If you're in a nostalgic mood, there are plenty of new CD releases this week to take you back in time.
For metal fans, Rhino Records has issued a concert disc from Dokken recorded more than 25 years ago. From Conception Live 1981 includes 10 tracks, including “Breakin' the Chains” and “Live to Rock,” as well as three previously unreleased songs that the band performed during their tour at the time.
Going back a little farther on the concert trail, Reprise offers a new entry in the Neil Young Performance Series archives. Live at Massey Hall 1971 features 17 songs from the classic singer-songwriter, including “Old Man,” “Heart of Gold,” “The Needle and the Damage Done” and “Ohio.”
There are also some reissues of classic albums available from the Legacy label. The final album from ELO's original run, Balance of Power, originally appeared in 1986, and featured the hit “Calling America.” It was something of a swan song for ELO, as the group had dwindled to a trio and leader Jeff Lynne had grown tired of the band's heavy string-based sound, and was spending more and more time producing other artists instead of recording his own material. While Lynne would reactivate ELO for Zoom in 2000, Balance of Power is really the final ELO album from a purist's perspective. Legacy's reissue includes seven bonus tracks, including two single B-sides and three alternate takes of songs from the original album.
Legacy has also reissued two discs from the Alan Parsons Project. The 25 th Anniversary Edition of Eye in the Sky offers the hit title track, as well as bonus tracks in six unreleased songs that include demos and “The Naked Eye” medley. In addition, the 30th Anniversary Edition of APP's I Robot is also out, featuring the hit “I Wouldn't Want to be Like You” and nine other regular album tracks, which were inspired in part by science fiction author Isaac Asimov's popular I, Robot book. The reissue also features five bonus tracks, including “The Naked Robot” medley.
Styx's Tommy Shaw seems obsessed these days with old ‘60s and ‘70s songs. The last Styx album two years ago, Big Bang Theory, was a collection of cover songs from artists like The Beatles and Jimi Hendrix.
Now Shaw has teamed back up with Jack Blades to release their second solo album in a decade, after leaving behind the supergroup Damn Yankees (formed with Ted Nugent). And this is also an album of old cover songs.
My reaction to this CD is similar to the one I had with Styx's covers album: well, they're a top notch cover band… but… why?
Influence finds Shaw/Blades trading harmonies and guitar licks on Seals & Crofts' “Summer Breeze,” The Zombies' “Time of the Season,” Simon & Garfunkel's “I Am A Rock,” ELP's “Lucky Man,” the Mamas and the Papas' “California Dreamin'” and Steely Dan's “Dirty Work,” among others. The disc features 11 songs in all, and all of them are ably covered by the duo who recorded them in their home studios playing virtually all the instruments with engineering help from Great White's Michael Lardie.
Shaw and Blades have long ago proven themselves a perfectly matched harmony duo, and that skill plays great on harmony classics like “California Dreamin'” and “Time of the Season” and Buffalo Springfield's “For What It's Worth.”
But rather than bring any new interpretations to these songs, the duo seem intent on matching the original versions almost note for note. They do a great job, as they're both master guitarists and vocalists, but really… what's the point? We all know these songs, so they're not rediscovering “forgotten gems,” nor are they adding anything to the creative interpretation of the music. So… while Influence is an enjoyable listen -- kind of like hearing an hour of classic rock radio as filtered through the amps of Shaw/Blades – at the end of the day, it feels somewhat hollow.
But if you love Tommy Shaw's or Jack Blades' work, and enjoy classic rock radio, Influence offers an easy head-nodding trip through the halcyon days of ‘70s FM radio.
You can hear Shaw/Blades perform songs from Influence as well as from their own catalogue in an intimate acoustic set on April 5 at Joe's on Weed Street in Chicago (940 W. Weed Street).