Here’s a round-up of four new albums worth a listen.
Another will follow in due course.
Red Hot Chili Peppers – The Getaway
This being the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ first album since 1989 not to have the sure touch of Rick Rubin at the production desk and their first not to top the album chart this side of the Atlantic since 1999, having stalled at No 2, fans of the US alternative rock veterans could be forgiven for fearing the worst.
They’d have been wrong, however, as it’s business as usual this time round, and that’s no bad thing at all.
The replacement of Rubin by Brian Burton, alias Danger Mouse, has made little discernible difference to their sound, it being much the same mix of funk and rock they’ve been mastering since they began putting more of an emphasis on the latter than the former in the late 1980s, and as far as quality control goes, there’s nothing to choose between this one, their 11th album since their formation in California in 1983, and it’s predecessor, 2011’s I’m With You.
New guitarist Josh Klinghoffer is content to remain largely in the background, rather than supplying any riffs as memorable and readily recognisable as those of his predecessor, John Frusciante, leaving the chunky basslines contributed by Flea, alias Michael Balzary, to dictate the form of its 13 songs, possibly more so than on any of their LPs since 1995’s One Hot Minute.
Admirers, such as myself, of frontman Anthony Kiedis’s often-nonsensical lyrics will find much to treasure here, and I’m sure I won’t have been the only one left wondering what supercavitation or saxifrage were after hearing the title track and The Longest Wave, possibly the album’s standout song.
Other highlights of an album not short of highlights include the single Dark Necessities, Encore and Go Robot.
Neil Young and Promise of the Real – Earth
Canadian rocker Neil Young’s eighth live album overall, and his first with current backing band Promise of the Real, finds the 70-year-old at the top of his game, but it’s let down somewhat by his bizarre decision to overdub animal noises all over for reasons yet to be satisfactorily explained.
Elks, crickets, geese, whales and frogs all make appearances, and listen more carefully and you can probably make out a few bats in the belfry too.
Young is often at his most engaging when he’s at his most wilfully goofy or eccentric, but not always – his 1983 rockabilly album Everybody’s Rockin’ and the sizeable chunk of his first autobiography, 2012’s Waging Heavy Peace, devoted to model train sets being cases in point - and not here either.
There’s a reasonable case for revisiting this one and putting out a version without overdubs, as he did with his 2006 protest album Living With War, as underneath its attempts at animal magic, this is easily his best live set since 1993’s Unplugged.
The five tracks from his only studio album so far with Promise of the Real, 2015’s The Monsanto Years – Big Box, Wolf Moon, Seed Justice, the title track and People Want to Hear About Love – are even better than the originals, and the rest of its 13 tracks are all spot on too, although Love and Only Love outstays its welcome a bit at 28 minutes, given that it’s largely wrapped up about quarter of an hour in and nothing much happens thereafter.
It’s one of three tracks from 1990’s Ragged Glory featured here, the other being the slightly-retitled My Country Home, uncharacteristically shorter than the original, and the sort-of title track, Mother Earth (Natural Anthem).
The best bits, besides the new material, are fine versions of After the Gold Rush, Human Highway, Western Hero and Hippie Dream.
Mudcrutch – 2
US rockers Mudcrutch’s main claim to fame is having been Tom Petty’s first band, the 65-year-old having been an ever-present in their line-up from 1970 to 1975 and since 2007, and Petty dominates proceedings here.
It’s in much the same vein as his last album with usual backing band the Heartbreakers, 2014’s Hypnotic Eye, and, that having been Petty’s best LP by a considerable margin for over two decades, that is very much a plus point.
This too is home to some of Petty’s best and most plaintive songs ever – Trailer, Dreams of Flying, Beautiful Blue and I Forgive It All all being worthy of places on any future Petty best-of album – and it deserves far better than the peak chart placing of No 62 it has managed over here so far, though Petty’s countrymen were more appreciative of its merits, putting it in the Billboard top 10.
Colvin and Earle – Colvin and Earle
Country rock veteran Steve Earle’s debut album with fellow US singer-songwriter Shawn Colvin is an enjoyably ramshackle affair.
It’s made up of six originals and four covers, including one of the Rolling Stones single Ruby Tuesday that pales in comparision to the spine-tingling, heartbreaking version of Wild Horses she contributed to fellow collaborator Buddy Miller’s Cayamo Sessions at Sea LP earlier this year.
It’s mostly upbeat and intent on offering an easy-listening, good-time feel, but it isn’t afraid to take the odd detour into more troubled waters, such as on The Way That We Do and You’re Right (I’m Wrong), and it’s every bit as good as any of the pair’s solo efforts over recent years.