Album Review Saturdays 2023 Episode 35

It is just getting near impossible to select the albums we review for these Album Review Saturdays.  In fact, this weekend it was impossible for me to even do the show (issues with national lacrosse tournament in Sarasota Florida).  There are so many albums released and releasing that we have really thought were worthy of reviewing (that’s the real positive spot), which is easy from a review standpoint, but there are those left on the review room floor.   Albums that should be talked about, if even briefly, so you can check them out!  I thought, what can we do to give those albums some love and exposure?  While I don’t have the time to dedicate to full written review and/or enough to time give them video coverage as extras on the YouTube versions of this blog, I had to come up with something.  A list?  That sounded good, and I could combine that with our Album Listen Challenge concept.  So, today, this Tuesday, in the slot that would normally be Album Listen Challenge Best of 2023 (the link is centered below) be on the look out for Album Listen Challenge Best of 2023 – Albums You Should Check Out 2023.  This list, if you’re a music lover and you like to take some risks with your usual play list, should be interesting and range in all kinds of beautiful direction.  This week’s three are definitely all over that “range” I just spoke above, and then some!  So let’s get to the reviews of these great albums, and you can check out the special YouTube show, too!

 

Album Listen Challenge Best of 2023 – Albums You Should Check Out!
(I talk about the albums below, but I also give you some albums to check out as you build your best of 2023)

 

John Cale – Mercy

It’s been a while since we’ve heard from Mr. Cale, but considering the past three years in life under the COVID shutdown and everything else it’s very understandable, as an artist of his music connection and composition is definitely going to absorb it in fully before putting out a record of this stature.  Mercy is a full blown, deep listening experience in the instrumental accompaniment, and he has crafted a lyrical intensity and flow that really equal the grip, sensitivity and intentions.  While you can’t appreciate them all together at first because of the power and nature of both (especially if you’re listening to review an album like I was), the second listen starts to free up both sides of your brain so the experience takes a fuller shape.

The composition and melody have a mood that fits the past and present with great gothic undertones, while vocals and additional artists add flavor and necessary contrast.  This is not going to get you toe tapping, or ease your weary mind.  It can be intense and purposeful to the sights, sounds, and push that life requires.  This will probably be on a lot of this year’s “Best of” lists for good reason in all that it develops and brings to those that will venture toward it and take the time to hear what John Cale has put together here.  This album actually released very early this year, and I had been meaning desperately to get to it, but I knew I had to be in the right frame of mind to give the experience the attention it would require.  This album’s soul is bearing torment, realization, as well as hopefulness – but like in life – it must be found.  In this case, through the power of his sound, delivery and mercy.

The Band

  • John Cale – vocals, bass guitar, drums, piano, synthesizer, acoustic guitar, guitar, drone percussion, and all kinds of keyboard(s)
  • Matt Fish – cello
  • Ian Walker – double bass
  • Joey Maramba – bass guitar, bowed bass
  • Deantoni Parks – acoustic drums, timpani, additional synthesizers, electronic drums, additional drums
  • Dustin Boyer – guitar, bass guitar, backing vocals, rhythm guitar, guitar
  • Caroline Buckman – viola
  • Leah Katz – viola
  • Rodney Wirtz – viola
  • Eric Gorfain – violin
  • Marissa Kuney – violin
  • Jenny Takamatsu – violin
  • Nita Scott – additional drums, percussion and drum programming, backing vocals

Collaborators:

  • Tony Allen
  • Laurel Halo
  • Weyes Blood
  • Tei Shi
  • Avey Tare (Animal Collective)
  • Panda Bear
  • Dev Hynes
  • Sylvan Esso
  • Actress
  • Fat White Family

Mercy Tracklisting

  1. Mercy (Ft. Laurel Halo)
  2. Marilyn Monoroe’s Legs (Beauty Elsewhere) (Ft. Actress)
  3. Noise of You
  4. Story of Blood (Ft. Weyes Blood)
  5. Time Stands Still (Ft. Sylvan Esso)
  6. Moonstruck (Nico’s Song)
  7. Everlasting Days (Ft. Animal Collective)
  8. Night Crawling
  9. Not the End of the World
  10. The Legal Status Of Ice (Ft. Fat White Family)
  11. I Know You’re Happy (Ft. Tei Shi)
  12. Out Your Window

 

Dirk Maassen – Hear and Now

Along the same lines of an awareness, mood, and expressionism, comes the new and beautifully executed, Here and Now. Dirk is not only systematically sound in his piano execution, but so emotional with how his fingers press and decompress along the ivories. I am always amazed at how his solitude at the keys seems larger and expressive – although there’s no other accompaniment.

While it has a classical feel, it is not a recital. He his careful to make every track a journey, a sound, and an emotional statement that aligns with the title, not contrived, and certainly not one dimensional.  Equal parts elegant and assessable, allowing the listener to easily be impressions in their own attachment, which is the mark of someone loving what they can do with the instrument without becoming technically wound or structurally bound.  The production feels live and spacious, as if some sort of empty Cathedral or Church.

He appeals to those that are piano lovers and those working themselves into the genre.  Completely instrumental piano, but you get the feel that Tori Amos, Sarah Slean or Fiona Apple could have easily put lyrics and voice within…although I’m sure Dirk knows his limitations. This is another album from him that is so worthy of discussion for Best 23 Albums of 2023.  You would do your ears some service to give it an evening’s attention.

Hear and Now Tracklisting

  1. The Roads Not Taken
  2. Here and Now
  3. Farewell
  4. Only Now
  5. The Light You Are
  6. In My Place
  7. Here and Now (Variation)
  8. Right Here
  9. In Lucid Moments
  10. Flow
  11. Out of the Blue
  12. Spaces

 

Green Lung – This Heathen Land

Do you like your prog in a medieval stoner Canterbury fuzz with some of the most Gypsy metal fusion of keyboard and guitar?  Yes even some magical shredding and King Arthur worthy vocals!  Well you need to enter the court of Green Lung and their This Heathen Land.  This is going to be right up your musical lore alley!

Now, I didn’t bow to the king and court at first.  There was something about the start of it that seemed dated in sound, but once the keys lit up (and we truly mean LIT) and shredding started I felt like I had followed a younger Tony Banks into some forest of progressive mischief that Genesis always stood at the threshold of (go ahead enter it you chicken shits, the dark forest of prog rock riff mastery awaits) but never entered.  I started to really love what was being laid down.  Just check out the track, ‘Maxine (Witch Queen)’ you will know exactly how heathen it gets in their land!  Sure it’s got a Jethro Tull connection in the landscape of it, but the fuzz and shred makes this one of those unique listens that could reach a variety of ages and audiences, drawing people into this land of musical plenty.  A lost vision of the late 60’s and early 70’s of progressive rock expressions with a production that is intentionally, beautifully manipulated to take you on this riff ride with some serious wave and surprisingly up-roaring vocals.  It’s foggy fun, tremendously trippy, and a musician’s listening dream!  Get thee to a nunnery afterwards, as you might feel you need a cleansing when all is sung and done!  But, you’ll be scarred magically for life (so ha)!

The Band

  • Joseph Guest – Bass
  • Matt Wiseman – Drums
  • Scott Black – Guitar
  • Tom Templar – Vocals
  • John Wright – Organ

This Heathen Land Tracklisting

  1. Prologue
  2. The Forest Church
  3. Mountain Throne
  4. Maxine (Witch Queen)
  5. One for Sorrow
  6. Song of the Stones
  7. The Ancient Ways
  8. Hunters in the Sky
  9. Oceans of Time

 

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