Icons return: Pixies, Bruce

By Tom Von Malder | May 02, 2014
Photo by: Michael Halsband The Pixies are, from left, Black Francis, David Lovering and Joey Santiago.

Owls Head — Pixies: Indie Cindy (Pixiesmusic CD, 45:54). This is the first new album from indie music darlings the Pixies in 23 years, and it consists of their three recent digital-only EPs. The lineup here is singer Frank Black, guitarist/backing vocalist Joey Santiago and drummer David Lovering, with support by bassist Ding and backing vocalist Jeremy Dubs. Original Pixies member Kim Deal (vocals and bass) is currently reviving her band, the Breeders. For those born in the last two decades, among the band’s classics are “Bone Machine,” “Waves of Mutilation,” “Debaser” and “Monkey’s Gone To Heaven.”

The album opens with the rocking “What Goes Boom,” then comes the softer “Greens and Blues,” with some spacey distortion in the background and nice guitar work. It is quickly apparent that Black is in top vocal form. Later highlights include “Ring the Bell,” with appropriately ringing guitar tone; the solid “Jaime Bravo”; and the upbeat rocker “Snakes,” even though lyrically it is more about a threat. Also recommended are “Andro Queen,“ with Black’s vocal echoed, and “Another Toe in the Ocean,“ which depicts a dream. The title track is mostly spoken, with weird lyrics in the verses, but a softer, melodic chorus, while the rocker “Blue Eyed Hexe” is screamed and “Silver Snails” has more strange lyrics. The Pixies have been gone too long; this is a welcome return. Grade: A-

Jack Bruce: Silver Rails (Esoteric Antenna CD, 47:34; also version with bonus DVD).
Let’s face it. Bruce is a legend, a bassist who has inspired many, including Paul McCartney, Sting and Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. He also is a great vocalist, and a topnotch songwriter. When in Cream with Eric Clapton and Ginger Baker, Bruce (with lyricist Pete Brown) wrote “Sunshine of Your Love,” “White Room” and “I Feel Free.” After the trio imploded in 1968, Bruce had a couple of solo albums and worked with the jazz fusion group Lifetime (it included Tony Williams and John McLaughlin), he joined another power rock trio, West, Bruce & Laing, with Mountain’s Leslie West and Corky Laing. Mountain had covered the Bruce/Brown composition, “Theme for an Imaginary Western” on its “Climbing!” album.

“Silver Rails,” which is very much a family affair, is Bruce’s first album since 2003’s “More Jack Than God.” His wife, Margrit Seyffer, co-wrote the wonderful opening song, “Candlelight,” which features nice guitar playing by guest Phil Manzanera (Roxy Music). His two daughters are among the four backing singers on “Hidden Cities,” which has a nice doomy beat (and thus sounds a bit like Cream) and guest performances by drummer Cindy Blackman Santana (Carlos Santana’s wife and a veteran of jazz bands) and guitarist Uli Jon Roth (Scorpions). Bruce’s son, Malcolm, plays guitar on three tracks, including the also Cream-like “Rusty Lady,” which also features guest guitarist Robin Trower (Procol Harum and a long successful solo career, including leading his own trio), and is about the death of Margaret Thatcher (it has some wickedly funny lyrics). In the accompanying 28-minute making-of DVD in the limited edition, two-disc version, Bruce says it was his son, Colin, who was the inspiration for the experimental song “Drone” -- it features Bruce’s voice double-tracked and just Bruce’s bass and Miles Pal’s drums for instruments -- which was the album’s first song and led to the rest. The album was recorded at Abbey Road Studios.

In the documentary, Bruce admits this album looks back a bit more. Two good examples are the slower, more reflective “Reach for the Night,” with Bruce on piano and a fine Derek Nash tenor sax on the break, and “Fields of Forever,” which reflects on past successes and excesses while taking a break from the road. Both are good songs, as is the heavy closer, “No Surrender,” which also features Blackman Santana on drums. Bruce plays Mellotron on a couple of tracks, including “Keep It Down,” which is more of a pop song and has John Medeski playing Hammond organ. Bruce, Blackman Santana and Medeski — along with Vernon Reid of Living Colour — recorded a jazz fusion album under the name “Spectrum Road” in June 2012. Bruce co-wrote all the songs here. The making-of DVD is a nice addition and worth hunting the limited edition down. Grade B+

Wilko Johnson and Roger Daltrey: Going Back Home (Chess/Universal CD, 34:38).
The story behind this wonderful collaboration is that guitarist Johnson, who fronted the British pub rockers Dr Feelgood in the 1970s, was diagnosed with terminal cancer last year. So, he turned to old friend, vocalist Daltrey of The Who, to record an album of 10 vintage Johnson songs, backed by Johnson’s touring band. There also is a cover of Bob Dylan’s “Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window” from the 1960s. In an update Friday (May 2) on The Who website, it was reported that Johnson is recovering following a nine hour operation on Wednesday in which doctors successfully removed a pancreatic tumor.

