Art Thompson's Faves

January 29, 2014

Sonny Landreth
Elemental Journey

In taking a stylistic turn by releasing an album of instrumental songs, Landreth lets his guitar playing be a substitute for the rich lyrical content that has been a hallmark of his previous albums—ten if you’re counting. Taking a cue from the jazz world, Landreth embarks on a venture that takes his music into the more abstract domain, where it’s left to the melody and harmony to convey the mood, emotion, and vibe. As always, the centerpiece is Landreth’s mind-boggling slide playing, but some unexpected twists await— such as the steel drums that infuse “Forgotten Story” (played by Robert Greenridge) and the string parts (played by members of Lafayette, Louisiana’s Acadiana Symphony Orchestra), that add interesting texture to several of the tunes. Fundamentally, however, Elemental Journey is an amazing guitar record that wows your senses at every turn. From the opening track, “Gaia Tribe,” in which Landreth takes a brief respite to let Joe Satriani unleash a scorching solo to the high-velocity “Reckless Beauty” to the pairing of Landreth and Eric Johnson for some inspired and toneful interplay on “Passionola,” this is a thoroughly captivating album and a testament to the enduring power of instrumental guitar music. Landfall.

Robin Trower
Farther On Up the Road: The Chrysalis Years 1977-1983

This three-CD set presents the six albums that Trower made as he transitioned away from the more Hendrixy sound that his successful solo career had been based on to the funkier and more R&B flavored tunes first heard on the 1977 release, In City Dreams. This is followed by Caravan to Midnight from 1978 and Victims of the Fury from 1979, the latter signaling Trower’s decision to call an end to the R&B experiment and veer back toward his original sound (also featured here is a rare B-side tune called “One in a Million”). From this point, the Trower saga takes another dramatic turn as Jack Bruce steps in on bass and vocals for the albums B.L.T. and Truce (from 1981 and 1982 respectively), with the second release standing out as quite a showcase for Bruce’s songwriting. Completing the circle is the somewhat overlooked Back It Up from 1983— Trower’s final release on Chrysalis, and a kickass album that harks to some of Trower’s best early moments and features James Dewar on bass and vocals. EMI.

Grateful Dead
All the Years Combine: The DVD Collection

For the hardest of hardcore Deadheads comes this 14 DVD collection that includes 12 concert films, all the “bonus” footage from the previous live DVDs, and another bonus disc that contains five previously unreleased performances, the 1992 documentary Backstage Pass, and a new interview with Dead archivist David Lemieux. You also get a 40-page booklet featuring rare photos and liner notes by Blair Jackson. It goes without saying that you need to be clinically close to the Dead to fully appreciate the 38 hours of footage presented here, but for those who meet the criteria, there’s simply nothing like it. Shout! Factory.

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