Music Disc Reviews

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Mike Mettler  |  Jul 12, 2024  |  0 comments
In the summer of 1984, two ascending musical forces vaulted themselves into the megastar stratosphere on a parallel tract that would be virtually impossible to duplicate today. Bruce Springsteen upped his own iconography by touring stadiums in support of Born in the U.S.A., a perpetually catchy album whose underlying message actually served to tear down the tenets of the American mythos. At the same time, Prince and The Revolution dominated the charts with Purple Rain, the ostensible soundtrack to the low-budget box-office phenomenon of the same name that chronicled the rise of “The Kid” and his killer Minneapolis-bred band, despite their respective struggles with a myriad of mental and physical obstacles alike.
Mike Mettler  |  Jun 07, 2024  |  5 comments
Performances
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Machine Head is one of those perfect storm albums. As Deep Purple entered the 1970s, they undertook a creative shift from the psychedelic blues/pop of their late-’60s origins — embodied by hits like 1968’s perpetually catchy “Hush” and their cover of Neil Diamond’s “Kentucky Woman” — to move into full-on rock overdrive with June 1970’s Deep Purple in Rock and July 1971’s Fireball. With that tableau firmly set, Deep Purple ramped it up yet another notch to construct March 1972’s truly seminal Machine Head, which features enduring hardrock staples like “Smoke on the Water” (ahh, that right-of-passage guitar riff), “Highway Star” (their 8-cylinder vehicular love letter), and “Space Truckin’” (“Come on!”) among them.

Mike Mettler  |  May 30, 2024  |  3 comments
Performances
Sound

Because of his close association with Yes’ signature sound, guitarist Steve Howe is assumed to have been a member of the British progressive giants from the outset — but he only came aboard with the five-man band’s third studio release, February 1971’s The Yes Album. Though his fretboard predecessor, Peter Banks (who later co-founded the prog-adjacent ’70s outfit Flash), foreshadowed the aural adventurism to come on July 1969’s Yes and July 1970’s Time and a Word, it was The Yes Album that cemented the wide-ranging, time-signature challenging sonic template for one of the most forward-thinking progressive acts of the past six decades.

Mike Mettler  |  Apr 29, 2024  |  4 comments
When I spoke with Neil Young back in April 2014 about his ongoing search for how to share his music in the best resolution possible (Pono, we hardly knew ye), he was laser-focused on what he wanted his audience to experience. “Back when I started recording, we did everything we could so that our listeners could hear the music,” he told me. “The more we presented and the more you were able to hear, the happier you were.” And that brings us to one of the best examples of that superb-sounding emotional uplift impetus — February 1972’s Harvest, Young’s fourth and most successful solo album.
Mike Mettler  |  Mar 27, 2024  |  1 comments
Performances
Sound

Frank Zappa was a master at creating musical Venn diagrams. What do I mean by that? Well, Zappa’s compositional talents stretched well beyond the rock music idiom, so many of his releases would offer a keen intersection of doo-wop, classical orchestration, avant-jazz, progressive jams, country funk, and pure pop sensibilities (for starters). Sometimes he would even incorporate all his artistic powers into all 20-plus minutes of an album side’s lone track.

Mike Mettler  |  Mar 14, 2024  |  1 comments
Upon inception, Alice Cooper was conceived more as a group construct, not just a moniker for one person. The name itself was intended to encompass an all-for-one band concept, but it was also concurrently adopted by lead singer Vincent Furnier, who soon enough embodied the id and ego of Alice Cooper to such a degree that he transmogrified that persona into his fully becoming one and the same. Six-plus decades later, Alice Cooper is still going strong as the king of shock-glam metal to this very day — and his rabid fanbase wouldn’t have it any other way.
Mike Mettler  |  Jan 29, 2024  |  4 comments

Burning Dinosaur Bones

Soundgarden was catching fire. The proto-headbanging Seattle-bred foursome began to emerge from the misnomered grunge ooze with their second LP, September 1989’s aptly named Louder Than Love, with tracks like “Loud Love” and “Big Dumb Sex” deftly adding observational tact to the band’s already thunderous bouillabaisse. And then, in October of that forever-hallowed alt-rock emergence year of 1991, Soundgarden swerved into even more progressive-leaning hard-metal lanes with the unrelenting Badmotorfinger.

Mike Mettler  |  Dec 26, 2023  |  0 comments
Photo: Trinifold Archive

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Life House was intended to be Pete Townshend’s life’s work, so to speak, following the somewhat unexpected runaway success of The Who’s May 1969 groundbreaking 2LP rock opera,Tommy. But for various reasons, portions of Life House were instead transmogrified into the nine songs that comprise one of the truly seminal albums of the rock era, August 1971’s Who’s Next.

