These recently released CD's are sure to please any Seventies
AC/DC - Rock or Bust (Columbia, $11.88) AC/DC is a band that has never so much as detoured from its highway to hell over the past four decades. In 1980, they built their biggest album ever, Back in Black, with Brian Johnson stepping in after the death of founding frontman Bon Scott. Now, they've pummeled out another disc that fits right into their discography, even without rhythm guitarist Malcolm Young, who has bowed out to a debilitating illness. (Drummer Phil Rudd, who's facing his own drama lately, is as steady as ever.) With Young's nephew Stevie Young filling in for him, the arena-rock vets whip out plenty of electrifying fist-pumpers like "Play Ball" and the locomotive-powered "Rock the Blues Away," while testing their libidos on the seedy stripper ode "Sweet Candy" and stretching their car metaphors accordingly on "Emission Control" -- all in four minutes or less. AC/DC may have no interest in ever improving their core sound, but that also means they'll never run the risk of ruining it. * * * 1/2 - Kory Grow, Rolling Stone
HEART - Home for the Holidays (Frontiers Music SRL, $19.47) Heart's latest release, a special live performance CD/DVD, Blu-ray and digital download titled Heart & Friends -- Home for the Holidays, includes holiday classics, personal favorites, and some of their own hits with special guests Shawn Colvin, Sammy Hagar, Richard Marx and Pat Monahan from Train. This unique concert was taped on December 12, 2013 at the Benaroya Symphony Concert Hall in Ann and Nancy Wilson's hometown of Seattle. "We had a great time putting on this show with special friends for the holidays. Warm moments and great music from all... and some saucy little elves too," says Ann Wilson. "We have always held the holidays up as a wonderful whimsical time of year and celebrating it in our beloved home town with friends, songs and family was extremely magical," added sis Nancy Wilson. The show ended a prolific and award-winning year in 2013 for Heart, who have been enjoying a resurgence of popularity since 2010's Red Velvet Carâ, which became the group's first Top 10 album in 20 years. In addition to Ann and Nancy's newly placed star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, the band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame last April. * * * * - Miles High Productions
BOB DYLAN - The Basement Tapes Complete: The Bootleg Series Vol. 11 (Columbia, $92.49) The greatest album Bob Dylan never intended to make -- hours of blues, country, folk ballads and newly composed surrealism recorded as far off the grid as he could get in 1967 -- has been a half-century in coming, arriving in waves of teasing and surprise (bootlegs, the 1975 Columbia double LP, newly unearthed takes) like treasure from a trunk with many false bottoms. These six CDs are, we're assured, every surviving note Dylan taped with his sidemen, the future Band, in upstate New York after the unsustainable frenzy of their 1965-'66 tour and his July '66 motorcycle accident. Still shocking now: how slow this music is, like Dylan has turned off Highway 61 into dense woodland, as well as the surfacing of previously unissued gems like "One for the Road" and the swaggering R&B of "Silent Weekend." In October 1967, Dylan was on his own again, cutting John Wesley Harding. But the trunk of treasure he and the Band made in their short season of hiding keeps on giving. * * * * * - David Fricke, Rolling Stone
NEIL YOUNG - Storytone (Reprise, $11.99) Storytone, a 2-LP set of 10 songs given lavish orchestral arrangements and also offered as solo performances on a bonus disc, might be stronger as one cherry-picked set of unrepeated songs. But it wouldn't be half as interesting. The album is Young in full bloom, with protest statements, automobile reveries and, most impressively, love songs, likely born from his new relationship with actress Daryl Hannah. The orchestra serves intimacy on the lush "I'm Glad I Found You," and the Cadillac big-band version of "I Want to Drive My Car" is big-pimpin' fun with a rust-bucket of bluesman reading. But the strings on the environmentally minded "Who's Gonna Stand Up?" feel like fur at a PETA rally, and wind arrangements schmaltz up the cozy romance of "Tumbleweed." -- a poignant serenade when it's sung with just ukulele. At core throughout both LPs are Young's vulnerable, still-stunning high-tenor voice and his minimalist commitment to gut emotion. He needs little else. * * * 1/2 - Will Hermes, Rolling Stone
