MUSIC DISC & DOWNLOAD REVIEWS

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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.
Mike Mettler Posted: Dec 17, 2014 0 comments
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Peter Gabriel has made a career out of being a restless chameleon, a man perpetually interested in pushing sonic boundaries rather than remaining in stasis. The roles he’s chosen to inhabit over the last five decades are as varied and forward-thinking as they come: art school rocker. Progressive pundit. Alternative icon. Video vanguard. Electronic interpreter. World music leader. If there are new musical frontiers to discover and master, Gabriel is consistently among the first to dig into the aural dirt.
Mike Mettler Posted: Oct 15, 2014 3 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.

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