Mike Mettler  |  Nov 21, 2023  |  1 comments
Photo by Martyn Goddard

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40th Anniversary Monster Edition & Vinyl Edition Box Sets

Like many rock bands that initially emerged from the free-flowing nether-reaches of the 1960s, Jethro Tull had a decision to make upon entering the 1980s — namely, stick with their signature sound, or embrace the emerging technology of the new decade? Tull mastermind Ian Anderson chose the latter, initially going all-in on the electronic-tinged aural front with August 1980’s A. While A was certainly an eclectic and challenging jumping-off point, its follow-up, April 1982’s The Broadsword and the Beast, was a much better marriage of classic neo-Tull with the more modernized electro-Tull. Two new 40th anniversary box set offerings for Broadsword — a 5CD/3DVD smorgasbord subtitled the Monster Edition, and a relatively extensive companion 4LP collection — tell the album’s expanded sonic-swashbuckling tale quite well in their respective ways.

Mike Mettler  |  Oct 24, 2023  |  1 comments
No one does self-loathing, despair, and existential angst quite like Trent Reznor. Right from the outset of his then one-man band Nine Inch Nails’ October 1989 TVT debut album Pretty Hate Machine and the unforgiving, snarling manifesto of its opening track “Head Like a Hole,” Reznor threw down the gauntlet of NIN’s take-no-prisoners aural template. Within NIN, he enmeshed industrial synthesizer clank, metal-riff drang, searing layered instrumentation, and sneering vocals all into an unapologetically abrasive style that came to define one particular slice of 1990s alt-rock culture.
Mike Mettler  |  Sep 21, 2023  |  0 comments
Performances
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I hesitate using trendy acronyms when writing reviews — but in this case, saying I had a clear-cut case of FOMO when Eric Clapton’s slightly misnamed 24 Nights 2 CD clamshell collection first came out in October 1991 actually might be an understatement. The 15 tracks on that release — five culled from E.C.’s 18-night 1990 Royal Albert Hall residency in London, and the remainder from his 24-night 1991 stretch there — seemed more like a tease. Hence, I resigned myself to being somewhat content at the time. But now, E.C.’s 1990-91 live largesse at “The Hall” has gotten considerably fuller on The Definitive 24 Nights.
Mike Mettler  |  Aug 15, 2023  |  1 comments
Tears For Fears vaulted into the international big leagues with the take-no-prisoners layered-sound approach to their February 1985 sophomore album, Songs From The Big Chair. It was a calculated production leap from the aural cocoon of their more minimalistic, electronic-leaning debut, March 1982’s The Hurting — and it was a move that paid off handsomely with multi-platinum sales and upper-echelon chart domination around the globe.
Mike Mettler  |  Jul 17, 2023  |  0 comments
No one could have predicted how a guitar band from Athens, Georgia would turn into the biggest international alt-rock darlings of the 1990s — and yet, that’s exactly what R.E.M. did. The lo-fi genius of their eternally mumbly/jangly first single, “Radio Free Europe” essentially reset the song-arrangement table for what became known as college rock. Year by year, R.E.M. planted more than enough sonic seeds about where the latest crop of DIY U.S. bands was heading on each of their ensuing mid-1980s LP releases on the indie I.R.S. Records label until they jumped to the majors with their November 1988 effort on Warner Bros., Green. Though Green’s expansive sound palette took full advantage of a much-bigger recording budget, R.E.M.’s world domination vision instead came to fruition on their more refined, more stripped-down second Warner Bros. release, the unequivocal worldwide smash hit, March 1991’s Out of Time.
Mike Mettler  |  Jun 09, 2023  |  0 comments
Performances
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Steven Wilson has long been a man with a mission to push musical boundaries and stretch the limits of our listening expectations with his own music. He also has a passion for championing releases from other artists who have been underexposed or overlooked entirely, so is it really any wonder Wilson is behind a new and quite, well, intriguing import-only box set compilation Intrigue — Steven Wilson Presents: Progressive Sounds in UK Alternative Music 1979-89? All told, Intrigue presents 58 tracks spread across 5-plus listening hours on a 4CD set from Edsel Records.
Mike Mettler  |  May 15, 2023  |  0 comments
The Doobie Brothers are the consummate 1970s band. Their Northern California-bred sound consists of a harmonious amalgamation of rock, R&B, soul, and blues — a veritable melting-pot musical blend that continues to galvanize audiences the world over five-plus decades later, especially given The Doobies are currently on the road all summer long in continuation of their pandemically delayed 50th anniversary tour.

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