "alvvays tom verlaine" as the result (which confused the hell out of me). Turned out that Alvvays (pronounced "always") was the band, and "Tom Verlaine" was the song. Lead singer Molly Rankin confirmed in an interview that they figured Verlaine had a song called "Always" so Alvvays should have a song called "Tom Verlaine". So yeah, I figured I'd check it out.

What I found floored me. Alvvays reminds me of early Teenage Fanclub in the way they combine pure pop and Rankin's strong, clear voice and mix in dreamy melodies with occasional synthy touches and a blast of sludgy, heavy guitar now and then. It's a great sound. "Pharmacist" and "Pomeranian Spinster" rock out, "Tom Verlaine" is dreamier pop, and the catchy "After The Earthquake" and "Velveteen" are my highlights. Definitely would've been top ten material had I heard it in time.

tracks: "Pharmacist", "Easy On Your Own?", "After The Earthquake", "Tom Verlaine", "Pressed", "Many Mirrors", "Very Online Guy", "Velveteen", "Tile By Tile", "Pomeranian Spinster", "Belinda Says", "Bored In Bristol", "Lottery Noises", "Fourth Figure"


The Other Noteworthy Releases section above is for albums that wouldn't qualify for the top ten because they're compilations, tribute albums, or archival releases, as well as some albums I thought were interesting, but not quite good enough for the final cut. This section contains albums I definitely considered for the top ten but didn't make it simply because you can't get eighteen albums into a list of ten. I'd prefer to keep the specific ordering limited to the final top ten, so these are simply listed alphabetically.

cover art
The Anderson Council
The Devil, The Tower, The Star, The Moon

The Anderson Council's latest is loaded with their sixties-flavored rock and power pop, but they've taken the songwriting up a notch for The Devil, The Tower, The Star, The Moon. The album comes out swinging with "Tarot Toronto", "Alone With You", and "Million Miles A Day". All three are power pop gems and are among the best songs they've done. "Give It Time" is right up there with those three. The band is from New Jersey but lead singer Peter Horvath sings with a hint of a British accent because he feels this type of music calls for it. "Times On The Thames" celebrates their wannabe Englishness. Go with it. It's fun. "Untrained Eyes" adds a little hint of country to the mix (well, maybe country pop) and it works. The album is catchy as hell with big guitars and sing-along melodies. Check it out.

tracks: "Tarot Toronto", "Alone With You", "Million Miles A Day", "Times On The Thames", "Positive", "Picture This", "Give It Time", "Messes Up My Mind", "Untrained Eyes", "Sunday Afternoon", "Buying A House", "Jump Right In"

cover art
The Gaslight Anthem
History Books

The Gaslight Anthem's first studio album in nine years has the band picking up basically where they left off, with a mix of punk and "heartland rock" (think Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty, and Bob Seger). This time around, the band steers into the E Street Band comparisons, Brian Fallon discussed his desire to reunite the band with Springsteen. Springsteen not only encouraged him to do it, but suggested Fallon write them a duet. The title track is one of the big highlights of the album, and Springsteen's voice fits perfectly in the band's sound. While the album definitely has more of a heartland feel, songs like "Little Fires" are vintage Gaslight. "Michigan, 1975" is an interesting change of page. The song is a gentle ballad with pleading lyrics ("So, if you want me now, you should call me up / 'cause I'm losing my desire for being alive"). A really solid return. Hope this isn't a one-off.

tracks: "Spider Bites", "History Books", "Autumn", "Positive Charge", "Michigan, 1975", "Little Fires", "The Weatherman", "Empires", "I Live In The Room Above Her", "A Lifetime Of Preludes"

cover art
Glen Hansard
All That Was East Is West Of Me Now

Glen Hansard's last album, 2019's This Wild Willing, suffered from too much sameness. All That Was East Is West Of Me Now corrects that very nicely. Backed by (and produced by) several of his bandmates from The Frames, the album roars open with "The Feast Of St. John" and "Down On Our Knees" before mixing in some quieter songs. "Sure As The Rain" has an elegance that really shows off Hansard's vocals. The powerful "Bearing Witness" and the lovely "Short Life" end the album on high notes. A welcome return to form.

