Lightning Round II

Music Reviews 2012

Welcome back for a continuation of the New Music Lightning Round; this is Lightning Round II.  I know, it may be tedious to some, but I prefer to think of it as “completing the record.” Just a few more albums of 2012 to get caught up — for the time being anyway. There are a few more months in 2012…and this has been a fairly prolific year for good, new music.   It’s not the Seventies…but it seems a little better than last year.  And that’s got to count for something.  If nothing else, the first 8 months of this year have given me high hopes for the remainder of the year.

Zac Brown Band – Uncaged

Last year’s break-out band is this year’s group of seasoned pros, delivering another great record, like a Pro-Bowl QB delivering another 4,000-yard season. Uncaged is a worthy follow-up to 2010’s smash You Get What You Give.

And I owe a “shout-out” to Karen Thielke for turning me onto the Zac Brown Band. Thanks Karen~! You were right, they’re country, but not on the “twangy” side of country.   The Zac Brown Band is as accessible to a mainstream audience as a country band can be.  They are using a tried and true Country formula, with ballads, up-tempo’s, hoe-downs, and even an island/beach sounding song, all in the mix.  No doubt, it’s a diverse and solid set-list for a fun concert. Everybody (who is anybody) in Country, from Kenny Chesney to Rascal Flatts, use that kind of formula.   Few do it better than the Zac Brown Band.   Zac Brown and his compadres are firing on all cylinders.  Uncaged should stay high on the charts for a long time, just like the last record did.  Why? Because its just better, and more agreeable to widely diverse audiences, than most of the other new music right now.  Of course, you can decide for yourself.

Train – California 37

San Francisco’s own, Train continues to churn out mainstream pop music, at a continually relevant pace.  Pat Monahan continues to write and perform songs that we remember.  Since Meet Virginia, Drops of Jupiter, and Calling All Angels put them on the map, Train has continued to throw hooks at us.  Like in boxing, some of them hit us hard and stick with us, and some don’t.

This album maybe doesn’t include an iconic, ubiquitously heard song, like the early records did, but it does offer some catchy ear-candy, start to finish.  I really like:  Drive By, 50 Ways to Say Goodbye, We Were Made For This, and To Be Loved.   In the course of making mainstream pop, Train has cleverly used some unconventional arrangements to make the record interesting.  The Mariachi band thing on 50 Ways to Say Goodbye is neatly done.  But the centerpiece of Train’s appeal, has to be Monahan’s smooth croon through all the hooks.  This is mellow, adult oriented pop.  It is a good listen, appropriate for audiences of all ages.  No need to overthink it.  Just listen…and eventually you will be singing along.  I’d bet on it.

Rascal Flatts – Changed

One of the 2012 records I missed in the first Lightning Round, Rascal Flatts 2012 offering is, like the Zac Brown Band’s new record, another triumph in applying Country Music’s other formula for many successful bands. The band assembles the best writers and songs available, picks ten that offer a broad cross-section of the band’s style….and the band hits a home run recording and delivering it.  Gary Levox remains among the most emotionally evocative of male voices in Country.  Let It Hurt takes you to the same place that What Hurts the Most did six years ago.  Levox just slays it.  Rascal Flatts has a long history of hits and a well-deserved reputation for being a fun band to see. They do summer songs, and ballads, and tear-jerkers as well as anybody.  Good on ’em.  I enjoy their music…and support them on principle at this point.

ZZ Top – Texicali (EP)

Who knew that the Sharp Dressed Men of the 80s, could still bang out new stuff?  Stuff that sounds authentic, original and well, downright “killer” in places.  Well, now, we all do–or at least you and me, since I wrote it down, and you are now reading it.  There it is, like the Bob Saget bit about men breast-feeding.  He said that.  Actually, he read that….well, he wrote it down first, and then he read it aloud and I heard him say it.   Those are just the facts…and you can’t argue with facts.  And the fact here is that ZZ Top can still play.  They can still get big crowds going in the same direction–toward a fictitious Bluesville, Texicali.  If you like that kind of thing, you’ll probably like this.  I was mildly surprised at how much I did.  Chartreuse rocks, and sways, beard-first, like the best of the ZZ Top discography.  I dare you to listen and try not to.  And a few weeks from now, a full-length record comes out, with these songs and more.  It is entitled La Futura.  ZZ Top proves that old guys still rock.  May we all rock that hard when we get their age.

Bruce Springsteen – Wrecking Ball

I never know what I’ll get with Springsteen records.  Oh, sure, I know that I’ll get a blue-collar, salt-of-the-earth, Americana-infused set of songs.  Springsteen will throw himself into all of it.  I just don’t know if I’ll love all of it, start to finish, or not.  I loved Born in the USA that way (who didn’t?), way back when.  And The Rising in 2003 was his best ever, in my book.  But others since then haven’t sunk the same hook in me.  Wrecking Ball seems to be in between at this point–though it does continue to grow on me.   Like Magic, back in 2007, I like some of it a lot….while other parts of it I find myself skipping past.  C’est La Vie.  I can’t love everything.  You wouldn’t want to hear about if I did.

On that note, I’ll let you get to your own music reviews.  Do some and get back to me. Better yet….don’t.   Get back to me that is.  By all means do your own music reviewing.

And while you are at it, Support the Musicians you like.  Enjoy JDPF

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