Albums of the Week

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In this edition: Black Country Communion, Hiss Golden Messenger, Holly Golightly and the Brokeoffs, Neil Young with Crazy Horse, Ken Stringfellow and Spotlight Kid.

Dennis’ Pick of the Week:
Black Country Communion: Afterglow (J&R Adventures)

Contemporary classic rock has no better torchbearer than Black Country Communion, who embodies the best elements of Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin without being bound by conformity. And like these touchstones, there’s an un-miss-able fire in their bellies to forge something strong enough to battle gods and make women weak-kneed. No doubt about it, this is Man Rock of the first order – spontaneous moustache growth may occur if played loud enough. Afterglow (released October 30) is their third studio effort in less than two years of existence – and they slipped in a double live album/DVD along the way, too. In ways, this feels like BCC’s Presence, a harder-edged transitional work that may be appreciated more in time. It’s less immediately “classic” feeling than their first two albums, but when it’s Glenn Hughes (lead vocals, bass), Joe Bonamassa (guitar, vocals), Jason Bonham (drums) and Derek Sherinian (keys) laying it down there’s no shortage of heroically charged, tough rock to go around. Midnight Sun adds a Dokken-y vibe to their catalog and the title cut is a mix of kick-it-hard riffing and power balladry that’d make Journey’s Jonathan Cain jealous. Cry Freedom with its shared lead vocals from Bonamassa and Hughes has the air of a lost Purple Mark III gem (fitting given Glenn’s role in that lineup). However, what would be Side B on vinyl, stretching from Dandelion to Crawl, is just plain fantastic, boldly etched rock that cements this quartet as equals not imitators to the ancestors swimming in their sound. Hughes is the lightning rod and driving spirit of BCC, and frankly the man may be the finest rock lead singer of his generation still in the game. Sherinian really comes into his own in this third installment, his organ swells and endless, interesting coloring thickening the overall sound beautifully. The more modern feel of parts of Afterglow makes me think that a Mars Volta or Mastodon fan might be drawn in, and anyone still sporting wood for Zep and Purple is going to need to call a doctor for that over-four-hour erection they’ll get. (DC)

Dennis’ Runner-Up of the Week:
Hiss Golden Messenger: Lord I Love The Rain (Heaven And Earth Magic Recording Co.)

Caught between Father Sky and deep rooted memory – both individual and the collective – Hiss Golden Messenger (M.C. Taylor, Scott Hirsch & pals) explores all the “little things so full of life,” eagerly reaching out towards things true and divine, a healthy measure of fear and trembling in their souls in opening up to, well, whatever comes in such ontologically prickly motions. In fact, if Kierkegaard had lived to form a rock band it might sound a bit like Hiss Golden Messenger, who truly grok his notion that “when one person sees one thing and another sees something else in the same thing, then the one discovers what the other conceals,” the band stirring up secrets in the Great Compost Pile and cultivating music filled with all the dark and light ingredients one finds in The Garden. Their latest salvo (released October 28) is a self-described juxtaposition of “grainy kitchen table gospel and dusted imaginary sci-fi soundtrack pieces,” where the first section has a pleasantly raw, sitting close intimacy that unexpectedly but organically blooms into a West Coast dappled cousin to Can, Faust and the like. Trust me, it makes sense in context, and fine covers of Michael Hurley’s The Revenant and Ronnie Lane’s Tell Everyone only thicken the sauce. While Bonnie Prince Billy/Will Oldham and vintage Neil Young might be better known than HGM, anyone intoxicated by those artists is going to find oodles to love here. While some pieces have appeared in other forms on previous releases, one thing time has shown is the great malleability of their songs, which lends themselves to wildly different settings where they can evolve/devolve as the moment dictates. Lord I Love The Rain is heady stuff in several regards, a primo score for contemplation, inhalation, and other copacetic seeking activities where God is in the room and listening along with you. (Dennis Cook)

Dennis’ Bonus Review:
Holly Golightly and the Brokeoffs: Sunday Run Me Over (Transdreamer)

