December 2018

Liner Notes by Brian Chozick

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Holiday: William Shatner, “Shatner Claus,” Cleopatra Records

The holidays may never be the same now that an alum from Star Trek is involved. William Shatner first threw his hat into the music ring a half-century ago and since then he has put out nearly a dozen albums. He even pulled up a chair at Ben Folds’ table to guest on his “Fear of Pop” disc. His newest offering is “Shatner Claus.” If the truly bizarre is your thing then Santa has left you a sack full of goodies this year. If not, this lump of coal might make you wonder if you were naughty. Either way, this is one that needs to be heard. This is television’s Captain Kirk taking us through holiday classics, as well as an original, as only he can. Most cuts are primarily done in a spoken-word style with musical accompaniment from his cast of co-stars, with some even dueting on the mic. The lineup includes Iggy Pop serenading on “Silent Night,” Henry Rollins yelling on “Jingle Bells” and Brad Paisley adding his country charm to “Blue Christmas.” Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top provides a few guitar licks, while Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson is obviously blowing away on the flute, and of course Rick Wakeman of Yes tickles the keys. All I can say about “Shatner Claus” is this is “highly illogical.”

National: Alejandro Escovedo, “The Crossing,” Yep Roc Records

This man used to be a fixture of the live music landscape of El Paso. In the 1990s and 2000s he visited our city so many times his music belonged in the local section (a thing record stores used to have). Actually that’s not too far off: He was born in San Antonio. Alejandro Escovedo has been a guitar slinger for close to half a century: in the mid ’70s with the Nuns, then Rank and File, after that True Believer, and rounding it off with Buick MacKane. Maybe groups weren’t his thing. He’s made it on his own for 20 years, and has been very busy playing record label hopscotch, this year landing on a new square with “Yep Roc Records.” The new disc is “The Crossing,” an ambitious collection boasting 17 tracks that has all the trappings of a classic Escovedo record: Americana base with a splash of horns, at times a political agenda, a few haunting ballads and serious cow punk. The latter is upped a notch with the help of The Stooges’ James Williamson and MC5’s Wayne Kramer. No need to proceed with caution at this crossing; it’s full steam ahead and a must-get for the 2018 music season.

Slash featuring Myles Kennedy & The Conspirators, “Living the Dream,” Roadrunner Records

Reuniting with a band that dominated the world a quarter-century ago must be inspiring, because Slash has never sounded better. When Guns N’ Roses took a break from being the only thing that matters on the concert circuit, lead guitarist Slash got his other band back together and got himself on the charts again. Slash featuring Myles Kennedy & The Conspirators, “Living the Dream,” is his third time around the block with this gang and they have delivered an amazing collection. Things are really starting to gel with Myles Kennedy on the mic. They are no longer a Guns N’ Roses cover band with some originals thrown in for good measure, but a full-fledged rock ’n’ roll machine of their own. The album kicks off with Slash’s signature guitar and some pounding percussion. Within seconds the vocals begin to soar, and we are hooked so quickly you would think they were using top-shelf worms as bait. “Living the Dream” must be exactly what Slash is doing, because after this brilliance we all smell a new Guns N’ Roses album in the works, right?
J Mascis, “Elastic Days,” Sub Pop

The extinction of Dinosaur Jr. in 1997 was all too abrupt, but this species of alternative rock somehow rose from the ashes once again over a decade ago. Their leader, J Mascis, may appear ancient with his long, flowing gray locks, but he has never gone missing. He is taking a break from roaming the earth and ventured out on his own with the latest, “Elastic Days.” Whenever he loses his herd the sound is very different. Gone are the pounding drums, there’s no thumbing bass, and the fuzzy guitar wobble is basically missing in action, but he does manage to sandwich the album with cuts at the beginning and end that feature that trademarked feedback-laden guitar mastery. The sound is primarily replaced with acoustic strumming front and center, coupled with his familiar nasal-tinged impassioned whine. The other instrumentation is kept to a minimum and he quietly morphs into the most sensitive, skull-crushing, earth-shaking, fear-inducing cuddly creature ever with his very gentle serenades. These are his “Elastic Days” so kick back and take it easy with this one for now, because he is sure to be stretching back to his roar soon enough.

Collectibles: Electric Light Orchestra, “The UK Singles Volume One 1972-1978,” Legacy

He was the fifth member of the Traveling Wilburys, which prompted many people in the States to ask, “Who’s that guy?” He has also collaborated with former members of the Beatles and even produced many of that band’s posthumous releases. Before all that he was the leader of a very successful British band called Electric Light Orchestra, or ELO. The man behind all of these accomplishments is Jeff Lynne and his early work with his band is celebrated in the new ultra-limited edition 7-inch singles box set. The collection boasts 16 separate 45 single records, with over half of them being Top 10 hits on the British charts. “U.K. Single Volume One 1972-1978” features all cuts remastered from the original analog tapes for the best sound, with the flip sides being exactly as experienced back in the day. It is also visually stunning. Once the lift-top box is removed, each individual platter is tucked away in a reproduction of the original paper sleeve from over almost a half-century ago. This set is only available for a very short time, and it will definitely be snatched up quicker than the electric speed of light, so be sure to orchestrate your ability to obtain one soon.

Keep an eye out for these new and upcoming releases:

Ian Brown — “Ripples”
The Claypool Lennon Delirium — “South Of Reality”
Bob Mould — “Sunshine Rock”
Swervedriver — “Future Ruins”

Brian Chozick is owner of Tumblin’
Dice Music. Drop him a line at
tumblindicemusic@netscape.net

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