Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Mason Summit: “Summer Cold” (2018) CD Review

A few years ago I wrote a review of Mason Summit’s 2014 release, Loud Music & Soft Drinks, and in it I mentioned that I was impressed by Mason's work and was a bit shocked to learn that he was only eighteen. I wrote, “Imagine all the good things still to come from this singer/songwriter/musician.” He didn’t wait long to give us some of those good things, releasing Gunpowder Tracks in 2016, an excellent album with well-crafted original songs, and now Summer Cold. Once again I am impressed by his songwriting and his style. This album features all original material. In addition, this one finds him playing most of the instruments himself. In fact, only three tracks feature other musicians. John Groover McDuffie, who played on the previous two releases, here masters the recordings, as well as engineers and mixes a few tracks. It was the participation of people like John McDuffie and Carl Byron that first got me interested in Mason Summit’s work. But it is Mason’s songwriting and delivery, as well as his ability to surprise and engage me, that keep me interested.

This new album opens with “Almost Fell For It,” with a sound and style somewhere between pop and punk, and mostly punk in attitude. The line “I almost fell for a total crock of shit” made me laugh the first time I listened to this disc. “To say I told you so/I’d be a hypocrite/’Cause I almost fell for it/It’s so obvious now/It pains me to admit/That I almost fell for it.” Is this the perfect song for these days? I mean, there is so much bullshit out there. Sadly, a lot of folks have fallen for it. (Seriously, how does anyone believe a single word that comes out of Donald Trump’s hole?) This track features Jeff Frantom on bass and Jarren Heidelberg on drums, and is one of the tracks engineered and mixed by John McDuffie. Then “Take What I Can Get” has a gentler sound, but this song is a good companion to the first track. Its first line is “I expect nothing from you, and you haven’t failed me yet.” There is a delicious, strangely sweet humor to this song, as he follows that line by singing “I’ll take what I can get.” So even as he offers biting lines like “Your giggle makes me gag/Your smile makes me choke” he admits to not having (or even wanting) a distance from the person who is the song’s subject.

There is humor also in “Voodoo Doll,” in the pain the character suffers, in the way it is expressed. The opening lines of this one are “I call you now not seeking closure/Rather one more excuse to lose my composure.” And the line “But I think I have discovered a whole new type of pain” makes me smile. These are some good lyrics, right? And check out these lines: “And I don’t want to get better/I don’t want to get well/I think I’ll spend forever/In this broken-hearted hell/I’m self-sufficient, I can break my own heart/I don’t need anyone else to help me with that part.” Yeah, he’s a damn good songwriter. I could quote this whole song as examples of his talent. And the lyrics are delivered so simply, in a manner unadorned, accompanied mainly by some steady strumming on guitar. Then in “Like Hell,” the line that really stands out is “I miss you like hell and I hope I never see you again.” That’s one hell of a good line.

“Biting My Nails” is a darker-toned, engaging folk tune. It contains a strange, surprising play on the word “bluff”: “Racing toward the cliff, until I call your bluff.” But I also like the gentle instrumental sections of this song. The album’s only instrumental track, “Casu Marzu,” is a strange one. It borders on cheesy (as possibly admitted to in its very title?), with its electronic drumbeat and tone, but becomes twisted along the way, before it can get into that realm, feeling almost like a comment on that type of music. An interesting effect. Before I can think too much about it, the track is over (it’s less than two minutes long).

I’m trying to get over a cold. It came on in the evening of Valentine’s Day, and seems reluctant to leave me. The first time I listened to “Summer Cold,” the album’s title track, I started coughing, and though it is not summer, I appreciated my body’s connection to the music. “I hope it doesn’t last too much longer/I’ve got this summer cold/I hope it doesn’t spread/So I’ll stay here in bed ‘til I’m stronger.” There is some humor when he explains how he got his cold. This track features Jeff Frantom on bass and Jarren Heidelberg on drums, as does the album’s closing song, “Stick It Out,” which has more of a pop sound. John McDuffie mixed both tracks. “I’m gonna stick it out/For however long it takes/I’m gonna stick it out/’Til my mind and body break.”

