Mitchell: Trying to give Iron & Wine a second chance

Iron And Wine remains singer, writer, guitarist Sam Beam with a lot of help from guests, session studs and producers.

Iron and Wine: Kiss Each Other Clean (Warner)

Iron And Wine remains singer, writer, guitarist Sam Beam with a lot of help from guests, session studs and producers. His profile keeps growing with each subsequent release although Beam’s first three albums, numerous EPs and singles didn’t reach the Billboard top 100.

However, Beam—cum Iron And Wine’s previous album, The Shepherd’s Dog—hit No.24 while this new album Kiss Each Other Clean, four years in the making, has made its debut at the lofty No.2 position in the USA while it has peaked at only number 15 in Canada.

Iron And Wine’s early material was more or less basement indie folk rock with a ton of feel and very little bombast as Beam explored an alt-Americana with a do-it-yourself ethic.

This new album has been called by some stadium indie rock with its fully fleshed out sound with layers of sonics using the studio as a second multi-instrument with plenty of vintage synths on hand.

Beam has also gained something of a mystic’s image with his huge beard, blurry background and oblique and often surreal lyrics along side his meandering music.

Many critics like this new Iron And Wine album much more than I do but I think this is the sort of poetically realized album that has to be heard numerous times for all the intricacies to come to the fore.

Maybe that is a reason I am a little soft on Kiss Each Other Clean but I have a long drive ahead of me in the near future and I’ll let this disc burble along to hear if there is something more to it than a cult figure blossoming into the massive mainstream.

So far I don’t get it and in spite of the huge sales—no hit .

C+

 

Sarah Evans:

Stronger (RCA)

 

This is Sarah Evans’ first new studio album in six years.

She dropped out of the country music scene after some bizarre personal problems not of her doing involving her husband and family life but she has returned to fine form on this strong and well balance new disc.

Stronger is often an album about survival and a positive future while the upbeat lead off single Desperately could be a dedication to her new husband Jay with the lyric “I need to be loved desperately.”

There is also a cool cover of the Simon Climie song, My Heart Can’t Tell You No, which Rod Stewart took close to the top of the charts 23 years ago.

As a 40-year-old woman (who is as drop dead gorgeous as ever) making a comeback, it will be interesting to see how country radio responds to this fine new release where I hear potential hits in the smart and hooky songs Wildfire, Life Without Losing and Anywhere.

Finally, Evans offers a cool bluegrass remake of one of her biggest hits from the past with Born To Fly as a reminder to her fans of past glories.

An assured and worthwhile return to form.

B-

 

Neil Diamond: The

Bang Years 1966-1968 (Columbia)

 

This deluxe re-release of Neil Diamonds first two albums on the Bang label is something of a revelation for his long standing fans.

That is because Diamond has written the lengthy autobiographical notes inside that stretches over 20 pages as Diamond speaks of the many trials and tribulations he went through before he became an international superstar.

This hour-long CD is subtitled The 23 Original Mono Recordings as both of Diamond’s first two albums are featured.

But Diamond was smart to sequence this re-issue putting his best songs forward and keeping the awful cheese to the last tracks.

Diamond was not an immediate success.

He failed as a Brill Building songwriter but to his good fortune he was allowed to record his own music and his career creaked forward slowly.

 

It is hard to believe that there were so many hits that mostly got overlooked with Solitary Man, Cherry Cherry, Kentucky Woman, Thank The Lord For The Night Time,

Shilo, Red Red Wine, You Got Me and I’m A Believer (his breakthrough song for The Monkees).

 

Anyway, Diamond re-recorded most of these songs nearly identically in the ’70s for huge hits and maybe Diamond got overlooked in part for his dreadful choice of cover songs such as the pure bubblegum takes of La Bamba, Hanky Panky, Red Rubber Ball and New Orleans (the Gary U.S. Bonds hit).

This re-issue sounds great in the original mono format and Diamond would later dine for life on the early great songs.

A must own for fans.

B

Bruce Mitchell reviews music CDs for the Capital News.

bwcmitchell@shaw.ca