AMOS LEE: Mission Bell (EMI)
This fourth album from Philadelphia based singer/writer Amos Lee is his best album to date and that is reflected in its lofty debut at the No.1 spot on Billboard, Lee’s highest debut position ever.
Lee has also scored his first hit single with the mid-tempo folk rocker Windows Are Rolled Down while this lengthy twelve track CD promises at least another hit or two.
Lee has long been a fan of Philly soul music and James Taylor where his earthy vocal style has been compared to a cross of Taylor and Bill Withers but Lee also features some high profile and talented helping hands on Mission Bell.
Lucinda Williams offers her keening vocals on the solid ballad Clear Blue Eyes while Willie Nelson adds his unique nasally snarl to the eight plus minute R&B/C&W ballad Behind Me Now.
Meanwhile, there is some muted Tex Mex sounds behind Hello Again courtesy of Calexico while Jim Beam of Iron And Wine sings backing on a few tracks highlighted by the smooth rustic R&B of the song titled Violin.
This new disc is getting universal solid reviews. I would look for hit potential with the pretty and accessible Cup Of Sorrow for AAA radio. while, the ultra silky smooth grooves of the neo-CCM song Jesus and Out Of The Cold are both ripe for crossover success.
JIMI HENDRIX: The Anthology, West Coast Seattle Boy (Sony)
This all new music collection of Jimi Hendrix songs came out a few weeks ago, but I just never seemed to get around to it until now since the Christmas silly season of new releases has abated.
First of all, Hendrix only released a couple of albums when he was alive with the iconic five star classics Are You Experienced and Axis: Bold As Love that were both released in 1967. His double album Electric Ladyland was already recorded and in the can waiting for release the following year.
Hendrix then died of an alcohol and drug overdose that caused him to choke on his own vomit.
Since then, there have been literally hundreds of live and bootleg albums released, official and otherwise, that sort of undermined Hendrix rightful legacy.
Anyway, his family finally got hold of all the recording rights of Hendrix material after decades of legal wrangling so they can now treat his legacy with a lot more respect.
Music reviewers are a tad suspicious about “new” Hendrix music releases but West Coast Seattle Boy is the real deal with tremendous tunes none of which have seen the light of day in most cases.
Some of these songs simply return to previous pre-mixes (most Hendrix stuff was only recorded on four track) and others are simple jams based on old blues gems like Big Mamma Thornton’s Hound Dog Blues and Lonely Avenue, which features a demo of just drums and guitar.
Hendrix always carried around a high end TEAC tape recorder with him, hence the fine live hotel room cover of Bob Dylan’s Tears Of Rage, a song that Dylan’s manager gave to Hendrix before the Basement Tapes double album with Dylan and The Band was released several years later.
Anyway, this is a fine Anthology but true to Hendrix somewhat confusing posthumous form, this set comes in multiple formats.
I was sent the single CD/DVD set (with the acclaimed 90 minute documentary Jimi Hendrix: Voodoo Child) but this also comes as a single CD as well as a four CD/DVD set.
The latter is the most interesting as it gathers music that Hendrix played as a side musician as a teenager on the R&B circuit before he joined the Marines.
The DVD documentary is superb while the music here is of interest and often incendiary. The “new” take of Fire is outstanding.
BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN: The Promise, The Lost Sessions (Columbia)
This newish Bruce Springsteen double CD has also been out for a few weeks, so again I am coming at this somewhat late due to Christmas season overdose of new product.
This two CD set The Promise is subtitled The Lost Sessions: Darkness On The Edge Of Town but I find this adjunct title a bit of a teaser.
These songs weren’t exactly lost as much as they just were not released.
When Springsteen was recording his classic Darkness On The Edge Of Town, he was working with a theme and perhaps a concept album in mind where he was trying to explore just when it was that a man sort of loses his spirit and succumbs to the rigors of the day to day workaday world.
Springsteen watched his father, a rust belt factory labourer, more or less give up on his dreams and this was reflected in the stark, sepia toned Darkness On The Edge Of Town, where no bright future seemed to be on the horizon.
But Springsteen was also on a wild and crazy writing and creative spree when he was pumping out new tunes that were just not fitting for his Darkness themed 1978 album.
As a result, other recording artists got these songs to record and Patti Smith scored her only hit with Because The Night while The Pointer Sisters scored big with Fire.
Springsteen was so busy he was even collaborating with the likes of Dave Edmunds for one of his few hits with the hard rocking From Small Things (Big Things One Day Will Come), a song that isn’t included on The Promise.
The Promise is a must own for big Springsteen fans as it falls between his two classic esprit de corps albums Born To Run and The River.
The Promise is a fabulous package with great songs, liner notes, lyrics, photos and an essay.