tracks: "The Feast Of St. John", "Down On Our Knees", "There's No Mountain", "Sure As The Rain", "Between Us There Is Music", "Ghost", "Bearing Witness", "Short Life", "Reprise"

cover art
The Hold Steady
The Price Of Progress
cover art
The Hold Steady
The Death Of The Punchline

For me, new Hold Steady albums have always hooked me on the first play, and I'd find myself playing them to death. The Price Of Progress was a bit of a change. It didn't immediately hook me like the others have. The band takes quite a few chances on the album, trying out some new styles, including the mellower, more introspective sound of Craig Finn's solo albums as opposed to The Hold Steady's usual joyous, anthemic rock. "Grand Junction, "Sixers", "Understudies", and "Flyover Halftime" are right in that classic style. "Sideways Skull" adds a grungier feel, "Carlos Is Crying" has an almost funky feel in the verses, "The Birdwatchers" is a monologue song more akin to Craig's solo albums, and "Perdido", and "Distortions Of Faith" feel like Finn solo songs as well. Overall, The Price Of Progress won't necessarily blow you away on first listen, but it's definitely an album that rewards deeper listening.

As part of the Black Friday Record Story Day, The Hold Steady released a single with two unused songs from the album sessions. "Radar & Leda" is a great song, but the title track is superb. I can't fathom how "The Death Of The Punchline" didn't make the cut. The single was an "RSD First", which means it should be available in some other way in the future, but it's worth picking up if you can.

tracks (The Price Of Progress): "Grand Junction", "Sideways Skull", "Carlos Is Crying", "Understudies", "Sixers", "The Birdwatchers", "City At Eleven", "Perdido", "Distortions Of Faith", "Flyover Halftime"

tracks (The Death Of The Punchline): "The Death Of The Punchline", "Radar & Leda"

cover art
Cuts & Bruises

Inhaler nicely avoids the "sophomore slump" on Cuts & Bruises. "Love Will Get You There" is a supremely catchy slide of indie pop, "These Are Days" adds a little more power to their sound, and "Dublin In Ecstasy" reminds me a bit of Joy Division (though not as dark). And as before, Elijah Hewson's stellar lead vocals are a big highlight. Excellent second album.

tracks: "Just To Keep You Satisfied", "Love Will Get You There", "So Far So Good", "These Are The Days", "If You're Gonna Break My Heart", "Perfect Storm", "Dublin In Ecstasy", "When I Have Her On My Mind", "Valentine", "The Things I Do", "Now You Got Me"

cover art
The Polyphonic Spree
Salvage Enterprise

It's been a long time since The Polyphonic Spree released an album, so to remind you (or catch you up), the Spree is a massive band, currently with thirty-six members (no, not an exaggeration). There are fifteen instrumentalists in the band. Along with the usual rock band instruments, they also include horns, strings, harp, and flute. If that wasn't enough, the band has six featured vocalists (along with mastermind/lead singer Tim DeLaughter) and a fifteen person choir.

The Polyphonic Spree's first true studio album in a decade opens with a bit of a surprise. The gentle and epic "Section 44 (Galloping Seas)" starts out very quietly, almost hiding the massive band. By the end, the sound is as huge as you'd want, with additional strings making their gigantic sound even bigger. "Section 47 (Got Down To The Soul)" is another big highlight - a slow, majestic song that really takes advantage of the band's sound. Overall, Salvage Enterprise has a gentle, peaceful feel to the whole album.

A few interesting notes (well, interesting to me anyway). As a backer of the album, I got a pre-release MP3 of the whole album last June. The pre-release version had a different running order and an additional minute-long, ambient coda after "Got Down To The Soul", which closed that version. Additionally, the album cover is different between the physical and digital editions. I like the digital cover better, but I used the image above from the physical release 'cause that's what I have.

