Mitchell: Studio album from king of the live concert, Dave Matthews

Matthews really isn’t concerned with airplay as his forté is the stage where his jam band really shines.

Dave Matthews Band: Away From The World (Bama Rags/RCA)

Dave Matthews new releases regularly chart near the top of the album sales while he rarely scores hits on the radio.

But then again, Matthews really isn’t concerned with airplay as his forté is the stage where his jam band really shines—and why DMB have so many live albums in circulation.

When you listen to the crystalized music of DMB on CD you can hear how they would most likely play these songs in concert with greatly extended versions and that is where the value lies, I think, in the studio efforts.

This 11-track album was three years in the making and will come off as long-awaited catnip for hard core fans that, in spite of the lofty sales, might be considered something of a cult following.

There is no obvious radio-friendly song here but the sweet and soulful ballad titled Mercy has been released as a single and it sports pleasant sounding piano, flute and violin.

Songs like The Riff and Drunken Sailor venture into ’70s progressive rock idioms while the most straight up song is the accessible If Only that offers a very warm groove.

In short, this is another meandering and breezy album from DMB that fans will lap up while others will wonder where the allure lies.

The song that I could easily live without ever hearing again is the overtly sexual Belly Belly Nice.

Here a 45-year-old Matthews probably thinks he is as pretty and as irresistible as when he was a young rock god of 20 years ago, while the paunchy, balding star needs to buy a full length mirror—his speedo days are way behind him.

B-

Michael Jackson: BAD25 (Epic)

Yes, it has been a quarter of a century since Michael Jackson released Bad, his last great album to sell huge numbers, garner scads of hits, meet with critical acclaim and find the megastar with a normal nose.

After this the ‘weirdness’ just simply took over and MJ’s musical output went into serious decline.

Bad was also the album that inevitably had to follow Thriller, the biggest selling album in the history of recorded music.

Of course Bad would fare less favourably in critical circles given the uber success of Thriller but to quote Mark Twain (in his reference to Wagner), “it isn’t as bad as it sounds.”

In trying to equal Thriller, Jackson pumped up everything in the production almost to the point of distraction but this didn’t stop the album from producing five consecutive No.1 hit singles with The Way You Make Me Feel, Dirty Diana, Man In The Mirror, I Just Can’t Stop Loving You and of course, the title track.

But unlike Thriller, Bad had a few dud album cuts especially the duet with Stevie Wonder Just Good Friends that was a flat and mediocre song (and oddly a cover song).

BAD25 has been released in a few formats where big fans will probably look for the two-CD/DVD set where the video features a tight bundle of all the videos cut for the album.

The best stuff is found on the CD of demo songs that are the true revelation of this re-issue.

Jackson really worked up his demos to what he considered nearly worthy of release but then again Jackson was a perfectionist and an obsessive compulsive so that these demos sound just fine as is—and explains some of the overworked excesses on the studio Bad with its hyped up synth percussions.

Stand out demos include the reggaefied Price Of Fame, the gritty, bluesy Streetwalker (cool earthy harmonica) and Don’t Be Messin’ Round with its nifty Latin groove.

There are a couple of remixes of the title song Bad by Afrojack with some mic help from Pitbull that are interesting and contemporary while this collection also has the French and Spanish interpretations of I Just Can’t Stop Loving You.

I am not sure if it is in the can yet but director Spike Lee is working on a documentary just about the recording of Bad (no weirdness is broached) and for the record Lee’s fave tune is Man In The Mirror.

A nice set for the committed fan.

B

The Stanfields: Death & Taxes (Ground Swell, Warner)

This is the second release from Nova Scotia’s The Stanfields and it is a fabulous mix of Celtic shanty punk with a dash of The Ramones and The Clash as if they were in on the kitchen party.

The band’s glorious energy is captured perfectly by ace producer Mike Fraser (along with the band) who has worked with the likes of AC/DC, Aerosmith and Metallica.

The Stanfields write and perform remarkably articulate story songs with verve, force of will, gravely gang vocals and often a blend of historical fiction.

This makes songs like Run On The Banks sound like a high octane war cry of the one per centers while the hooky Invisible Hands speaks to “looking out for number one” while they “turn this rig around” that expresses the hearty angst and frustration of youth.

But The Stanfields rock out with awesome authority on Death & Taxes that is bound to turn any dance floor into a flurry of activity.

I loved their intricate story songs such as The Road To Guysborough and The Boston States which made me wonder if these lads have been reading the nearly forgotten great Canadian historical fiction author Thomas Raddall.

Besides this, the band has named itself after the maritime politician Robert Stanfield who was often dubbed ‘the best prime minister Canada never had’ (due to Trudeaumania).

Watch for them in our parts this winter as the fools are attempting a fall/winter van tour of the west.

B+

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