Tag: Allmusic

Thursday 5/27/21 1am ET: Feature LP: Breakfast Club (Debut) (1987)

Breakfast Club was an American musical group. Their biggest hit single was “Right on Track”, which peaked at no. 7 on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart. The song was remixed for a commercial release in a 12″ version for dance and club play by John “Jellybean” Benitez and became a top 10 hit on the Billboard Magazine Hot Dance Club Play chart.

The group was formed in New York City in 1979 and went through several line-ups, including one in which future pop star Madonna was the drummer. In the early 1980s, the band included Madonna, Angie Smit on bass, and the Gilroy brothers, Dan and Ed, both on guitar (Dan sang lead vocals as well). Dan Gilroy was also briefly Madonna’s partner, and he eventually allowed her to sing some lead vocals. Madonna ultimately left to form a new band, Emmy and the Emmys.

In the mid-1980s, the band consisted of the Gilroys (with Dan exclusively on vocals, while Ed provided all guitars), Gary Burke (bass), Paul Kauk (keyboards), and Stephen Bray (drums). Both Bray and Burke previously had been Madonna’s bandmates in Emmy and the Emmys.

The group signed with ZE Records and released its eponymous album in 1987 on MCA Records, which spawned the US hit “Right on Track”. A majority of their music videos, including “Right on Track”, were filmed by Jeff Stein, director of The Who documentary The Kids Are Alright. They were nominated in the category of Best New Artist at the Grammy Awards in 1988. Later,[when?] Randy Jackson (bass) and E. Doctor Smith (The Drummstick) joined the band.

A second album was recorded but never released. The band’s last single was a cover version of The Beatles’ song “Drive My Car” for the 1988 feature film License to Drive. Shortly afterwards the band broke up.

1 Never Be the Same
2 Right on Track
3 Kiss and Tell
4 Always Be Like This
5 Rico Mambo
6 Expressway to Your Heart
7 Specialty
8 Standout
9 Tongue Tied

Wednesday 5/12/21 12am ET: Feature LP: Dave Mason – The Very Best Of (1978)

The third time around in constructing a Dave Mason compilation, Blue Thumb Records (which had been acquired by ABC Records, and which in turn would be swallowed by MCA Records) finally made a worthy selection of its cache of Dave Mason recordings from 1970-71. The Very Best Of Dave Mason was a ten-track album collecting the most memorable songs from Alone Together–“Only You Know And I Know,” “Sad And Deep As You,” and “Shouldn’t Have Took More Than You Gave”–and live performances of such well-known Traffic songs as “Feelin’ Alright?” and “Pearly Queen.” While the label was still to be criticized for endlessly repackaging Mason recordings, at least this one was done right–and it’s the one that remains in print. (Originally released by ABC/Blue Thumb Records as ABC/Blue Thumb 6032, The Very Best Of Dave Mason was reissued by MCA Records as MCA 715 and reissued on CD in 1987 as MCA 31169.) AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann

  1. Only You Know and I Know 04:05
  2. Pearly Queen 03:39
  3. Just a Song 02:59
  4. World in Changes 04:30
  5. Sad and Deep as You 03:33
  6. Shouldn’t Have Took More Than You Gave 05:59
  7. Can’t Stop Worrying, Can’t Stop Loving 03:03
  8. Headkeeper 04:38
  9. Waitin’ on You 03:03
  10. Feelin’ Alright 05:38

Thursday 10/15/2020 11pm ET: Feature LP 2020: Patty Smyth – It’s About Time

Patty Smyth walked away from her career in the ’90s, choosing to trade the spotlight for her family. Once her children reached adolescence, she slowly started performing again, first with a lowkey Scandal reunion in the 2000s, then with the holiday album Come On December in 2015. It wasn’t until 2020 that she returned with new original songs for the mini-LP It’s About Time. The very title suggests Smyth knows that perhaps it’s been too long since she’s delivered new material, and there’s a sense on the album that she isn’t especially interested in engaging with the music of the modern world, even if she’s eager to grapple with middle-aged emotions of bittersweet acceptance and enduring love. Sonically, It’s About Time is stuck halfway between the anthemic arena rock of Scandal and the burnished adult contemporary of “Sometimes Love Just Ain’t Enough,” but the key to this production is that it’s neither nostalgic nor retro: this is simply Smyth’s milieu, one that showcases both the power and sensitivity of her voice. Smyth sounds convincing in either setting, building up the drama on “Only One” and letting the heartbreak of “No One Gets What They Want” simmer, which is why it’s slightly disappointing that It’s About Time concludes with covers of Tom Waits’ “Downtown Train” and Bobbie Gentry’s “Ode to Billie Joe.” Both are good, soulful renditions but their presence highlights how It’s About Time is closer to a comeback EP than a comeback LP. Maybe it’s churlish to wish there were more originals here, but the record is strong enough to ignite that wish, which means it’s certainly a successful comeback. AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine

