Recently I was watching an episode of “The Goldbergs” entitled Mixtape. It made me think back to a time before the term “Mixtape.” I remember copying my mother’s records on to 8-Track Tapes for her to listen to her favorite songs in her car. I was a young teen then and luckily my mother appreciated new music as well as old stuff which only enhanced my music appreciation. Every once in a while I’d make her a tape of her old stuff and throw in something new of mine every third song. She is now passed but I kept that tradition going through the next format Cassettes and then CDs. I still do it today, mixing the old with the new. I’m the type that gets bored easily so I require variety to keep my interest flowing. I recently made myself a Mixtape from some new and well seasoned artists that I thought that our readers may delight in.
MELISSA ETHERIDGE – THIS IS M.E. – 10 SPOT MUSIC
I found it unbelievable that on her thirteenth release Melissa Etheridge sounds as crisp as her first release back in 1988. Even more surprising was the arena-rock content found throughout the set. Imagine numerous “I’m the Only One” inspired songs rolled into one package and that’s what you will enjoy in “This Is M.E.” Even though it’s a rocking piece her touch for the emotional ballad is not forgotten as the closing track “Who Are You Waiting For” revisits the tender side she captures equally as well.
BROKEN BELLS – AFTER THE DISCO – COLUMBIA MUSIC
The Broken Bells are pure ‘Electro-Heaven.’ After teasing the public with the single “Holding On For Life,” their second Album “After The Disco” contains many well crafted tracks which prevent repeating the same sound and expanding on that original idea. A morphed group with The Shins (James Mercer) and Danger Mouse Producer (Brian Burton) they remind me very much of the Finn Brothers old Split Enz group. Their first self titled outing from 2010 was strong on emotion and lyric, but After The Disco brings a slice of happy into the fold and the result is overwhelming satisfaction.
CHICAGO – NOW XXXVII – FRONTIERS MUSIC
Thinking about long forgotten sounds, the legendary band Chicago definitely comes to mind. Very few bands consistently carry the feel of “summer” in their catalog throughout the decades. “Now” is a return to the Chicago sound of the 70’s with brassy arrangements and their brand of jazz fused pop like only they can deliver. Gone are those high fructose Peter Cetera love crafted ballads of Lite FM Land. Yes, they had their place but that direction certainly stalled the groups’ output creatively. This new release has the remaining original members back on track showcasing what they originally planned; bringing horns into the rock showcase with complex melodies that give a new light to the average top 40 sound.
SAM SMITH – IN THE LONELY HOUR – CAPITOL MUSIC
Each year an artist emerges that simply takes your breath away. Some fade away to obscurity and some continue to amaze the public with each release. Sam Smith is one of those artists that will be heading into that playground in the coming years. White Boy soul singers are a dime a dozen but certain ones you just can’t shake. Classic contenders like Van Morrison, Steve Winwood, or Daryl Hall certainly fit the bill. Sam Smith has a very good start with his Gospel-influenced track “Stay With Me.” Even though it’s just a little under 3 minutes, it undoubtedly packs a punch that is unforgettable. “In The Lonely Hour,” as a whole, is nothing less than outstanding with many moods, but oddly the weakest moments are the upbeat tracks as they tend to come off sounding like predictable filler with each listen. Mr. Smith’s voice is his true instrument as he unswervingly drips with unbridled passion in a ballad. I hope he finds a way to carry that essence into a buoyant format as with conquering both formats the possibilities for him are endless.
TOM PETTY & THE HEARTBREAKERS – HYPNOTIC EYE – WARNER BROTHERS MUSIC
There was a time when Tom Petty was considered underground. Looking back I can’t understand that classic rock singles like “Breakdown” and “American Girl” didn’t even make it on to Billboard Hot 100 Chart when released. Petty was unique in the beginning riding the fine line of Southern Rock and Alternative Rock in the later 70’s. His carefree vocal delivery and the slight blues feel of his guitar set him apart from others at the time. In the 80’s Music Videos shot him through the roof. Slick and clever production combined with his rawness became the ticket to making his mark in the industry. Future collaborations only strengthened that hold. Hypnotic Eye is return to that basic gruff he started with and has unpredicted results. His tone is a little lower but the strength in his delivery is ever present.
THE BLEACHERS – STRANGE DESIRE – RCA MUSIC
Jack Antonoff (Steel Train & Fun) has learned a lot of what works today with this new band. Shades of the 80’s Big Country, The Alarm, A-Ha and even U2 are layered throughout this synth-pop adventure and it sure helps to have Depeche Mode’s Vince Clark on board for credibility. The alternative landscape these days is all about energy. Aside from remixes the natural version of the song needs to be powerful for it to really work and The Bleachers have harnessed that moment here
TONY BENNETT & LADY GAGA – CHEEK TO CHEEK – STREAMLINE MUSIC
First I thought, such an odd paring, but it works in a sentimental way. Bennett is timeless and GaGa is surprisingly slick in this trip through torch and swing standards. The key to a project like this is having strong vocals and emotion that bursts uncontrollably with excitement. Tony Bennett is remarkable in this recording. Especially on the track “Firefly,” Bennett belts his lines like it was 1954. Compared to his smooth duets album with KD Lang, “Cheek To Cheek” let’s the man out of the box and shines a new light on Lady GaGa’s capabilities.
HOZIER – SELF TITLED – COLUMBIA MUSIC
Sometimes you stumble across a new artist that has a sound that can only be described as “epic.” When I say “epic” I mean Cecil B DeMille Technicolor Cinema-Scope Epic. Hozier is Andrew Hozier-Byrne, from Ireland, and he breaks into each track like a Twister with no place to land. Like Sam Smith, reviewed prior, the artist reaches into his soul with each chord, but what differs between the two is Hozier‘s music equals his powerful voice. Such intensity is forced to be shown, which is well displayed with the video against gay discrimination in Russia, for the song “Take Me To Church.“ You can view this on YouTube with the following link; http://youtu.be/MYSVMgRr6pw
BLONDIE – GHOSTS OF DOWNLOAD – NOBLE ID MUSIC
It’s hard to distinguish a Blondie record from a Debbie Harry record, but in my book any new recording from this legend is a gift. The poster girl for early new wave is back with her band to celebrate their 40 years together even though they were mostly apart. In a special package you can get the new album ‘Ghosts Of Download ‘ along with a Greatest Hits collection and an early DVD performance. Beware however the “Hits Package” are new re-recordings and the nicest thing I can say about that is some things are better left alone. As for the new songs there are 16 to choose from and with any Blondie album they are a mix of styles and some collaborations and generally good, but nothing landmark this time around. The one thing that differs is an odd remake of Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s “Relax.” Most of the song is done in a ballad/harmony form, then morphs into a dance track. This really caught my attention and left me wanting more. It’s surely time for a Blondie/Debbie Harry album of covers.