When I was in Kuala Lumpur a few months back, I packed up a trio of recently released Neil Young CDs, including The Monsanto Years and Earth. Both albums are highly recommended and feature Neil playing with his new band, Promise of the Real. That band, interestingly enough, features two of Willie Nelson’s sons, Lukas and Mikah. And these guys rock as hard as Crazy Horse, the legendary outfit that played on so many of Neil’s best albums.
To my ears, Neil and Promise of the Real are a great fit, merging tight musicianship with Neil Young’s distinctive guitar playing and of course the equally distinctive vocals of the man himself. And, as you would expect, the lyrical content makes a statement too. Plus, on Earth, which is a live recording, the songs are supplemented by the sound of crows cawing, and a few other barnyard sound effects. If that sounds weird, well hey, it’s just Neil Young being Neil Young, and the crow stuff actually enhances the vibe and works pretty well. Thank heavens we have still have Neil Young out there and making vital music and caring about what happens to our environment. More people should listen to him and ignore all the bloated politicians spewing their dated rhetoric and other nonsense.
Speaking of Kuala Lumpur, I picked up the Neil Young CDs at the Victoria Music outlet in the Amcorp Mall in Petaling Jaya. On weekends at Amcorp Mall you can also find many dealers selling vintage vinyl and used CDs at the indoor “flea market.” While in KL I also made my pilgrimage to a few of the Rock Corner branches, the number of which are sadly on the decline. After the closure of their branches in KLCC, the Mid-Valley Megamall, and 1 Uttama, the store at the Curve also closed, and now the ones in Bangsar Village and Subang Jaya are also slated to shut by the end of this month. After that retail decimation, the only branch open will be the one in the Gardens, the smaller shopping center adjacent to the Mid-Valley Megamall. Considering how difficult it is for retail music shops to operate in these downloading, streaming times, it’s not shocking to see those wonderful establishments shut their doors, but it really depresses me all the same. Meanwhile, here are the other albums that have me pumping my fists in the air and doing silly dances in the living room:
Patty Loveless – Sleepless Nights
The talented singer-songwriter turns the tables and does an album of classic country songs, covering tunes made popular by George Jones, Emmylou Harris, Hank Williams, Dolly Parton, Conway Twitty, and more. Delightful stuff.
Bash & Pop – Anything Could Happen
BNQT – Volume One
The Velvet Crush – Heavy Changes
Nada Surf – Peaceful Ghosts
Billy Butler – The Right Tracks: The Complete Okeh Recordings 1963-1966
Jerry Butler’s brother shows that he was a fine singer in his own right on these vintage Okeh label songs. Plenty of great soul tunes, many of them written and produced by Curtis Mayfield, plus some groovy unreleased backing tracks.
Eugene Record – The Eugene Record/Trying To Get To You
The Brian Setzer Orchestra – Vavoom!
Bonnie Raitt – Dig In Deep
The Primitives – Echoes and Rhymes
Drive By Truckers – It’s Great To Be Alive!
Can I call these guys the best band working in the USA? I’m gonna do it anyway. They’ve been through several lineup shuffles over the past decade or so, the band does indeed keep on truckin’, thanks to the outstanding songs of Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley. And some impressive guitar playing too. The live setting on this sprawling 3-CD set only makes their songs all the more powerful. Life affirming music.
Joe Haywood – Warm and Tender Love
Mary Chapin Carpenter – The Things That We Are Made Of
Teddy Thompson & Kelly Jones – Little Windows
Cait Brennan – Third
Khun Narin Electric Phin Band – Khun Narin Electric Phin Band
From Thailand’s Northeastern Isaan region, Khun Narin’s band is back with another intoxicating collection of instrumentals. They fuse traditional Thai morlam music with a propulsive, almost psychedelic groove. This album changes tempos more than their last one, but still plenty of tunes to get your booty shaking. Check out their videos of YouTube! Lively up yourself!
Kenny Burrell & Jimmy Smith – Blue Bash!
Natural Four – Heaven Right Here On Earth/Natural Four
Dexter Wansel – Stargazer: The Philadelphia International Records Anthology 1976-1980
Calexico – Edge of the Sun
Rozetta Johnson – A Woman’s Way: The Complete 1963-1975
Where did this lady come from? Listen to hear belt soulful song after soulful song and you wonder why she didn’t make bigger waves in the music industry. Great songs and a great voice. Dig in and love it!
Various Artists – One Track Mind: More Motown Guys
John Jarvis – Something Constructive
Walter Jackson – It’s All Over: the Okeh Recordings Vol. 1
Royksopp – In Inevitable End
Artful Dodger – The Complete Columbia Recordings
The underrated and now defunct power-pop group from the US get a justly deserved 2-CD retrospective of their 1970s recordings. Catchy as hell.
Over the Rhine – Discount Fireworks
Chuck Berry – Chuck
The Feelies – In Between
Aimee Mann – Mental Illness
Various Artists – Next Stop Soweto Vol. 4: 1975-1985
Subtitled “Zulu Rock, Afro-Disco and Mbaqanga, this is another impressive collection of vintage South African music, the fourth in this series from Strut Records.
Jimmy Castor Bunch – Butt Of Course/Supersound/E-Man Groovin’
Father John Misty – Pure Comedy
Cotton Mather – Wild Kingdom
Shawn Colvin – All Fall Down
John Holt – 4000 Volts of Holt
This must have been where UB40 got the idea for their “Labour of Love” albums. Pop and Soul hits covered by the sweet-singing John Holt. It’s not all fabulous, but you’ll find plenty to like on this 2-CD set.
Gerry Beckley – Horizonal Fall
The Well Wishers – How I Won the War
Isaac Hayes – Out of the Ghetto: The Polydor Years
The Jesus and Mary Chain – Damage and Joy
Pat Thomas – Coming Home: Ghanaian Highlife & Afrobeat Classics 1964-1981
Another underrated African musician, this time a guy from Ghana who played in several groups before going solo. Another fine 2-CD reissue from Strut Records.
Chet Ivey – A Dose of Soul: The Sylvia Fun Recordings 1972-75
Charlie Haden & Pat Metheny – Beyond the Missouri Sky
The Creation – Action Painting
Don Covay – The House of Blue Lights
Various Artists – Afrosound of Colombia: Volume 2
I loved this first volume of this series, highlighting the extensive catalog of Colombia’s Disco Fuentes label, and this one is equally as fun. A lively stew of Salsa, Boogaloo, Afro-Beat, Cumbia, Soul, and Funk.
The Fantastic Four – Alvin Stone/Night People
Link Wray – 3-Track Shack
Various Artists – Highlife on the Move: Selected Nigerian and Ghanaian Recordings 1954-1966
Dionne Warwick – The Essential Dionne Warwick