Greta Van Fleet/ The Battle At Garden’s Gate, Hard Rock, Republic-Universal
American hard rockers Greta Van Fleet have always received extreme reactions. The critics have dismissed them as Led Zeppelin clones, whereas the fans have loved their guitar-driven energy. This diversity of opinions is likely to continue with their second full-length album The Battle At Garden’s Gate.
Vocalist Josh Kiszka’s texture definitely reminds you of Zeppelin’s Robert Plant but his style and delivery are quite different, actually more like Geddy Lee of Rush. His range on the vibrant opening track Heat Above and the power ballad Broken Balls, and the gradual build-up on Light My Love, are commendable.
The songs are dark, touching upon religion and war. Josh’s brothers, guitarist Jake and bassist Sam, and drummer Danny Wagner combine perfectly to complete the classic quartet line-up. Jake’s solos on Built By Nations and The Weight Of Dreams, and intro fill-ins on Caravel, are first-rate. Trip The Light Fantastic is a trademark Fleet rocker.
Though some repetition creeps in here and there, the welcome thing is that Greta Van Fleet is attracting younger audiences with good, old-school rock. And they’re doing that with new compositions.
Rating: 8/ 10
Tom Jones/ Surrounded By Time, Pop-Rock, Red Window-Universal
This is what genius is made up of. At 80, Welsh legend Tom Jones sounds half his age and changes color and emotion ever-so-easily. Though his new album is filled with versions of older songs, the very treatment and presentation make them stand apart.
His baritone and variety are amazing, with Ethan Johns on production duties. After the minimalistic, emotive country rendition of Bernice Reagon’s I Won’t Crumble If You Fall, Jones sings Michel Legrand’s The Windmills Of Your Mind with polish, in pretty much an evergreen crooner’s style.
An electronica touch appears on Cat Stevens’ Pop Star, and Todd Snidey’s Talking Reality Television Blues, about the journey of the television industry, gets a semi-spoken Radiohead-esque twist. An interesting choice is Bob Dylan’s One More Cup Of Coffee, which is given a completely different feel.
Other beauties are Michael Kiwanuka’s touching I Won’t Lie, the Waterboys’ organ-heavy This Is The Sea and Terry Callier’s nine-minute redemption song The Lazarus Man. Surely, this is another feather in the master’s cap.
Rating: 9/ 10
Peter Frampton Band/ Frampton Forgets The Words, Rock Instrumentals, Phenix Phonograph-Universal
Peter Frampton is best known for his 1976 live album Frampton Comes Alive, his superlative guitaring skills and innovative use of the talk box. Though he never matched that kind of success later, he’s retained a core fan following.
Frampton’s latest set showcases his guitaring abilities yet again, though in a more subtle, mature way. Assisted by his band, he’s done instrumental versions of popular songs, and thus the title Frampton Forgets The Words fits perfectly.
He begins with Sly & The Family Stone’s If You Want Me To Stay, displaying perfect tone and technique on his Les Paul Phenix guitar. Marvin Gaye’s One More Heartache and Roxy Music’s Avalon are played with verve, with George Harrison’s Isn’t It A Pity and Radiohead’s Reckoner being surprise choices.
The seven-minute take on David Bowie’s Loving The Alien is beautifully constructed. This is a must for guitarists and guitar enthusiasts.
Rating: 8/ 10
Rhiannon Giddens ft Francesco Turrisi/ They’re Calling Me Home, Folk, Nonesuch Records
In one of the most powerful albums released after the pandemic began, American singer Rhiannon Giddens and Italian multi-instrumentalist Francesco Turrisi present songs on being away from home and grappling with death.
From the metaphorical opening song, where Giddens sings, “My time has come to sail away, I know you love for me to stay, but I miss my friends of yesterday, oh they’re calling me home”, the lines are packed with emotion.
There’s an improvisation on the words of Mississippi John Hurt’s I Shall Not Be Moved, a wordless, percussion-heavy presentation of the timeless Amazing Grace and the instrumental beauty Niwel Goes To Town. The moving gospel blues lament O Death hits you hard, as she sings “O death, spare me over till another year”.
Giddens and Turissi have stayed in Ireland for some time, and effortlessly blend Celtic music with American folk and country. Fiddles, banjos, guitars, and frame drums act as perfect foils to touching words.
Rating: 9/ 10
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