Fogerty, Sabbath and Queens rock out
Owls Head — John Fogerty: Wrote a Song for Everyone (Vanguard CD, 59:18). While the album’s title comes from the name of a song that originated during the period when his marriage and band (Creedence Clearwater Revival) were breaking up -- “Wrote a song for everyone and I couldn’t even talk to you” -- it would be no idle boast for the extremely prolific songwriter back in the CCR days (when they issued as many as three albums a year). The idea behind this album, released on Fogerty’s 68th birthday, is to have a bunch of duets on classic Creedence songs, as well as some from his successful solo career. However, the real bonus is the two new songs he performs on his own. They make you wish the album had been all new material; after all, no new version is ever going to replace the originals of these songs. They are engrained in our musical consciousness.
That said, the album rocks out with Fogerty and the Foo Fighters on “Fortunate Son,” the most successful of the cover duets. It’s a blast. For “Almost Saturday Night” with Keith Urban, there is a small banjo start and the duet vocalizing is very nice. Fogerty’s musician sons, Shane and Tyler, join him on “Lodi.” Each of the songs has booklet commentary by Fogerty, reminiscences of how the songs came about. The best are for the title track and its recalled conversation with his then wife, and a very touching one about meeting a military veteran for whom “Bad Moon Rising” had a special wartime meaning. Here, with the Zac Brown Band, “Bad Moon Rising” has a semi-country feel, but it is the only track on the album on which I really dislike the arrangement.
Other songs are tweaked successfully. “Long as I Can See the Light,” performed with Morning Jacket, is slowed down and more somber, and there is nice guitar work on “Born on the Bayou” with Kid Rock, but best is when a bit of the original guitar sound comes in. Both “Someday Never Comes” and “Who’ll Stop the Rain” are reworked. Sung with Dawes, “Someday,” is more clearly a song about divorce and presented as a dialogue between parent and child. Fogerty, of course, is the parent now, and his part rocks more. He recalls that at the time of his parents’ divorce, they said someday he would understand, but when his own marriage was ending, and he wrote the song, he still did not understand. Bob Seger joins him for “Who’ll Stop the Rain” and there is a lot more piano, as in Seger’s usual style. The booklet notes say the song was inspired by the Woodstock festival.
Fogerty and a guitar-playing Brad Paisley rock out on “Hot Rod Heart,” there’s a country take on “Have You Ever Seen the Rain” with Alan Jackson, and Jennifer Hudson leads a dynamite closing “Proud Mary,” with Allen Toussaint and -- nice touch --the Rebirth Brass Band.
The two terrific new songs are “Mystic Highway,” one of the best he has ever written, and “Train of Fools.” “Mystic” turns a little Crosby, Stills & Nash like during the instrumental break, then has acoustic vocalizing set to handclaps. “Train of Fools” might be a bit more as expected, but it turns playful with the vocalizing on the chorus. Grade: A-
Black Sabbath: 13 (Vertigo/Republic, 2-CD deluxe edition, 68:48). After 35 years on his own, singer Ozzy Osbourne is back with Black Sabbath and performing like he never left. However, drummer Bill Ward left last year and here is replaced by Rage Against the Machine’s Brad Wilke, who is effective and a real standout on “Loner.” Lyrically, the album is all doom and gloom, damnation versus redemption and the status of god, just like back when Osbourne used to be with the band. Producer Rick Rubin has opted to trend toward the early albums’ sound as well. The album is the band’s first since “Forbidden” in 1995 and first with Osbourne since “Never Say Die!” in 1978
The album opens with the 8-minute “End of the Beginning.” The first three minutes are really turgid, but the track finally rocks out and Tony Iommi’s guitar solo comes in at five minutes. (Bassist Geezer Butler is the other original member here.) And that gloomy feel I talked about? Listen to “God is Dead?,” another 8-minute track that plays up the band’s blues-based origins. The latter is the first single and features a nice shift to a lighter discussion of the afterlife. “Zeitgeist” uses acoustic guitars, hand drums and a restrained, jazz-like guitar solo. While Osbourne does his typical whining. The political “Age of Reason” is in the band’s more traditional style, with a nice guitar solo and even vocal harmonizing at the end. “Live Forever” is another track that plods at the beginning, but then quickens the pace. “Damaged Soul” features more discussion of god and hell, plus Osbourne plays harmonica. Bizarrely, about the six-minute mark, the song recalls Cream’s version of “Spoonful.”
