From Jackie Cantwell
Author: various performers
The Beatles [sound recording CD] : the rock biographies : the world’s greatest music performed by top musicians
One has to have audacity to produce an album of cover versions of the Beatles music. Musicians as diverse as Little River Band and Molly Hatchet to Dweezil Zappa and Air Supply tried to bring something new or different to classic Beatles tunes. I think they all failed miserably with the exception of Jackson Browne who brings an ethereal and lilting voice to the song ”Across the Universe”. Ordinarily I’m floored by the talents of Fee Waybill of The Tubes, but his version of “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” was dull and uninspired. Some of these songs are even painful to listen to. Leave me with my memories of the Beatles!
From Chris Garland
author: Johnson, Eric
Up close [sound recording]
Texas guitar virtuoso Eric Johnson returns with his latest album, Up Close. If you are fan of guitar music, this album delivers. The album has a more spontaneous feel than previous Johnson efforts which tend to strive for sonic perfection. Thematically the album is pop/rock with a touch of blues and country, a departure for Johnson since on past albums he delves into all musical genres. Guests include Steve Miller on the blues classic “Texas” where Johnson and Jimmie Vaughn trade solos. Another standout track is the autobiographical tune “Austin” where Johnny Lang takes the lead vocal. Eric shines on the pop instrumental “Gem” and adds one of his greatest guitar solos to the song “Arithmetic”. The album concludes with Johnson paying tribute to his father on the tune “Your Book” where Sonny Landreth add his poignant slide guitar. Up Close is a terrific disc that stands up well to the artist’s best work.
From Jackie Cantwell
Carolina Christmas [sound recording] / The Marshall Tucker Band
You may know the Marshall Tucker Band from their 70’s hits such as “Heard it in a Love Song” and ”Fire on the Mountain.” They’re known for Southern rock, with R&B, blues and country influences. You probably don’t know they recorded a Christmas album. There are standards such as “Silent Night” and “Jingle Bells” sung by Chris Hicks and Doug Gray respectively. On “Christmas in Carolina,” there’s a fantastic saxophone solo by David Muse. A beautiful rendition of “I’ll be home for Christmas” is sung by Gabrielle Gray Leopard (Doug’s daughter), with acoustic guitar by Clay Cook (Doug’s nephew). “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” features a saxophone solo by Jerry Eubanks. “Let it Snow! Let it Snow! Let it Snow!” is a jazzed up version with lead vocals by Clay Cook. “Jingle Bells” features lead vocals by Doug Gray (who also did the arrangement) and a chorus of family members. Nothing says a redneck Christmas like time in the county lockup. And in this case, it’s Spartanburg, SC for a DWI on the track “Christmas in Custody,” written and sung by Barry “B.B.” Borden. Borden also plays drums on this track. (You kind of have to wonder who the intended audience was for this disc). There is a bluesy version of “Merry Christmas Baby” with lead guitar by Stuart Swanlund. “Snowfall in Georgia” features David Muse on flute, which reminds me of all the classic tunes by this band. “Leave the Christmas Lights On” has a country feel, owing to the lead vocals of Doug Gray and Chris Hicks. The album concludes with a sober reading of “Twas the Night Before Christmas” by Doug Gray. There are also some well-researched liner notes by Barry Alfonso. Although it’s a bit of a motley collection, I’ll give it an A- for putting me in the Christmas mood in June!