The Secret MachinesThe Secret Machines, whose debut CD of progressive rock was one of the highlights of last year's releases, return with an EP of varying excitement to promote the band's summer tour (which hits Chicago on July 30 at the Congress). The Road Leads Where It's Led EP is led off by the excellent title track, a bass- and drum-pounding excerpt from the full-length CD. But the rest of the disc doesn't live up to the seamless meld of experimentalism, hard rock and Brit-pop that imbued the full-length CD with such unabashed intensity.

Part of that's because the band is playing with cover tunes; it performs a dirge-like cover of "Money (That's What I Want)" popularized by the Beatles, as well as Bob Dylan's "Girl From the North Country" and Van Morrison's "Astral Weeks." The group should stick with its own material.

Probably no song of the modern rock era captured the soul, the heartache and the pure energy of the human spirit in anguish as Janis Joplin's "Me and Bobby McGee." A radio standard throughout the '70s, the song was recorded, along with two other tracks that would become classics, "Move Over" and "Mercedes Benz" for Pearl, an album that was to prove Joplin's final recording. The Columbia/Legacy label has now issued a two-disc "Legacy Edition" of the album, which includes a handful of bonus tracks in addition to the original LP, and a second CD of live songs recorded in the summer of 1970. The live material includes Joplin hits such as "Tell Mama," "Piece of My Heart" and "Ball and Chain."

The CureRhino Records has unearthed the first three domestic releases from The Cure, following their British-only debut "Three Imaginary Boys." These are the CDs which honed and shaped the band's trademark echoey Goth sound, treating Robert Smith's vocals to an anguished echo chamber and the band's guitars and bass riffs to throbbing melancholy hand-wringing.

The new reissues start with Seventeen Seconds, the band's second full-length album and the first to feature bassist Simon Gallup, who would go on to be a key member of the band throughout its 25-year history to date. The disc is far more contemplative than the group's punk-influenced debut, and featured its moody, bass-driven hit "A Forest." The Rhino reissue includes a second disc with a wealth of rare material from the period, including the A and B sides of a single Cure leader Robert Smith cut with Gallup before he joined the Cure as a spin-off band called, provocatively, Cult Hero.

Rhino has also reissued Faith, an even darker exercise by the young band, which had begun to suffer from the ever-dangerous "rock star effect" (drugs and alcohol). The new issue of the album includes the concert film soundtrack "Carnage Visions," along with a second CD of B-sides that include Robert Smith's home demos and instrumental versions of many of the album's songs, as well as live versions and the non-LP single "Charlotte Sometimes."

Rounding out the early trio of increasingly atmospheric and dreary Cure statements, Rhino also has reissued Pornography, generally considered to be the band's heaviest musical vision and including two of the band's fan favorites, "The Hanging Garden" and "One Hundred Years." Like other reissues, Pornography is graced by an entire second CD of previously unreleased and/or hard-to-find tracks recorded by the band during the 1982 period of Pornography.


Joe Perry Joe Perry
Joe Perry

This is not the first time that the lead guitarist for Aerosmith has stepped out on his own but obviously he doesn't learn from mistakes.

Perry is an excellent guitarist (the closing instrumental jam on this CD is its finest track). He is also an able backup vocalist. What he is not is a lead vocalist.

His latest self-titled disc was clearly inspired by Aerosmith's last CD, Honkin' on Bobo, which brought the band's hard rock style to bear on classic blues and roots rock tracks. Perry even managed a decent effort at singing a couple of the tracks on that disc, which served as a welcome respite from Steven Tyler's over-the-top rock howls.

The blues-rock recording apparently inspired Perry, however, and he went on to write a bunch of tracks in that style. However, rather than recruiting some strong vocalists to help him realize those songs on disc, he opted to record at the guitar and the mike himself. The result is an album with some great revved-up blues-rock music but, unfortunately, lackluster lead vocals.

Perry delivers the words to high-octane tracks with an almost bored tone and sometimes his vocals are mixed so low it sounds as if the band was playing in one room, while he was in the hallway.

That's a shame, because "Shakin' My Cage," "Talk Talkin'" and "Push Come to Shove" stand up to anything musically on the last Aerosmith disc.

If you are an Aerosmith die-hard, you should buy this disc, and you'll like some of it. But this is not one that's going to win Perry a new legion of fans or make him a household name.