Reviews: The ‘Old’ Guys

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As I’ve said before, there’s nothing better than some “classic rock” to accompany a lazy weekend afternoon on the patio (along with some beer, of course).   I use the quotation marks because what I usually dig up is current music put out by so-called classic artists – you know, old guys.

I have to admit:  it’s heartening to see our elders still carrying the rock and roll banner, even if the stuff they put out is only a pale imitation of their best work from their prime.  Even mediocre albums from rock heroes like Bruce Springsteen and U2 this year still sound better than most of the new stuff out there.  (Exception: John Fogerty’s Blue Ridge Rangers covers album – 20 lashes with a wet noodle for that snooze-fest, J.C.!)

So.  That said, let’s dive right into Seven Moons Live,  by former Cream bassist/vocalist Jack Bruce and former Procol Harum guitarist (and Hendrix accolyte) Robin Trower.  A collection of juicy blues-rock from a European tour, this live album pretty much reprises the entirety of Seven Moons, mixing in one Trower fave (“Carmen”) and three selections from the Cream catalog.   In fact, if you are a Cream fan this is for you: songs like “Lives Of Clay” and “Seven Moons” successfully evoke rock’s greatest power trio while giving a new dimension – Trower’s guitar work – to the music.

And those Cream fans will really love “Sunshine Of Your Love,” “White Room” and “Politician,” songs that have somewhat become more associated with Eric Clapton over the years.  But the originals were sung (and co-written) by Bruce, and his voice has weathered age and illness to still sound strong.   Trower’s guitar work gives these workhorses a new texture, and it’s great.  This album is big fun from two rock veterans.

MP3: “Sunshine Of Your Love” (live) by Jack Bruce & Robin Trower

John Mayall is, of course, the British blues-rock grandfather who helped along the careers of such rock luminaries as Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce, Peter Green, Mick Fleetwood, John McVie, Mick Taylor and many others.  Tough is the new album from the 70-something Mayall, and it illustrates perfectly why I find this music so enjoyable: it sounds enough like the old stuff to be instantly comforting.

Mayall’s harmonica, organ and guitar work is stellar, his singing not so much.  But – who cares?  Tough is full of juicy harp and bluesy guitar riffs, it falters only when it gets a little self-conscious, as on “That Good Old Rockin’ Blues.”  The album’s best when it slows down, as on the smoky “Slow Train To Nowhere” or the socially conscious “Tough Times Ahead.”  Backed by a solid bunch of lesser knowns (including a sizzling guitarist named Rocky Athas), John Mayall still hasn’t lost it, even on the 57th album if his five-decade career.

MP3: “The Sum Of Something” by John Mayall

I’ve lost count how many albums Willie Nelson has released this year.  American Classic is a collection of standards, kinda like Willie’s 1978 classic Stardust, but nowhere near as imaginative.  To be fair, everyone’s done standards since Willie set the bar so high with Stardust – but here even Nelson has trouble reaching those lofty standards.  The best moments come when he plays off guest Norah Jones on “Baby It’s Cold Outside” (hey, isn’t this usually a Christmas song?) or when he unexpectedly swings on “Fly Me To the Moon.”

MP3: “Fly Me To The Moon” by Willie Nelson

Mark Knopfler is actually the baby of this bunch, and his new Get Lucky could be considered the edgiest offering here.  What the ex-Dire Straits leader does is what he’s done for years – he mines his blues, country, Irish and rock roots for a lazy-rollin’ combination that can sink its hooks deep in the unwary listener.  “Border Reiver,” the album’s opener, sounds like it could have come straight off his soundtrack for the movie Local Hero (recommended – rent it) and in fact some of the other selections here wouldn’t have been out of place on a Dire Straits record or even Knopfler’s previous solo effort, Kill To Get Crimson.  See what I mean?  None of those annoying “modern” sounds here.  I love it.

MP3: “You Can’t Beat The House” by Mark Knopfler

One Response to “Reviews: The ‘Old’ Guys”

  1. Thanks for the share, love Robin Trowers work and it is good to hear Jack Bruce again.


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