CD Track List
  1. Almost Fell For It
  2. Take What I Can Get
  3. Voodoo Doll
  4. Like Hell
  5. Catch & Release
  6. Biting My Nails
  7. Alone With You
  8. Casu Marzu
  9. 7th & Santa Fe
  10. Summer Cold
  11. One Good Thing
  12. Stick It Out
Summer Cold was released on January 19, 2018 on Winter Heat Records.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Molly Brulé: “The Things I Know” (2017) CD Review

Molly Brulé is a singer and songwriter based in Boston, deftly mixing folk, country and pop elements in her music. She released her debut EP, Seasons, in 2015, and recently followed that with a full-length CD, The Things I Know. The new album features all original music, written by Molly Brulé. Joining her on this release are Mike Levesque on drums; Sean McLaughlin on electric bass; Bryan Worley on upright bass; Dan King on guitar; Chris “Gooch” Bloniarz on mandolin, banjo and organ; Eva Walsh on violin; and Liz Lawrence on pedal steel. Sarah Brulé and Amy Brulé provide backing vocals.

Molly Brulé opens this album with “Lose You Now,” a song with sweet folk-pop sounds. She employs some traditional folk instruments, such as mandolin and violin, and applies them to a song with strong pop elements. Or is she applying pop elements to a folk and country song? I suppose it doesn’t matter. Either way, her voice is able to thrive in this bridging of genres, with country, folk and pop all wrapped up in her delivery. “The silence screams at us/Begging us to break/But we're wordless just because/We're too damn tired.” “Lose You Now” is followed by “Band-Aids,” which has a comforting, friendly, positive sound, a sound we can all use these days as we try to find a way forward through the daily disasters since that mendacious, narcissistic racist stumbled into power. “Forgive and try to forget/Rebuild without regrets/There is something beautiful/Still under the rubble.”

“One Last Night” features perhaps the album’s most moving vocal performance. Here she expresses vulnerability, a desire, a need, even as things seem to be ending. “Hold me close, one last night with you.” And as she urges “Don’t hold back, don’t hold back,” we get the sense that she herself is not holding back, but laying herself bare. “You’re better off/Without my love/It was never enough/But what’s done is done/Now I feel the sun/Shining through to me now.” That’s followed by “Ticket West,” a lively song that I’ll be adding to my road trip play list, especially because of these lines: “Not gonna stop, so don't even try/The highway is wide open.”

“Promises” begins with a sweet folk vibe, that violin rising above the comforting rhythm, and then Molly’s vocals sounding so loving, so honest. “Oh, my world is/The color of your eyes/Everything else that I see/Is just black and white.” The song then kicks in with a joy that might get you moving. This is a really good love song. Oh, to need someone is a wonderful, frightening, beautiful thing, isn’t it? And she expresses it so well. “You are so strong/When I am weak/And you are so grounded/When I can’t find my feet/Even though tonight/You’re a thousand miles away/I can still hear your heartbeat beating away.” And I love the violin, particularly toward the end. That’s followed by another love song, “Hey There,” a delightful, playful song. And as she sings “I wanna be/The girl that drives you crazy/And you could be/The one that makes me happy,” her voice sounds so innocent, youthful, and excited. There is even a bit of whistling toward the end. With that and a mandolin, how could anything sound happier? “’Cause I finally found that real life/Is better than my dreams.” Oh yes.

Perhaps the most interesting track is “My Old Friend.” This one engages you and grabs hold immediately and doesn’t let go. That bass line, and the way the strings are used, and Molly’s vocal delivery all add up to an intense feel. “It's a long way, a long way down/I hear your, hear your sound/Echoing dropping me down the well/'Til it's me, only me.” I like this entire album, but this might be my favorite track. This one really demands your attention. The CD then concludes with a different version of “Band-Aids.”

CD Track List
  1. Lose You Now
  2. Band-Aids
  3. One Last Night
  4. Ticket West
  5. Promises
  6. Hey There
  7. Dear Mom
  8. My Old Friend
  9. Band-Aids
The Things I Know was released on December 1, 2017.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Chris Hillman: “The Asylum Years” (2018) CD Review

Known as a member of The Byrds and The Flying Burrito Brothers, Chris Hillman started a solo career in 1976, with the release of Slippin’ Away, which featured mostly original material. He followed that the next year with Clear Sailin’, which also included a lot of original material, much of it co-written by Peter Knobler. Now both those albums have been re-issued on a single CD, The Asylum Years. There is no bonus material, but there are new liner notes by Scott Schinder, with snippets from an interview with Chris Hillman.

