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EP Review: Sevi Ettinger - The Salty Water EP

An exciting debut EP from newcomer Sevi Ettinger.
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Newcomer Sevi Ettinger found musical inspiration in an unlikely source - the Syrian refugee crisis. Just 15, the American singer, who lives in Shanghai with her family, channeled the anguish she felt for the victims into the lyrics of her debut single, "Salty Water," a song that also serves as the title of her new EP. Ettinger wrote the song using an app on her phone and caught the attention of songwriter Phillip Jarrell, who played it for Grammy Award-winning producer Jeff Bova, who liked the track as well. The pair agreed to work with Ettinger in the studio, helping

CD Review: Vincent Poag - Heroes And Demons

The singer-songwriter delivers a diverse third album.
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For his third album, Heroes And Demons, singer-songwriter Vincent Poag continues where he left off on 2014's excellent For The Girls. Not one to be tied to any particular style, Poag mixes pop with touches of rock, blues, jazz and county to great effect. Poag's gritty voice at times recalls Mark Knopfler or Tom Waits, but is never derivative. The weariness of his vocals give his lyrics, which often find him ruminating about everyday life, an everyman feel and give weight to the tracks. The album opens with the bouncy pop of "Beautiful Day." Here Poag channels his inner Paul

Blu-ray Review: Eric Clapton - Life In 12 Bars

An unflinching look back at one of rock's great guitarists.
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Eric Clapton has had a career that any musician would envy. The only three-time inductee to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, he helped expose blues music to white America while staying a leading-edge, influential figure on guitar since the 1960s, receiving commercial and critical acclaim in multiple decades. His life has had its share of heartache however. Rejected by his birth mother (twice, no less) and raised by his grandmother, Clapton found solace first in music, but later in drugs and alcohol. That the death of his four-year-old son Conner didn't fully send him over the edge is

CD Review: Big Star - Live At Lafayette's Music Room

A fascinating live time capsule from this classic power pop group.
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In 1973, Big Star was in a state of flux. Founding member and co-leader Chris Bell had left after the failure of the group's debut album #1 Record and the band was unsure of its future. The rest of the group was persuaded to perform at a now-legendary showcase show for the Memphis Rock Writers Convention in May of that year, which led to the group entering the studio to record their second album, Radio City. What isn't as widely known is that this three-man version of Big Star played the same venue four months earlier opening for the R&B

CD Review: Ali McManus - Unbreakable

Ali McManus delivers a strong debut album.
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Singer-songwriter Ali McManus has had her share of adversity in her short 21 years and that's besides the near-impossible task of making it in the music business. McManus has been confined to a wheelchair since she was 7 as a result of a rare bone disorder. She's had 11 surgeries, halo tractions, and steel rods to straighten her spine. In spite of this, she became a musician, and fairly recently too. McManus has played piano since she was 14 and guitar since she was 16. One wouldn't know she has played for less than 10 years by listening to her

CD Review: Big Star - The Best Of Big Star

An excellent overview of this power pop's short, but memorable run.
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Big Star may be the biggest band a lot of people have never heard of. Formed in the wake of the Box Tops dissolution by Alex Chilton and Chris Bell, they were a group that was seemingly out of place with what was going on in popular music. A power pop band on a soul label making concise, Beatlesque pop songs in an era of 10-minute jams and rock and roll excess. A critics' darling, they were the victims of poor distribution from their record label Stax and broke up. After being persuaded to reform, Bell left the group, and

DVD Review: Robert Plant And The Sensational Space Shifters - Live At David Lynch's Festival of Disruption

Robert Plant and the Sensational Space Shifters deliver a spirited performance at the Festival of Disruption.
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Robert Plant's solo career has taken many interesting turns, continuing to push the boundaries of what is possible in a rock music context. Backed since 2012 by his excellent band, The Sensational Space Shifters, the former Led Zeppelin front man has mixed rock, blues, folk and world music, combined with a healthy dose of African rhythms and exotic instruments to create a sound that is uniquely his. The fact his music has remained powerful and relevant nearly 40 years after Zeppelin's demise is a testament to his talent and vision. In October 2016, while on tour for his Lullaby And...

