1151. TOMMY CASTRO – HARD BELIEVER – 2009
With Castro’s most recent release he has made the move to the Alligator label, but what he delivers is exactly what his fans have come to expect. Soul driven blues with a sometimes hard rocking edge. The album is a mix of covers and originals that does not break any new ground, but should be more than satisfying to fans of the blues man from San Francisco . The covers are all good especially Tommy’s take on Bob Dylan’s “Gotta Serve Somebody”, The Righteous Brothers “My Babe”, and Allan Toussaint’s “Victims Of The Darkness”. Of the originals the rocking “Make It Back To Memphis ” and the humorous “Trimming Fat” are both highlights. The album closes with an almost Jimmy Buffett like number “The Trouble With Soul” which is a nice departure from Castro’s usual sound. Castro’s guitar work is pristine throughout, although he really never stretches his solos out very much. As always his band is tight and solid as well. Overall this is another very nice Tommy Castro album that should make his fans happy.
1152. IONA – JOURNEY INTO THE MORN – 1995
Another Celtic influence progressive rock album from Ireland ’s Iona, “Journey” indeed takes the listener on a voyage to the heart of Ireland . Brimming with Celtic, World and progressive rock influences this album is a prime example of what Iona does best. Personally I like the slightly heavier direction their more recent albums have pursued, but on albums like this one the band can do the new age / world music thing as well as anyone. Joanna Hogg’s vocals are flawless as always and Dave Bainbridge’s guitars soar especially on the more upbeat numbers. If you like Iona ’s brand of Celtic progressive world music you will enjoy this album.
1153. U2 – ALL THAT YOU CAN’T LEAVE BEHIND – 2000
“Leave Behind” was an album where U2 somewhat went back to their roots. The two previous discs “Pop” and “Zooropa” had delved into more experimental avenues that were received with mixed feelings from fans of the band. “Leave Behind” was somewhat a return to a more straight ahead rock format of the band’s early years and is a good solid U2 release. Opening with the single “Beautiful Day” the rest of the album rolls along at a nice clip with all of the trademark U2 trappings that fans have come to love. Highlights include “Elevation”, “Walk On”, “Wild Honey”, and “ New York ”. I don’t know if I would consider this a great U2 album, but it is a nice piece of work from a band who have been, if nothing else, at least consistent over the years.
1154. NEIL YOUNG – AFTER THE GOLD RUSH – 1970
Even though this album was released 40 years ago, I have just recently picked it up. For many fans this is considered one of Neil Young’s essential if not best albums. Indeed “Goldrush” represents both the folksy country-ish Young as well as the more rocking hard edged Young that would 30 years later be dubbed “the godfather of grunge”. Tracks like “After The Gold Rush”, and “Southern Man” have become classic rock staples that get as much airplay today as they did in 1970 which is really amazing when you think about it. The album featured a then unknown Nils Lofgren on guitar and keyboards who would go on to be a permanent member of Bruce Springsteen’s E-street band. Overall I find this album a bit hit and miss. Although songs like “When You Dance I Can Really Love” are beloved by the Neil faithful, they have never done that much for me. This one probably is essential if you are collecting Neil Young albums, but I this one is only a 4 star release for me.
1155. LYNYRD SKYNYRD – TWENTY – 1997
The latter day version of Skynyrd sometimes takes a lot of flack, but I think they have put out some of the best music of the band’s long career. “Twenty” is one of the best examples of this in my opinion. This is prime southern rock and for me ranks up with the best material the band have done. The addition of former Outlaw Hughie Tomlinson to the lineup seems to have really added a spark to this album. The guitar interplay between Tomlinson and former Blackfoot leader Rickey Medlocke is often inspired and rocking. The songwriting is all strong here and the band amp it up over the course of the album’s 12 tracks. I really like every song on the disc. As an added bonus the album features “Travelin Man” as a duet with the late Ronnie and Johnny Van Zandt sharing vocals. If you have never given the reformed Skynyrd a chance you might want to give this album a spin. Regardless of how you think about whether this is the “real” Skynyrd or not, this is a damn fine southern rock album and may be the best of the band’s career.
1156. LYNYRD SKYNYRD – THE LAST REBEL – 1993
Rebel was the second studio album from the re-formed Lynyrd Skynyrd in 1993. Original guitarist Ed King was back in the fold as well as Gary Rossington, Leon Wilkinson, and Billy Powell from the classic version of the band. “Rebel” is a decent enough album, but they would go on to do better stuff once King was gone and Ricky Medlocke (Blackfoot) was brought into the band. Most of this album is pretty average southern rock. Not bad, but not great either. The lyrics are rather clichéd and the music is fine, but not particularly noteworthy. Two exceptions, and the highlights of the album, are the title track “The Last Rebel” and the closing track “Born To Run”. Both of these are great songs and feature the best of what Skynyrd is all about, solid instrumental work and well thought out lyrics. The album is probably worth owning for these two tracks alone. All in all “Rebel” is an average Skynyrd release. Not bad, but they have done better.
