MUSIC DISC & DOWNLOAD REVIEWS

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Mike Mettler Posted: Oct 15, 2014 2 comments
“Turn off your mind, relax, and float downstream.” John Lennon was referencing a theme from the Tibetan Book of the Dead by way of Timothy Leary’s book The Psychedelic Experience, but there really was no other way to start “Tomorrow Never Knows,” the pivotal track that ends Side 2 of The Beatles’ groundbreaking August 1966 album release, Revolver. And “Tomorrow”—originally identified on the recording sheet for “Job No. 3009” in Abbey Road Studio Three as “Mark I” when sessions commenced on April 6, 1966—is rife with studio innovations and flourishes only The Beatles and their revolutionary team of Abbey Road engineers could inaugurate as the methodology so many future artists would embrace: Inventing Artificial Double Tracking, a.k.a. ADT, to simulate the natural double-tracking of instruments and vocals (thank you, Ken Townsend).
Mike Mettler Posted: Oct 02, 2014 0 comments
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Which one’s Pink? It’s a debate that’s polarized fans ever since Pink Floyd principals David Gilmour and Roger Waters split up their creative partnership in the mid-’80s. Waters went on to build an unprecedented solo live Wall of epic visual and auditory proportions, while Gilmour retained the rights to the band name and constructed two diverse, divergent studio albums and subsequent tours with his other two Floydmates in tow, keyboardist Richard Wright and drummer Nick Mason. The latter of those two LPs, 1994’s admittedly divisive The Division Bell, now comes back to life with a 20th anniversary deluxe celebration in box set form, and thanks to a brilliantly stunning surround sound mix, material initially perceived as B-level reveals itself to have been A all the way.
Mike Mettler Posted: Aug 13, 2014 1 comments
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“The best way to listen to Led Zeppelin is off of the analog tapes, but unfortunately, I can’t invite you around to listen to them.” That’s Jimmy Page, answering my question about whether vinyl is still the benchmark for experiencing Led Zeppelin music at a press conference following a listening event he hosted in New York City back in May. But now that Page has personally remastered all nine of Zep’s formidable studio albums in 96-kHz/24-bit, high-resolution digital audio appears to be the ideal format for hearing every detail and nuance put forth from the collective hammer of the gods.
Mike Mettler Posted: Jul 03, 2014 0 comments
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If you break down the elements of the word kaleidoscope, you find it’s derived from three Ancient Greek roots: kalos, which means beauty; eidos, the shape of what’s being seen; and skopeō, to look or examine. Put those branches together, and you get the 75 exultant minutes comprising Transatlantic’s fourth studio album, Kaleidoscope, a powerful collection of beautiful music that reflects the ever-evolving shape of the fused muse of its four creators. Transatlantic asserts a supreme progressive pedigree: keyboardist/vocalist Neal Morse, a solo artist formerly of Spock’s Beard who’s also now in Flying Colors; guitarist/vocalist Roine Stolt, leader of Swedish symphonic proggers The Flower Kings; bassist Peter Trewavas of British prog giants Marillion; and drummer/vocalist Mike Portnoy, formerly of Dream Theater and currently a member of a number of bands, including upstart classic rock trio The Winery Dogs and the aforementioned Flying Colors. No compositional slouches, they.
Mike Mettler Posted: Jun 20, 2014 0 comments
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“What did you do in the Cold War, Daddy?” It was a question Billy Joel felt his daughter Alexa would ask someday, and at the height of the most decidedly chilly U.S.–Russian relations in the ’80s, Joel didn’t have an acceptable answer. So he packed up all of the gear, crew, and machinations behind his mammoth Bridge Tour and headed to Russia to spearhead the largest-scale tour a Western musician had ever done in the Soviet Union. A Matter of Trust is the four-disc box set that serves as an extended chronicle of the time in July and August 1987 when an animated American piano man opened the eyes and ears of an Eastern Bloc country just beginning to experience the rise of freedom.
Mike Mettler Posted: Jun 03, 2014 0 comments
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Never one to favor flash over substance, Andy Summers may very well be the most underrated guitarist of the rock era. Summers took a minimalist approach with his work for the juggernaut pop-alternative trio known as The Police, letting atmospherics and not pyrotechnics fuel such indelible hits as “Don’t Stand So Close to Me” and “Every Breath You Take.” His echoing, chorused, chordal-centric technique schooled a generation of players from U2’s The Edge to The Fixx’s Jamie West-Oram. Even a player as accomplished as Rush’s Alex Lifeson added a Summersesque “less is more” dimension to his repertoire during the ’80s.
