Ron – Aretha Franklin: Lady Soul
January 22 was the 50th anniversary of Aretha Franklin’s Lady Soul album. A week prior, Rhino Records released this seminal collection in a limited edition, 180-gram vinyl version. It’s worth revisiting this landmark album, not just for the songs that have become like old friends (“Since You’ve Been Gone,” “You Make Me Feel Like A Natural Woman”) but also for the songs that help to remind us of what life was like in 1968 (“People Get Ready,” “Groovin'”). Aretha started her recording career with Columbia, the label that gave us Dylan, Simon & Garfunkel and Miles Davis. But it was Aretha’s switch to Atlantic in 1967 that gave us “Respect,” “Do Right Woman, Do Right Man” and more. She was already a star at this point but Lady Soul (with King Curtis’ sax and a track with Clapton!) showed us Aretha is here to stay. And 50 years later, she still is!
Margot – Big Star: Live At Lafayette’s Music Room
After more than 40 years, one would think there wouldn’t be anything left to mine from the long defunct band Big Star. As the years go by, the myth has only grown. Which is why one might hesitate to listen to the new release Big Star Live At Lafayette’s Music Room, fearing that finally the releases are scraping the bottom of the barrel. Have no fear! Big Star Live At Lafayette’s Music Room is not a full concert; it’s an amalgamation of three 1973 shows Big Star did but it showcases them fracturing at the seams and performing beautifully in spite of it. The Big Star represented in these shows is sans Chris Bell, who left the group shortly before. The liner notes in this new addition to the Big Star canon are thorough and set the scene nicely. The overall performance makes one wish for having attended a concert from Big Star in their heyday. It would have been a memorable night. Standout tracks: “When My Baby’s Beside Me,” “The India Song.”
Stacy – Black Rebel Motorcycle Club: Wrong Creatures
Black Rebel Motorcycle Club (BRMC) returns with their eighth release: Wrong Creatures. The opening track “DFF” sets the tone with an eerie, atmospheric drone that hints at darker things to come. But full-on dark never arrives. The crunchiest track is “Little Thing Gone Wild,” with their signature growl and snarl, replete with blistering guitar and driving bassline. The rest of Wrong Creatures sits pretty steady in psychedelic tuneful pop. From “Ninth Configuration” (which sounds like they’re paying homage to Love and Rockets) to “Circus Bazooko” (a seriously creepy, haunting romp through the funhouse) BRMC delivers an utterly listenable album. While it may not deliver the punch of their debut, there is something to be said for longevity. In light of their 20 year career, they’re still rocking – just a little more selectively. They’ll be on tour throughout the US in support of Wrong Creatures this winter, including a show at Denver’s Ogden Theater on Feb 15.
Benji – Railbenders: The Medicine Show
Colorado’s favorite Americana band is back. The Railbenders have just released The Medicine Show, their first album of originals in more than 8 years. This album is the ‘Benders at their hard-drinking best with songs guaranteed to win-over any Honky Tonk on a Friday night. “Bourbon County Line,” “Have A Drink On Me,” “Ass, Gas or Grass” and “Whiskey ‘n’ Women” are all built in the classic Railbender sound of loud guitars, catchy lyrics and foot stompin’ rhythm. The Medicine Show also includes a nice tribute to the band’s favorite watering hole, “Lincoln’s” – a song guaranteed to put a tear in your beer and a smile on your face. The Medicine Show is everything you expect from a Railbenders record: plenty of hard driving honky tonk tunes about drinking and good times.