tracks: "Section 44 (Galloping Seas)", "Section 45 (Wishful, Brave, And True)", "Section 46 (Give Me Everything)", "Section 47 (Got Down To The Soul)", "Section 48 (Shadows On The Hillside)", "Section 49 (Hop Off The Fence)", "Section 50 (Open The Shores)", "Section 51 (Winds Of Summer)", "Section 52 (Morning Sun, I Built The Stairs)"

cover art
Mirror To The Sky

Long-time Yes drummer Alan White passed away in 2022 leaving guitarist Steve Howe as the lone connection to seventies Yes (Jay Schellen, who's pitched in on drums live since 2016 is the new full-time drummer). The second Yes album with Steve Howe as the de facto leader of the band has a similar flavor to 2021's The Quest. The centerpiece of the album is the nearly fourteen-minute epic title track. After a three-minute opening segment, the song transitions to a gentler vocal piece with Billy Sherwood and Jon Davidson sharing lead vocals and some tasteful strings, then moves through a gentle instrumental and orchestral section, and closes with orchestra and band together. It's a really nice track, and it's the best thing they've done in quite a while. The rest of the album is an improvement on The Quest, which was a nice album as well. But as before, temper your expectations. This is a nice album, but it's not The Yes Album, Fragile, or Close To The Edge.

By the way, as on The Quest, the final three songs are on a separate disc even though all nine would fit easily on one CD. No, I don't get it either.

tracks: "Cut From The Stars", "All Connected", "Luminosity", "Living Out Their Dream", "Mirror to the Sky", "Circles of Time", "Unknown Place", "One Second Is Enough", "Magic Potion"


cover art
Peter Gabriel

After the disappointing Up album was released in 2002, Peter Gabriel said he was planning a follow-up titled i/o to be released in 2004. Since then, Gabriel toured several times and released two orchestral albums (Scratch My Back and New Blood), a compilation of songs from soundtracks cleverly titled PG, and a rarities album titled Flotsam And Jetsam, but i/o was nowhere to be seen.

Starting January 6, 2023 and on each successive full moon the rest of the year, Gabriel released one song from i/o. On the new moons in between, he'd release an alternate version of the full moon songs, so that by December there were two complete versions of the album: A "Bright-Side Mix" by Mark "Spike" Stent and a "Dark-Side Mix" by Tchad Blake. I believe you can buy the different mixes separately on vinyl, but the digital and CD releases include both. Surprisingly, I don't really prefer one mix or the other. The differences are fairly subtle. It's a neat concept, but I'm not sure the two versions are different enough to warrant the doubling up.

The album itself is a nicely varied mix: Songs like "Olive Tree", "i/o" and "Road To Joy" move between Gabriel's moody sound and his pop hit sound. "The Court" has a cool, dramatic feel, and "Playing For Time" is a lovely ballad. Overall, the album is a huge return to form. "Panopitcom", "Olive Tree", and the title track are up there with Gabriel's very best. I'd say the album is his best since So, and I think I like this one a little better.

tracks: "Panopticom", "The Court", "Playing For Time", "i/o", "Four Kinds Of Horses", "Road To Joy", "So Much", "Olive Tree", "Love Can Heal", "This Is Home", "And Still", "Live And Let Live"

cover art
The Third Mind

On their debut, The Third Mind mixed four, long jammy instrumentals and two vocal songs with Jesse Sykes singing. Her vocals were a nice touch, and now she's a full member of the band singing on all six songs. The result feels a little more structured, and that's not a bad thing. As before, Dave Alvin and Jesse Sykes co-wrote one song (the killer "Tall Grass") and the rest are covers of sixties songs by The Electric Flag, Dillard & Clark, The Butterfield Blues Band, The Great Society, and Fred Neil. The album has a sixties psychedelic feel that mixes pretty songs with pyrotechnic guitar work from Dave Alvin and David Immerglück. Four of the songs are eight minutes or more, and that gives the band plenty of space to stretch out. The album opens with "Groovin' Is Easy" and starts out with a mellow, almost Grateful Dead like feel, but by the 4:30 mark, Alvin and Immerglück have taken over the song and trade explosive guitar leads for the next three minutes. The songs have different flavors, but they all end up with blazing guitar that steals the show. I'd assumed the original album was a one-off. It's really good, but this album takes the band to a new level. I hope this is a long-time project. If you like long, loud, sixties style, wah-wah laden guitar work, you absolutely need to hear this. Incredible.

