New music: Leland Sundries, ‘music for outcasts’
Operating on a broader canvas than their two EPs, and boasting a more alternative feel, Leland Sundries finally gets to stretch on “music for outcasts,” and it was worth the wait. They find their inner Clash on guitar-fueled rockers like “Greyhound From Reno,” wail through wild psychobilly distortion on “Bad Hair Day” and conjure up what could be a long-lost “Blonde on Blonde” outtake with “Freckle Blues.”
One thing that “music for outcasts” carries over from the EPs, though, is a cutting sense of humor and a literary array of flesh-and-blood characters, many of them women, whom you’ll miss when they’re gone. This goes just as much for the struggling transplant of “Stripper From Bensonhurst” (“This is not how New York was supposed to go”) to the long-haired girl driving east in a “cloth-top car leaking banjo sounds” on the buoyant, alt-country-flavored “Maps of the West.”
All through, the Brooklyn-based quintet seems to be having the time of their lives, and why wouldn’t they? Sidelined for a while when Loss-Eaton was faced with heart surgery (he’s fine now), they’re clearly relishing their dive into an expanded repertoire. You’ll want to dive in yourself.
New music: Garry Tallent, 'Breaktime'
In all those years quietly playing bass from the back of the stage for Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band, Garry Tallent never gave us any indication that he had a rollicking album like “Break Time” just busting to get out. Awash in rockabilly riffs, twangy fiddles and party-time zydeco, it’s a raunchy retro pleasure.
Rockabilly is the presiding style on “Break Time,” but it’s far from a one-note affair. “Bayou Love” brings a Cajun sound to the table, “If Love Would Change Your Mind” would be at home on a George Jones record, and “Charlene” recalls Buddy Holly’s “Fade Away” imbued with a Bo Diddley beat and a New Orleans vibe.
But it’s the old-time rock ‘n’ roll that most stands out: “Say It Out Loud” could have come from Sam Phillips’ 1958 Sun stable, and “Why Do You Do Me Like That?” takes full advantage of Kevin Mckendree’s fleet-fingered piano and Eddie Angel’s raucous riffs for a track worthy of Jerry Lee. Meanwhile, “Stay Away” is a playful, country-time treasure. In fact, the only real drawback to “Break Time” is that Tallent took so long to deliver it.
ICYMI: AndersonPonty Band, 'Better Late Than Never'
Recorded at the Wheeler Opera House in Aspen last year, with overdubs added later, “Better Late Than Never” contains a healthy mix of songs fans will remember from Jon Anderson’s long career as lead singer of Yes -- plus some original tracks and reworked versions of compositions by his current collaborator, renowned jazz-fusion violinist Jean-Luc Ponty, with lyrics by Anderson layered on.
If that sounds like a mish-mosh, you’re right -- but it’s one that works, especially for Yes fans unhappy with the band’s current lineup (i.e. the one without Anderson).
For most of the Yes tracks, Anderson doesn’t stray too far from the original arrangements save for the inclusion of Ponty’s violin, a welcome addition to old favorites like “Owner of a Lonely Heart” and “Wonderous Stories.” In particular, Ponty goes to town on “Roundabout,” the most rousing cover of a Yes classic on the album.
All through, Anderson’s distinctive tenor vocals, while maybe not as robust as during his Yes heyday, are remarkably strong and perfectly suited for the magical, mystical lyrics that are his trademark on songs both old new.
Vinyl Spotlight: “Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Live - Volume 1”
It’s appropriate that 1999 inductee Bruce Springsteen should be all over Time Life’s first-ever vinyl LP collection from the Rock Hall induction ceremonies -- one of the hall’s most prolific presenters and performers, he turns up on three tracks, including with his own E Street Band on a tight, terrific “Tenth Avenue Freeze Out.”
But the track that will resonate most in relation to recent events is the album-closing take on “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” from 2004, featuring Tom Petty, Jeff Lynne, Steve Winwood, Dhani Harrison and Prince. The song simply explodes when Prince’s guitar kicks in halfway through, single handedly turning a classic-rock chestnut into something blistering and alive.
Those are far from the only highlights: Sam Cooke’s “A Change is Gonna Come” will make you find religion whether you want to or not, and the raucous 2009 take on “The Train Kept A-Rollin’” by former Yardbirds Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page, along with Ron Wood, Joe Perry, Flea and Metallica, displays why rock ’n’ roll must have seemed so subversive when Johnny Burnette first revved up that song in 1956.
Granted, I could have done without James Taylor’s sleepy 1997 version of CSN’s “Woodstock,” especially if it could have meant getting a woman onto the LP. (Hello, The Ronettes?) They should make Volume II mostly women to offset this boys’ club collection.
Peter Chianca is the author of "Glory Days: Springsteen's Greatest Albums." Follow him on Twitter at @pchianca.
Peter Chianca: Recent and recommended music albums for June
New music: Leland Sundries, ‘music for outcasts’