1 Drive 04:28
2 Build a Fire 03:40
3 I’m Gonna Get There 03:45
4 Losing Things 03:03
5 No One Gets What They Want 04:14
6 Only One 03:08
7 Downtown Train 04:49
8 Ode to Billie Joe 05:21


Thursday 9/24/2020 11pm ET: Feature LP 2020: Joan Osborne – Trouble and Strife (2020)

You don’t always know what you’re in for when you listen to a new Joan Osborne album. It goes without saying that it’s going to be soulful and satisfying in its way, and she’s going to remind us she’s one of the strongest American vocalists regularly recording. But are you going to get a set of blues, soul, funk, country, rock & roll, jazz, or jam band grooves? With 2020’s Trouble and Strife, Osborne confidentially dips her toes into most of those genres, while also offering some subtle but heartfelt commentary on the good and bad sides of the state of the world in the 21st century. In the press handout for Trouble and Strife, Osborne said “we were going for an ’70s AM radio vibe,” and it’s a compliment to say she succeeded; this set speaks to the glory days when pretty much any kind of music with a good melody and the right singer could find its way onto the play list. Osborne and her band evoke full-swagger hard rock (“Hands Off”), Stones-influenced R&B (“That Was a Lie”), sexy no-frills funk (“Meat & Potatoes”), slinky Southern soul (“Whole Wide World”), and even pop-disco (“Never Get Tired [Of Loving You]”), and at every turn she sounds assured and fully in charge, as if she was born to sing it all. It’s also impressive that she wrote most of this album herself, and that her genre-hopping is of her own design. Osborne never sounds like she’s covering so much ground just to show off; instead, she makes it obvious that she honestly loves all of this, and she’s not about to let someone else prevent her from following her musical bliss. (And since she produced the sessions and released the album on her own label, there was no one around to tell her no.) It’s not Osborne’s nature to force a message into her songs when it doesn’t belong, but Trouble and Strife is clearly a product of the year 2020, and she gently but firmly addresses racism, sexism, political corruption, and social division in these songs, while “Whole Wide World” is an anthem for a better world that can also pass for a love song in dim light. Joan Osborne puts far too much into her music for it to sound effortless, but writing good songs and singing them brilliantly seems second nature to her, and Trouble and Strife shows that her talents for creative shape-shifting are in top shape. AllMusic Review by Mark Deming

1 Take It Any Way I Can Get It 04:06
2 What’s That You Say 04:23
3 Hands Off 04:20
4 Never Get Tired (Of Loving You) 05:04
5 Trouble and Strife 04:05
6 Whole Wide World 05:03
7 Meat and Potatoes 04:02
8 Boy Dontcha Know 04:21
9 That Was a Lie 03:40
10 Panama 04:15


Thursday 8/20/2020 11pm ET: Feature LP 2020: Bruce Hornsby – Non-Secure Connection (2020)

It’s hard not to see Non-Secure Connection as a companion piece to Absolute Zero, the 2019 album that marked Bruce Hornsby’s first solo record in over 20 years. Non-Secure Connection follows Absolute Zero by a matter of months and it shares a similar adventurous sensibility. If anything, it capitalizes on Hornsby’s restlessness, scaling back the lingering echoes of pop and Americana so the pianist can concentrate on jazz and electronica while allowing him the freedom to dabble in R&B. The latter arrives in the form of “Anything Can Happen,” a suitably funky oldie Hornsby first attempted with Leon Russell back in the ’90s. Russell joins a cast of supporting characters that includes Vernon Reid, Jamila Woods, and James Mercer, but it’s the ghost of Justin Vernon that hangs over the album. It’s not that Non-Secure Connection sounds like a Bon Iver album, per se, but the elastic electronic arrangements and pensive undertone do feel indebted to Hornsby’s chief modern acolyte; after receiving the benediction of the indie tastemaker, the keyboardist has seized the freedom to do whatever. Such freedom may be limitless but it comes at a price — namely, at the expense of clear melodies. Lyrical lines are here but they’re elliptical, requiring the rapt attention of the listener, but hooks aren’t the point of Non-Secure Connection. It’s a moody puzzle box of an album, one that pays dividends with close listening but one that’s also fine as evocative background music. Ctsy AllMusic.Com