tracks: "Groovin' Is Easy", "Why Not Your Baby", "In My Own Dream", "Tall Grass", "Sally Go Round The Roses", "A Little Bit Of Rain"

cover art
Foo Fighters
But Here We Are

Over it, think I'm getting over it / But there's no getting over it

Before drummer Taylor Hawkins' passing in 2022, Dave Grohl was talking about steering the Foos into a proggier sound. All that clearly changed afterwards. Grohl is back on the drums, and the result is a fiery, emotional album about the band dealing with the loss off their friend: "I'm just waiting to be rescued tonight" from "Rescued", "Someone said I'll never see your face again / Part of me just can't believe it's true" from "Under You", and "I've been hearing voices / None of them are you" from "Hearing Voices". Grohl's mother Virginia passed away later in the year, and the ten-minute "The Teacher" has a powerful lyric about both losses. The album's sound is the Foos usual signature of punk and hard rock, with the occasional reprieve like the lovely "The Glass" and "Show Me How". The personal losses clearly hit Grohl and band hard. They've channeled the pain into a powerful tribute.

tracks: "Rescued", "Under You", "Hearing Voices", "But Here We Are", "The Glass", "Nothing At All", "Show Me How", "Beyond Me", "The Teacher", "Rest"

cover art
The Tubs
Dead Meat

Everyone told me I sounded exactly like Richard Thompson - lead singer Owen Williams

Saw the above quote in a review and figured it was a sign that I need to check out this band (and yes, his voice does indeed sound like Richard Thompson). The Tubs play jangly (and occasionally noisy) power pop that reminds me a bit of Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever. The album is definitely front-loaded, opening with the three best songs on the album, the high-energy "Illusion Pt. II", "Two Person Love", and the best of the three, "I Don't Know How It Works". The band's sound gets almost punky on songs like "That's Fine" and the title track, but the chiming guitars and harmonies soften it up. If you like super-catchy, jangly pop, this is a must hear.

tracks: "Illusion Pt. II", "Two Person Love", "I Don't Know How It Works", "Dead Meat", "Sniveller", "Duped", "That's Fine", "Round The Bend", "Wretched Lie"

cover art
Teenage Fanclub
Nothing Lasts Forever

I sincerely hope we don't have to wait another five years for a new album, but here's to another Teenage Fanclub classic in 2026. - Me in 2021.

Say what? Teenage Fanclub released a follow-up to Endless Arcade only two years later? Madness!

This time around, there are ten songs instead of their usual twelve, and they of course alternate between Norman Blake and Raymond McGinley compositions. How does the "rush released" Nothing Lasts Forever sound? Like Teenage Fanclub. It opens with a deceptive bit of feedback before the acoustic guitars start in and "Foreign Land" reveals itself as another urgent Big Star/Byrds flavored gem. Blake's other big standout on the album is "Back To The Light", which couples some of their classic Bandwagonesque sound with their current folkier feel. McGinley's "Tired Of Being Alone" adds a tougher edge and his epic closer "I Will Love You" manages to mix the message "I will love you forever" with strong social statements. The band sings lines like "I will love you until the flags are put down and the exceptionalists are buried under the ground" with sweet harmonies that will make you miss the snark if you're not listening closely. It's a very clever concept and the music backing it is lovely.

As on Endless Arcade, Norman Blake and Raymond McGinley are continuing to crank out one great song after another. And they're working faster now? All good news.

tracks: "Foreign Land", "Tired Of Being Alone", "I Left A Light On", "See The Light", "It's Alright", "Falling Into The Sun", "Self-Sedation", "Middle Of My Mind", "Back To The Light", "I Will Love You"

cover art
Gaz Coombes
Turn The Car Around

Gaz Coombes' solo debut, Here Comes The Bombs, sounded to me like a Supergrass album (not a bad thing, mind you), and while the two follow-ups were enjoyable, Turn The Car Around shows Coombes really coming into his own. "Overnight Trains" is a elegant, dramatic opener. "Don't Say It's Over" and the title track are terrific modern indie pop. Gaz rocks out on "Long Live The Strange", the most Supergrass-like track on the album. The album ends much like it starts: "Dance On" is a gorgeous closer. Overall, I think this is Gaz's best solo album to date.

