Styx/ Crash Of The Crown, Hard Rock, Alpha Dog-Universal
American band Styx has been on the scene for 49 years now, and there’s been no sign of slowing down. The latest album Crash Of The Crown has all the expected ingredients – a hard-rocking, arena-friendly sound, glorious guitars, and a proggy, theatrical feel.
Tommy Shaw, guitarist James Young, and newcomer Lawrence Gowan share vocals, lending variety to the mix. The band focuses on hope on the opener The Fight Of Our Lives, the mid-tempo Hold Back The Darkness, and the singalong, harmony-filled beauties Our Wonderful Lives and Sound The Alarm.
The rhythm guitar shines on the title track, Reveries has a Beatlesian flavor and Common Ground has a melodic Moog synthesizer intro. One even finds tabla and Indian elements on Coming Out The Other Side.
The album comes four years after The Mission. And though one misses old-time vocalist Dennis DeYoung, Shaw and company are in perfect form. This is a grand build-up to the Golden Jubilee.
Rating: 8/ 10
UB40/ Bigga Baggariddim, Reggae-Pop, SoNo Recording
On its new album Bigga Baggariddim, UK-based reggae band UB40 collaborates with many newer artists, besides doing the track Rebel Love with old-timers Inner Circle. The title is a take on the 1985 record Baggariddim, which had a similar concept.
General Zooz of Indian group Reggae Rajahs is one of the guests, as he joins UB40 on the final track Roots Rock Reggae, which is about someone who loves rock n’ roll and rhythm n’ blues but would choose roots reggae.
Though long-time members Ali Campbell, Micky Virtue, and Astro quit long ago, the remaining line-up brings out a reggae-dance flavor that though predictable, makes for decent party background music.
New Zealand band House Of Shem springs a surprise on the horn-driven Love You Now, but the highlight is Birmingham rapper Gilly G’s appearance on Me Nah Leave Yet. With its rhyming, Slinger’s My Life Action is good fun. Most of the other songs are too routine.
Rating: 7/ 10
Miles Davis/ Merci Miles, Jazz, Rhino
Fans of legendary jazz composer and bandleader Miles Davis love to collect his rare concert recordings. This one’s definitely for keeps as it was recorded in Vienne, France (not to be confused with Vienna, Austria) a few months before his death.
Eight pieces are spread over 80 minutes. Interestingly two of them, Penetration and Jailbait, were co-written by Prince, and Michael Jackson’s Human Nature has been brilliantly played in an 18-minute run featuring Miles’ trumpet solo, Foley’s solid bass lines, and Kenny Garrett’s outstanding sax.
Cyndi Lauper’s popular Time After Time gets a contemplative twist, and the Marcus Miller composition Amandla has subtle harmonic changes and syncopated rhythms. Keyboardist Deron Johnson provides some brilliant flashes here and drummer Ricky Wellman nails it in the Finale.
This concert took place just 10 days before Miles appeared with Quincy Jones for their famous show at Montreux, Switzerland. Like that recording, this is a collector’s item.
Rating: 9/ 10
Kings Of Convenience/ Peace Or Love, Acoustic Folk-Pop, Universal
Comprising Erlend Oye and Eirik Glambek Boe, Kings of Convenience is a Norwegian acoustic folk-pop duo that first made waves in 2001. Their latest album Peace Or Love comes after a 12-year span.
The music is relaxing, dependent on guitars, strings, and simple rhythms. While the songs are good to drive around to or play late into the night, an advantage is that the lyrics are easy to understand, with lines like “The more I know about you, the more I know I want you”.
Some songs stand out. Comb My Hair is an example of simple, yet effective songwriting. Fever has a lovely melody and Killers begins with the line “Killers,would you come and kill some time?”
The appearance of Canadian singer Feist on two tracks, including the intense Love Is A Lonely Thing, is welcome. Even after a long gap between albums, nothing seems to have changed.
Rating: 8/ 10
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