1157. WATERMELON SLIM AND THE WORKERS – NO PAID HOLIDAYS – 2009.
“Holidays” continues in the direction of Slim’s last several albums. Blues, inflected with a bit of rock, country, and Americana . Slim is a breath of fresh air on today’s blues scene and is in my opinion one of the top contemporary blues artists in the country right now. I love every track on this disc. The music is all over the place with surging rockers sitting along side acoustic country blues. Slim’s lyrics always have something to say as he tells stories from throughout his own life along with characters he creates. Slim’s slide guitar and dobro playing are in some spots awe inspiring as is his screaming harmonica that rips in throughout the disc. Slim’s vocals are rough, but he has great tone and control. Highlights include “Blues For Howard”, “Archetypal Blues No 2”, “Call My Job”, “This Traveling Life”, “Bloody Burmese Blues”, and the hilarious “I’ve Got A Toothache”. Slim also does a very different totally acoustic cover of Laura Nyro’s “And When I Die” made famous back in the 60’s by Blood Sweat And Tears. Watermelon Slim has moved to the top of my list of contemporary blues artists and this album is about as good as the genre gets. Great stuff!
1158. JIMMY BUFFETT – BUFFETT HOTEL – 2009
Now well into his 6th decade on the planet Jimmy Buffett can still fill football stadiums with his laid back blend of rock, folk, country and Caribbean soul. Buffett’s previous album to this one was chock full of covers with only four original songs on the disc. On “Hotel” Buffett wrote or co-wrote all but a few tracks and has produced a really nice album that should please fans of his many musical incarnations over the years. Buffett’s more recent efforts always have seemed to contain at least one or two total dud songs, but there are not really any complete throwaways on this one. There are some missteps here and there, like Jimmy trying to rap on “Turn Up The Heat And Pass The Rosé” and the rather deliberately concert friendly songs like “Big Top” and “Summerzcool”, but these are all still decent tunes. The last 3rd of the album is where things really take off. The surf rock tune “Surfing In A Hurricane” is probably a lot of fun live. The title track is a long one and one of the album’s highlights. It could have fit right in on the “Far Side Of The World” album, and lends a satisfying left turn here. The album closer “A Lot To Drink About” is classic Buffett humor and really should be a hit record. It is fun, but at the same time topical and is a great example of what Buffett has always done best. Overall “Buffett Hotel” is a very nice album and should be pleasing to parrotheads. Jimmy still has it after all these years and remains a more than capable songwriter who continues to put out quality music.
1159. SHANNON CURFMAN – FAST LANE ADDICTION – 2007
On Curfman’s 2nd studio release she downplays the blues a bit and cranks up the rock. This is a more polished album than her debut as appears that she may have been going for a bit younger more rock oriented audience. This is not necessarily a bad thing though, and for the most part this is a strong piece of work. Curfman wrote or co-wrote most of the songs here. The lyrics appear to be trying to portray a tough girl image especially with straight forward tracks like “Do Me”, and “Stone Cold Bitch” which leave little to the imagination. A cover of The Stone Temple Pilots “Sex Type Thing” further ingrains this image that she seems to be trying to portray. I am guessing that reactions will be mixed to some of these lyrics. Vocally Curfman is still in fine form and her guitar playing is strong throughout. My only complaint is that I wish she would stretch out instrumentally a bit more, and the guitar solos are all good, but on the short side. “Fast Lane” is a strong sophomore release and should appeal to both blues and hard rock fans alike.
1160. SHANNON CURFMAN – WHAT YOUR GETTING INTO – 2010
On Curfman’s most recent release she somewhat moves back to the sound that got her signed to a major label with her debut album 10 years ago. Her previous album “Fast lane Addiction” moved in a harder rocking direction, and although “Getting Into” rocks hard in spots it is also quite bluesy in nature. The album is a mix of originals and covers. For the covers on the album she chooses some interesting ones including Fleetwood Mac’s “Oh Well”, Queen’s “Dragon Attack” and the highlight of the album, a duet with Joe Bonamassa on Eric Clapton’s “The Core”. The original tunes are all well written too and show off Curfman’s strengths as both a songwriter, singer and guitarist. I like pretty much everything about this disc, and think it is probably Curfman’s best so far. For modern contemporary rocking blues this is a top notch record.