tracks: "Overnight Trains", "Don't Say It's Over", "Feel Loop (Lizard Dream)", "Long Live The Strange", "Not The Only Things", "Turn The Car Around", "This Love", "Sonny The Strong", "Dance On"

cover art
the record
cover art
the rest

Julian Baker, Phoebe Bridgers and Lucy Dacus released a collaborative EP as boygenius in 2018, and after doing various solo projects, they reconvened in 2023 and released a full-length debut album and a follow-up EP. The album opens with a lovely a cappella piece featuring all three voices, then follows it up with the three singles from the album (released simultaneously), one each for each singer. The three singles were also paired with a single video, titled the film, linking the three songs into a single piece. the record is a varied album, switching between rockers like "$20", "Not Strong Enough" and "Satanist", poppier songs like "Emily I'm Sorry" and "True Blue", and even gentle songs like "Cool About It" and "We're In Love". The album is excellent top-to-bottom, but what really stands out for me are the moments where all three sing lead vocals together like on "Not Strong Enough". All three are talented singers, but the combination of all three is really something to hear.

Later in the year, boygenius released an EP called the rest. The songs are on the quieter end of their sound, but it's every bit as solid as the record. If you like the album, get the EP. Heck, get the 2018 EP as well.

tracks (the record): "Without You Without Them", "$20", "Emily, I'm Sorry", "True Blue", "Cool About It", "Not Strong Enough", "Revolution 0", "Leonard Cohen", "Satanist", "We're In Love", "Anti-Curse", "Letter To An Old Poet"

tracks (the rest): "Black Hole", "Afraid Of Heights", "Voyager", "powers"

cover art

'73 is an apt title for Arielle's latest album. Like 2021's Analog Girl In A Digital World, Arielle's sound has heavy throwbacks to the seventies. After a cool little guitar intro, the album opens with a pair of seventies-style rockers, "Somewhere Slow" and the title track, an ode for her 1973 VW Bus. And like her last album, this one mixes styles quite nicely. "The Way You Look At Me" is a blues song that Bonnie Raitt would sound great covering, "Weakness For You" is a nice little slice of pop, "Kalypso" is an instrumental with lots of Arielle's guitar, and "The Other Side" is an urgent rocker. Heck, she even throws in seventies soft rock with a faithful cover of Bread's "If". The album closes out on an epic note with "Wherever We Go From Here". A tremendous album, top to bottom.

tracks: "The Dulcet", "Somewhere Slow", "'73", "Goes Without Saying", "Way You Look At Me", "Weakness For You", "Kalypso", "I Need An Angel", "That's Just Lonely", "The Other Side (Let The Sun Set Down)", "If", "Wherever We Go From Here"

cover art
Crown Lands

Fearless is nothing less than Crown Lands' application to be the new Rush-and according to Comeau's hero-turned-texting buddy Alex Lifeson, the job is theirs for the taking. - from the Bandcamp page for the album

The quote above is not kidding. Do you like late-seventies Rush? I'm talking the A Farewell To Kings and Hemispheres era here. If so, you need to immediately watch the video for "Starlifter: Fearless Pt. II". I'm serious. Go watch it. It'll amaze you to see them pull music like this off as a duo.

Crown Lands, a Canadian duo of Cody Bowles (drums & vocals) and Kevin Comeau (guitar, bass & keys), roar out of the gate with an eighteen-minute multi-part epic titled "Starlifter: Fearless Pt. II". Cody's vocals are in a similar range to Geddy Lee's (though smoother), and the instrumental work is tremendous. If you miss Rush's proggiest era, this will put a giant smile on your face. This song alone would have put the album in my top ten. It's that impressive. The rest of the album keeps up that feeling. "Dreamer Of The Dawn" and "Context: Fearless Pt. I" have a very similar Rush-y vibe to them, but the album is not simply a Rush pastiche. As you hear Cody's voice, you'll keep thinking of Geddy, but songs like the heavy "The Shadow", the delicate "Penny", and the dramatic closer "The Citadel" have their own style to them.