PINK FLOYD - The Endless River (Columbia, $29.39) The Endless River is guitarist David Gilmour and drummer Nick Mason's generous farewell to keyboard player Rick Wright, who died in 2008, built form unissued music the three made together for 1994's The Division Bell. A suite of mostly instrumental moods and fragments, The Endless River rolls like a requiem through familiar echoes. "Skins," is a trip back to the jungle-telegraph sequence in 1968's "A Saucerful of Secrets"; the piano figure in "Asinina" is a stately variation on Wright's indelible intro to Dark Side of the Moon's "Us and Them." The effect is inevitably cinematic, a fluid rewind to the Floyd's early film scores. Once piece, a suspense of glacial electronics and elegantly searing guitar, is rightly titled "It's What We Do." "Louder Than Words," the closing vocal track, is undercut by slang in the first lines. But when Gilmour sings, "The beat of our hearts/Is louder than words," it feels, again, like hanging on -- with grace. Write was the steady, binding majesty in the Floyd's explorations. This album is an unexpected, welcome epitaph. * * * 1/2 - David Fricke, Rolling Stone
NEIL DIAMOND - Melody Road (Capitol, $13.98) We could question the gods' decision to make only one Neil Diamond, but maybe one of him is all this planet can handle. At 73, the man still touches insane amounts of warm. There are no duds on his first all-new album since 2008 -- just 12 stripped-down soft-rock tracks, not too heavy on the strings, hitting consistently hard whether Diamond plays the winsome crooner ("Something Blue") or the bummed-out belter ("Alone at the Ball"). "Seongah and Jimmy" is a tale of a Long Island Boy and a Korean immigrant living in Greenpoint. ("Love happens! In Brooklyn!") And "The Art of Love" is a tutorial from the master. Spoiler: "The art of love is who you share it with." * * * 1/2 - David Fricke, Rolling Stone
BOB SEGER - Ride Out (Capitol, $11.99) New Bob Seger albums don't show up too often (this is his second since 1995). But he's still the same heartland warrior with the same sturdy, elastic rock & roll vision. Ride Out goes from "Detroit Made," a tribute to Motor City automotive ingenuity steeped in Rust Belt rock and soul, to the Chicago-blues overdrive of "Hey Gypsy," to the freedom-loving "Ride Out," where he growls his message four our times over a tight boogie with a Southern-soul feel: "Time to disconnect from clutter/Time to hit the road." Seger recorded in Nashville with reliable session pros, and he covers songs by alt-country artists like Steve Earle (the gun-violence parable "The Devil's Right Hand") and Kasey Chambers ("Adam and Eve," where he gets biblical over fiddles, banjos and mandolins), as well as a stately take on Woody Guthrie's "California Stars," which was first recorded by Wilco and Billy Bragg. On "Gates of Eden," he evokes Bob Dylan's 1965 classic of the same name: "The night came on like thunder/Lightning split the purple skies/My whole day had been a journey sorting through the truth and lies," he sings. Ain't it funny how the night moves, and scary too. * * * 1/2 - Jon Dolan, Rolling Stone
STEVIE NICKS - 24 Karat Gold - Songs From the Vault (Warner Bros., $9.49) The title is misleading: Originally written by Nicks between 1969 and 1995, these are new recordings cut with Nashville session pros. But it's an inspired move -- after all, Music City pop scientists have cribbed shamelessly from Fleetwood Mac for years -- and Nicks conjures the old black-lace magic and makes it feel new. Not all the material is top-shelf, and her voice is starting to show its mileage. But Nicks uses it to her advantage. Most convincing: "Mabel Normand," a tribute to a powerhouse silent film star and legendary coke fiend with whom Nicks apparently identifies (go figure). Best flashback: the triple-harmony California dreaming of "Belle Fleur" ("Canyon dancing/All night long"). Second-best flashback: "The Dealer," a casino metaphor that -- like many songs here -- may or may not be about Lindsey Buckingham. Most surprising: "Cathouse Blues," a Dixieland-band bordello strut in which the singer confides, "I need some new red velvet shoes," then purrs, "I'm still a dreamer's fancy. True, that. * * * 1/2 - Jon Dolan, Rolling Stone
ROBERT PLANT - Lullaby and...The Ceaseless Roar (Nonesuch, $9.49) It's easy to understand Robert Plant's resistance to a Zep reunion. After reinventing himself on his 2007 Alison Kraus collab, Raising Sand, and on projects with ex-girlfriend Patty Griffin, the singer made some of his best work ever. His latest returns to the world-music fusion of 2005's Mighty Rearranger with his Strange Sensation band (now reconfigured as the Sensational Space Shifters). It lacks the focused grace of his country experiments, but this much is true: it's Plant's hardest-rocking set in a decade. "Little Maggie," the album keystone, flips an Appalachian folk song (and bluegrass standard) with African space-funk grooves, but heavier tracks are less convincing. "Embrace Another Fall," the sort of hybrid Peter Gabriel mastered, veers between boutique mixtape fodder and half-baked "Kashmir" gestures. "Pocketful of Golden" is a Houses of the Holy-style Celtic folk rocker that could use some Jimmy Page Les Paul shredding. Plant's Americana detour has made him a better, more nuanced singer. Here, coming home to something like progressive rock, it's hard not to think of his other band. Keep hope alive. * * * 1/2 - Jon Dolan, Rolling Stone
