k.d. lang & The Siss Boom Bang: Sing It Loud (Nonesuch/WEA)
I am a bit late getting to this fine new album because the mighty Warner label only just mailed it out to me. I guess things are slow at the plant so they are reworking some early summer releases, but you can’t complain when any k.d. lang CD comes your way.
This album sold very well on release but garnered no hit and, I think at this stage of lang’s career, she probably isn’t bothered so much by that.
Also, the CD liner graphics and title Sing It Loud with The Siss Boom Bang album is a total inside joke. There is no loud singing here and there is no razzle dazzle. Instead lang amalgamates many of her past styles from country to soul to torch to pop and retro into a solid set of lovely and delightful soft rock originals.
Check out the meandering, jazzy overtones of the title song Sing It Loud, the spare John Wesley Harding-like country soul of Habit Of Mind, the somnambulant Talking Heads cover Heaven, and the Roy Orbison-styled I Confess.
There isn’t a dud on this warm and comfy album as k.d. lang finds her own bliss and flows it through this disc of all ballads.
Although there was no hit, old fans will love this new-ish release.
Lang Lang: Liszt My Piano Hero (Sony)
I mentioned before in a look at the classical music charts that just about every top seller is a pop-crossover album from the likes of Andrea Bocelli, Josh Groban and Jackie Evancho.
But celebrated pianist Lang Lang (no relation to above-mentioned k.d. lang) has a new trick up his sleeve. He has released a wonderful album full of tunes so well known that they could be considered crossovers in that every nose breathing person in the classical music universe knows the tunes. As a result Lang Lang’s bona fide, non pop-classical music has hit the charts at the No.4 spot reversing a worrisome trend for classical purists.
Lang Lang offers lovely and rapturous versions of his hero Franz Liszt’s well known evergreens such as Liebestraum, a trio of Hungarian Rhapsodies, Consolation No.3, while he sneaks in a take of Schubert’s Ave Maria to keep the melody recognition elevated.
The second half of this excellent album is the Piano Concerto No.1 wondrously fleshed out with Valery Gergiev and the Vienna Philharmonic.
Finally, I was glad to read in his liner notes that Lang Lang came to love classical music in much the same way I discovered it as a kid—through Bugs Bunny cartoons.
The Marshall Tucker Band: Greatest Hits 2011 (Shout)
Doug Gray: Soul Of The South (Shout)
There are more than a few Greatest Hits albums on the market by The Marshall Tucker Band but this new 2011 edition is superior by far than all the other single disc releases.
This Greatest Hits set originally came out as an eight-song album in yesteryear’s vinyl days but it has been upgraded to a 14-track compilation taken from the band’s earlier heydays with Capricorn Records (that went bankrupt while the band moved on to the Warner label).
Believe it or not The Marshall Tucker Band never really quit the scene and still release the occasional album in this new millennium. But these 14 tunes from The Marshall Tucker Band’s best days with the Caldwell brothers and singer Doug Gray at the helm immortalized them.
Also, both Caldwell brothers passed early from car crashes and natural disease which kind of put the band on the back burner but this new Greatest Hits collection is a superb starter set for the uninitiated to their brand of ’70s southern fried rock.
The MTB were less bluesy than The Allman Bros. and less boozy and redneck confrontational than Lynyrd Skynyrd as MTB dabbles in country rock with jazz and soul overtones with flute, banjo, fiddle and sax.
MTB’s signature hits are here with the especially beautiful Heard It In A Love Song and Can’t You See, along with other gems such as Fire On The Mountain, Long Hard Ride and Searchin’ For A rainbow.
Some of these nuggets are also presented in their original radio single versions making this a fine starter set for the uninitiated.
As mentioned, MTB dabbled in soul music as well and that caused the much lauded lead singer, Doug Gray, to record a solo pop/soul album way back in 1981. At the time he didn’t like the deal he was offered to release his solo album and he was so busy with The MTB that the music never got released until just a short while ago—30 years later.
It is a bit of a shame and will leave old MTB fans wondering what might have happened if Gray had released this solid soul album back in the day because he is every bit the equal to contemporaries Michael McDonald and Michael Bolton.
This is only an eight-song mini album but the covers are fabulous, featuring the entire MTB and crack Nashville session men and fine covers such as Bobby Whitlock’s Guilty and a killer cover of the late ’60s Spiral Starecase evergreen More Today Than Yesterday that is worth the price of admission alone.
MTB’s best: B+
Doug Gray: B