1 Cleopatra Drones
2 Time, The Thief
3 Non-Secure Connection
4 The Rat King
5 My Resolve feat: James Mercer
6 Bright Star Cast feat: Vernon Reid / Jamila Woods
7 Shit’s Crazy out Here
8 Anything Can Happen feat: Leon Russell
9 Porn Hour
10 No Limits

Tuesday 12am ET: Feature LP: Steve Miller Band – Welcome To The Vault (2019)

AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Steve Miller has never been averse to taking a stroll through his back pages. The first time he dug into his archive was with 1994’s box set — simply titled Steve Miller Band — but the 2019 set Welcome to the Vault is something else entirely: a deep dive into the rarest corners of Miller’s catalog. This doesn’t mean that The Vault consists entirely of unreleased material. Over the course of the set’s three discs, several well-worn standards are hauled out in their original hit single versions, including “Living in the USA,” “The Joker,” “Fly Like an Eagle,” “Take the Money and Run,” and “Abracadabra.” These tracks are used as guideposts, providing context for the alternate versions and deep cuts surrounding them. Mostly, these rare tracks highlight Miller’s considerable debt to the blues, a connection underscored by how the set concludes with a T-Bone Walker performance of “Lollie Lou” recorded at Miller’s home in 1951 followed by a version of the same song by the SMB in 2016. Blues is a constant in Miller’s music, and the live tracks and alternate versions showcase not only his chops but those of the band. Since Miller’s big hits are so familiar, it’s a bit of a welcome jolt to hear rougher mixes of “Jet Airliner” and “Swingtown,” not to mention the long live workouts that comprise the bulk of the first disc. The accompanying DVD also highlights this kinetic element of Miller’s music by featuring a full Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert from 1973, two selections from Monterey International Pop Festival in 1967, a live jam with James Cotton from ABC in Concert in 1974, and two tracks from Austin City Limits in 2011. Like the rare tracks on the CDs, these live performances offer a reminder that the Steve Miller Band could really cook in concert, and that reminder is reason enough for Welcome to the Vault to be of interest to listeners who aren’t hardcore fans. At their best, these rare cuts offer an explanation of why the Steve Miller Band became one of the more popular American bands of their time.

1 Blues with a Feeling [Live] 10:38
2 Don’t Let Nobody Turn You Around [Alternate Version] 04:06
3 Super Shuffle [Live] 08:56
4 It Hurts Me Too [Live] 04:50
5 Industrial Military Complex Hex [Alternate Version] 04:52
6 Living in the USA 04:03
7 Kow Kow Calculator [Alternate Version] 04:04
8 Going to Mexico [Alternate Version] 02:53
9 Quicksilver Girl [Alternate Version] 02:48
10 Jackson-Kent Blues [Alternate Version] 08:30
11 Crossroads [Live] 07:19
12 Hesitation Blues 01:54n
13 Seasons [Alternate Version] 02:42
14 Say Wow! 04:25
15 Never Kill Another Man [Alternate Version] 03:43

1 The Gangster Is Back [Live] 02:28
2 Space Cowboy [Instrumental] 01:19
3 Space Cowboy [Alternate Version] [Live] 03:38
4 The Joker 04:24
5 The Lovin’ Cup 02:10
6 Killing Floor 03:04
7 Evil [Live] 04:33
8 Echoplex Blues 02:38
9 Rock’n Me [Alternate Version 1] 03:12
10 Rock’n Me [Alternate Version 2] 02:46
11 Tain’t It the Truth 03:27
12 Freight Train Blues 02:48
13 True Fine Love [Alternate Version] 02:59
14 The Stake [Alternate Version] 04:27
15 My Babe [Alternate Version] 03:04
16 That’s the Way It’s Got to Be 05:40
17 Double Trouble 05:16
18 Love is Strange 03:44
19 All Your Love I Miss Loving [Alternate Version] 03:43

