A Legendary Summer of Music

Posted: June 28, 2014 in Music

july While 2014 has already been a stellar year in music with great releases from new artists all over the scene, I found the last few weeks to be saturated with new offerings from some of the most legendary artists of our lives. No better time than the present to re-introduce to you a few recognizable names – all still rocking and rolling decades later. So without further adieu, let’s get down to business…

Peter-Murphy

Peter Murphy – Lion (June 3rd)

Legendary Bauhaus frontman Peter Murphy looks to his tenth solo album with the type of experimental fervor typically reserved for artists half his age and that’s a good thing. Written and recorded in record time (rumors are Murphy did the album in just over a week), Lion shirks its regal title with semi-improvised pieces that are fast, loose and moody. While usually dancing on the softer edge of the night, Murphy pulls an (almost) about face, putting together 11 tracks that are heavier and faster-paced than just about anything he’s done over his storied career.

Murphy has readily stated that he’s no longer letting outside influences in, stating that rarely does he follow the “gothic” genre he helped create. And this album proves it. The vocals are still haunting at times, but the moody, dread-filled vibe is mostly absent. If anything, the album feels more like a rebirth than a rehashing of the Bauhaus days – and has a strangely enjoyable uplifting vibe.

Even though the album was put together quickly, Lion’s layout is a very deliberate one and should be listened to start-to-finish, as some songs don’t necessarily translate as well when not sandwiched between their counterparts. But if you are only going to listen to a few tracks and then move on, I suggest the heavy opener “Hang Up”,  the electro-clash painted “Low Tar Stars”, and the pop-influenced “Eliza.” The entire album, despite a couple of missteps along the way, shows that the 2014 version of Peter Murphy is as good as ever, and continues his legacy as one of alternative music’s most important voices.

8/10

Phish

Phish – Fuego (June 24th)

When it comes to Phish, most people either love them or hate them. I am one of the miniscule few that can take them or leave them. Sure, they are probably THE best jam-band out there these days, but it’s hard for me to to get caught up in 15 minute free-flowing guitar and bass solos. Maybe I need to start smoking pot or tie my bandana a little tighter – as I’m finally starting to feel it a little with the band’s new album Fuego.

For a band that made its name being able to interact and change on the fly during their live performances, I’ve never felt that same level of cohesion on their studio albums – until now. This time around, it feels like the band bottled up the stage energy an passed it around the recording studio until everyone was drunk. It’s high-spirited, it rocks, and it actually sounds like the band had a blast recording it.

The title track opener spins from one style to another, capturing the vibe they have on their best moments on stage. “Sing Monica” and “Devotion to a Dream” are as catchy as they come, and swirl along playfully. “Wintergreen” evokes the memories of some of Phish’s quirkiest lyrics over the years, and “555” does a great Red Hot Chili Peppers impersonation. In fact, I see a lot of the songs off this record making their way into the live set, which will only add an unnoticeable 30 minutes or so to the show. If you’ve experienced Phish live, you know what I’m talking about.

So call me a convert, or a new-found Phish-head or whatever… This album needs a place in your CD collection, no matter what kind of music you listen to, and builds on a career that shows no signs of letting up anytime soon.

9/10

Yes

Yes – Heaven and Earth (July 22)

Progressive rock fans pretty much wet themselves anytime there is rumor of a new Yes album, and the time to change the sheets is on the horizon. Heaven and Earth features only 8 new tracks from the band, and features new vocalist Jon Davison, but is a Yes album through and through. For starters, Davison sounds so much like former vocalist Jon Anderson that you almost forget that their is a “new” singer. Secondly, the core group of Chris Squire, Alan White, and Steve Howe continue their legacy of being the most prolific writing team in rock music. Sure, they don’t take (as many) hallucinogenics these days, and the lyrical content has gone from whimsical to more refined concepts – but Yes has, over their career, pretty much written the book of prog rock.

The latest chapter takes a more pop-sensible approach. Instead of the winding progressive structures, the band take a more radio-friendly road throughout Heaven and Earth. There is still everything here you would expect from a Yes record – from Howe’s driving guitar solos to Squire’s perfect harmonies – but let’s be honest. Time is running out.

Considering most of the band is on the bad side of 60 years old, the end of Yes is fast approaching. Thankfully, the band has decided to burn off the fumes in the starship by putting it into overdrive, heading at breakneck speed to the black hole. Heaven and Hell might sound a little like 90125 and Big Generator, but that’s not a bad thing. The tracks flow effortlessly from one to the next, showcasing each member in their own personal spotlights along the way.

“Believe Again” focuses the attention to Geoff Downes keyboard mastery, while “To Ascend” and “In A World Of Our Own” show what perfect writing and harmonies can be. “Light of the Ages” proves Howe as still one of the best guitarists out there, and “Step Beyond” offers as memorable of a bass and drum track as Yes has ever recorded,

The culmination lies in the albums final track, “Subway Walls”. For all the criticism the album might get for being too “light” by its detractors, this track is old-school Yes both in performance and content.  Filled with tempo shifts and complicated structure, it was a great finish to what – for me – was a great album. Heaven and Hell might not please every Yes fan out there, but there is plenty of satisfaction to be found here for fans new and old alike.

8.5/10

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