CD Review: Bobby Darin & Johnny Mercer - Two Of A Kind

Two giants from different eras make magic with a big assist from Billy May
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In the early 1960s, Bobby Darin's manager Steve Blauner had a brainstorm: he wanted Darin to cut an album with famed lyricist/singer/composer Johnny Mercer with arrangements by Billy May. Darin was 24 at the time and Mercer was 51 and the record was a major nod to the Tin Pan Alley songs of old. While this might seem a recipe for disaster, quite the opposite happened. The pair had immediate chemistry and a playful camaraderie that is evident throughout. Add in the hard swinging sounds from May, who had worked with the likes of Frank Sinatra, and the resulting album,

CD Review: The Blind Boys Of Alabama - Atom Bomb

This mid-2000s Blind Boys Of Alabama classic has been reissued with bonus tracks.
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By the mid-2000s, The Blind Boys of Alabama were in the midst of a late-career resurgence that saw the group being introduced to new audiences and receiving critical acclaim and numerous awards. Continuing this hot streak was Atom Bomb, an album that featured several guest stars and showcased the group's signature blend of gospel, blues, R&B and rock. Originally released in 2005, the album has been rereleased with bonus tracks and expanded liner notes. The album opens with "(Jesus Hits Like The) Atom Bomb," a song that likens the return of Jesus Christ to that of an atom bomb and

CD Review: The Blind Boys Of Alabama - Go Tell It On The Mountain

The Blind Boys of Alabama's Christmas album rereleased with bonus tracks.
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Despite having been around for over 50 years at that point, The Blind Boys Of Alabama never recorded a Christmas album until 2003's Go Tell It On The Mountain. The album came during a period of renewed interest for the group that saw them reaching wider audiences, opening for (and performing on the albums of) the likes of Peter Gabriel and winning multiple Grammy Awards. The album featured the groups trademark harmonies, matched by an eclectic list of guest stars such as Tom Waits and Aaron Neville, and has been rereleased with bonus tracks. The album opens with "Last Month

Blu-ray Review: Black Sabbath - The End

The final chapter for this legendary heavy metal band.
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From their debut nearly 50 years ago, no band has been more synonymous with heavy metal than Black Sabbath. After numerous lineup changes over the years, including a reunion with the Ronnie James Dio-era band for the Heaven and Hell project, fans of the original Black Sabbath finally got their wish when, in 2013, the group (albeit without drummer Bill Ward, who sat out due to contract issues and was replaced by Brad Wilk) recorded a new album, 13, with Ozzy Osbourne on vocals, their first since 1978's Never Say Die! After touring extensively for 13, the band, now with

CD Review: Charles Billingsley - It's Christmas Time Again

Charles Billingsley crafts a fun, swinging Christmas album.
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From his beginnings 25 years ago as a member of the contemporary Christian group NewSong to his lengthy solo career, which has also seen turns as a speaker and author, Charles Billingsley has had quite the career. His latest release, It's Christmas Time Again, brings to mind classic Christmas releases by the likes of Frank Sinatra and mixes traditional jazz sounds and the Great American Songbook with modern sensibilities, making for an excellent holiday release. The album leads off with the hard swinging "The Man With The Bag." The track could just as easily have been from the 1950s as

Review: The Rolling Stones - On Air (Deluxe Edition)

A trip in time to those years The Rolling Stones were one of the baddest blues bands around...
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I love the years when The Rolling Stones were one of the best blues bands on the planet, before they were frozen in time in the pop culture consciousness as famous for their personal and musical indulgences and excesses as for the music. On Air collects live performances from the BBC from 1963-65 and captures them when they were five British kids possessed of both the skill and attitude that would see them segue from credibly covering blues and rock standards to a band that would write some of the greatest, most enduring songs of the 20th century. You can

Blu-ray Review: The Who - Tommy: Live At The Royal Albert Hall

The Who performs Tommy for a good cause
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The Who's Tommy is one of the most legendary albums of the rock and roll era, or any era really. The classic rock opera pushed the limits of what could be done within the confines of a rock record and was meant to be listened to as a complete piece. The band has performed Tommy live many times since it was first released in 1969, but never in its entirety until now. In April 2017, The Who took to the stage at London's famed Royal Albert Hall to perform the complete Tommy in support of the Teenage Cancer Trust. The

Blu-ray Review: Jeff Beck - Live At The Hollywood Bowl

The legendary guitarist looks back at over 50 years of music.
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Among guitar heroes, Jeff Beck has had a career like few others. The two-time Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee pioneered hard rock and psychedelia with the Yardbirds and later his own Jeff Beck Group. Not wanting to rest on his laurels, he has also been at the forefront of jazz-fusion and instrumental music and has dabbled in electronica. More than 50 years into his career, he has outlasted most of his contemporaries and has few, if any peers. To celebrate his remarkable career, Beck played a 2016 gig at the Hollywood Bowl with numerous guests, including: Steven Tyler,

Blu-ray Review: The Rolling Stones From The Vault: Sticky Fingers Live At The Fonda Theatre 2015