Slippin’ Away

For his first solo album, Chris Hillman gathered together an excellent group of musicians, many of whom he had worked with before, including Bernie Leadon, Rick Roberts and Al Perkins from The Flying Burrito Brothers. Paul Harris and Joe Lala, who both played with Hillman in the band Manassas, play on most tracks. Also joining this group of players is Steve Cropper on lead guitar for several tracks, along with fellow Booker T & The MGs member Donald “Duck” Dunn on one track. So, yes, a whole lot of talent went into this album. Most of the songs were written by Chris Hillman, with one track by Stephen Stills, a song they both performed in Manassas, and one track by Danny Douma.

This album opens with “Step On Out,” a song that was later covered by the Oak Ridge Boys. It is an easy-going, relaxed, joyful, folk-pop tune, with such a happy sound. “Seems like she’s seen it all before/And what she hasn’t seen, she’s heard of/So keep your secrets hidden/I’ve got my heart out on my sleeve and an eye on the door.” George Terry plays lead guitar on this track, and Steve Cropper is actually on rhythm guitar. That’s followed by “Slippin’ Away,” the album’s title track, with some great laid-back 1970s vibes, reminding me at times of some of Paul Simon’s work from the same period. “And something inside says I’m a fool to stay/The one that you love is slipping away.” Steve Cropper plays lead guitar on this one, and Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan of The Turtles provide some backing vocals.

“Falling Again” has a sweet country flavor, with Al Perkins on pedal steel. What comes as a surprise and changes up that sound a good deal is Albhy Galuten’s work on synthesizer in the second half of the song. “’Cause I’m falling again, falling again/I was blind to the truth/Lost and alone/Searching for someone/Won’t you tell her to please come home.” Then “Take It On The Run” has more of a rock sound, and a silly bit of banter at the beginning. Donnie Dacus plays slide guitar on this track. That’s followed by “Blue Morning,” a mellow and moving tune that features Al Perkins on pedal steel and Donald Dunn on bass. “Down by the river/In a cold, damp room/Watching your life go by/Maybe just a little too soon.”

“Witching Hour” is the track written by Stephen Stills, the song that Hillman and Stills played in their group Manassas in the early seventies. In the liner notes, Hillman indicates that Manassas never recorded it. However, in 2009 a compilation of previously unreleased Manassas tracks titled Pieces was released, and includes a recording of “Witching Hour.” Fellow Manassas members Paul Harris and Joe Lala play on this track, which has more of an edge than most of the other material here. It’s followed by “Down In The Churchyard,” a song that was first recorded by The Flying Burrito Brothers and included on their 1970 LP Burrito Deluxe. This version by Chris Hillman has a different vibe, with more of a reggae feel to the rhythm. My favorite track of this album is its closing track, “(Take Me In Your) Lifeboat,” a wonderful, fun bluegrass tune featuring some excellent vocals. This track features Herb Pedersen on banjo, Byron Berline on fiddle, Bernie Leadon on guitar, Lee Sklar on bass, and Joe Lala on percussion. Chris Hillman plays mandolin on this track.

Clear Sailin’

Clear Sailin’ has a different sound and feel, and features mostly different musicians from the first album. It gets off to a lively, joyful start with “Nothing Gets Through.” And right away the different sound is apparent, with the presence of saxophone. That’s Alan Garth on sax. This track also features some nice work on keys by Skip Edwards. “I’m as reckless as a favorite son/And subtle as a smoking gun/Nothing ventured and nothing won/And nothing lost.” “Nothing Gets Through” was written by Chris Hillman and Peter Knobler, as was the following track, “Fallen Favorite.” I love this line: “They say that people live and learn, but baby you’re just living.” This album has a lot of excellent lyrics. One line that really stands out for me is “You rejected advances that I wasn’t making” from “Lucky In Love.” I’ve been in that position. I once had a girl call me to break up with me, a girl whom I had never asked out. (I later performed an entire stand-up routine about that one woman.) This song is a lot of fun, and features more good work on saxophone. “I’m lucky in love and I’ve left myself open/For romance with a vengeance.” “Lucky In Love” was written by Chris Hillman and Peter Knobler, and is one of my favorite tracks.

