Friday, July 21, 2017

The Sound of Seniors

Written by  Gregg Shapiro

Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, now in their mid-to-late 70s respectively, remain productive and continue to tour and perform on a regular basis. In their youth, the surviving half of The Beatles, along with the late John Lennon and George Harrison, made an immeasurable impact on contemporary music and culture. Out of all of the Beatles’ albums, 1967’s Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Apple / Capitol / UMe), now available in a new two-CD 50th anniversary edition stereo mix (by Giles Martin, son of George Martin) 50th anniversary edition, is probably the Fab Four’s most influential and eternal recording. Whether you last listened to Sgt. Pepper a year ago or 20 years ago, you’re sure to be thrilled by the new sounds you’ll discover in this version, especially on songs such as “She’s Leaving Home,” “With a Little Help from My Friends,” “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite,” “Getting Better,” “When I’m 64,” and “A Day in the Life.” The second disc features numerous takes of the songs on the album, as well as 2017 stereo mixes of the singles “Strawberry Fields Forever” and “Penny Lane,” which though recorded at the same time as Sgt. Pepper, would later find their way onto Magical Mystery Tour, released later in 1967.

The psychedelic sounds explored to great affect by the Beatles are also an essential component of Pink Floyd’s 1967 debut album The Piper at the Gates of Dawn. Pink Floyd outlasted the Beatles by a few years, although they would eventually be undone by a similar kind of in-fighting. Additionally, the solo output by Pink Floyd’s members was nowhere near as substantial as that of the Beatles’. Is This the Life We Really Want? (Columbia) is only the fourth solo album by Roger Waters, but is unmistakably the work of a former member of Pink Floyd. Produced by Nigel Godrich (Radiohead, Beck and others), Is This the Life We Really Want? succeeds by bringing prog-rock into the 21st century. As politically oriented as the best of Waters’ (and by extension Pink Floyd’s later) work, Waters gorgeous rage equals that of similarly-minded Depeche Mode’s Spirit.

Midwestern prog rock superstars Styx, featuring openly gay founding member Chuck Panozzo, returns with The Mission (UMe), the band’s first new studio album in more than a dozen years. A concept album chronicling the first manned mission to Mars in 2033, The Mission opens with “Overture,” an instrumental boasting the kind of keyboards we’ve come to expect from Styx, while “Gone Gone Gone” delivers the band’s trademark guitars and harmonies. ”Hundred Million Miles From Home” slips in a funky bass line, “The Greater Good” delivers the drama and “The Outpost” has potential as a single.

The aptly titled Adiós (UMe) is being touted as the final studio album Glen Campbell, the music legend who has been battling Alzheimer’s disease for several years. Produced by Carl Jackson, a longtime musical collaborator of Campbell’s, the album features four songs – including the title cut and “Just Like Always” – by Jimmy Webb, the songwriter responsible for some of the singer’s most popular tunes, including “Wichita Lineman” and “Galveston.” The disc also features Campbell’s singular interpretations of “Funny How Time Slips Away” by Willie Nelson (who can also be heard on the track), Bob Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right,” and Fred Neil’s “Everybody’s Talkin’,” among others.

Glen Campbell performed a cover of Paul Simon’s “Homeward Bound” on his 1967 By The Time I Get To Phoenix album. That song isn’t included among the Simon & Garfunkel selections on Simon’s two-CD / one DVD set The Concert in Hyde Park (Legacy), although he does do “The Boxer” and “The Sounds of Silence.” Recorded in 2012 during the Hard Rock Calling Festival in London, the live recording features many songs from Simon’s lengthy solo period, from early (“Me and Julio Down By the Schoolyard” and “Mother and Child Reunion”) to mid-career (several songs from Graceland) and later (“Dazzling Blue”).

Credited to Lindsey Buckingham and Christine McVie, but also featuring Mick Fleetwood and John McVie (as well as Mitchell Froom), Lindsey Buckingham / Christine McVie (Atlantic) is essentially a Fleetwood Mac album, minus Stevie Nicks, of course. Already the subject of an extensive reissue campaign, involving beautifully packaged sets devoted to 1982’s Mirage and 1987’s Tango in the Night (as well as Nicks’s Bella Donna and The Wild Heart), Fleetwood Mac is never far from our consciousness. The truth is, Lindsey Buckingham / Christine McVie is the best Fleetwood Mac album in eons, with or without Nicks (but please don’t tell her we said that!). The songs, written by Buckingham and McVie, alone and in collaboration, are splendid, and fit well into the Mac’s oeuvre. “In My World,” “Feel About You,” “Red Sun,” “Sleeping Around the Corner,” “On with the Show,” “Love is Here to Stay,” and the ballad “Game of Pretend,” in particular, are fabulous.

No one could ever accuse Willie Nelson of being idle. His 21st century output alone amounts to an album a year, sometimes two or more. Additionally, he still finds time to be an activist for causes that many of us can get behind. A marvelous mix of originals and covers, God’s Problem Child (Legacy) is a welcome addition to Nelson’s considerable and impressive catalog.


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