Van Morrison wrote in his classic 1970 song Moondance that “the leaves on the trees are falling.”
As Autumn slowly begins, the same is true for some very intriguing new music now available on CD, vinyl, and downloads.
Four new discs from top-tier artists are in the stores as the record companies vie for raking in big sales from their marquee artists as the holiday season beckons.
ELTON JOHN’S Diving Board is his first solo offering in seven years. It’s a back-to-basics affair from the bespectacled Brit as he returns to the stripped-down sound of his earlier classic albums such as Tumbleweed Connection and Madman Across the Water.
Most of Diving Board’s instrumentation is pared down to just piano, bass, and drums, and the results are fairly satisfying. John has teamed up once again with his longtime lyricist Bernie Taupin for a dozen new songs and three piano instrumental interludes.
Of course, John’s voice has long lost its sweet, high timbre. But on this disc his lower register gives me the impression of a wise old owl as he continues to craft new melodies in his 66th year. He will debut some of this new material and revisit his many classics at Atlanta’s Philips Arena Nov. 16.
STING’S latest project The Last Ship is a brave foray into the often unforgiving world that is Broadway. One must remember that both Paul Simon (1998’s The Capeman) and U2 (2011’s Spiderman: Turn Off the Dark) failed miserably in their attempts for success on New York’s Great White Way.
The Last Ship is a tribute to the working class shipbuilders in Sting’s hometown of Newcastle-on-Tyne in England. It’s a very low-key affair that combines classical, Celtic, and even cabaret influences.
No, it’s nothing like The Police or even most of his previous solo work either. But at least there are no lutes this time around.
Released in advance of the play, the disc suffers from the lack of visuals that might make repeated hearings more appealing. As it stands, The Last Ship is nothing more than a vanity project that longtime Sting fans will have a tough time embracing.
THE KINGS OF LEON, just like Bob Dylan, never seem to take a vacation. Six albums in nine years with numerous international tours reminds me of many bands of the ’60s who burned out because they just couldn’t say “no” to the road or the studio.
The four Followills’ (the band consists of three brothers and a cousin) newest effort is Mechanical Bull. Fans expecting the older, harder sound of the early days might be disappointed in the disc as the album’s commercial, radio-friendly intentions are strong.
Of course, radio has already been airing Supersoaker and Wait for Me from the album with very positive results.
Mechanical Bull carries on with the same vibe as 2010’s Come Around Sundown. The fact that the album is only 42 minutes long is a great device that I wish more artists would utilize as it makes one want to listen to the disc again.
But KOL fans expecting regurgitations of Sex on Fire and Use Somebody might be taken aback as the band is obviously not afraid to grow and evolve. Dates for a U.S. tour in support of the album should be announced soon.
METALLICA’S Through the Never soundtrack accompanies the band’s first-ever full-length feature film. Recorded last year in Canada, the film features hits and some surprising deep album cuts from their 32-year career.
This very well-recorded disc is a perfect primer for the newer fan and a very satisfying document for longtime Metallica aficionados. Opening with the always-stirring The Ecstasy of Gold, the disc also includes Battery, Fuel, and Hit the Lights along with the perennial faves Enter Sandman and Master of Puppets.
Happily, Through the Never is not just another in-concert flick. The storyline is loosely based on a lowly roadie named Trip and his misadventures into what the band describes as “urban unrest.”
The stage (created especially for the film) has some stunning special effects and pyrotechnics that work perfectly with the IMAX version, which began showing last week at the Regal Augusta Cinemas.
Ending the film is a performance of the instrumental Orion, which undoubtedly would have made the late Cliff Burton smile. It’s a fitting epilogue to the legacy of one of the most successful metal bands in the history of rock and roll.