MUSIC DISC & DOWNLOAD REVIEWS

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Mike Mettler Posted: Oct 26, 2016 0 comments
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There are supergroups, and then there are The Traveling Wilburys. The wink/nudge humor behind the band name and the multiple nicknames of its five members is all George Harrison, the late Monty Python–loving Beatle, who put together a cream-of-the-crop collective for a pair of fabulously harmonious albums, 1988’s Vol. 1 and 1990’s Vol. 3. Harrison coined the word “Wilbury” in reference to in-studio recording gaffes attributed to faulty equipment, of which he told producer Jeff Lynne: “We’ll bury ’em in the mix.”
Mike Mettler Posted: Sep 28, 2016 1 comments
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These days, even the most seasoned recording artists find it difficult to gain traction with their new material. Case in point: U2, whose deeply personal 2014 release Songs of Innocence fell by the wayside with the listening public, likely due in large part to the instant backlash the band faced when the album suddenly appeared as an automatic download in everyone’s personal iTunes library without warning that September. Much collective online hand-wringing occurred until Apple acquiesced and shared instructions for how people could permanently remove the “offending” files. (Why getting any type of new music legitimately for free was such a problem for consumers used to downloading songs without paying for them continues to mystify me, but that’s another story for another time.)
Mike Mettler Posted: Aug 08, 2016 0 comments
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For certain musicians, creativity is sometimes fueled by a deep desire to impress their peers. That was certainly the case with Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys and Paul McCartney of The Beatles, two members of an exclusive cross-continent mutual-admiration society who made adventurous music for the masses with an additional “can you top this” flair.
Mike Mettler Posted: Jun 15, 2016 3 comments
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Phil Collins required rehabilitation, and stat. Not only did the noted drummer/vocalist have to deal with a bout of sudden deafness, a lingering hand injury, and recover from back surgery, he also needed to tend to the state of his image. No one could fault the man’s acuity behind the drum kit—a reputation initially forged by his creative deployment of odd time signatures with progressive rock giants Genesis and the fusion improv collective Brand X—but his level of ubiquity on the charts as a solo artist in the ’80s and beyond ultimately served to tip his musical-reputation scales in a not-so-favorable direction.
Mike Mettler Posted: Jun 10, 2016 0 comments
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When the last notes of “Trouble No More” rang out at The Beacon Theatre in New York in the wee hours of the morning on October 29, 2014—closing an epic show comprised of three full sets and a two-song encore that had commenced over 4 hours previously on the night of October 28—most agreed The Allman Brothers Band had capped their long, storied 45-year career by hittin’ all the right notes. With thousands of performances under their collective belts, the Allmans triumphantly closed out the tab on being one of the most thrilling, adventurous, and aurally exciting live bands of the rock era.
Steve Guttenberg Posted: Apr 29, 2016 1 comments
I met singer-songwriter Amber Rubarth when she was recording her first Chesky Records album, Sessions From the 17th Ward, back in 2012. I instantly fell in love with her music and the sound of her voice, but more than that, I was amazed by how relaxed she was making an entire album in just two days. Most of the tunes were hers, and they were consistently good, but her covers of Tom Waits’ “Hold On” and Bob Dylan’s “Just Like a Woman” blew me away. No wonder legendary record producer Phil Ramone said Rubarth was “part of the new old-soul generation.”
Mike Mettler Posted: Apr 27, 2016 0 comments
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When the calendar turned to 1980, it was time for Bruce Springsteen to grow up. “How people connect and relate to one another, or don’t—I want to be a part of that, not just looking at it from the outside,” Bruce says at the outset of the new documentary on the Blu-ray Disc that lies at the very center of The Ties That Bind – The River Collection box set. And that statement is, in essence, the manifesto for the direction taken by The Boss and his merry E Street Bandmates on The River, which found the brash ’n’ brazen New Jersey singer/songwriter staring down the dawn of a new decade with a cautious combination of equal parts hope and trepidation. The River could have easily taken a wrong turn and just kept going—and, in fact, it nearly did—but Bruce held steadfast to deliver a double album that put him on a path of “writing for my age” from that point forward on each successive album.
Mike Mettler Posted: Mar 29, 2016 1 comments
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Revisionist history is just as much a part of rock & roll as guitars, cars, and odes to love and lust are. Some albums initially looked upon as noble but failed experiments more often than not semi-mysteriously improve with age and hindsight when viewed through the prism of time, wherein listeners finally catch up to the scope of the artists’ originally over-their-heads intentions.
Mike Mettler Posted: Feb 18, 2016 1 comments
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How do you improve upon perfection? That is the central question at the very core of the 1+ collection—emphasis very much on the plus—the latest must-have Deluxe Edition to emerge from The Beatles’ empiric vaults. Fifty Beatles classics—all of The Fab Four’s 27 #1 hits, plus 23 additional cuts that include alternate versions of some of those aforementioned moptop chart-toppers—are presented here on two Blu-ray Discs in filmed form, all accompanied by stunning 5.1 mixes done by Giles Martin with Sam Okell at Abbey Road Studios. (The CD is a stereo remaster of the original 1 disc released in 2000, which has sold 31 million copies internationally to date.)
Mike Mettler Posted: Jan 11, 2016 0 comments
Also see “RIP: David Bowie”

