Long Road Out of Eden
Far from being a typical cynical Eagles-bashing crit, I'm a fan dating back to their first album, and loved them up through The Long Run (and the Hell Freezes Over reunion), so I greeted the arrival of their first new album in 28 years with considerable excitement (and near disbelief). I feared that it might sound like four solo artists (fifth Eagle Don Felder having been jettisoned along the way) trading off on a bunch of dissimilar-sounding songs. But no, it really does sound like classic Eagles, with those creamy harmonies, sharp and memorable guitar lines, and leaders Don Henley and Glenn Frey as strong and self-assured as ever. A few songs here will find their way to the group's crowded pantheon of classics: “How Long” (written by fellow traveler J.D. Souther) is the group in country rockin' “Already Gone” mode; “Busy Being Fabulous” has some of that R&B bite that propelled “The Long Run.” “Fast Company” is this album's “Life in the Fast Line.” “Waiting in the Weeds” is vintage Henley, maybe about a girl, maybe about a certain band… “Long Road Out of Eden,” at more than ten minutes, is epic in length and scope — a powerful and poetic glimpse of war and America in the 21st century. It's followed by a lovely Frey instrumental, “I Dreamed There Was No War.” The playing is crisp, the arrangements clean, the sonics top-notch, as always. There are a few minor missteps — some clichéd love ballads and a bit of over-earnest social commentary from Mr. H — but most of what's here is pretty damn good; definitely an unexpected surprise.
Produced by the Eagles, with Steuart Smith, Richard F.W. Davis, Scott Crago and Bill Szymczyk. Engineers: Mike Harlow, Davis, Hank Linderman, Steve Churchyard, Chris Bell, Mike Terry, Elliot Scheiner (mixing). Studios: The Doghouse, Samhain Sound, O'Henry, Henson, Mooselodge (all L.A. area); Panhandle House, Luminous Sound (both in Texas). Mastering: Bob Ludwig/Gateway Mastering (Portland, ME).
— Blair Jackson
(Big Yard Music Group)
Shaggy's breakthrough single, “Church Heathen” (included on Intoxication), focused a world-music spotlight on this unusual artist and his irresistible vocal stylings — a fusion of staccato, punctuated vocal rhymes and tempo-driven, melodic Gregorian monk-type chants. The backbeat fills a supportive role; combined with Shaggy's powerful lyrics, Intoxication gets you, well, intoxicated by the grooves and melodies. While much of the album is “radio-friendly,” Shaggy does give us some pure reggae tones on “Bonafide Girl” and “Reggae Vibes.” Big-name hip hop/R&B players make special appearances; stand-outs are Akon on “What's Love” and Nasha on “Those Days.” This 17-track release puts the focus on what Shaggy does best — craft a great reggae hit with undercurrents of R&B and radio-friendly beats.
Producer: Robert Livingston. Engineers: Claude Reynolds, Stephen Siravo Jr., Andrew Thielk. Mastering: Paul Shields.
— Sarah Benzuly
Dwight Sings Buck
We recently reviewed The Derailers' Under the Influence of Buck, another wonderful tribute album in the tradition of George Jones Salutes Hank Williams or Merle Haggard's Jimmie Rodgers collection, Same Train, Different Time. Like The Derailers, Yoakam's sound owes a lot to Owens, and he enjoyed a friendly, collaborative relationship with the Bakersfield icon. On Dwight Sings Buck, Yoakam pours his heart and his marvelous voice into hits such as “Act Naturally” and “Above and Beyond,” with spirited backup from his touring band. They take few liberties with Owens' sound, but Yoakam's obvious devotion to this music adds emotional dimension to the tracks, especially his gorgeous rendition of “Close Up the Honky Tonks.”
PLAY: Must Play
Close Up the Honky Tonks
Producer: Yoakam. Recording engineers: Michael Dumas, Roberto Bosquez. Mixing: David Leonard. Recording studio: Track Record (N. Hollywood). Mixing Studio: Glenwood Place (Burbank). Mastering: Stephen Marcussen (Hollywood).
— Barbara Schultz
The Returning Sun
For many, the era two decades ago when The Fixx was a Top 10 band was a time when more creative music ruled the airwaves. Fixx lead vocalist, Cy Curnin, stands out as one of the most distinctive voices from those years of hits such as “One Thing Leads to Another.” With The Returning Sun, Curnin celebrates turning the magic age of 50, and proves he still has a thought-provoking style of singing and songwriting. “Remember Me When I'm Gone” shows his ability to turn from thoughtful musings to aggression on a dime. Optimism reigns with the jangling guitars on “Fork in the Road,” followed by the tense synth and drum loop underpinnings of “Hope Springs Eternal.” Curnin truly soars on the title track, bursting out with beautifully intelligent vocal hooks.
LISTEN: Must Play
Remember Me When I'm Gone
LISTEN: Must Play
We Might Find It
Producers: Doug Beck, Cy Curnin, Clark Stiles. Engineer: Beck, Stiles. Mixer: Ernie Lake. Studios: The Yellow Room, The Tree House (both in NYC). Mastering: Dominic Maita/Airshow Mastering.
— David Weiss
It's been awhile since a disc of ethereal, slow-moving instrumental music (this once would have been called “new age”) has captured my imagination like Patrick O'Hearn's Glaciation has. Like the glaciers and icebergs that adorn the lovely CD package, these compositions have a spare, mysterious, other-worldly beauty. I mean to pay this release a high compliment when I note that some of this music recalls the most evocative work of Brian Eno, in the way O'Hearn places the instruments in different ambient fields and the way the tunes unfold so naturally and majestically. But far from being just a keyboard/synth workout, this features many other textures, from pulsing basses to Hawaiian guitar (recalling Eno's gorgeous Apollo) to percussion. All in all, it's a wondrous trip!
Produced and performed by O'Hearn in his Nashville home studio, Lair Subterraneous.
— Blair Jackson