Green Day: “Dos!”
“Dos!” the second album in Green Day’s 2012 trilogy — not only equals“Uno!” it’s better. “Dos!” opens the one-minute long Everly Brothers-like “See You Tonight,” on which Billie Joe Armstrong sings harmonies with himself accompanied by a hard-strummed acoustic guitar. It ends with “Amy,” another acoustic, ’50s-tinged number, this one aiming toward Dion-style street balladry. In between are a dozen pure rock ‘n’ rollers.
There’s a raunchy garage rocker (the title unprintable in a family newspaper), the fine hook-filled pop of “Ashley” and nods to the early The Who and late The Beatles.
There are buzzing hard rockers, the swinging bounce of “Stray Hearts, a ’50s-meets-glam revved up shuffle on “Lady Cobra,” and “Nightlife” even manages to incorporate a sexy rap from Lady Cobra without losing its feel and spirit.
“Dos!” doesn’t have any overarching themes. Instead, it’s Green Day being simply what it is — a fine rock ‘n’ roll band. — L. Kent Wolgamott
File next to: Blink-182, Bad Religion.
Lana Del Ray: “Paradise”
Not surprisingly, the eight new songs on “Paradise” come from the same emotional territory as those on her debut album “Born To Die,” with Lana Del Ray singing of the travails of love in ’60s glamorous pop fashion.
She’s got some smarts and humorous spark, singing that “Springsteen is the king don’t you think? I was like hell yeah, that guy can sing” and on “American,” claiming “Elvis is my daddy, Marilyn’s my mother” and getting raunchy with Pepsi on the shimmering, string drenched “Cola,” Del Ray works these songs vocally, getting dusky and seductive in her lower register — at its best on the perfectly picked and arranged cover of “Blue Velvet” — and vulnerable as her voice goes higher.
A couple songs don’t fully engage. But “Paradise” a satisfying follow-up/addition to “Born To Die” — L. Kent Wolgamott
File next to: Adele, Emili Sande.
“I Love Hate You”
Hay is quite literally a one-man band, playing all the instruments on his albums himself and reproducing his music live using live looping and some innovative instruments and equipment he built himself.
The good thing is on his third CD, “I Love Hate You,” Hay sounds like anything but a one-man music machine. Instead, he creates a big bluesy rock sound that has all the muscle and instrumental breadth one would want from an album in this vein.
But for all the technical and instrumental talent it takes for Hay to make his music, “I Love Hate You” proves that Hay’s biggest gift may be his songwriting. There’s stomping blues-rock on the title song and “Don’t Bring Me Down,” driving rock on “Good Times” and some thumping mountain soul on “Narrow Mind.” The frenetic and fun “Blues Train” evokes thoughts of “Dueling Banjos” crossed with punky speed metal. Another highlight is the album’s biggest musical departure, the epic “Close,” which starts in a fragile acoustic setting before opening up to a lovely spacious mid-tempo rock crescendo.
On this song, Hay shifts from his usually gritty vocals (think Chris Cornell of Soundgarden with a bit less range and power) to a higher pitch that at times evokes the late Jeff Buckley.
The musical range Hay finds within his rootsy sound on “I Love Hate You” is as impressive as the songs themselves.
As songwriter/musician/producer, Hay is a true triple-threat talent — and an artist that deserves to find an audience as large as his musical gifts. — Alan Sculley
File next to: The Black Keys, John Lee Hooker.
Mighty Sam McClain: “Too Much Jesus (Too Little Whiskey)”
If the music on the latest album from this soul veteran was as inspired as the title of the CD, we’d have something really special here. That’s more of a comment on the title than a dig at the music, though. This is a solid effort from McClain, who is rightfully considered one of the finest soul singers going. The album starts out strong “Too Much Jesus (Too Little Whiskey)” with “Wish You Well,” a smooth and sweet tune that blends funk and soul. McClain also brings the funk on the spunky “Feel So Good — Feel So Right” and especially on “Can You Feel It?,” which employs and stop-and-start beat that would do James Brown proud. The silky uptempo tune “Real Thing” boasts the album’s hookiest melody. Unfortunately, a few songs here fall flat, and the album could have used a true rocker or two to deliver an occasional jolt to go with the smooth soul that is McClain’s go-to style. Still, in an era when seasoned soul artists are in short supply, it’s good to have another batch of music from an accomplished veteran like McClain. — Alan Sculley
File next to: Otis Redding, O.V. Wright.
Craig Chaquico: “Fire Red Moon”
The former Jefferson Starship guitarist has spent most of his solo career playing new age music. But as his move to Blind Pig Records suggests, “Fire Red Moon” is a move into blues for Chaquico, and for the most part, it’s a successful foray. While he includes instrumental versions of a pair of well-worn blues standards — “Born Under A Bad Sign” and “Rollin’ And Tumblin’” (which is the best of the two) and — Chaquico’s at his best on several original tunes. For “Lie To Me,” he drafts Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band singer Noah Hunt, who’s a good fit for this gritty track. With “Devil’s Daughter,” Chaquico goes in a more soulful direction and the song has a nice smoky vibe to it. “Bad Woman” is a slow blues workout, which leaves Chaquico plenty of room for some sleek soloing and also serves as a fine showcase for his primary vocalist Rolf Hartley. There are a couple of stumbles — “Little Red Shoes” is a derivative shuffle and the instrumental title track never takes wing. But for the most part, “Fire Red Moon” makes one wonder why Chaquico hasn’t made this sort of album sooner. — Alan Sculley
File next to: Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Matt Schofield
Elvis Presley: “Prince from Another Planet”
In June 1972, Elvis Presley played his first concerts in New York City. The must-attend concerts drew the city’s luminaries and resulted in
rave reviews, including a piece in the “New York Times,” the headline for which provides the title of this 2 CD/DVD set. CD number one is a recording of the June 10, 1972 afternoon concert. CD number two is the show from that evening. Both of the hour-long performances were previously released. But they’ve been remastered — and sound great — and are presented in their entirety. What the discs reveal is a mature singer at his best. Presley isn’t the teen/20something of the 1950s here. He’s a full grown man who takes material, like Three Dog Night’s “Never Been to Spain,” “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling,” “Proud Mary” and Kris Kristofferson’s “For The Good Times” and makes it his own, while smartly reworking his hits from the debut single “That’s All Right” (which opens the show) through the then-recent “Suspicious Minds.” The real revelation of the set is the DVD, which contains a 20-minute mini-documentary, 12 minutes of Presley’s June 9 press conference and 20 minutes of fan-shot 8mm film synched with the newly mixed audio. The fan-shot film, which is shaky and only covers pieces of songs, with the exception of “That’s All Right.” It captures Elvis, and pretty much only Elvis, in all his charismatic on-stage glory. Coming out in a power-blue caped outfit, he goofs on acoustic rhythm guitar, does his karate moves, talks with the crowd and man, does he sing — and it’s great to see him do it, even if only for 10 or 15 seconds at a time. The press conference is a hoot, with Elvis joking with reporters, deflecting personal questions and being, well, Elvis, until cowboy-hatted manager Col. Tom Parker pulls the plug. That’s a true glimpse into another time and a view of one of the great performers ever — a true musical “Prince from Another Planet.” — L. Kent Wolgamott
File next to: Carl Perkins, Chuck Berry.