1 I Wanna Be Loved [Live] 05:48
2 Fly Like an Eagle [Alternate Version] 06:27
3 Space Intro 01:13
4 Fly Like an Eagle 04:44
5 The Window [Alternate Version] 06:08
6 Mercury Blues [Alternate Version] 04:42
7 Jet Airliner [Alternate Version] 04:21
8 Take the Money and Run 02:49
9 Dance, Dance, Dance 02:17
10 Swingtown [Alternate Version] 03:26
11 Winter Time 03:12
12 Who Do You Love? 02:56
13 Abracadabra 05:08
14 Macho City [Short Version] 03:24
15 Take the Money and Run [Alternate Version] [Live] 04:29
16 Bizzy’s Blue Tango 04:41
17 Lollie Lou [Live] 03:04
18 Lollie Lou [Live] 06:35

Friday 4pm ET: Feature LP: Janis Ian – Folk Is The New Black (2006)

1 Danger Danger
2 The Great Divide
3 Life Is Never Wrong
4 Jackie Skates
5 All Those Promises
6 Standing in the Shadows of Love
7 The Drowning Man
8 Crocodile Song
9 The Last Train
10 My Autobiography
11 Home Is the Heart
12 Shadows on the Wind
13 Haven’t I Got Eyes
14 Joy
15 Folk Is the New Black

Tuesday 10pm: Feature LP: Allman Betts Band – Down To The River (2019)

As their name makes plain, the Allman Betts Band continues in the tradition of the Allman Brothers Band. Devon Allman and Duane Betts — the sons of Gregg Allman and Dickey Betts, respectively — formed the group in 2018 with the intent purpose of celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the foundation of the groundbreaking group of their fathers. By playing classic Allmans tunes, the Allman Betts Band kept the Southern rock torch burning in the 21st century, but Devon and Duane also made sure to write new material too, releasing their debut Down to the River in June 2019.

To form their group, Devon Allman and Dickey Betts recruited bassist Berry Oakley, Jr. — himself the son of original Allman bassist Berry Oakley — organist John Ginty, slide guitarist Johnny Stachlea, and percussionists John Lum and R. Scott Bryan. Working with producer Matt Ross-Spang, the band recorded the album that became Down to the River at Muscle Shoals Sound Studio in Alabama. The record appeared on June 28, just prior to the Allman Betts Band launching a summer tour.

Devon Allman and Duane Betts make no attempt to hide their lineage. The pair are the sons of Gregg Allman and Dickey Betts, two of the founding and defining members of the Allman Brothers Band, and they’ve named their band so it rhymes with the group of their famous fathers. More than that, their 2019 debut album Down to the River consciously evokes the sound of the Allman Brothers Band. The pair don’t attempt to expand the Southern-fried hybrid of blues, rock, soul, and country; at times, it feels like they’re spinning such classics as “Melissa” and “Ramblin’ Man” for their own purposes, alluding to these classics as a way to both nod at their audience and connect with them. Such direct acknowledgment of their roots can mean that the Allman Betts Band open themselves up to direct comparisons with their fathers, but decoding Down to the River as a series of references and influences misses the intent of the duo. Allman and Betts are intentionally following in their footsteps of their fathers, so they’ve chosen to work with a limited palette, one that cherry-picks the best moments of the past. If Down to the River isn’t as adventurous or hungry or exploratory as any Allman Brothers Band album, there’s nevertheless a deliberately cultivated warmth that’s designed to appeal to Allman fans-and, given a shot, Down to the River may well appeal to that audience.

AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine

1 All Night 04:44
2 Shinin’ 04:29
3 Try 02:54
4 Down to the River 04:43
5 Autumn Breeze 08:42
6 Good ol’ Days 03:38
7 Melodies Are Memories 04:04
8 Southern Accents 04:32
9 Long Gone 06:32

Thursday 11pm: Feature LP: Sammy Hagar & The Circle – Space Between (2019)

AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine

Sammy Hagar calls his band — either his fifth or sixth, depending if HSAS is counted or not — the Circle because this quartet brings him back to where he started. A look at the band’s lineup illustrates why Hagar believes this to be true. Within the Circle, Hagar surrounds himself with some old running mates — notably, former Van Halen bassist Michael Anthony anchors the group, but Waboritas guitarist Vic Johnson also has a prominent place in the band, while drummer Jason Bonham provides a reminder of the Zeppelin influence on Hagar’s earliest band, Montrose. Despite being so strongly rooted in the past, the Circle plays for the present, cranking the amps to 11 and pushing Bonham’s beat toward the forefront. The heaviness is so bracing that the hooky pair of “Bottom Line” and “No Worries” comes as somewhat of a relief halfway through the album; not only are they more melodic, they are nimble, demonstrating that this group of old pros can keep it light if they so choose. For the rest of The Space Between, they choose heaviosity. It’s a forceful, powerful sound that gains a bit of depth thanks to Hagar’s inscrutable social commentary — he’s against a spoiled “Trust Fund Baby” and happy to be a “Free Man” — but for as invigorating as the sheer wallop of the Circle can be, it proves a bit exhausting in the long run.

