Is it mere coincidence that many a momentous musical album has been delivered into the marketplace today, 9/11?
Bob Dylan’s grave and gravely voiced “Tempest” (Columbia) is most notable. While setting a jaunty tone with the train chugging opener “Duquesne Whistle” (a co-write with Robert Hunter), Dylan’s 35th (!) long player shares many a bleak vision and tart expression from the still unbowed and love-seeking 71-year-old . The jump blues “Narrow Way” declares “This is a hard country to stay alive in. Blades are everywhere and they’re breaking my skin.” Ouch. Written in old world ballad-style, “Tin Angel” is a dark tale of romantic betrayal and vengeance that ends with blood splattered everywhere. Heroes and villains are sadly at play, too, in “Roll on, John,” an ode to John Lennon that quotes from “A Day in the Life” and “Come Together,” while the album’s epic title track recounts the tragedy of the “Titanic” - with imagery borrowing from James Cameron’s film.
Also out today: While oft considered dance pop lightweights, Pet Shop Boys impress with the hopeful tone of “Elysium” (Astralwerks) – especially the uplifting odes “Hold On” and “Memory of the Future” and ruminations on the creative drive – “Your Early Stuff” and a comically derisive “Ego Music.” Danish mod rockers The Ravonettes likewise dig deeper than expected on “Observator” (Vice) with put-downs of today’s “Young and Cold” and lonesome refrains like “Curse the Night” and “You Hit Me (I’m Down.)” Been there, doing that.
Mint Condition keep the big, bold, progressive soul genre (R&B/jazz/rock) going like practically nobody else does with “Music @ The Speed of Life” (Shanachie.) If you’ve been craving the polished punch of Earth, Wind & Fire and War, this set fits like a glove.
Blues devotees should get a huge charge from the DVD/CD summit session “Muddy Waters/The Rolling Stones – Checkboard Lounge – Live Chicago 1981” (Eagle Vision). On stage for about a third of the seemingly impromptu but well recorded 90-minute club show, Mick Jagger and Muddy Waters trade vocals on the likes of “Baby Please Don’t Go” and “Hootchie Coochie Man.” A giddy Keith Richards and Ron Wood add stinging guitar lines and laughs throughout the night whilst Stones’ keyboardist Ian Stewart is hiding in the shadows (as usual), Muddy’s backup band and other Chi-town heroes like Buddy Guy and Junior Wells also jump to the fore. Bob Clearmountain’s new surround sound mix is shockingly good.
Mr. Richards also pops up, along with the likes of Billy Gibbons (ZZ Top), Slash, Steve Miller, Jose Feliciano and Bucky Pizzarelli on “ "Thank You Les – A tribute to Les Paul” (Gibson/Showplace) hosted by Paul’s longtime sidekick Lou Pallo.
Prog rock fans will be digging the varied vocal and instrumental vibes of Marco Benevento “Tiger Face” (Royal Potato Family). The keyboardist and his clan come back at the Blockley in University City, October 13.
Still alive and kicking is Jamaican music legend Lee “Scratch” Perry on an up-to-date (ain’t he always?) “Master Pieces”(Born Free).
Jazz and world music devotees also get a lift from the haunting, harmonious toned charity set “Home: Gift of Music- Japan Earthquake/Tsunami Relief” (Sunnyside) voiced by talents like Claudia Acuna, Gretchen Parlato, Doug Wemble and Sachal Vasandani; as well as the lovely casting of “Soul Shadows” by Denise Donatelli (Savant) and Alexis Cole’s apt vocalizations on Pepper Adams tunes “I Carry Your Heart” (Motema) also available as part of a multi-disc set “Joy Ride: The Complete Works of Pepper Adams.”
Sultry, smokey-voiced British singer/songwrite Tanita Tikaram is up to good tricks on the double disc "Can't Go Back"(Eagle Records), including a remake of her big hit "Twist in My Sobriety." Megan Hilty of "Smash" fame got to play the Marilyn Monroe part all over again in the New York City Center Encores! revival of "Gentleman Prefer Blondes" (Masterworks Broadway), the Jule Styne-scored stage show that predated the much better known film adaptation.