It ain’t like God is new to rock – Elvis had as much church as skirt (chaser) in him – but what’s super swell about Holly Golightly and the Brokeoffs (aka multi-instrumentalist hubby Lawyer Dave) is how they cuss and tussle more than would be appropriate amongst the pews on their fifth album together, Sunday Run Me Over (released October 13), where the duo gleefully flips the script and calls for a whole lot less Jesus and a whole lot more rock ‘n’ roll. Amen! Kicking off with Goddamn Holy Roll, this set takes one by the hand, encouraging foot shufflin’ and honest connection. It’s a touch more roughhewn than some of Golightly’s other efforts but the spacious, non-fussy production suits the material, which swings from swaying shuffler (Hand In Hand) to spot-on Mac Davis cover (Hard To Be Humble) to Tin Pan Alley ready ditties (One For The Road, The Future’s Here) to bohemian country-gospel. Recorded at home on the couple’s farm, Sunday Run Me Over feels of a piece, a heartfelt effort to make old-timey relevant to today that succeeds with humor, off-handed skill, and clattering charm. (DC)

Ron’s Pick of the Week:
Neil Young with Crazy Horse: Psychedelic Pill (Warner Bros.)

Not even six months since breathing new life into his old band Crazy Horse with his defiantly patriotic public domain covers album Americana, Neil Young keeps the reunion momentum at a fever pitch with the release of the longest studio LP of his near 50-year career to date. It’s a sprawling, two-CD journey through the past he’s calling Psychedelic Pill (released October 30) that will surely be the toast of those fans who love to see him push the Horse to Herculean distances of ragged glory. Opening track Driftin’ Back sets the scene with 26 minutes of flowery thunder where Neil laments the fading of the hippie dream amidst a fog of technological sterilization, the corporate greed that infested his generation and the fashion sense of today’s youth as Billy Talbot, Frank Sampedro and Ralph Molina choogle across a landscape of vintage rust. Ramada Inn, clocking in at 16 minutes and change, as well as the mountainous Walk Like A Giant further showcase the embattled endurance of this heavy rock institution in bounds the band hasn’t leapt since Change Your Mind from 1994’s Sleeps With Angels. Meanwhile, Young delivers perhaps his most poignant, beautiful ballad he’s done with Crazy Horse yet with For the Love of Man, a touching tribute to his son Ben. Though not as towering a statement of artistic ascendance as 2010’s Le Noise, Psychedelic Pill nevertheless is a prime slab of classic Crazy Horse whose flavor lasts long enough to wash the nasty cardboard aftertaste of 2003’s Greendale (the previous outing for the Horse) from one’s palate once and for all. (Ron Hart)

Ron’s Runner-Up of the Week:
Ken Stringfellow: Danzig In The Moonlight (Spark & Shine)

Ken Stringfellow might be a citizen of the European Union these days, but it’s gonna take more than an ocean and a disjointed currency exchange to get the American out of his pop, as his cheekily named fourth LP, Danzig in the Moonlight (released October 2), can surely attest. Recorded in Brussels and mixed in Los Angeles, the celebrated alt-rock journeyman undoubtedly shows why the likes of R.E.M. and Big Star have kept him on staff all these years and the very reason behind your need to reintroduce yourself to his work in The Posies across this illuminating set that finds him diving into Al Green and Lee Hazelwood territory while still keeping one foot on Mitch Easter Island. A beautiful addition to a solo catalog that should be far more than four records deep. (RH)

Ron’s Bonus Review:
Spotlight Kid: Disaster Tourist (Saint Marie Records)

There are some new kids on the noisepop block, namely England’s Spotlight Kid, whose psychedelic spin on the shoegaze genre reaches its full crystallization on this deluxe edition of their amazing debut LP Disaster Tourist (released November 13), which expands the initial 11 track album by five cuts, the best of which includes a shimmering version of Haunting Me captured live on BBC 6 and a punishing blast through Forget Yourself In Me from a session at the famed Fisher Lane Studio in Surrey, perhaps best known as the primary creative bunker of Genesis for such classic records as Abacab and Invisible Touch, with a performance that really embellishes the band’s three-guitar attack to the max. Pity the poor hipster press Stateside who haven’t yet been turned on to the brightness of the Spotlight Kid. They are really missing out on some serious ethereal overdrive. (RH)