Mike Mettler Posted: May 21, 2014 0 comments
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When it comes to delivering the low end, Jack Bruce has been the cream of the crop for six decades and counting. His syncopated approach to playing bass helped shift pop music’s bottom-end emphasis away from just laying down root notes and fifths, in turn opening the door to a more adventurous yet melodically inclined style that laid the foundation for the rock explosion of the ’60s. Turns in both Manfred Mann and John Mayall’s band set the table for Bruce to connect with Eric Clapton and Ginger Baker and forge Cream, wherein the super Scotsman set the heavy-blues power-trio standard with epic runs and full-band interplay in songs like “I Feel Free,” “Spoonful,” “Politician,” and “Sunshine of Your Love.”
Mike Mettler Posted: Apr 23, 2014 0 comments
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Some bands sputter and wither after major personnel changes, and then there’s Marillion. The British neo-progressive collective’s first incarnation crested with 1985’s concept-driven Misplaced Childhood, which featured original mercurial lead singer Fish and the hit guitar-driven lament, “Kayleigh.” Act II commenced with 1989’s transitional Seasons End, featuring new vocalist Steve Hogarth (a.k.a. “h”), who has since helped fuel the band to greater compositional heights over the last two decades.
Mike Mettler Posted: Apr 10, 2014 0 comments
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“Best guitar player I ever heard.” Some hip muso waxing on about the next Hendrix? Nope, that’s Bob Dylan on the late Michael Bloomfield, and the Bard’s ears are some damn fine arbiters. This three-CD/one-DVD Bloomfield box set reclaims a master guitarist’s legacy that’s as deep as the Delta, by way of the Windy City and the City by the Bay. Disc 1, subtitled Roots, sets the tap. The instrumental take on Dylan’s iconic “Like a Rolling Stone” is revelatory, keeping the focus on the as-it’s-happening creation of the now-familiar melody via Bloomfield’s chiming Telecaster riffs intermingling with Al Kooper’s wheedling Hammond B3.
Mike Mettler Posted: Mar 27, 2014 0 comments
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Neil Finn is a restless soul. Though the New Zealand–bred singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist has long mastered the craft of concocting melodic gems—Split Enz’s “I Got You,” Crowded House’s “Don’t Dream It’s Over,” his solo single “She Will Have Her Way”—he continues to search for ways to shake up song arrangements and their ensuing sonic character while still managing to keep everything eminently hummable. By teaming up with longtime Flaming Lips sonic alchemist/producer Dave Fridmann to co-turn the knobs for his third solo album, Dizzy Heights, Finn plants a stylistic flag that whips together a heady mixture of stark minimalism and ethereally dramatic effects.
Mike Mettler Posted: Mar 19, 2014 0 comments
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Eric Clapton was at the crossroads of Personal Hell Avenue and Professional Conundrum Street as the calendar turned to 1974. His crippling heroin addiction derailed the creative momentum he achieved with Derek and the Dominos and Layla in 1970, and it took him a few long, painful years to emerge from the haze and return to chasing down his one true muse with guitar (and not needle) in hand. The jam-packed Give Me Strength: The ’74/’75 Recordings box set charts his sonic recovery.
Mike Mettler Posted: Feb 26, 2014 0 comments
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The term supergroup gets a bad rap—but with good reason. Often, it’s applied to a collective of hot-shot all-star musicians who look pretty good together on paper, but the resulting music usually proves the individual parts are actually greater than the sum. Discerning listeners tend to cast a wary eye, er, ear toward such lineup mashups—unless the pedigree is an impeccably progressive one intent on exploring the cosmos of composition to achieve a common sonic goal.
Mike Mettler Posted: Jan 30, 2014 0 comments
Legacy. Some artists embrace it, some resist it. Early-period Genesis guitarist Steve Hackett decided to go the extra mile to dance on the volcano of his past, charging firth, er, forth to majestically recast the arrangements of a top-drawer selection of his ’70s output with the British prog giants.
Mike Mettler Posted: Jan 02, 2014 0 comments
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Pressure: It can get to anyone. Just ask the four members of the Followill clan, a.k.a. Nashville’s first family of deep-roots rock, Kings of Leon. The three brothers (Caleb, Jared, and Nathan) and one cousin (Matthew) comprising KoL were anointed rock saviors when they burst onto the scene with the guitar-driven Southern-fried primal-blues mash of 2003’s Youth & Young Manhood. And their arena-rocking prowess was cemented with the one-two punch of the yearning “Sex on Fire” and the anthemic “Use Somebody” on 2008’s best-selling Only by the Night.
Mike Mettler Posted: Jan 02, 2014 1 comments
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Finally seeing a stateside release after being available internationally for over a year, Privateering, Mark Knopfler’s seventh solo offering (and first double album of all-original material) is a showcase of Americana, as innately authentic as anything produced by any artist born on U.S. soil. Somewhere, Chet Atkins, Johnny Cash, John Lee Hooker, and Muddy Waters are all picking, grinning, and haw-haw-hawing their collective approval. (Me, I suspect Knopfler was spiritually born on the Mississippi Delta and then transplanted to the moors of his native Scotland.)

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