The regular version closes with “Dear Father” (a priest, rather than a biological one) which lightens up on the chorus and ends with bells and storm sounds. The deluxe version comes with a three-track bonus disc. The message of “Methademic” is “you live too fast,” and it features two wild Osbourne laughs. The finale, “Pariah,” which has a nice sway rhythm, says, “Make your own truth and get out of my way.” Grade: B+
Queens of the Stone Age: … Like Clockwork (Matador CD, 46:03). Guitarist Josh Homme, the only constant in the group, shows his influences liberally in this rock extravaganza, the first album from the Queens in six years. He is joined by drummer Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters (who also plays with Homme in the side band, Them Crooked Vultures) on five tracks. The other guests are harder to spot: former band members Nick Oliveri and Mark Lanegan, and Trent Reznor, Sister Sisters’ Jake Shears, Arctic Monkeys’ Alex Turner and Sir Elton John. Grohl and John both appear on the rocker “Fairweather Friends,” one of the many songs made up of putdowns and disses. This one actually ends with Homme breaking off the song, saying he doesn’t care.
A primitive rhythm section shines on “Keep Your Eyes Peeled,” while “The Vampyre of Time and Memory” is slower, with a David Bowie like musical break. There’s a bit of David Bryne (Talking Heads) in the heavier sounding “If I Had a Tail.” The leadoff single and rocker, “My God is the Sun,” begins with just drums. “Kalopsia” turns stormy rocker at the 1:12 mark, before quieting down. There are more “burning bridges” in “Smooth Sailing” (lots of clichés too), while the melodic “I Appear Missing” is one of the stronger songs. On the closing title song, Homme coos: “Holding on too long is just fear of letting go/One thing is clear, it is all downhill from here.” Grade: A-
Deep Purple: Now What?! (Eagle CD, 57:02). Produced by Bob Ezrin (Kiss, Pink Floyd etc.), the album overall has a cool retro sound. Lead vocalist Ian Gillan does not have the pipes he once had and the limits of his vocal range are evident throughout. That does not detract from the music, however, and Gillan does manage one wail to end the album (which is dedicated to band co-founder Jon Lord, who died in July 2012 at age 71.
The disc opens with the soft “A Simple Song” -- at least it is soft until it hit’s the line: “It got confused/Went on too long.” It then rocks and features a lot of organ by Don Airey. “Weirdistan” features an atonal keyboard solo, while slashing violins open “Out of Hand,” which is highlighted by Steve Morse’s guitar solo. Unfortunately, the next four songs form a bland middle to the album. “Hell to Pay” is lesser, even with guitar and organ solos, and the bland “Body Line” really shows the limits of Gillan’s voice. Gillan does sound a little better on “Above and Beyond,” but the song does not do much. The same goes with “Blood from a Stone,” whose best bit is a Doors like piano.
There is a Yes like opening to “Uncommon Man,” with solo guitar, synth strings and a horn fanfare before the vocal comes in. “Apres Vous,” one of the two best tracks, features tradeoff and unison solos by Morse and Airey, and has a real 1970s feel. The lead single, “All the Time in the World,” is atypical of the rest of the album, being more pop. The disc ends with the other strong track, “Vincent Price,” with an organ-led musical tempest start, then horror movie style keyboard. “It feels so good to be afraid,” Gillan sings. Grade: B
Paul McCartney and Wings: Rock Show (Eagle Vision, Blu-ray or standard DVD, 140 min.). Recorded during Wings’ 1976 tour, the 130-minute concert showed a very happy Paul McCartney embracing his Beatles legacy, returning to performing the old songs, including some that never had been performed in concert by the original band. This DVD is every bit as good as when I saw Wings in Foxborough, Mass. A few years later. It also is the tour that gave us the triple-vinyl album “Wings Over America” album (see next item). However, evn though the album was released in 1976, the video footage for the tour was not assembled for another three years and “Rockshow” was released theatrically in 1980; and while a Betamax version was released in 1981, we have had to wait until now for the DVD and Blu-ray versions.
Touring to promote the album, “Wings at the Speed of Sound,” the band lineup consisted of Paul McCartney on bass, keyboard and some acoustic guitar, his wife Linda on keyboards and vocals, Denny Laine on guitars, bass, piano and vocals, Jimmy McCulloch on guitars, bass and vocals, and Joe English on drums and vocals. The band was supplemented by a four-piece horn section. At this time, the band had had four American number one songs -- “My Love,” “Band on the Run,” “Listen to What the Man Said,” “Silly Love Songs” -- and top ten hits in “Live and Let Die” (the James Bond film theme song), “Jet,” “Hi Hi Hi” and “Let ‘Em In.” All are included here, as well as the live version of “Maybe I’m Amazed,” which became the hit the album version had not. Since the Beatles stopped performing live in 1966, these were the first live performances in America of “Blackbird,” “Lady Madonna” (it sounds quite different without the familiar Beatles’ backing) and “The Long and Winding Road.”