01 Devil Came to Philly 2:35
02 Full Circle Jam (Chump Change) 3:38
03 Can’t Hang 3:57
04 Wide Open Space 3:46
05 Free Man 4:20
06 Bottom Line 2:43
07 No Worries 3:27
08 Trust Fund Baby 4:15
09 Affirmation 3:20
10 Hey Hey (Without Greed) 2:51

Thursday 10pm: Feature LP: Steve Earle & the Dukes – Guy (2019)

AllMusic Review by Mark Deming

While he found his fame in Nashville, Steve Earle was born in Texas, and he cut his teeth as a songwriter in the ’70s while hovering on the outskirts of the Lone Star State’s circle of great tunesmiths. The literate but unpretentious approach of the Texas songwriting community clearly suited Earle, and he’s never been shy about acknowledging his influences from his early days. In 2009, Earle released the album Townes, in which he paid homage to his good friend and mentor Townes van Zandt, recording 15 of his best songs. Ten years later, Earle has offered a follow-up in the form of 2019’s Guy, a set of 16 songs from the songbook of his late friend Guy Clark. While Townes was primarily a solo effort, Guy was cut with Earle’s band the Dukes, and the difference speaks to the temperment of the two albums. Van Zandt’s songs were often powerfully introspective, and he was often given to a dark night of the soul. Clark, on the other hand, was no less pithy but considerably warmer, and there’s a playful humanity in his songs that Van Zandt’s usually lacked, as great as they were. This also explains why Townes is ultimately a more satisfying album than Guy — while Earle can be powerfully witty when he wants to be, he’s traditionally drawn to darkness more than light, and while it’s clear he loves songs like “L.A. Freeway,” “Rita Ballou,” and “Heartbroke,” the easygoing amiability and small-town wisdom of Clark’s lyrics feel a bit off coming from Earle’s increasingly craggy rasp. And though the grainy tone of Earle’s voice works on the rocked-up cover of “Out in the Parking Lot” and the twangy two-step of “Texas 1947,” and his phrasing is as canny as ever, it doesn’t work as well on more thoughtful numbers like “Desperados Waiting for a Train” and “The Randall Knife.” (This album recycles a version of “The Last Gunfighter Ballad” from a 2001 Guy Clark tribute album, and its presence points to the considerable wear on Earle’s voice in the 18 years that separate it from the rest of the album.) There’s never a moment where Steve Earle sounds anything less than fully committed on Guy, and this was clearly a labor of love, particularly on the closing number “Old Friends,” where Emmylou Harris, Jerry Jeff Walker, Rodney Crowell, and Terry Allen join in. But the execution isn’t quite as strong as Earle’s good intentions on Guy, though if he wanted to either remind old fans on the greatness of Clark’s songs or convince new ones to explore his body of work, he makes his case will eloquence and affection.

1 Dublin Blues 3:48
2 L.A. Freeway 4:06
3 Texas 1947 3:14
4 Desperados Waiting for a Train 4:34
5 Rita Ballou 3:12
6 The Ballad of Laverne and Captain Flint 4:05
7 The Randall Knife 4:00
8 Anyhow I Love You 3:06
9 That Old Time Feeling 5:02
10 Heartbroke 2:44
11 The Last Gunfighter BalladS 3:21
12 Out in the Parking Lot 2:39
13 She Ain’t Going Nowhere 3:49
14 Sis Draper 3:27
15 New Cut Road 4:10
16 Old Friends 4:56

Friday 11pm: Feature LP – Tedeschi Trucks Band – Signs (2019)

Signs, the fourth studio album by the Tedeschi Trucks Band, poignantly addresses some of the major changes this 12-piece group has been through over the last couple of years. That said, it’s hardly steeped in sadness, but acknowledges reckoning and acceptance while leaning on hope. In November 2016, longtime friend Leon Russell died. In January, Derek’s uncle Butch Trucks committed suicide. In May, mentor Col. Bruce Hampton (to whom Signs is dedicated) suffered a fatal coronary on-stage during his 70th birthday celebration (which Trucks and Tedeschi witnessed). The same month, Gregg Allman died after a years-long battle with liver cancer. And in June, keyboardist Kofi Burbridge suffered a heart attack that required emergency surgery.