The first cover of the album is “Quits,” written by Danny O’Keefe, and originally included on his 1975 record So Long Harry Truman. I love the violin in this Chris Hillman version. This song, too, has some damn good lines, such as “Tell ‘em dreams are flowers and our garden’s bare” and its main line, “Call it what you want/I’ll just call it quits.” Chris Hillman also delivers a really good rendition of “Heartbreaker,” written by David Wolfert and Carole Bayer Sager. This version predates Dolly Parton’s version, which was released the following year. This version is nearly two minutes longer than Dolly’s, with a nice jam at the end. “I truly thought that we were lovers/But now I see you’re just like all the others.” The final cover on this album is “Ain’t That Peculiar,” written by Smokey Robinson, Warren Moore, Marv Tarplin and Robert Rogers, and originally recorded by Marvin Gaye. This version is quite a bit different from the Marvin Gaye version, right from the start. It’s a bit funky, and features saxophone.

The album concludes with its title track, “Clear Sailin’,” which was written by Chris Hillman and Rick Roberts. It features a good, passionate vocal performance. “I feel my life changing with the tide/And the tide changing with the breeze/I hear everybody’s explanation/And nothing that I believe.”

CD Track List
  1. Step On Out
  2. Slippin’ Away
  3. Falling Again
  4. Take It On The Run
  5. Blue Morning
  6. Witching Hour
  7. Down In The Churchyard
  8. Love Is The Sweetest Amnesty
  9. Midnight Again
  10. (Take Me In Your) Lifeboat
  11. Nothing Gets Through
  12. Fallen Favorite
  13. Quits
  14. Hot Dusty Roads
  15. Heartbreaker
  16. Playing The Fool
  17. Lucky In Love
  18. Rollin’ And Tumblin’
  19. Ain’t That Peculiar
  20. Clear Sailin’
The Asylum Years was released on February 9, 2018 through Omnivore Recordings.

David K. Mathews: “The Fantasy Vocal Sessions Vol. 1, Standards” (2018) CD Review

David K. Mathews has played piano and keyboards with a lot of great artists over the years, most notably Tower Of Power, Etta James and Santana. Yes, his resume is impressive. For his new release, The Fantasy Vocal Sessions Vol. 1, Standards, Mathews has recruited the help of several different talented vocalists, including Maria Muldaur, Nicolas Bearde and Amikaeyla Gaston. The band for this release includes David K. Mathews on piano, Jim Nichols on guitar, Peter Barshay on bass and Akira Tana on drums, with Wayne de Silva joining on tenor saxophone for several tracks, and Carl Lockett providing some excellent work on guitar on one track (“When Sunny Gets Blue”).

The album kicks off with “I Want To Talk About You,” written by Billy Eckstine. We could all use a little romance these days, and this music will certainly set the mood, led by David K. Mathews’ light and heartfelt work on piano. Vocalist Nicolas Bearde delivers a wonderful performance here, smooth and passionate and true. And Wayne de Silva’s saxophone speaks clearly of the woman too, a second voice singing her praises. “Because I love you and I want to talk about you.” Nicolas Bearde also provides vocals on a sweet and delightful rendition of “Smile.” “I Want To Talk About You” is followed by “Alfie.” I still haven’t seen Alfie (the play or either film version, actually), but I’ve heard several versions of this song over the years. This one features the touching vocal work of Amikaeyla Gaston (her own story is incredible, so when you get the chance, look her up). The production is decidedly somewhat restrained, so that Amikaeyla’s voice is given the space to shine and really be the focus. Wayne de Silva provides more excellent work on sax.

