Chain Poets, "Chain Poets"-CPR Records -
Glimpses into a soon-to-hit-the-big-time band? Quite possibly as Chain Poets are the best kept secret in Atlanta. Since I got this CD, it has not left my car stereo. Their song, "Little Tin Toys" pretty much sums up what is great about them - catchy songs, great instrumentation and a lead vocalist with an amazing voice! Songs you can't get out of your head and want to hear over and over. I can't help it but I'm a sucker for a well-crafted power-pop song and these are about as memorable as they get. Out of thirteen songs, there is not a dog in the pack. But, this is not your average straight-forward power-pop album. You've got funk tunes ("Too Bad"), dreamlike songs ("Spleen") and piano driven barrelhouse ("Sweet Dreams"). And, if that wasn't enough you have great harmonies and a lead player on par with Steve Vai. The ONLY thing I would change about this album is to have Greg's voice mixed a little more prominent - it's a shame not to show off his Robin Zander-like powerhouse vocals! I'll be quite surprised if a large label doesn't jump on these guys.
Brian Wilson, "Live at the Roxy Theatre"-Brimmel Records -
The new live album from Mr. Wilson proves that not all of the old rockers have lost it (I won't name names, but you know all the groups that are milking the reunion circuit). Forget those tabloid-like TV movies that present Brian as a babbling, burned out has-been. In one year on the road Brian has managed to do what it has taken Mike Love several decades to do-accurately present the majesty of Brian Wilson compositions. And without the gimmick of on-stage cheerleaders! Well what about Brian's voice? Just this week on the radio I heard a D.J. say, "Brian's voice was shot along time ago". Sure, he's no Carl Wilson, but Brian is still a capable singer. I have bootlegs from last year when he first started touring and I grimaced when I heard he an official live album was being released. At the beginning of his tour, Brian's voice simply wasn't in top form, but a lot has changed in the last year. He can hit the high notes now, even doing a passable version of "God Only Knows". But, don't get rid of those classic Beach Boys albums because, while this album is good, it isn't great. You will play it for awhile until the novelty wears off and then return to those classic Wilson tunes. There are some things more important than a ground-breaking album. When you add Brian's voice, THOSE songs, superb back up musicians/vocalists, you have a testament to the eternal, timeless power of rock and roll.
Emerald Rose, "Bending Tradition"-Indie Release -
On their second offering, Emerald Rose has made an incredible leap from their first release [simply entitled, "Emerald Rose"]. In comparative rock and roll terms, this is simply the bands' Sgt. Pepper (and I'm not one to use that term lightly!). I've never seen a band make such marked improvements between albums. I wish bands in the rock and roll genre would do this! All the problems that dogged their first album have been corrected. The sound mix is perfect - you can actually feel the drums, the instruments are pristine and the vocals are rich. And what vocals they are, true ear candy (no pun intended). In my opinion, the harmony vocals are the most fascinating thing about this album. I suggest you listen to this album with headphones (remember those?). Then you can truly hear all the little nuances in the mix, including acoustic bass and bouzouki. The textures of the album are truly amazing.
Sticking with the time-tested formula of their first album, Emerald Rose mixes their originals with classic Celt tunes. And, as with the first album, the group's original tunes are on par with any of the classics. Of these originals, my favorites are "Penny in the Well", "Freya Shakti" and "Fire in the Head". This time around their originals take a more serious tone (compared to their first album). They have left off the hilarious "Chicken Raid" (put it up on Napster guys!), which is an Emerald Rose comedy classic or albatross, depending on which band member you ask. And then there are those jigs, where Larry "Madman" Morris simply amazes with his pennywhistle. Speaking of Larry, he is truly the emerging talent this go-around, both as a songwriter and lead vocalist. Another surprise is their cover of ELP's "Lucky Man". They turn what was originally a pompous, self- indulgent song of the 70's into an enjoyable Emerald Rose tune (well, at least they didn't cover Jackson Browne!).
I've mentioned a few songs by name, but I'm hard pressed to pick a favorite. Each time I listen to this album I find something else I like. All in all, Bending Tradition presents a confident, assured Emerald Rose - and the results are great. Bravo, guys!
Billionaire, "Ascension"-Republic Records -
Bland, assembly line "alternative" rock. Docked several points just for the truly wretched lyrics. Reviewing this album is like dumping a girlfriend, you try to think of something nice to say, but eventually the truth emerges after the small talk.
The Woggles, "Fractured"-Telstar Records -
The Woggles are the revival preachers of rock and roll, set out to save the unsaved masses everywhere from the sanitized evils of "alternative rock". Fractured contains fourteen brought to you in dazzling Wogglephonic sound! This album is a perfect representation of the Woggles' energetic live show, and it has the best sound of any Woggles release so far. Led by "the Professor", the Woggles drive home their very own version of hook-laden, garage rock and roll gospel to unbelievers everywhere. In fifty years time, an old man will play this CD to his grandkids, eyes wide in wonder, as he explains what rock and roll was. I'll guarantee you he won't be playing Korn! With tunes guaranteed to make you shake your ass, if this album doesn't move you, you ain't got a pulse!