The Rolling Stones deliver one of their best albums to a small group of very lucky fans.
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For years bands have been playing classic albums in their entirety in concert as a way to entice fans to their shows. One notable exception to this has been The Rolling Stones -- until now. The band began their 2015 American Zip Code tour at Hollywood's Fonda Theatre, a tiny venue for the Stones. That's nothing new as the group has traditionally played smaller venues to begin tours or as nice surprises for fans during their tours. What was new was that they performed their classic album, Sticky Fingers, in its entirety for the first and, as of now, only

DVD/CD Review: Journey - Live In Manila

A triumphant homecoming gig for Arnel Pineda of Journey.
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In 2007, Journey was at a career crossroads of sorts. Singer Jeff Scott Soto replaced Steve Augeri, who had sung with the band since 1998, the year before, but by mid 2007, Soto was out as well. The band took to YouTube to look for a replacement and found one in Filipino singer Arnel Pineda, who has held the role ever since. It helps that Pineda's vocals sound uncannily like Steve Perry's, too. After the success of the group's debut album with Pineda, the Wal-Mart-exclusive Revelation, the band decided to go that route again in 2009, with the DVD Live

CD Review: Justin Hayward - All The Way

All The Way is a great starting point to Justin Hayward's solo career.
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For more than 50 years, Justin Hayward has been best known for his role as guitarist, singer and songwriter in The Moody Blues, penning and singing such hits as "Nights In White Satin" and "Question." During that time, he has also forged a successful solo career, beginning with 1975's Blue Jays, recorded with fellow Moody John Lodge. A new compilation, All The Way, brings together 15 of these solo recordings, including a rare track once thought lost and a brand new recording "The Wind Of Heaven." The album opens with the original stereo mix of "Blue Guitar." Though the song

DVD Review: Heart -- Alive In Seattle

A fantastic homecoming concert for Ann and Nancy Wilson and Heart.
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In 2002, Heart went on their "Summer of Love" tour. The tour mixed hits from their extensive catalog with well-chosen covers and a handful of new songs. The tour culminated with a memorable stop in the group's hometown of Seattle, WA. The show was filmed and makes up the DVD Heart -- Alive in Seattle. Originally released in 2003, this strong performance is available once again on DVD. The group comes out swinging with a terrific "Crazy On You." Ann Wilson is in strong voice, challenging herself from the outset on this number with no shortage of high notes. For

DVD Review: Pete Townshend's Deep End -- Face The Face

Pete Townshend's Deep End gives an explosive performance on Rockpalast in 1986.
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In 1986, Pete Townshend was in the midst of a series of shows for his concept album White City: A Novel. For the performances, he assembled an all-star band known as Pete Townshend's Deep End, many of who played on the album, including David Gilmour on guitar and vocals and Simon Phillips on drums. On January 29, 1986, the group made an appearance on the famed German TV show, Rockpalast. Long available as a bootleg, the show is finally being released officially as a DVD/CD set titled Pete Townshend's Deep End -- Face The Face. The show mixes White City

CD Review: Bryan Adams - Wembley Live 1996

Bryan Adams' triumphant Wembley Stadium show, now available on CD.
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During his career, Bryan Adams arguably reached the peak of his popularity, at least in Europe, during the mid 1990s. Nowhere was this more evident than in England, where Adams performed before 70,000 fans at historic Wembley Stadium. Coming not quite a year after the successful DVD release of this memorable performance comes a two-CD set of the same show, Bryan Adams - Wembley Live 1996. Adams opens the show with two offerings from his then-new album, 18 Til I Die -- the Stones-influenced "The Only Thing That Looks Good On Me Is You" and the garage rock of "Do

DVD Review - Bryan Adams - Wembley Live 1996

Bryan Adams delivers before a packed house at Wembley Stadium.
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In 1996, Bryan Adams was riding the success of his album 18 Til I Die, an album that moderately well in the U.S., but especially well in Europe. His gig in London's famed Wembley Stadium to a packed house of 70,000 fans is proof positive. The memorable performance was filmed and makes up the DVD Bryan Adams - Wembley Live 1996. The show opens with a pair of songs from 18 Til I Die, the Stones-influenced "The Only Thing That Looks Good On Me Is You" and the garage rock of "Do To You." The former finds the band locked

Blu-ray Review: The Who - Live At The Isle Of Wight Festival 2004

The Who return to conquer the Isle of Wight once again in this 2004 performance.
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The Isle of Wight Festival has taken on a legendary status over the years -- the early incarnations, particularly the 1969 and 1970 ones -- which were attended by roughly 150,000 and 600,000 people respectively in particular. Those two festivals included memorable performances by The Who among others. It is only natural then, that when the festival was revived in 2002, that The Who would be invited back and, in 2004, they were. Many years older, and down to two original members -- Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey -- but no less explosive live, the band delivered an inspired show,

