Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Best Guitar Cds of the Week - 09/27/2011 PART ONE!

   What a crazy week for guitar lovers! With three of my all time favorites releasing albums and several others that would have easily taken the top spot on many other weeks this year,how am I to choose who goes first? Well,I've already written teaser articles on Bill Frisell and John Scofield,so I guess it has to go to:

Wilco - The Whole Love
   This is a difficult review to write. Why? None of Wilco's records sound alike,but my reviews of them could: "It's great,they blend various forms of their three influences a) Beatles/Byrds meets Motown pop b)acoustic-folksy Americana and c)noise/experimental/avant-garde." Find a few variations of those themes,mention how the album will reveal more and more of it's secrets on repeat listens and there you have it. That's my review of every Wilco album since Summerteeth. They consistently put out albums that reach heavy rotation in my Cd player.Thankfully,Wilco is better at making music than I am of writing reviews. This is another winner and I'll do my best to try and explain why.
  Much could be made of the two opening and closing songs, two oddball bookends with the poppier confections in the middle. The opener is a noisy freak out of the type that Nels Cline fans wrongly assumed he would be adding a couple of albums ago and the closer, a droning,emotional build up that is also a fine showcase of Cline's textural side. (There,I mixed things up a bit by mentioning style c) avant-garde, first.) As a Brian Wilson fanatic,I would be remiss if I didn't mention Sunloathe, the most overt Wilco has been in adding Beach Boys style vocals to their pop mix. ( That would be style b) Beatles/Byrds meets Motown.)  And is that...whistling I hear on It Dawned On Me? Wow. As shiny as the surface may appear,Wilco at their sunniest always has something a bit subversive under the surface,textures and colors bubbling under the surface. (Here is where I mention the secrets reveled on repeat listens.) Throughout every song,Cline is a master of shading,blending in subtle and sometimes not so subtle textures.
   Acoustic guitar and peddle steel wends it's way in and out of many of the songs. While none of the songs would qualify as "country",there is more of that element than we've heard for the past couple of albums. (You didn't think I'd leave out style b)Americana,did you?) When speaking about Wilco,I have been guilty of speaking as if it were the Tweedy and Cline show. This album,more than ever before,shows how short sighted that is. Bassist John Stirrat and drummer Glenn Kotche make a great rhythm section,solid and rock steady while also adding cliche-free textures of their own. This may be the album were Stirrat finally gets some credit for being one of the most creative and tasty bass players in rock music. It would also be unfair,especially on an album I keep mentioning words like "texture" and "color",not to mention two of the guys providing that texture. How about a little love for the always excellent Patrick Sansone on guitars and keyboards and Mikael Jorgensen on keyboards.
  I can think of no other "current" band that consistently puts out such high quality music. With the announcement of R.E.M. breaking up just a few days old standing as a stark reminder that bands can't stay at their peak forever, I can happily report that Wilco is still at the top of their game.

Available in vinyl,regular Cd and the now obligatory "limited deluxe edition",with a bonus Cd containing four extra songs:

Bill Frisell and John Scofield will be in tomorrows unprecedented part two. Plenty more reviews below...

Chickenfoot - Chickenfoot III
  I'll just say that I like everything about this...except for Sammy Hagar. He is the fly in the soup that makes it impossible for me to enjoy the tasty bits around him.

Mastodon - The Hunter
  No doubt about it,Mastodon is one of the bands that remembered "metal" is supposed to have the word "heavy" before it. This is another contender for "best heavy metal of 2011" for sure.

Johnny Winter - Roots
   The "blues musician plus guests" albums are generally terrible embarrassments aimed at boosting commercial sales. This one is nothing of the kind,with every guest being first class and here for good reason. It's a guitar feast with Sonny Landreth ,Derek Trucks,Warren Haynes and Jimmy Vivino sitting in. Well done Mr. Winter!

Steve Wilson - Grace for Drowning
   Well known in progressive rock circles as the leader of Porcupine Tree,younger metal fans might also know him as the producer helping boost the prog/metal of Opeth. In true prog rock style, this is a real double album with two separate 45(ish) minute Cds.

Machine Head - Unto the Locust
Still bringing the goods after all these years! The "special edition" has three bonus songs and a "making of" DVD.

The Bangles - Sweetheart of the Sun
Matthew Sweet - Modern Art
   These two albums are very much of a piece. Both The Bangles and Sweet worship at the four B's of pop perfection: The Beatles,The Byrds,The Beach Boys and Big Star. Sweet and Susanah Hoffs are frequent collaborators,so much so that Sweet produced Sweetheart of the Sun. Extra points go to The Bangles for featuring backup musician (and frequent Bill Frisell collaborator) Greg Leisz.

Steve Hackett - Beyond the Shrouded Horizon
  Hackett is as ambitious as ever,with some of the heaviest tones he's ever laid down mixed in with acoustic and mellower songs. His usual rhythm section of  Gary O'Toole and Nick Beggs are on hand and Chris Squire makes a guest appearance on three tunes.

Derek Sherinian - Oceana
   As one would expect from a keyboardist with such an impressive guitar related resume,this isn't just a synth-fest. Guests include Steve Lukather,Tony MacAlpine,Tony Franklin,Doug Aldrich and,no surprise,his Black Country Communion band mate, Joe Bonamassa.

Warbringer - Worlds Torn Asunder
  One of the best of the current thrash inspired new bands.

Chris Duarte - Blues in the Afterburner
  You might get a hint from the 60's style lettering on the cover that this time around,Duarte adds a bit of psychedelia to his blues. He's as derivative as ever (after all,there weren't any psychedelic blues bands from Texas,were there?) but he's just freakin' good,I always give him a pass.

The Tangent - Comm
   With both Steve Wilson and Steve Hackett both releasing albums this week,I hope prog rock fans don't overlook this one from The Tangent. Give it a listen.

Various Artists - Miles Espanol
   Exactly what the title hints at, music by and inspired by Miles Davis,done by Davis alumni with Latin jazz and flamenco musicians. This is especially notable to guitar fanatics for an appearance by John Scofield on one song.

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