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The Listening Room: Tom Petty, Eric Clapton and more...
Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers
After the burning blues-rock blowout of 2010's "Mojo" its hardly surprising that Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers needed four years to re-fill the tank, and one had to wonder during that time if the next effort would be more of the same or a complete 180-degree reaction. "Hypnotic Eye," recorded between August 2011 and November 2013, actually treads more of middle ground, never quite aping "Mojo's" full-on attack -- though "American Dream Plan B" and the guitar-drenched "All You Can Carry" comes close -- and bouncing between early-career throwbacks like "U Get Me Hight" and the garage rocker "Forgotten Man" and the more laid-back and even sophisticated dynamics of tracks such as "Power Drunk" and "Sins of My Youth." The blues continues to be a foundation block for Petty and company, too, whether it's the slinky and even Latin-flavored jams of "Fault Lines," the jaunty bounce of "Full Grown Boys" or the rootsy shuffle that drives "Burnt Out Town." Petty characteristically sticks a defiant chin out throughout "Hypnotic Eye," too; there are moments of genuine introspection in "Full Grown Boy" and "Sins of My Youth," but the outer world gets the harshest stare from his "Eye" as he takes stock of the state of the nation ("American Dream Plan B," "Burnt Out Town," "Forgotten Man") and takes on all manners of authority figures in "Power Drunk," "Shadow People" and the church-skewering bonus track "Playin' Dumb." The upshot is that Petty and the Heartreakers are as potent as ever on studio album number 13 -- and luck has nothing to do with it.
Eric Clapton & Friends, "The Breeze -- An Appreciation of JJ Cale" (Bushbranch/Surfdog) ***
Since the world knows of the late JJ Cale primarily through Eric Clapton's hit versions of his "After Midnight" and "Cocaine," it's appropriate that he be the one to pay tribute to the singer, guitarist, songwriter and producer who passed away a year ago. The Friends list is formidable -- Tom Petty, Willie Nelson, John Mayer, Mark Knopfler, Derek Trucks and more -- and the performances of these 16 songs, some of which have been recorded for the first time, do indeed pay homage to the warm, laid-back rock/blues/country-melding groovery that was Cale's stock in trade. Nelson provides emotive vocals to the set's two pretty pieces, "Songbird" and "Starbound," while Knopfler's distinct guitar stylings stand out on the languid "Someday" and the gritty "Train To Nowhere." "The Breeze" is such a sincerely conceived and warmly delivered salute that it will probably send more than a few listeners back to the original, criminally under-appreciated source material.
New & Noteworthy:
Adelitas Way, "Stuck" (Virgin): The Las Vegas hard rockers spent a year and a half working on their third album with producer Nick Raskulinecz.
Bear in Heaven, "Time Is Over One Day Old" (Dead Oceans): The Brooklyn indie rock troupe is as experimental as ever on its fourth studio set.
Marc Broussard, "A Life Worth Living" (Vanguard): After a two-album major label dalliance, the Louisiana singer-songwriter gets back to his business-side and musical roots on his sixth studio album.
Paul Brown, "Truth B Told" (Woodward Ave. Records): The guitarist and producer mixes a variety of styles, mostly jazz and blues, on his sixth outing.
Cactus, "LIve in the USA" (Cleopatra): A concert set capturing the reunion of the trio`s original lineup -- including Detroit guitarist Jim McCarty -- during June of 2006 in New York City.
The Carmonas, "The Carmonas" (self-released): The debut album from the sibling Nashville roots rock group follows a selection of buzz-making EPs.
Dark Lotus, "Mud Water Air & Blood" (Psychopathic): The fourth album from the rap supergroup of Insane Clown Posse, Twiztid and Blaze Ya Dead Homie.
Jungle, "Jungle" (XL): The British soul-funk duo's full-length debut will keep any listener dancing from the first note to the end of "Lemonade Lake."
Land Observations, "The Grand Tour" (mute): James Brooks recorded his latest Land Observations album with just one guitar on the edge of the Bavarian Alps.
Jenny Lewis, "Voyager" (Warner Bros.): The former Rilo Kiley singer collaborated primarily with Ryan Adams for her third solo album, though Beck helmed the single "Just One of the Guys."
Imelda May, "Tribal" (Verve): The Irish singer stays in a rootsy, rockabilly mode on her energetic third album.
Noel McKay, "Is That So Much To Ask" (self-released): The second solo album from the Texas singer-songwriter includes co-writes with Guy Clark, Richard Dobson and McKay's regular musical partner Brennen Leigh.
No Lands, "Negative Space" (New Amsterdam): The first full-length release form Brooklyn-based electronic artist Michael Hammond.
Shabazz Palaces, "Lese Majesty" (Sub Pop): The sophomore set from the experimental hip-hop group fronted by former Digable Planets member Ishmael Butler.
George Tandy Jr., "The Foundation" (Universal Republic): The debut EP from the Virginia soul singer best known for his 2013 hit "March."
Dulcie Taylor, "Only Worn One Time" (Mesa/Bluemoon): The singer-songwriter returns to California from Washington, D.C. for her fourth album, produced by Sound City studio co-founder Keith Olsen.
Theory of a Deadman, "Savages" (Roadrunner): The Canadian rockers' fifth album features guest appearances by Alice Cooper and Rascal Flatts' Joe Don Rooney.
Various Artists, "Beck Song Reader" (Capitol): Jack White, fun., Tweedy, Lord Huron, Jack Black and Beck himself are among the 20 artists who interpreted Beck's songs from sheet music for this ambitious set.
Various Artists, "A Salute to Creedence Clearwater Revival" (Cleopatra): Sonny Landreth, Duke Robillard, Blitzen Trapper, Trampled Under Foot and others pay tribute to favorites from the CCR catalog.
Rick Wakeman, "Journey to the Centre of the Earth," "Return to the Centre of the Earth" (Write Notes); The former Yes keyboardist has returned to the Jules Verne site of his greatest solo triumphs, re-recording both sets inspired by the novel to commemorate its 150th anniversary this year.
From The Vaults: Allman Brothers Band, "The 1971 Fillmore East Recordings" (UMe); Dream Academy, "The Morning Lasted All Day: A Retrospective" (Real Gone); Cass Elliott, "Don't Call Me Mama Anymore Plus...(Real Gone)"; The Flock, "Heaven Bound -- The Lost Album" (Cleopatra); Peggy Lipton, "The Complete Ode Recordings" (Real Gone); Bette Midler, "Songs For the New Depression" (Friday Music); NSync, "The Essential" (RCA/Legacy); The Specials, "Live at the Moonlight Club" (Parlophone); Dee Dee Warwick, "The Complete Atco Recordings" (Real Gone)
Soundtracks: Michael Giacchino, "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes" (Sony Masterworks); "Finding Fela" (Fak); Fernando Velazqauez, "Hercules" (Sony Classics); Various Artists, "Get On Up -- The James Brown Story" (UMe); Various Artists, "Guardians of the Galaxy" (Hollywood); Various Artists, "Wish I Was Here" (Columbia)
New Music DVDs: Various Artists, "Woodstock: 40th Anniversary" (Warner)
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