October 2017

Liner Notes by Brian Chozick

Menu of this month's listings, stories and columns

Local: All treats and no tricks for Halloween at the Plaza

The Plaza Theatre is at it again, supplying El Paso with legend after legend, from Bob Dylan to Ian Anderson to the Moody Blues. The latest comes Oct. 30 via the second biggest band ever (remember I’m a Rolling Stones fan). The Beatles’s very own drummer and sometimes vocalist, Ringo Starr, brings his band of merry men, officially known as Ringo Starr and his All Starr band, to town. This is like five bands in one. Not only is Ringo sure to grace us with some Fab Four material, but the notable musicians sharing the stage with him bring their own musical suitcase. Richard Page of ’80s band Mr. Mister gets some time at the mic, along with Steve Lukather, who took over lead vocal duties for Toto in 1997. Rounding things out are Gregg Rolie, best known for his early years with Santana and Journey, and Todd Rundgren, who can pack a house all by himself. This hits the calendar the day before Halloween, but the only thing to be frightened about is that Ringo at 77 does a better job than most musicians half his age.

National: Mark Olson, “Spokeswoman of the Bright Sun,” Glitterhouse Records

Mark Olson, co-lead singer and founder of the relatively recently resurrected Jayhawks, has ventured out once again. It was three years ago when we last heard from this elite member of alt. country royalty without his legendary crew. Lending him a hand on this album is his wife, Norwegian singer Ingunn Ringvold. The album leans heavily on country folk, and at the forefront is his unmistakable trademarked vocal twang. The arrangements are not the most complex, but they aren’t meant to be. He is backed with just a few instruments — a mandolin, violin, at times a single drum — but always with the sweet sound of an acoustic guitar strum. The songs’ storytelling vibe takes us on a feel-good peace and love journey reminiscent of ’60s folk. If you’re a fan of his other band, but this one’s got you on the fence, be sure to check out the lead single “Dear Elisabeth.” This track could easily find itself as a standout on any Jayhawks record. “Spokeswoman of the Bright Sun” is another bright spot in the brilliant career of Mark Olson.

Dan Wilson, “Re-Covered,”
Big Deal Music

Some songwriters make their living crafting songs for their own bands, and some sell their gems to others, then there are those that do both. Butch Walker, formerly of Marvelous 3 and now solo, seems to have more success when others carry his tunes. Sia stepped out on her own after her recipes constantly struck paydirt on the charts for many. Then there is Dan Wilson, who grabbed the golden ring with his band Semisonic and “Closing Time,” and even snagged a Grammy nomination. Pop’s all-stars now are taking his cuts to higher grounds, so Dan has decided to call his hits back home. These are all found in his new collection, “Re-Covered.” The entire disc takes on a very singer-songwriter feel with extremely sparse instrumentation. These re-imagined tunes (or in his case originally imagined) are presented in a brand new light. He chose tracks by Taylor Swift, Chris Stapleton and John Legend, to name a few. Adele’s “Someone Like You” is by far the best representation of how he excels at constructing something new out of the extremely familiar. The CD appropriately comes to an end with a brand new version of his “Closing Time” composed almost 20 years ago. As always a super deluxe version waits for you with a 56-page deluxe album book pack designed by Dan with illustrations and stories about the writing of these songs, but of course this is limited to only 400 pieces.

Alice Cooper, “Paranormal,” earMUSIC

Just over three months ago this legend was rockin’ our downtown, and now he has released an album of brand new originals, 12 to be exact. This is even more impressive coming from a legend just under 70 years old. The original shock rocker himself, Alice Cooper, continues to stir his creepy cauldron with “Paranormal.” With all the actual disgust in the world, most of this is more on the campy side, but then again wasn’t it always that way? (See the official “Welcome to my Nightmare” video.) Two tracks in particular off this new album, “Holy Water” and “Genuine American Girl,” feel as if they came directly from a musical revue, complete with horn section. Not to disappoint, there are plenty of real rock ’n’ roll moments; “Rats,” “Dead Flies,” “Fireball” and the title track all fill the category nicely. “Fallen in Love” features ZZ Top guitarist Billy Gibbons, crafting a brilliant A to Z mash up that leaves us wanting more in that vein. The disc concludes with a genuine blast from the past as Alice is joined on two new songs by members from his original band.

Collectibles: Natalie Merchant, “The Natalie Merchant Collection,” Nonesuch

She began her career fronting the alternative college rock band 10,000 Maniacs when she was barely old enough to drive a car. She spent just over a decade with them until she broke out of the asylum in 1993, going solo with the critically acclaimed and multi-platinum “Tigerlily.” Ever since she has been doing things her own way. This is the work celebrated with Nonesuch Records’ new collection aptly titled “The Natalie Merchant Collection.” The ten-disc compilation collects all her lone studio work along with two very special treats. One is a set comprised of four brand-new tracks along with six reinterpreted cuts from her past catalog all arranged for a string quartet. The other is a rarities CD collection featuring 15 rare and previously unreleased gems culled from 1998 to 2017. It includes home studio demos, album outtakes, live tracks and collaborations with the likes of Billy Bragg, David Byrne and Cowboy Junkies. Add this to the other Natalie Merchant must-have, Rhino Records’ 10,000 Maniacs double platter “Campfire Songs,” and you can easily consider yourself certifiable when it comes to her and her past.

Keep an eye out for these releases:

Morrissey — “Low in High School”
Quicksand —“Interiors”
Stereophonics — “Scream Above the Sounds”
U2 — “Songs of Experience”

Brian Chozick is owner of Tumblin’
Dice Music. Drop him a line at

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