Peter Barshay begins this rendition of Irving Berlin’s “Blue Skies” on bass, setting a cool tone before the rest of the band comes in. The vocalist on this track is none other than Steve Miller, and it’s great hearing him deliver a jazz performance. I grew up listening to his 1970s rock output and enjoying it. I used to play that Greatest Hits cassette a lot. This track finds him giving a very different performance, and totally nailing it. I need to look into whether he’s put out any other jazz material, because I love how he approaches this song. “I should smile/That’s exactly what I’ll do.” This is an excellent track, with a groovy late-night vibe, and I love Mathews’ work on piano, which is absolutely wonderful. This is certainly one of my favorite tracks on this CD. That’s followed by “Oh Papa,” which features another familiar voice working in a realm somewhat different from that for which she is best known. Maria Muldaur is probably still best known for her hit “Midnight At The Oasis,” though she has thrived in blues and other genres as well (I especially love her work with Jerry Garcia Band in the late 1970s). There is something both sensuous and comforting in her approach to “Oh Papa,” a song that she actually recorded before, including it on her 1974 album Waitress In A Donut Shop. While I like that earlier version, I prefer this new rendition. I love the texture of her performance, and of this track in general. There is some really nice work here. Maria Muldaur also joins David K. Mathews for “Lover Man,” which she also recorded before in her career. This track has a cool vibe right from the start, and features excellent work on piano and a delicious vocal performance, particularly toward the end.

In “Ruby,” there is the line “They say, Ruby, you’re like a song.” It’s an interesting line, as women named Ruby seem to only exist in songs. I don’t believe I’ve ever met a Ruby, but I’ve certainly heard of Ruby in songs like “Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love To Town,” “Ruby Tuesday,” “Ruby Baby,” “Ruby’s Shoes” “Rock ‘N’ Roll Ruby” and of course this one, written by Mitchell Parish and Heinz Roemheld. Vocalist Glenn Walters delivers a somewhat gentle, yet passionate rendition. I like how this track doesn’t rush into the sax solo. This entire album, actually, is really good at letting the songs move at their own pace, allowing them to breathe and grow. This track also features good work on guitar by Jim Nichols. Glenn Walters also joins David K. Mathews for “Skylark,” a track that begins with a sweet piano solo. Glenn Walters’ performance has a friendly vibe, both engaging and comforting. This track also features Wayne de Silva on saxophone.

CD Track List
  1. I Want To Talk About You
  2. Alfie
  3. Blue Skies
  4. Oh Papa
  5. Ruby
  6. Smile
  7. When Sunny Gets Blue
  8. Lover Man
  9. Lush Life
  10. The More I See You
  11. We’ll Be Together Again
  12. Skylark
  13. In The Wee Small Hours Of Morning
 The Fantasy Vocal Sessions Vol. 1, Standards was released on February 2, 2018 on Effendi Records.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

The Great American Music Ensemble: “It’s All In The Game” (2016) CD Review

Does music have the power to lift this country out of the cesspool it has found itself submerged in since the day it allowed a mendacious, incestuous, self-obsessed, delusional, racist, fascist moron to occupy the White House? Maybe. Music can certainly lift the spirits of individuals and groups, so why not raise an entire nation from this dark pit? It’s All In The Game, an absolutely fantastic big band album by The Great American Music Ensemble, should be of help. The album takes familiar tunes and makes them thrilling once again, like they were just written. Directed and arranged by Doug Richards, the music on this disc was recorded in 2001 and features some talented and inspired musicians, as well as vocalist Rene Marie on several tracks.

The disc opens with a very strange, intriguing rendition of “In The Mood,” different from any arrangement or approach I’d heard before, but just as exciting and exuberant, particularly at the end. This will cause you to take a new look at the famous song made popular by the Glenn Miller Orchestra, and gives you an idea of what you’re in for with this outstanding disc. Things then turn romantic and sexy with “Can’t Help Lovin’ That Man Of Mine,” with Rene Marie joining the group on vocals. The way she sings “The roof is leaking,” it sounds like something to be desired. This is an interesting rendition, with certain lines delivered a cappella. I love how the instruments not only support Rene Marie, but seem to encourage her. That’s followed by one of my personal favorite tracks, “Clap Yo’ Hands.” As I’ve said on other occasions, you can never go wrong with Gershwin. At the beginning, the instruments have a delightful playfulness, acting sly, like they might hide on you, then suddenly sneak up on you. Rene Marie’s vocals have a devilish quality as well, perfect as she sing about voodoo. And then suddenly we emerge into a brighter party. The music tells us to relax and enjoy ourselves, the danger is over, as we’ve come to some understanding with the darker powers. If not a truce, then a momentary merging of joys. This is wonderful.