Normally, a band so clearly modeling a lot of their sound from a truly unique band would put me off. But the songs are too damn good to just write this off as a Rush pastiche. Yes, they're clearly paying tribute, but they do it so well it's hard to ignore. And hey, Alex Lifeson's OK with it, so you should be too.

tracks: "Starlifter: Fearless Pt. II", "Dreamer Of The Dawn", "The Shadow", "Right Way Back", "Context: Fearless Pt. I", "Reflections", "Penny", "Lady Of The Lake", "Citadel"

cover art
Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds
Council Skies
cover art
Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds
Love Will Tear Us Apart [demo]
cover art
Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds
In A Little While [demo]

Noel's last "album" (actually three EPs released in 2019 and 2020) emphasized the dancier sound he'd flirted with occasionally on his first three albums. On his now proper fourth album, Noel's reset to the sound of his first three albums and added in string arrangements that just make the songs massive. The album does a bit of a slow burn, getting bigger and bigger as you move through it. The album opens on what seems like a gentle note. A little over a minute in, the band starts to come in, then background singers, then strings. A little before the three-minute mark, the horns kick in, and the sound starts getting bigger. About a minute into "Pretty Boy", the bass kicks in loud and the band starts to rock. "Dead To The World" shifts gears into a lush, string-soaked ballad. The whole package really comes together on "Open The Door, See What You Find". It's a song that feels like it's tailor-made for a huge venue. "Trying To Find A World …" slows things down a smidge again before "Easy Now" and "Council Skies" give you that massive venue feel again. The album ends on an epic note with "Think Of A Number".

The band's first two albums (Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds and Chasing Yesterday) were my picks for album of the year. It's a little too early to really make this call, but this album might just be better than both of those. Giving it a fresh listen as I finish the list, it strikes me again how staggeringly good this album is. It's gotta be right up there with the first two Oasis' albums.

The deluxe edition adds a second disc that's a mixed bag, but definitely worth getting. The best parts are the two extra songs "Don't Stop…" and "We're Gonna Get There In The End" that are as good as anything on the main album and the three tracks from a "Sofa Session" on BBC Radio. The session contains acoustic versions of "Flying On The Ground", a cover of Dylan's "You Ain't Goin' Nowhere" and a exceptional version of Oasis' "Live Forever". The rest of the disc is a mix of instrumental versions and remixes. They're of mixed interest, but the two extra songs and the BBC session make it essential.

If you really get into the album, Noel's site has a downloadable version of the album with a minute or two of commentary from Noel before each song. It's a little redundant since you get a fresh copy of the album all over again, but Noel's commentary is a treat.

On Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve, Noel released two demos as singles. The first is a cover of Joy Division's classic "Love Will Tear Us Apart" that the band performed in several live TV appearances. It's listed as a "demo", but it sounds like a finished version, complete with strings. I'm guessing hard-core Joy Division fans aren't going to like it, but I really do. The second is an original called "In A Little While". This one's a little more bare bones. It's mostly Noel on acoustic guitar and vocals with a little piano in the background. It's a pretty ballad, and I'd love to hear a more finished version.

tracks: "I'm Not Giving Up Tonight", "Pretty Boy", "Dead To The World", "Open The Door, See What You Find", "Trying To Find A World That's Been And Gone Pt. 1", "Easy Now", "Council Skies", "There She Blows!", "Love Is A Rich Man", "Think Of A Number",

bonus tracks (Deluxe Edition): "Don't Stop…", "We're Gonna Get There In The End", "Mind Games", "Pretty Boy" [instrumental], "Dead To The World" [instrumental], "Council Skies" [instrumental], "Think Of A Number" [instrumental], "I'm Not Giving Up Tonight" [David Holmes Remix], "Think Of A Number" [Pet Shop Boys Magic Eye 12" Remix], "Pretty Boy" [Robert Smith Remix], "Council Skies" [The Reflex Revision], "Flying On The Ground" [Radio 2 Session, 08.09.21], "You Ain't Goin' Nowhere" [Radio 2 Session, 08.09.21], "Live Forever" [Radio 2 Session, 08.09.21]


Just click on the album cover to see that year's review.