These events had an obvious impact on Signs, but it results in their most musically diverse offering yet. Sonically it remains in the band’s trademark stew of blues, soul, rock, gospel, and improv, but also showcases a new songwriting sophistication and arranging skills. Co-produced by Trucks, Jim Scott, and Bobby Tis, these 11 tracks engage the full power of TTB beginning with the souled- out opener “Signs, High Times” that places all four singers (Tedeschi, Mike Mattison, Alecia Chakour, and Mark Rivers) alternating up front in a call to rise above the swamp of self-pity. Burbridge’s Wurlitzer is distorted and funky, and the horns blare in support as frontline players trade lines across a deep groove. “I’m Gonna Be There” is a gospel tune wherein Tedeschi displays astonishing skill as a vocalist. The lyrics’ affirmation in the face of darkness is offered with clean, resonant emotional power, underscored by the backing chorus and intertwining guitars from Trucks and guest Doyle Bramhall II, as well as a string quartet sumptuously arranged by Burbridge. “Walk Through This Life” — co-written with bassist Tim Lefebvre (who has amicably left the group) and Warren Haynes, who joins the backing chorus — is a soaring soul anthem with popping horns and wah-wah guitars that Tedeschi refuses to surrender to, no matter the toll loss extracts. “Still Your Mind” references the need for close community in the midst of life’s challenges. Its music careens between garage rock, loopy R&B, and nearly Baroque psychedelia. (Trucks’ guitar break is absolutely unhinged.) “Shame” reveals the band’s musical growth and steely grit simultaneously. While Tedeschi digs into her lyric with the commitment of Mavis Staples, tempos shift, horns fold in drama, and Trucks’ guitars underscore the lyrics’ emotional storm. “They Don’t Shine” is an uptempo rave that walks a driving line between Creedence Clearwater Revival and Ike and Tina Turner with Tedeschi wrangling her Stratocaster in the lead guitar chair. “The Ending” is a wrenching Americana elegy for Hampton. Penned by the bandleaders with Oliver Wood, it’s about the man, his absence, and the wisdom and magic he imparted during his lifetime. It creates an unexpected yet fitting conclusion to Signs, a recording that will surprise and delight TTB fans as their most adventurous to date. – AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek

1 Signs, High Times 3:51
2 I’m Gonna Be There 5:48
3 When Will I Begin 4:17
4 Walk Through This Life 4:46
5 Strengthen What Remains 2:36
6 Still Your Mind 4:57
7 Hard Case 3:22
8 Shame 4:55
9 All the World 3:21
10 They Don’t Shine 3:33
11 The Ending 5:02

Friday 11pm: Feature LP: The Specials – Encore (2019)

AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine

The Specials didn’t end their golden age cleanly and they didn’t reunite smoothly, either. Lynval Golding, Horace Panter and Neville Staple brought the group back in 1996 and that incarnation lasted for five years before being put on ice, but their revival was overshadowed by the 2008 reunion that featured vocalist Terry Hall as well as Roddy Radiation and John Bradbury from the group’s golden days. This reunion stuck around for a decade, gradually losing members until only Hall, Golding and Panter were left, augmented by Ocean Colour Scene/Paul Weller guitarist Steve Cradock. This is the lineup who recorded Encore, a new studio album that arrives roughly ten years after the initial reunion, 18 years after Conquering Ruler, which was the last album released by the Specials, and a whopping 39 years after More Specials, which was the last time Hall made an album with the band. Hall’s return to the fold is to be celebrated, but it’s hard not to notice the absence of Jerry Dammers, the band’s chief songwriter and keyboardist who left behind music for activism upon the dissolution of Special AKA in 1984. Although the Specials push social commentary to the forefront on Encore — there is an ode to Black Lives Matter, a swipe against the second amendment, and the old Fun Boy Three tune “The Lunatics (Have Taken Over the Asylum)” has been recast as an anthem for the era of Brexit and Trump — they’re not spending much time on constructing songs, or even hooks. Everything on Encore is amiable but not especially defined: they play with the ease of a group who has made their living on the road, but they lack urgency, even when they’re singing about hot-button issues. Despite this lack of fire, Encore is a definite step up from the covers albums the Specials made surrounding Y2K: they feel like a band with a purpose, even if they’re not making an especially big deal about it.