The Great American Music Ensemble delivers a beautiful rendition of “When It’s Sleepy Time Down South,” with Joe Kennedy, Jr. joining the group on violin. His playing is so moving, so effective, so heartfelt. This version has power and beauty, and is tremendous from beginning to end. Joe Kennedy, Jr. also joins the group for “West End Blues,” which follows “When It’s Sleepy Time Down South.” This track is ridiculously fun, with a lot of character in the performance. Seriously, there are times when I feel each instrument is a living, breathing, fully fleshed persona, and these voices together create something absolutely fantastic. Joe Kennedy, Jr. delivers more wonderful work on violin, and I love that piano, making me feel like I stepped into a bar in the old west. And those horns, those glorious, sexy horns, raising spirits and roofs and any other damn thing they please.

Rene Marie joins the band again for a sweet version of Cole Porter’s “I Am Loved,” a song from the musical Out Of This World. “I am loved/What a wonderful thing/What a beautiful thing/What a glorious thing/To be able to say.” Indeed! “They All Laughed” comes on strong like a party in full swing. Then it’s like the party pauses a moment while Rene Marie enters, to see what she’ll do. She delivers her first line a cappella, then the party joins her, and things just roll along from there. This is a great song, written by George Gershwin and Ira Gershwin, and this is a superb rendition. (By the way, if you haven’t seen the Peter Bogdanovich film They All Laughed, you should check it out.) We get more Gershwin with a sweet, beautiful, tender instrumental rendition of “Embraceable You.” The disc then concludes with a fun, lively medley of Charlie Parker compositions titled “Bird Blue.”

CD Track List
  1. In The Mood
  2. Can’t Help Lovin’ That Man Of Mine
  3. Clap Yo’ Hands
  4. Stardust
  5. When It’s Sleepy Time Down South
  6. West End Blues
  7. I’ve Got The World On A String
  8. I Am Loved
  9. September In The Rain
  10. April In Paris
  11. Cherokee
  12. They All Laughed
  13. Ain’t Misbehavin’
  14. Embraceable You
  15. Bird Blues
It’s All In The Game was released on March 4, 2016 through Jazzed Media.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Nicole Saphos: “Buzz & Bloom” (2018) CD Review

Nicole Saphos is a talented jazz vocalist, composer and bass player, based in Washington, D.C. In 2016, she released her debut full-length CD, Tiptoe. She is now following that up with Buzz & Bloom, an excellent EP featuring all original material. The music here is an interesting mix of jazz and pop and rock other elements, all driven by Nicole’s distinct voice. The trio is made up of Nicole Saphos on bass and vocals, John Lee on guitar, and Ele Rubenstein on drums.

The EP opens with “Phony Flowers,” a quirky, delightful song powered by Nicole’s unusual and endearing voice, and her interesting phrasing. This track features a strong rhythm, and nice work on guitar, particularly during the instrumental section. That section becomes a good jam, then suddenly gives way to the next vocal section and its lighter vibe. That’s followed by “Desert Island Song,” which begins with just bass. This one too has an unusual rhythm, particularly in the vocal line, which draws me in. I am captivated by her voice, and I love the use of backing vocals on this track (which I believe are also performed by Nicole – my copy of the CD contains no liner notes, so I can’t be certain). Those backing vocals are beautiful. This is a song that I love more each time I listen to it. “Soon everything will be just fine/Upon my desert island/We’ll have no worries or cares/Yes, we will be living high/Upon my desert island/’Til something spoils the air.” This one also has a good jam, with more cool stuff on guitar. This track fades out at the end during another good jam, and I’m curious where that jam would have gone. I need to see this trio perform live at some point.

“My Old Tune” has a quieter, mellower feel, with a classic, old-time vibe and sound in the vocals, fitting with the song’s title. “To my one and only tried and true/Oh, my old tune.” This track features some impressive work on guitar. “Spin Of The Wheel, Tick Of The Wind” makes excellent use of backing vocals to offset the unusual main vocal line, creating a strong contrast. I also dig the loose rhythm of this track. “Mirror, mirror on my wall/Won’t you show me something to make sense of it all/’Cause I’m moving in circles, I’m chasing my tail/Endlessly searching, but to no avail.” Then drums kick off “Train To Caen,” the kind of rhythm that could easily lead to a big band tune. The bass then comes in, and it sounds very cool. Then when the song really kicks in, it comes as something of a surprise. I wasn’t expecting the direction it took. But, of course, this entire disc has a wonderfully different approach, the music having its own sensibilities and structure. This song turns out to be a delightful love song. “I would get stuck anywhere with you/There’s no one I’d rather stick to.” There is a great section of just bass and drums to conclude this tune. “Train To Caen” is followed by “Buzz & Bloom,” the CD’s title track, the drum work at times reminding me of Princess Frank’s work with Holland Greco. The EP then concludes with a reprise of “My Old Tune.” But it is actually quite a different approach to the song, with a different rhythm and pace, and more of a country style to the guitar playing.