ERIC CLAPTON AND FRIENDS - The Breeze: An Appreciation of JJ Cale (Bushbranch/Surfdog, $34.77) In the early Seventies, after the implosions of Cream and Blind Faith, Eric Clapton found profound influence in the California grooves of reclusive songwriter JJ Cale -- who supplied Clapton with two of his biggest solo hits ("After Midnight" and "Cocaine"). Clapton repaid his debt to Cale once with their 2006 collaboration, The Road to Escondido, and he takes that idea a step further with this tribute album, conceived at Cale's funeral in 2013. Clapton's renditions can be a little too faithful: He nails Cale's throaty growl on "Cajun Moon," but the track fades out just as it might have opened up into a Dead-style jam; "Lies," sung with John Mayer, could have benefited from the charismatic delivery of a vet like Dr. John or Leon Russell. The best moments break free from the restraint's of Cale's writing. Tom Petty delivers "Rock and Roll Records" with wry swagger, and Mark Knopfler puts his stamp on "Train to Nowhere" with gloomy Strat acrobatics. And just like one of Clapton's Crossroads fests, The Breeze heats up toward the end. Willie Nelson adds a spiritual intensity to "Starbound" and, best of all, Don White, from Cale's native Tulsa, Oklahoma, howls the Burrito Brothers-style stomper "I'll Be There," grooving like a high-noon drive through the Baja desert. * * * 1/2 - Jon Dolan, Rolling Stone
Marianne Faithfull, one of the most infamous It Girls of the Swinging
by Miles Raymer in Entertainment Weekly
Both the new album and your new book, Marianne Faithfull: A Life on Record, reflect on a pretty remarkable life. Do you consider yourself sentimental?
Actually, the book [which features a forward by longtime admirer Salman Rushdie] was put together by my manager. He's the one who's kept everything. I don't! I live in the moment. It doesn't mean I can't look back, though. One of my favorite songs [On Give My Love] is "Love More or Less," and on it I say, "I look at everything that I've done/The days, the years, the hours/Life it don't overcome/It just opens like a flower."
You've worked with everyone from the Rolling Stones, obviously, to Beck and Cat Power. Do they make rock stars like they used to?
My whole life I've been working with great musicians, from "As Tears Go By" [her 1964 breakout co-penned by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards] onwards. And I'm working with Roger Waters on the new album. I'd call him a rock star, wouldn't you? Damon Albarn's definitely a rock star! And so is Nick Cave. But they're not quite as... The misogyny is not so bad.
Did you encounter that a lot?
Well, just the whole thing of being considered a chick on the arm of a great rock star is an insult to me. But at the time, you have to remember, a lot of girls wanted to be where I was, for some weird reason. But yes, I've got to make really sure that people understand that I've been writing and thinking about what I'm saying for years now.
Do you stay up on what's happening in pop music?
Not at all. No, no, no. No. I listen to the same music I've always listened to, which is basically the blues. I love jazz, I love soul, R&B, Little Richard -- yeah, there you are. And occasionally somebody gets through to me. I love the new Leonard Cohen, Damon Albarn's records. But I'm not interested in pop music or celebrity at all, no. I had enough of that very early on, didn't I? Didn't last long. I got very bored with that.
That kind of exposure could be trying.
Oh, it's horrible! Absolutely horrible. I can understand it if you don't have anything else you can do, for instance. Like, the Stones can't do anything else, can they? All they can do is be the greatest rock & roll band in the world, and that's what they are. I don't think they're doing it for the f---ing publicity, do you? I think they hate all that.
You were famous for having a very pretty voice, but you seem to have embraced how it's changed with age.
Of course I have! What else could I do? I liked when it changed. It was the voice I needed to say what I wanted to say to make [her seminal 1979 comeback album] Broken English. It wouldn't have worked with my little voice at 17, if you know what I mean. [Laughs]
Best of EXTRA! | EXTRA! | Main Page | Seventies Single Spotlight | Search The RockSite/The Web