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Brief Encounters: New Albums 4-21-23 – 4-27-23 Reviewed

Nails – Benefits – another UK thrash rap, great politics, better than Sleaford Mods and the sound of exiting from all of Britain – A-

Live at The Great American Music Hall – Billy Joel – teachers us two things, he is better in 2023 and the format at the MSG residency was already in place – B-

The Live Series: Songs Of Character – Bruce Springsteen – spanning 40 years of stage performances, the 1975 Chuck Berry cover “Carol” is a goodie (and he doesn’t sound as though he has just wandered in from “Of Mice And Men”), otherwise this is fine but completely meaningless: almost zen like in its indifference. Except for “Kitty’s Back” which sucks – C

Escalona Nunca Se Había Grabado Así – Carlos Vives – the Colombian singer is the guy who introduced us to vallenato (Colombian folk music) and in a world of Latin-American trap, this is a lively, old fashioned album – B+

Stage & Screen -John Pizzarelli – No, he isn’t his father, the late, wonderful Bucky Pizzarelli (I never missed him for 20 years, here). And anyway, this is exactly where John thrives, whether covering movies like the Doris Day and Gordon McCrae (and name of the song) “Tea For Two” or Broadway masterpieces like the “Oklahoma Suite” – A

What Had Happened Was… (Deluxe Edition) – Dram – In 2017, I saw Dram blow both Travis Scott and Kendrick Lamar off stage at Barclay Center. However, since then, he hasn’t been able to replicate the success of “Broccoli.” The Deluxe Edition features 27 lo-fi R&B tracks that resemble 6lack but with a lot more personality though the album can be a little boring, and none of the tracks stand out – B-

A Kiss for the Whole World – Enter Shakira – British rockers who sound like the post-grunge sound so popular on the West Coast. Absolutely the pits – MUST TO AVOID – D

Fuse – Everything but The Girl – recorded during the heart of the pandemic where the married couple (with children) decided to resurrect their EBTG identity and Tracey is in great voice and the songs are pretty darn excellent visions of a world I can’t imagine – B+

RökFlöte – Jethro Tull – before there was Lizzo there was Ian Anderson and here he takes his rock flute and does what he does. Jethro Tull have one great album (no, not Thick As A Brick but Stand Up) and this proggy flute-y album adds little to the lustre – C-

Defiance Part 1 – Ian Hunter – Ian Hunter’s latest album reminds us why Mott The Hoople were always great. On a glittery, star-studded set of songs that includes Mike Campbell, Taylor Hawkins three times, Jeff Beck, Todd Rundgren, Ringo Starr, and more, Hunter’s songwriting chops are never obscured. This is a phenomenal classic rock album by an artist who, while never quite top-tier, came within spitting distance. It’s worth noting that unlike Bruce, who seems to be pushing the envelope so hard because of his inability to make a great album again, Ian Hunter pushes nothing and is rewarded with Jeff Beck’s solo to end “No Hard Feelings” – A

Touch My Soul – Ivan Neville – New Orleans great Meter, keyboard playa, check out the last name, etc, with his first solo album in 20 years and it is everything you wanted it to be from “the greatest place on earth” and with the best advice you’ll get this year: shake it don’t break it – B+

Dark Luminosity: The 21st Century Collection – Jah Wobble – If all Jah Wobble had ever done was The Metal Box, his name would still be a legend. However, he has done much more, including “The Bus Routes Of South London” from earlier this year. This compilation features five hours of Jah dub in the 2020s – A

Star Eaters Delight – Lael Neale – The L.A. singer-songwriter’s second album for Sub Pop is better than her first album, which was already pretty great. It’s less dense and easier to penetrate than her other songs. The album is magnificent and catchy as hell, with “Must Be Tears” being a standout track – A-

The Course Of The Inevitable 3: Pieces Of My Pain – Lloyd Banks – the former G-Unit member has grown up on this part three, fatherhood might do that, but he is still a great rapper… – B

One Wayne G – Mac DeMarco – 199 songs, eight hours plus, all new, none have real titles and they will all put you to sleep as the the indie Robert Morse overshoots – D+

Yallah Beibe – MC Yallah – she couldn’t be better, born in Uganda, living in Nigeria, she adds dancehall beats to the best flow you may ever hear and the sound is intoxicated otherness that spits like major and has the power of a woman who knows what she is talking about though we don’t. From Crack Magazine: “She speaks four languages, and raps fluently in all of them: Luganda (Uganda), Kiswahili (Kenya), Luo (another Kenyan dialect) and English (though rarely these days). With her producers sending her experimental, electronic beats, she chooses a language based on the sound and how many syllables she can fit in a bar.” Want to know more? Here. – ALBUM OF THE WEEK – A

Live From The Mabuhay Gardens: November 14, 1980 – Romeo Void – live from San Francisco, Debora Iyall in her prime, she sounds more post-punk than anything else and while the band didn’t have that much in em and their best song, “Never Say Never” isn’t here though “White Sweater” is – B

In Between Thoughts…A New World – Rodrigo y Gabriela – sounds like an instrumental Santana in search of a better drummer as they pick and choose genres from salsa to western – B-

ATUM – Act I & II – The Smashing Pumpkins – In 1996, I went to see Billy at The Academy on the Infinite Sadness tour, and despite coming off their one shining moment, they couldn’t even get us off. Some 25 years later, they offer up 84 minutes of similar DNA rock opera, grunge indie guitar pyrotechnics. To be fair, I expected MUCH MUCH worse – B

DRIVE – Tiësto – only a handful of DJs have prospered in the 21st century and Tiësto is one of them, here he mixes house pop with Avicii style songs, and features from the likes of Karol G – C

INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY – Waterfalls – another newish rock band from the UK, they sound like the Wombats only whinier and not as clever – C


  1. Barry McMeekin on April 29, 2023 at 8:53 am

    It’s hard to imagine someone that fancies themself a rock critic stating that Jethro Tull made one, one that is, f#cking good album. But I guess that’s what passes for intelligent commentary in a realm dominated by imbecilic noisemakers.

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