By Mike Greenblatt
The Last Ship (Cherrytree/Interscope) is a preview of what Sting, 62, will be taking to Broadway next season.
It’s his first new material in over a decade and rings true with the story of his hometown Newcastle, a British port that has seen its shipping industry crippled by modern times. His voice huskier, his concerns universal, the music is simple, acoustic and folk-based. “The Night The Pugilist Learned How To Dance” is a stand-out, juxtaposing the tough and the tender. The spoken-word passages work well, from his obvious brogue to how the poetry moves the story forward, a story that’s engaging, satisfying and listenable on many levels.
Pushing The World Away (Mack Avenue) by alto/soprano saxophonist Kenny Garrett is the jazz album of the year. The 53-year old Detroit native has a totally unique sound. Plus, he’s matured into the kind of composer—complete with a Miles/Ellington echo—whose compositions will be listened to for generations to come. His last album, Seeds From The Underground, was one of the best jazz albums of last year and here, he expands on that album’s premise. More than any other genre, jazz is uniquely in competition with its own past and he who comes to grip with that fact is he who furthers the music. Thus, Garrett, with his nods to Sonny Rollins (“J’ouvert”), Chick Corea (“Hey Chick”) and Chucho Valdes (“Chucho’s Mambo”), furthers the music itself by paying homage to it. The sounds are pristine, gorgeous even, with expansive use of piano/bass/percussion/trumpet/viola/cello and violin. Wow.
Live At The Lucky Lounge (Maniac Records) by Ian McLagan & The Bump Band is a 14-song night of joyous noise in Austin, Texas. Rock’n’Roll Hall Of Famer McLagan, 68, leads the way on his signature piano and Hammond B-3 organ and has turned into quite the singer, no small feat considering he backed two of the greatest rock’n’roll frontmen in history, Steve Marriott in Small Faces and Rod Stewart in The Faces. Mac’s done all right for himself since The Faces broke up in 1975 when Rod went solo, Ron Wood joined the Stones and Kenney Jones joined The Who. Settling in Austin, he’s become a fixture in that town’s progressive music scene.
Magic Honey (Ruf Records) by Cyril Neville, 65, is a tour-de-force of the blues. But don’t pigeonhole this Meters/Neville Brothers legend. Like the city he hails from, this is a hot spicy gumbo of tantalizing proportions. Cyril’s vocals and percussion on 12 originals leads a hotshot New Orleans band that includes guest spots from the elite of Rampart Street: Dr. John and Allen Toussaint. Lead guitarist Cranston Clements wails like Ernie Isley. The funk is in the forefront often enough to make this one of those feel-good efforts that just seems to get better with each repeated listening.
Save Me (self-released) by A.D.D. is the debut four-song EP from a band whose guitarist and drummer weren’t even born yet when Green Day and Marilyn Manson were top of the pops in 1998. Yet they’ve opened for Sammy Hagar, reggae legends The Wailers and Kathy Griffin and jammed with Kevin Miller of Fuel. People in the Lehigh Valley of Pennsylvania know how tight this quartet is and when they launch into “Roadhouse Blues” by The Doors, singer/songwriter Dakota McGeehan, 18, has the kind of growl that transcends age. Chicago blues legend Willie Dixon, in 1961, wrote the line “the men don’t know but the little girls understand.” In the case of A.D.D., not only do the little girls understand, but the men, at least those like me who used to be in bands throughout high school and college, also understand the thrill of the beat, the tightness of a good rhythm section, and the kick of an electric guitarist who can solo like the world is coming to an end. A.D.D. may be younger than some of my pairs of shoes, but, man, do they rock. And if they rock like this now, and stick with it, the sky’s the limit for these talented young men. Check www.add-rock.com
Stepchild Of The Blues (City Hall) by longtime Detroit guitar virtuoso Howard Glazer straddles the rockier side of the blues. From the Bo Diddley-inspired “Shakin’” and the classic roots-rock of opener “Don’t Love You No More” to the everyman laments of “Gas Pump Blues” and “Liquor Store Legend,” what Glazer lacks in charisma, he more than makes up for in chops.