March 2017

Liner Notes by Brian Chozick

Menu of this month's listings, stories and columns

Elton John brings a lifetime 
of hits to El Paso

Elton John began his career in 1969 and from that very first album he and his writing partner Bernie Taupin have built a massive catalogue of hits that are still heard today. Whether it be from your favorite movie, the last wedding you attended or simply the good old radio, their songs are still in constant rotation. From “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” to “Tiny Dancer” to “Candle in the Wind” (one of the best-selling singles ever released), their music is universally known. In the later part of Elton’s career he also contributed countless songs to soundtracks, but it’s that classic ’70s sound that the crowds clamor for. On March 23 he will park his piano bench in the Don Haskins Center. It has been a little over a decade since he last visited our area, and since then he has released a handful of new discs including the outstanding collaboration with the late Leon Russell. We can only hope a few of these cuts will be included in the new set, but if new stuff isn’t your bag, not to worry; he is sure to include many piano-top dancing show stoppers.

Bash & Pop, “Anything Could Happen,” Fat Possum Records

When we witnessed the band D Generation regroup and release a follow-up album last year, two decades after their third release, most of us probably assumed that would surely be the longest any band has waited to return back to the scene of the crime. We were wrong. Bash & Pop can now claim the title, coming back with a follow-up to their debut, yes that’s right, their debut, 24 years later. The band is led by the Replacements’ bassist Tommy Stinson, who has logged in time with Soul Asylum, a moment with the Old 97’s and Perfect, and had a very long residence with pre-reunion Guns N Roses. This sophomore disc is titled “Anything Could Happen,” and this could very well be mistaken as a lost piece in the Replacements puzzle. The sound is undeniably a part of his past and rings just as loudly. He doesn’t miss a trick in the Replacements playbook and turns the clock back to the beginning without skipping a beat. Even though we are only in the first quarter of the new year, I can already feel a pole position for this gem. Maybe we will even see another release by the band in less than 25 years … who knows, “Anything Could Happen.”

Son Volt, “Notes of Blue,” Transmit Sound

“Notes of Blue” is the name of the latest and if that doesn’t spell it out for you then it will soon become evident what this disc is all about. From the very first second the needle drops, or the laser hits, or whatever your mode of aural transportation is, it’s abundantly clear what the backbone of this disc is all about. So if it is the Son Volt rock side you are hoping to hear, you are in luck, and if it is the Americana sound you are crossing your fingers for, well you have scored there too because the blues is the base of it all. There are moments when we travel way back to his Uncle Tupelo days with Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy as the band journeys deep into heartaches, loss and general misfortune. Then there are flashes with more grit, attitude, raucous rhythm, and frenetic guitars than we have ever heard before on any Jay Farrar-related project. It is his unmistakable nasal drawl and spin on a tale that has us anxiously waiting for the next cut. “Notes of Blue” once again demonstrates why it is essential to keep both feet firmly planted on the Son Volt side of the Uncle Tupelo fence.

Def Leppard, “And There Will Be A Next Time,” Eagle Rock Entertainment

Despite lead guitarist Phil Collen being pumped up, shirtless and slathered in enough oil for a Mr. Universe contest, the rest of the band looks age appropriate, which for aging heavy metal guys doesn’t always bode well for how they will sound. This is the exact opposite in the case of this band, who impressively pull it off as if we have been transported back in an Aqua Net-filled time machine. Def Leppard started in the late ’70s as an emerging new kind of music known as the “New Wave of British Heavy Metal.” This was less about the blues influences and much more about the speed, and in those early years this group led the pack along with Iron Maiden, Saxon and Judas Priest, but they also did something very different. They were very much focused on melodies and updating the glam sound. Their latest concert production proves they can still rock the house some four decades later and sound fantastic doing it. “And There will be a Next Time… Live from Detroit” is a double disc and DVD set recorded in the summer of 2016. The 18-track set list is heavy on hits, including slipping in a few lines of the David Bowie classic “Heroes” into “Hysteria,” but also goes back to their sophomore release. The set even moves all the way up the timeline for tracks off their last proper self-titled record. Def Leppard demonstrates the band is far from finished, “And There Will Be a Next Time.”

Collectibles: Anthrax, “For All the Kings” 7-inch vinyl box set,” Megaforce Records

They entered the Billboard Top Ten a quarter-century ago, and just last year they did it again with “For All the Kings.” Anthrax may not have the fan base of Megadeth or Metallica, but they helped bring the thrash and speed metal sounds out of the underground and into the mainstream as much as those mighty bands. It all began 35 years ago with their very first album “Fistful of Metal.” Although some of the members have changed it hasn’t seemed to stop them. This is their first disc with brand new lead guitarist Jon Donais, who very well may be the force that put them back on the charts. To celebrate this achievement they have unveiled the ultimate fan edition for this release. A new stunning vinyl box set has been created. The collection contains the complete original album with unreleased demos, a song previously only available on the Japanese edition, and of course two spectacular cover versions. All of this is spread across ten separate 7-inch records, each one having unique sleeve, double-sided four-color artwork, as well as band photos. Each slab of wax will also be pressed in a different color. Who knew finding a little Anthrax could be such a wonderful thing.

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

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