Last year Bad Company reformed in its original lineup to put together a greatest hits package with some new material. This year we get a new studio album by vocalist Paul Rodgers to tide fans over while a new Bad Co. studio album is being recorded.
If this is any indication of the strength of a reformed Bad Co., I'm looking forward to that record. Electric is a solid collection of 10 classic rock-leaning tracks that bring to mind Rodgers' mid-'70s work with Bad Company ("Movin On," "Good Lovin' Gone Bad") and mid-'80s work with The Firm (Radioactive," "Satisfaction Guaranteed"). Most of these are not "blockbuster" tracks (though "Deep Blue" is a great rocker that could have been on any '70s Bad Company album and the slow-building "Find A Way" is a gem), but they are all solid productions, with warm background vocalists, head-nodding grooves and above all, Rodgers' always charismatic vocals. The album also gives him room to explore styles a bit more than with his past hard rock bands. "Walking Tall" is a fun waa-ooo number with walking blues bass and a big break chorus and "Love Rains" is more laidback, with female vocalists and a solid piano background. Rodgers also flirts with some exotic guitar bends and melodies in "Conquistadora and "China Blue."
Electric is no Bad Company, but it offers a good selection of mid-tempo rock from one of the best voices in rock.
The ConstruKction of Light
In the '70s King Crimson, with a shifting cast of players surrounding guitarist-leader Robert Fripp, helped define progressive rock. In the '80s, a slimmed down KC put out a trio of angular progressive guitar albums that defined avant rock. The band's '90s output has been sporadic and experimental, and not, perhaps, defining of anything. But Fripp's creations are almost always, at the least, intriguing.
The latest incarnation of Crimson retains '80s-'90s Crimson guitarist/vocalist Adrian Belew and finds rhythm section Trey Gunn and Pat Mastelotto (who joined the band for ThraK) taking over Bill Bruford's and Tony Levin's spots. The disc alternates between vocal tracks and instrumental rock guitar experiments, and at its best, is invigoratingly different. Unfortunately, at points, it's also frustratingly tedious.
The opening track, "Prozakc Blues" is, well, godawful with its processed blues vocal that sounds like it's playing three speeds too slow. But the next track, "The ConstruKction of Light" is what KC has been about for the past two decades — the first half is an extended innovative guitar exploration which graduates to an excercise in studio vocal bouncing.
"Into the Frying Pan" is a slippery but not particularly memorable Belew-heavy track. But things pick up again with the nine-minute guitar opus "FraKtured," which sounds like soundtrack music for an edgey, perhaps creepy film. "The World's My Oyster Soup Kitchen Floor Wax Museum" is another throwaway, but then comes the album's centerpiece - a modern reworking of one KC's '70s era themes, "Larks Tongues in Aspic." A nine-minute long piece of rhythmic and lead guitar grandeur, "Larks' Tongues in Aspic-Part IV" is worth the price of this album on its own for longtime Crimson fans, and should serve to turn newcomers on to the band's incredible '70s catalogue of innovation. The disc ends with an enjoyably atmospheric, 7-minute soundtrack-ish piece from a Crimson "alter ego" combo called ProjeKct X (it's just the current King Crimson lineup under a different name).
The ConstruKction of Light is definitely a mixed bag, with its explorations of old themes and a couple of dead-end vocal exercises. While it's not as tightly focused as previous efforts though, it still shows the Fripp fire burning angularly strong.
New on the Shelves:
Rhino Records has been the premier "hits" collection label for the past few years, but the tusked one gets a challenge this week from K-Tel and Portrait. K-Tel has just released After The Fair: 21st Century Women, a 16-song collection by a variety of female artists that Lilith Fair fans may or may not know, but will certainly appreciate. The disc relies on largely unknown artists; its sole "hits" come from Leah Andreone in the lead-off track "It's Alright, It's OK," which put her name briefly on the map a couple years ago, and Juliana Hatfield's "My Sister," a song which took Hatfield to the FM dial in the mid-90s. Tara MacLean's atmospheric, Sarah McLachlan-esque "Let Her Feel The Rain" is included, as is the more edgey country-ish "20 Questions" from Amy Rigby and "Changed The Locks"from Lucinda Williams. Former Throwing Muses leader Kristin Hersh offers "Echo," and John Mellencamp violinist Lisa Germano offers "Sexy Little Girl Princess." But the real show stopper here is the back porch strummed Tin Pan Alley ballad "To Dream of Sarah" by Eleni Mandell. The music on After The Fair is varied (from Dot Allison's dreamy pop to Sleater-Kinney's punk rock to Kelly Willis' straight country twang to N'dea Davenport's soul) and makes a great listen; the only negative here is the lack of liner notes to give a fuller introduction to these fine singer-songwriters, many of whom will be unfamiliar to the average listener.
Portrait, a fairly new label through Sony catering to the hard rock crowd, has just released a 19-song collection of classic hard rock with songs from Lita Ford, Ted Nugent, and more. Naughty Platinum Rock opens with Aerosmith's "Dude (Looks Like A Lady)," and then moves into KISS' "Lick it Up," Motley Crue's "Girls, Girls, Girls," and Skid Row's "Youth Gone Wild." Also included are songs from Danger Danger, Winger, Slaughter, Whitesnake, Cinderella, Zebra, Warrant, Ratt, Judas Priest, Great White, Quiet Riot, Mr. Big and Kingdom Come.
The Black Crowes had their career ups and downs in the '90s, but through it all, they made some great, timeless rock music. Now Columbia's Legacy label offers a Crowes collection: A Tribute To A Work In Progress: Greatest Hits 1990-1999. The disc offers 16 Crowes songs, from their early hits period including "Jealous Again," "Hard To Handle," "She Talks To Angels,""Remedy," and "Thorn In My Pride," through their low period (both creatively and sales-wise) in "Wiser Time," "Good Friday" and "A Conspiracy" to their fiery return last year with the album By Your Side, which contributes the last four songs of this collection, including "Kickin' My Heart Around." Skip a couple tracks in the middle, and this is an amazingly solid rock collection.
Jazz enthusiasts will want to keep an ear out for a new 4-CD collection of trumpeteer extraordinaire Louis Armstrong's music, entitled The Complete Hot Five & Hot Seven Recordings on Columbia/Legacy. The set will be out in August and will include 89 songs.