This week, we reach into our overflowing bag of new releases and give a listen to a foursome of notable releases from Heart's Ann Wilson, Bryan Adams, City and Colour and, last but not least, John grant!
The Ann Wilson Thing - #1 (EP)
Once you wrap your head around Heart singer Ann Wilson cutting an album for the Rounder label, any fears of this being just another blues album are quickly dispelled by the riveting version of Buffalo Springfield's "For What It's Worth". Despite some ill-advised f/x on her vocal, Ann Wilson's pipes are in great shape and you can tell this all-too-short EP is a labor of love and something she'll be promoting with sporadic solo shows this fall in between Heart dates. GRADE: 3.5/5
Bryan Adams - Get Up
Now a much-in-demand photographer, Adams' chart reign ended at roughly the same time he started writing songs with sophomoric titles like "The Only Thing That Looks Good On Me Is You" and "I Wanna Be Your Underwear" (both from the aptly-titled 18 Til I Die album). Still, he kicks out the occasional album (like last year's all-covers set Tracks of My Years) like someone with nmothing to prove anymore while performing his hits on the nostalgia circuit from time to time, like any other '80s hearthtrob with a respectable bank account and stock portfolio.
So, the fact that Get Up seems to differ from recent releases by appearing somewhat ambitious is a nice change. The fact that he brought in Jeff Lynne to produce will be immediately obvious to anyone from the moment they hit "PLAY" as Lynne's handiwork is all over this record. What's most startling of all is how on songs like "Don't Even Try" Adams's voice sounds nothing like the youthful rasp many of us came to know and love. He's actually singing on this one! The song's high point just might be "Brand New Day", which seems like a grown up sequel to "Suymmer of '69'. If you loved Bryan back in the day and long for those golden days of yore, this might just be the album for you.
City and Colour is the nom de rock for Canadian songwriter Dallas Green who, on his fifth album creates a decidedly melancholic musical tapestry on which to weave his deceptively hooky magic. "Woman" opens the album is confident fashion, doing a slow burn that pulls you in without you realizing it. Green's plaintive vocals can cut through even the thickest musical groove, thereby elevating much of the material just by their presence.
What's most striking is the consistent punch that each song packs and the masterful sequencing that gives the whole affair a cinematic ebb and flow. One gets the feeling this is the album Coldplay's Chris Martin has been trying to write since splitting from Gwyneth Paltrow. Ugh, why did I bring that up? Please don't let it scare you away from discovering this great album.
Speaking of scaring you away, if the cover art to Grant's latest album doesn't keep you awake nights, nothing will. Musically though, this is a frighteningly addictive album, with song after song of masterfully performed indie-rock that falls squarely in the Death Cab/Nada Surf/ ballpark with a smattering of post-Rubber Soul Beatles.
The title track is the best ELO song that Jeff Lynne never wrote. "Snug Slacks" and "Guess How I Know" are Beck at his quirkiest. No, Beck doesn't appear on the album, but the vibe is totally reminiscent of the best moments of Midnite Vultures. If that's your thing, hop on this.