Daltrey is in full growl mode on the opening title track (the current single; the track was written by Wilko and Johnny Kidd and The Pirates guitarist Mick Green, and was originally released by Dr Feelgood on the 1975 “Malpractice” album), an old-school bluesy effort with nice harmonica by Steve Weston. Other highlights are “I Keep It to Myself” (on not wasting a woman’s love), the slower “Keep on Loving You” with fine guitar by Johnson, “Keep It Out of Sight” (about maintaining a reputation) and the bouncy rockers “Sneaky Suspicion” (the long instrumental close is nice) and “All Through the City” (it has the sound of a hit single). The album’s slow number, “Turned 21,” is full of tender regret. The disc comes with a 24-page booklet, with the lyrics and both vintage and new photos of Johnson and Daltrey. The album entered the UK Albums Chart at No. 3, making it Daltrey’s highest ranking since The Who's “Face Dances” album made it to No. 2 in 1981, while Johnson's last major chart success was Dr Feelgood's live album “Stupidity” which reached No 1 in 1976. Grade: A-

Soundtracks update:

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 original motion picture soundtrack (Columbia/Madison Gate CD).
The score for the film, which opened today (May 2), is by Hans Zimmer and The Magnificent Six, which features the ubiquitous Pharrell Williams, guitarist Johnny Mass (The Smiths), Michael Einziger (Incubus), Junkie XL, Andrew Kawczynski and Steve Mazzaro. There also are six new songs, highlighted by Alicia Keys (featuring Kendrick Lamar) performing “It’s On Again,” co-written by Williams, Zimmer and Keys. Other new songs exclusive to the film are by Phosphorescent, LiZ, Williams, The Neighbourhood and Alvin Risk. Note that there also is a deluxe, two-disc version that includes 11 bonus tracks and a 28-page booklet.

Draft Day original motion picture soundtrack (Lakeshore CD, 51:04). While we still have a week to go before the NFL draft, this feature film starring Kevin Costner is all about the draft, which helps make the NFL a year-round experience for fans. Costner plays Cleveland Browns General Manager Sonny Waver Jr., who trades for the number one pick in the draft. The score is composed by John Debney, who also scored director Ivan Reitman’s “No Strings Attached.” The music is energetic and entertaining, with a strong main theme.

The Motel Life original motion picture soundtrack (Lakeshore CD). The film is an adaptation of Willy Vlautin’s novel about two brothers, here played by Emile Hirsch and Stephen Dorff. Also in the cast are Dakota Fanning and Kris Kristofferson (who does not perform on the soundtrack). The score is by David Holmes and Keefus Ciancia, with songs performed by Jonathan Clay, Buddy Stuart (“Roll ‘Em Dice,” written in 1951 by Leon Silver), Joe D’Augustine (2 songs), Justin Townes Earle, Townes Van  Zandt (“Mr. Mudd and Mr. Gold”), Little Hurricane, The Long Wives, Richmond Fontaine and The Kills.

Need for Speed original motion picture soundtrack (Varese Sarabande CD). The film is based on the most successful racing video game franchise (it has sold more than 140 million copies) and stars Aaron Paul as the blue-collar mechanic, whose mission of revenge becomes one of redemption. The score is by Nathan Furst, who also scored “Act of Valor” and is gaining recognition as one of Hollywood’s elite young composers. The score continues an almost decade-long collaboration with director Scott Waugh. The music has large, memorable themes (three key ones) that combine a large orchestra with dream-like guitars and synthesizer elements.

After the Dark by Nicholas O’Toole and Jonathan Davis (Varese Sarabande CD, 66 min.). Despite the CD name, this disc contains music from the motion picture “The Philosophers.” Davis is the front man for rockers Korn, while O’Toole is a film composer. There is additional music by Glen Phillips of the band Toad The Wet Sprocket. This is not one’s average score, lacking an orchestra, but using plenty of synthesizers. The film is set at an international school in Jakarta, where a philosophy teacher (played by James D'Arcy) challenges his class of 20 students to a final thought experiment. Faced with an impending nuclear apocalypse, they must determine which 10 of them would take shelter underground and reboot the human race. The decision quickly becomes deadly as each in the group turns against each other in a desperate fight for survival that blurs the lines between theory and reality.

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