DVD Review - The Frank Sinatra Collection: The Timex Shows - Vol. 1 and Vol. 2

All four legendary Sinatra Timex shows are available officially as separate discs..
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In 1959 and 1960, Frank Sinatra was in his coolest guy in the room, Rat Pack-era prime. He was nearing the end of his legendary run at Capitol Records and soon would be running his own label, Reprise. During this time, he also recorded four TV specials featuring a bevy of guest stars and Sinatra cronies. Sponsored by Timex, and long available unofficially, the shows are now available separately as part of the Frank Sinatra Collection as The Timex Shows Vol. 1 and Vol. 2. Volume one features two shows from 1959 -- The Frank Sinatra Timex Show and An

Blu-ray Review: Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow - Memories In Rock: Live In Germany

After nearly two decades, Ritchie Blackmore returns to rock in a strong concert Blu-ray.
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Ever since Rainbow gave way to Blackmore's Night in 1997, fans of Ritchie Blackmore have wondered if he would ever return to the melodic hard rock that earned him a spot in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of Deep Purple. In the summer of 2016, fans' prayers were answered when Blackmore decided to resurrect Rainbow with an all-new lineup, playing three well-received concerts, two in Germany and one in England. The German shows were filmed and make up the new Blu-ray/2-CD Set Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow - Memories In Rock: Live in Germany. While the band's

Blu-ray Review: Def Leppard - And There Will Be a Next Time...

This classic 80s band delivers hits and new material in a strong new Blu-ray.
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Nearly 40 years after the release of their first album, Def Leppard are as popular as ever as a live act. It's not all nostalgia either. In late 2015, the band released their underrated self-titled album and embarked on a 55-city summer tour in support of it. The band's stop at the DTE Energy Music Theatre just outside Detroit, MI, was filmed and makes up the excellent new Blu-ray Def Leppard - And There Will Be A Next Time... Filmed before a packed house, the show opens with the new song "Let's Go," a track immediately recognizable as Def Leppard

Book Review: Close to the Edge: How Yes's Masterpiece Defined Prog Rock by Will Romano

Author Will Romano goes deep into the making, meaning, and impact of Close to the Edge, still a beloved album after 45 years.
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"Just Say No to Yes" may not have been an actual bumpersticker in '77, but it should have been. At the time Yes were kings of the Prog mountain, and after such pomposities as Tales From Topographic Oceans they had much to answer for. Or so it seemed at least, considering the beat-downs they were taking in the hip rock papers. Of course those very same magazines had swooned over Close to the Edge five years earlier. From Richard Cromelin's original review in Rolling Stone: "It shines with a freshness and crispness that doesn't seem likely to tarnish quickly". Standing

CD Review: Buzz Cason - Passion

Veteran singer-songwriter Buzz Cason delivers a strong set of songs with Passion.
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To say that Buzz Cason has had a long and varied career would be an understatement. The Rockabilly Hall Of Famer is best known for the songs "Everlasting Love" and "Soldier Of Love," both of which he co-wrote. The former has charted in every decade since its release, while the latter was covered by the Beatles and Marshall Crenshaw, among others. He has sung backup for the lines of Kris Kristofferson, Willie Nelson and Elvis Presley and is also a published author. If that was all Cason did, it would be a better career than most, but his muse has

CD Review: Big Star - Complete Third

A complete overview of the band's final album from their original run.
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By 1974, Big Star was a shadow of their former self. Co-leader Chris Bell had left after the recording of their first album #1 Record and bassist Andy Hummel left after Radio City, their second. All that remained were singer/guitarist Alex Chilton and drummer Jody Stephens. While critically acclaimed, neither of the group's first two albums sold well at all and Chilton, who was not in a good state of mind and who was partying a lot, had entered a tumultuous relationship with Lesa Aldridge, who contributed to the third album's sessions. Suffice to say Big Star was not in

CD Review: Bobby Rush - Porcupine Meat

60 years into his career, Bobby Rush is showing no signs of slowing down.
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By the time most men reach the age of 82, they are happy to be retired and want a quiet, relaxing life. Bobby Rush is not most men. The Blues Hall of Famer plays more than 200 shows a year and has recorded approximately 300 songs in his long, storied career. He received his first gold record in 1971 for "Chicken Heads" and has played alongside many of the greats of the genre including Howlin' Wolf, Jimmy Reed, Muddy Waters, Willie Dixon, Freddie King and Little Walter, among others. Like many other artists, Rush had taken to self-releasing a lot