CD Track List
  1. Phony Flowers
  2. Desert Island Song
  3. My Old Tune
  4. Spin Of The Wheel, Tick Of The Wind
  5. Train To Caen
  6. Buzz & Bloom
  7. My Old Tune (Reprise) 
Buzz & Bloom is scheduled to be released on CD on March 30, 2018 through Local Woman Records. It will also get a vinyl release on May 4th.

Thor: “Electric Eyes” (2018) CD Review

Electric Eyes is an album that Thor recorded in 1979, intended to be the follow-up to the hard rock band’s first LP, Keep The Dogs Away. For one reason or another, it was left unreleased until now. Of everything I’ve heard from Thor, Electric Eyes is my favorite album. It has more of a raw, straightforward rock sound than other material I’ve heard (admittedly, I haven’t listened to Thor’s entire catalogue). It features mostly original material, written or co-written by Jon Mikl Thor, with just one cover, a good rendition of The Troggs’ “Wild Thing.”

Electric Eyes opens with “Special Flight,” a seriously good rock number with a steady driving rhythm. It begins with a jam, and I love the way it builds before the vocals come in. There is a bit of punk to its sound, and a bit of glam. Basically, it has everything you could want from a late 1970s rock tune. Oh, those innocent times. “We’re not trying to be rough/We’re not trying to be tough/We just want to have fun/So grab all the girls, lift up their dresses/Have some fun in the sun.” I particularly dig that bass. That’s followed by “She’s A Fancy Lady,” a fun rockin’ tune with a strong rhythm. And speaking of glam, this song refers to “All The Young Dudes” in the line “All the young dudes just sit and stare.” I grew up listening to a lot of music like this, and don’t listen to enough of it now. This is a treat, and is one of my favorite tracks. It brings me back to my early childhood.

“Interception” reminds me just a bit of Heart’s “Barracuda” at moments, with that rhythm on guitar. The song fades out just as it seems to be building, which is an interesting effect. That’s followed by the album’s only cover, The Troggs’ “Wild Thing,” which has a raw feel and a playfulness, both of which are totally fitting. There is also some good work on guitar. It’s an all-round good rendition, and it too includes an unusual fade-out at the end, with the instruments sounding like they fade out faster than the vocals. Sure, the album’s title track, “Electric Eyes,” is a bit goofy, with the lines “Electric eyes, those laser eyes/You must beware those lightning eyes,” but I’m already fully on board, and ready to go wherever this album takes me. And it features more good work on guitar.

“Twitch (Let’s Go)” is one of my favorites. It immediately establishes a rhythm to get you on your feet, and has a bit of punk to its sound, as well as some playful backing vocals. “Oh, I want to kiss you (Kiss you)/Oh, I want to squeeze you (Squeeze you).” It’s a totally enjoyable rock song. Another of the disc’s highlights is “Poison,” a song I love right from the start. It’s a joyful, fun hard rock song, with just enough pop to make it one to get you dancing. This sound really takes me back to a time when the world made a little more sense, when problems could be solved in the length of a song. Songs like “Twitch” and “Poison” make this album worth picking up. Then, with a title like “Gladiator Romp,” you know the disc’s closing number is going to be fun. It has something of a theatrical element in the vocals, the way certain lines are delivered.

CD Track List
  1. Special Flight
  2. She’s A Fancy Lady
  3. Interception
  4. Wild Thing
  5. Electric Eyes
  6. Twitch (Let’s Go)
  7. Storm
  8. Poison
  9. The Door (Face Behind My Mask)
  10. Gladiator Romp
Electric Eyes was released on January 26, 2018 through Deadline Music, a division of Cleopatra Records.