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“Five years—that’s all we’ve got.” That ominous prognostication, put forth by David Bowie ostensibly about an Earth heading toward imminent destruction in the opening track to 1972’s incendiary game-changer The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders From Mars, also serves as a fitting epigraph for both the core title and scope of this massive box set, the first in what will likely prove to be a series that will go well beyond merely making the grade.
Mike Mettler Posted: Dec 02, 2015 0 comments
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“Be cool or be cast out.” So goes one of the pivotal lines in “Subdivisions,” the indelible lead track from Rush’s transitional 1982 album Signals, and it’s also a statement that aptly describes the band’s own fortunes as it navigated a hard-won ascendance from perennial cult favorite to mass acceptance over the course

of its five-decades-and-counting career. The band recently completed a triumphant 40th anniversary tour dubbed R40, celebrating its genuine Rock & Roll Hall of Fame legacy by performing a 23-song set in reverse chronology. (Actually, “Reverse Chronology” sounds like a lost track from the band’s mid-’80s synth-centric period.) I saw Rush’s late-June stop at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey, and marveled at the ever-present breadth of the band’s sound and how bassist/keyboardist/vocalist Geddy Lee, guitarist Alex Lifeson, and drummer Neil Peart were able to modernize decades-old material like “Jacob’s Ladder” and “Lakeside Park” without compromising each track’s initial, individual compositional integrity and charm.

Mike Mettler Posted: Oct 30, 2015 1 comments
And as we wind on down the road, we have now officially arrived at the home stretch of Led Zeppelin mastermind Jimmy Page’s master plan of reissuing all nine of the mighty Zep’s studio offerings in Super Deluxe Edition box set form. Not only has the studio wizard’s magic remastering wand gifted us with a plethora of bonus tracks—mainly consisting of fascinating works-in-progress outtakes and alternate mixes, as opposed to troves of unreleased songs—but Page has been adamant about going the full-on 96-kHz/24-bit route in order to “future-proof” the catalog for whatever audiophiliac upgrades are yet to come. (Knowing how audio formats tend to go, however, that song may not remain the same as time marches onward.)
Mike Mettler Posted: Aug 07, 2015 1 comments
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The Rolling Stones are at it again. The world’s greatest band has rolled out the big guns for its 15-date North American stadium run that’s been dubbed the ZIP CODE Tour, a 19-song walk, stomp ’n romp through a half-century of impeccably unimpeachable classics. That taut live set places an emphasis on digging deeper into cuts culled from the perpetually seminal 1971 album Sticky Fingers, which has just been given the Super Deluxe box-set treatment by Polydor/UMe. A club gig at The Fonda Theatre in Los Angeles on May 20 saw The Stones rip that joint up 16 times, including their first stabs at Mississippi Fred McDowell’s “You Gotta Move” since 1976 and the dreamily soothing “Moonlight Mile” since 1999, both Sticky tracks having since made their way into regular rotation as part of the stadium set lists. (Longtime fans like yours truly feel The Stones should do intimate clubs gig like the Fonda outing more often, as it helps loosen up the vibe of songs that often become broader and less adventuresome in stadium settings.)
Mike Mettler Posted: May 08, 2015 0 comments
Ahhh, reggae. What is also known as Jamaican dance music has become nothing less than an international phenomenon, thanks in no small part to the pioneering sounds of Bob Marley, who would have been 70 this year. (Marley died of cancer at the relatively young age of 36 in 1981.) Calling Marley the king of reggae is a bit like saying 4K Ultra HD looks fantastic—it’s a fairly obvious statement, but no less profound. The seminal ’60s and ’70s work of Bob Marley & The Wailers literally defined a music genre that continues to engage people the world over—in fact, it may be the most universal music there is.
Mike Mettler Posted: Feb 19, 2015 0 comments
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“Exciting new sounds in the folk tradition.” So went the saying on the sleeve of the 1964 debut album by Simon & Garfunkel, Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M. And how telling that seemingly innocent but steadfast declaration was, as over the course of five studio albums and one soundtrack released during those heady days of 1964-70, Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel forged a singular sound that mixed the core tenets of folk with the then-burgeoning pulse of rock. The duo were masters of blending their pitch-perfect harmonies on a cornucopia of intimate tales that concerned matters of both the heart and the state. Not bad for a pair of schoolboys from Queens originally known as Tom & Jerry.

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