1 Black Skin Blue Eyed Boys 3:17
2 B.L.M 5:05
3 Vote for Me 5:01
4 The Lunatics 3:35
5 Breaking Point 3:55
6 Blam Blam Fever 2:46
7 10 Commandments 3:52
8 Embarrassed by You 3:04
9 The Life and Times (Of a Man Called Depression) 5:27
10 We Sell Hope 4:35

Friday 11pm: Feature LP: Santana – In Search Of Mona Lisa (2019)

Santana’s debut for Concord records is pretty low key: an EP containing three new songs, along with edits of two of those tracks. It’s intended as an amuse bouche before Global Revelation, an album he recorded with Rick Rubin, but this EP contains none of Rubin’s signature back-to-basics moves. Recorded with producer Narada Michael Walden, it’s slick and shimmering, existing just on the margins of jazz fusion. The presence of bassist Ron Carter on “Lovers from Another Time” underscores this connection, but the EP opens with “Do You Remember Me,” ten minutes of jamming that’s too mellow to be called epic. Santana picks up a bit with “In Search of Mona Lisa,” which bops to a Bo Diddley beat and contains the only sung narrative of the three songs. It sticks out a bit like a sore thumb compared to the grace of “Lovers from Another Time,” which benefits from its glossiness, making Santana and Carter appear to glide. For this track alone, In Search of Mona Lisa is worth a listen, but the other two songs are amiable enough to not be a distraction.

AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine

1 Do You Remember Me 9:50
2 In Search of Mona Lisa 5:11
3 Lovers From Another Time 4:46
4 Do You Remember Me [Edit Version] 3:30
5 In Search of Mona Lisa [Edit Version] 3:52

Tuesday 1pm: Feature LP: John Mellencamp – Other People’s Stuff (2018)

AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
John Mellencamp gives away the intent of Other People’s Stuff with its titles: it’s a collection of covers, ten songs recorded between 1993 and 2018. Some of these songs come from tribute albums or soundtracks — “Gambling Bar Room Blues” is taken from a 1997 tribute to Jimmie Rodgers, “I Don’t Know Why I Love You” was pulled from 2003’s An Interpretation of Stevie Wonder’s Songs — but most come from Mellencamp’s studio albums. The notable exception is “Eyes on the Prize,” a song he originally performed for President Barack Obama at the White House in 2010, here given a robust new version that sits along the rest of the oldies quite easily, playing as a slice of Americana that can also be read as protest song. Not everything on Other People’s Stuff is politically charged — Robert Johnson’s “Stones in My Passway” is merely haunted, for instance — but taken as a whole, the album can be read as a summation of what Mellencamp loves about America, which amounts to a political statement in 2018. – AllMusic

Friday 6pm: Feature LP: Springsteen on Broadway (2018)

AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Never in rock & roll history has there been a production like Springsteen on Broadway. Following a busy 2016 which opened with him touring a revival of The River with the E-Street Band and concluded with the publication of his autobiography Born to Run, Springsteen decided to stay in one place for 2017 — New York City, to be specific, where he began a residency at the Walter Kerr Theatre in October 2017, performing a show based on his memoir. Springsteen on Broadway turned out to be a runaway success, staying on Broadway through December 15, 2018 and commemorated with a Netflix special supported by this double-disc document of the show.

All of the strengths of the production are apparent on the album: the clever construction of the show, where his story is closely tied to his songs, the good humor and earned sentimentality, the illusion of intimacy. What’s striking about Springsteen on Broadway as an album, as compared to either its stage or screen version, is that it’s possible to hear the pure theatricality of Springsteen’s performance, both in his oversized spoken introductions and singing. It becomes very clear that Springsteen is playing the part of Springsteen, exaggerating certain aspects of his life and persona for dramatic effect. This has a ripple effect through the songs — many of which are quite familiar, with a couple of latter-day numbers thrown in for good measure — which, in this context, feel written instead of live. Perhaps that punctures the Boss’ myth of authenticity for some listeners, but the net effect is a revelation of just how thoroughly and carefully Springsteen turns his life into art: first into song, then into verse, then finally onto stage.