McCartney is happy to share the stage too. Laine sings “Spirits of Ancient Egypt” and McCulloch (who sadly died in 1979 after leaving the band) sings “Medicine Jar.” There is a nice acoustic segment with four of the five on chairs, performing “Picasso’s Last Words,” Paul Simon’s “Richard Cory,” “Bluebird” (with harmonica), the upbeat “I’ve Just Seen a Face,” and McCartney soloing for “Blackbird” and “Yesterday,” accompanying himself on guitar. The bonus feature is a 10-minute behind-the-scenes film. Grade: A+
Paul McCartney and Wings: Wings Over America (MPL/Concord, 2 CDs and a DVD). As part of the ongoing Paul McCartney Archive Collection, this album, like the others, is available in various formats. The first two discs contain the remastered album (58:36 and 56:48) in terrific sound. The break comes at the end of the acoustic set. The set and song order is exactly the same as in the “Rockshow” DVD. The bonus film here (75:46) is the March 16, 1979 CBS television special, “Wings Over the World,” with less music than “Rockshow.” Grade: A+
Judas Priest: Epitaph (Legacy, Blu-ray or standard DVD, 142 min.). This career-spanning concert was recorded at London’s HMV Hammersmith Apollo on May 26, 2012, the closing night of the veteran metal band’s Epitaph World Tour. The band celebrates its 40th anniversary this year, and the current lineup includes three longtime members, singer Rob Halford, guitarist Glenn Tipton and bassist Ian Hill (the only founding member left), plus guitarist Richie Faulkner and drummer Scott Travis.
The band, which helped define heavy metal with Halford’s operatic singing style and the twin lead guitars of K.K. Downing (he retired in 2011, prior to the tour) and Tipton, perform at least one songs from its 14 studio albums among the 23 in the show. Four songs come from the album “British Steel,” namely “Rapid Fire,” “Metal Gods,” “Breaking the Law” (sung entirely by the audience, with nary a word by Halford) and “Living After Midnight,” the perennial set closer. (This, by the way, was the band’s final world tour. They will continue to tour in a more limited fashion and expect to release a new album later this year.) From the first song, there are spurts of flame and, of course, Halford rides out on his motorcycle for “Hell Bent for Leather,” third song from the end. The 1982 album, “Screaming for Vengeance,” is represented by “The Hellion,” “Electric Eye” and “You’ve Got Another Thing Coming” (one of the two tours I saw promoted that album). Throughout the show, Halford, who rejoined the band in 2003 after leaving in 1992, talks to the crowd quite a bit. If you are a Priest fan, you have to have this. Grade: A
James Newton Howard: After Earth original motion picture soundtrack (Sony Classical, 57:29). The futuristic film by M. Night Shyamalan, starring the father-and-son team of Will and Jaden Smith, has a somewhat disappoint score by the usually reliable Howard (nominated eight times for the Academy Award), who has scored all of the director‘s films since “The Sixth Sense.” After a good percussive opening on “The History of Man” and the pretty “I’m Not Advancing You,” Howard gets into some electronics on “Can You Ghost?” and “Ship Tears Apart” is creepy and suspenseful. There also is nicely built momentum on “Baboons,” but then the middle section is not very thrilling at all. The music picks up again toward the end of the disc. Grade: C+
Danny Elfman: Epic original motion picture soundtrack (Sony Classical CD, 52:34). “Epic” is an animated film from Blue Sky Studios, who usually uses composer John Powell. However, the choice of Elfman (noted for his old band Oingo Boingo, as well as a longtime collaboration with director Tim Burton) was a very good one. Elfman delights with a huge orchestral score and a dramatic chorus. There is a sprightly, spirited start with “Leafman,” part Irish jig and one of the two main themes, which is augmented by strings. The other main theme is first heard in the soaring “The Selection,” which makes good use of the choir. There is acoustic guitar on the busy “Ambush.” Overall, the score is a delight. Grade: A-
Hans Zimmer: Man of Steel original motion picture soundtrack (Watertower, 2 CD special edition in steel case, 1:55:07). Zimmer, who is responsible for the music in The Dark Knight Trilogy, among many other films, at first turned down the job to compose for this film, feeling that John Williams’ “Superman” score was too iconic. We are lucky he changed his mind. Often the score is very percussive, as Zimmer used a drum circle in the studio. As Krypton prepares to explode, we hear Kal-El’s mother Lara hum a lullaby. There are gorgeous strings as well. By track six, “If You Love These People,” we hear the biggest sound yet, with more guitar, percussion and vocalizing. “Terraforming” is a lengthy track (9:46) that really swells by the end. The second, bonus disc features six more tracks, plus a 28:11 aural sketchbook of Zimmer’s earlier attempts at the music. This actually is quite interesting. The other bonus highlight is the seven-minutes “General Zod,” which is menacing as it rises in volume, only to turn very melodic. This limited edition also comes with a code to download a Surround Sound version through the new DTS Headphone:X system. No special headphones are needed. Grade: A-