Ronnie Dunn: (Arista)
After two decades of huge sales as the number one selling country duo of all time, Ronnie Dunn and Kix Brooks have decided to call it a day. Hence Ronnie Dunn’s debut solo album is self-titled as if to signify his new independent beginning.
I am not sure if Brooks is going to record a solo album but if he does, he will be mighty pressed to surpass this surprisingly good, 12-track Ronnie Dunn release. Dunn has already scored a hit with the innovative Bleed Red where you can hear elements of U2 in the bass and rhythmics as well as a hint of Coldplay in the pounding one note piano.
The newest single, Cost Of Living, is an articulate, topical song about the struggling American economy with its focus on unemployed returning war veterans from the Middle East and the straight up, narrative style makes for a fine listen.
But, as expected, it is the up-tempo numbers that really shine for country beer drinkers and hell raisers. Check out the cool mariachi horns of How Far To Waco and the pumped up country rock of Singer In A Country Band that sounds like a cool blend of CCR and Dwight Yoakam.
OK, so even the ballads here are hooky and memorable where I think I hear at least four hits deep on this solid Ronnie Dunn solo project.
ZZ Top: Live In Germany 1980 (Eagle Records)
When this concert recording was made in Germany in 1980 ZZ Top (pronounced Zed Zed Top up here in Canada, eh) had already released a half dozen albums in their native USA.
But this concert, preserved for German television, was their first gig ever in Europe making this something of an historical recording.
This was ZZ Top prior to their MTV era, synthesizer-informed blues rock of the breakthrough mainstream platinum albums Eliminator and Afterburner (think Legs, Sharp Dressed Man, etc.).
This early ZZT was the hard scrabble, rough and ready bass, drums guitar/vocal only trio where Texas blues rock purist fans loved the band for its rootsy integrity and no synths.
Moreover, as this was recorded for television, albeit in front of a huge stadium audience, ZZT keep the songs short with several under three minutes, while more than a few songs segue into one another so that the band could get a whopping 16 tracks on the programme not counting the medley of La Grange/Sloppy Drunk/Bar-B-Q.
There is a superb take of Elmore James’ blues rock classic Dust My Broom and a better than average cover of Elvis’ Jailhouse Rock.
But I think even the live versions found here of Tush and La Grange are actually better than the studio originals.
A wonderful set for uber ZZ Top fans.
Kate Bush: Director’s Cut (Fish People)
Kate Bush was a lot more prolific in her early days in the late ’70s with platinum-selling albums such as Lionheart and especially Hounds Of Love.
Now the artist, in her mid 50s, has slowed down the pace as this is only her first new studio album in six years and only her second in 17 years.
While Director’s Cut is a new studio album it does not really have new material as Bush has re-recorded four tracks from The Red Shoes (’93) and seven from The Sensual World (’89). I don’t know why Bush is reinterpreting previous work but the lead off song might be key. Flower Of The Mountain is a remake of the song The Sensual World but with all new lyrics.
Originally Bush wanted to use text from James Joyce’s Ulysses but his estate refused the request. But Bush has since become such a superstar, especially in her native U.K., that approval has now been granted.
This new version is rootsy yet typically Bush-artsy with pipes and Celtic fiddle.
Bush’s new take of Solomon’s Song is especially pretty in its new setting with flute and reggae-styled bass line. Here Bush sounds equally inviting, lusty and aggressive with the lyric “don’t give me your bullshit, just want your sexuality.”
I found the new Top Of The City overly dramatic but this is offset by the handsome blues guitar that graces And So Is Love while the closing new take of the hit Rubberband Girl is worth the price of admission alone.
Here Bush borrows Keith Richards’ rhythm guitar line from Street Fighting Man for a wonderful slice of dance rock that I hope will make an impact on club floors as well as the airwaves.
It ain’t all exactly new but fans will be happy.
Iron Maiden: The Best Of 1990-2010 (EMI)
Hard to imagine that Iron Maiden has been on the heavy metal scene for four decades. The band has released more than a dozen Best Of and Greatest Hits collections in its time including a 10-CD box set back in the early ’90s as well as an album of “interview sessions” for the uber fan.
The band issued a retrospective titled Somewhere Back In Time: The Best Of 1980-1989 a couple of years so it is a natural progression to release this two-CD anthology subtitled From Fear To Eternity that takes us from 1990 to last year in the wake of their huge selling studio album and tour The Final Frontier.
I don’t think big Iron Maiden fans really care about radio hits as much as they adore the entire catalogue because Iron, the band, only had a half dozen charting songs in the last decade and three of them are not included here re: Trooper, Run To The Hills and Wildest Dreams.
There are, however, concert recordings of a few nuggets such as Man On The Edge, The Clansman and Fear Of The Dark.
I always wonder how these legacy bands, around for so long, can release three times as many anthologies than actual studio albums but for Iron Maiden head bangers, here is another comprehensive set.