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Reviews of this week's CD releases


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William Prince

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 26/11/2015 (2494 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

William Prince

William Prince Earthly Days
Earthly Days (Independent)

William Prince is the kind of guy people call a ‘songwriter’s songwriter.’ His tunes aren’t going to instantly bowl you over. They’ll instead seduce you with their plain-spoken imagery and bring a lump to your throat with their heartfelt sentiment.

Born and raised on Peguis First Nation, young William grew up steeped in both the gospel and secular music of his late father, Ed Prince. Now 29, after several years spent as a member of Indian City, he’s stepping out on his own with an impressive 11-song set of roots and country tunes produced by Winnipeg troubadour Scott Nolan, who has masterfully captured Prince’s low-key, observational style and tone.

While the record kicks off with a jig, its inclusion seems like an homage to Prince’s musical heritage. The real heart of Earthly Days is in storytelling tunes such as The Carny, Breathless and Eddy Boy — songs in which Prince runs his measured eye and rich baritone over life’s shortcomings yet still finds warmth and hope. Indeed, there’s a real gospel tone to several of these songs, especially the title track and album-closer Grace. HHH1/2

Prince will celebrate the release of Earthly Days with a show on Dec. 7 at the West End Cultural Centre.

DOWNLOAD: The Carny; Breathless; Mama

— John Kendle


Neil Young

Neil Young Bluenote Café
Bluenote Café (Warner Music)

IF you’re keeping track, this two-CD (four-LP) set is Disc 11 in the humbly titled Neil Young Archives Performance Series. Though gleaned from an era when the Bard of Omemee was being critically chastised for fronting an R&B big band, this set is startlingly enjoyable. While it was recorded live across 10 different venues, the live sound levels are fresh and even.

Young is in fine form here and his guitar playing is particularly hot. Tracks such as Bad News Comes To Town feature Young in full bluesman mode; while his trademark stinging, high-note runs are unmistakable, his extended bent-note wanderings never get boring.

The back-to-back pairing of the nearly 13-minute Ordinary People and Crime in the City is worth the price of these discs alone. The set also delivers seven previously unreleased songs, including the shoulda-been-a-contender Doghouse.

Hearing this now, it’s hard to believe when Young was originally performing with this large band his critics whined about him drifting from his muse.

The neon sign of famed former Winnipeg hangout the Blue Note Café sits proudly on the album cover, making this a must-have for local aficionados. HHHH1/2

DOWNLOAD: Crime in the City, Ain’t It The Truth

— Jeff Monk


Billy Gibbons and the BFG’s

Billy Gibbons and the BFG's Perfectamundo
Perfectamundo (Universal Music)

Yes, you read that correctly: ZZ Top main man William Frederick Gibbons yanked himself away from his tandem musical mates to release his first solo album. It is well worth a listen.

Rather than create anything too familiar, as the album title indicates, Gibbons feeds into his love for Spanish/Mexican sounds to interesting effect on these 11 tracks. Using a full band, including some pretty righteous Hammond B3 work, Gibbons rather democratically allows everyone to let loose, but he doesn’t disappoint when it comes to weaving in his signature juicy guitar tones. The cover versions here (Got Love If You Want It, Treat Her Right, Baby Please Don’t Go) are definite signposts directed at Gibbons’ Texas blues roots. The spicy twists and turns in the arrangements are to be expected and while the guitarist/songwriter has never shied away from using south-of-the-border themes in his other band, on Perfectamundo he has, well, perfected the vibe.

Auto-Tune is used on some of the vocals and the guest rap on You’re What’s Happenin’, Baby and Quiero Mas Dinero only signifies Gibbons is trying to be a little too hip for his own good, but in the end, this album may be as good as this guy gets. HHHH

DOWNLOAD: Pickin’ Up Chicks on Dowling Street, Quiero Mas Dinero

— Jeff Monk


Chris Isaak

Chris Isaak First Comes the Night
First Comes the Night (Vanguard)

CHRIS Isaak’s latest album, First Comes the Night, delivers a full flight of songs directly in his Roy Orbison-esque wheelhouse, featuring Isaak’s smooth voice, twangy guitar work and surf-rock-tinged melancholy.

You’ve heard all this before, because it’s all Isaak ever does.

That’s not to say this is necessarily a bad thing, and the singer is probably the coolest cat in the last 20 years to explore his gosh-darn broken heart. First Comes the Night is like most of Isaak’s previous work, and he doesn’t appear comfortable singing about anything else.

The title track is about his broken heart. The next track, Please Don’t Call, with its steady backbeat and lonesome guitar, is about his broken heart. And on Perfect Lover, he gently sings: “I stand alone again/I’ve lost my perfect lover.”

Isaak sounds as good as ever, and for his dedicated fan base this release will hit the mark just fine. Moreover, Isaak’s air-tight backing band, Silvertone, helps salvage a few tracks, such as the morbid Down in Flames, in which Isaak wryly explores the deaths of the rich and famous. HHH

DOWNLOAD: Please Don’t Call

— Ron Harris, The Associated Press



Antonio Vivaldi

Antonio Vivaldi Teatro Alla Moda
Teatro Alla Moda (Harmonia Mundi)

BAROQUE music ensemble Gli Incogniti infuses this new release of Vivaldi’s chamber works with a can-do attitude and spirit of adventure. Inspired by Italian composer Marcello’s 1720 pamphlet Il teatro alla moda, mocking the growing excesses of Venetian opera, the album features a dozen of the so-called Red Priest’s elegantly refined compositions, including nine solo violin concerti performed by the group’s founder, violinist Amandine Beyer.

However, it doesn’t stop there. In its stated exploration of Vivaldi as both a masterful musician as well as man of the theatre, the concept disc unfolds as an imaginary, purely instrumental opera that ebbs and flows throughout its 72-minute duration. As clever as that premise may be, the listener is just as well off allowing its offerings — including a blustering overture from L’Olimpiade, the more limpid Largo RV 228, or the composer’s only known surviving dance music, Ballo Primo de ‘Arsilda Refina di Ponto — to wash over the ear like waves in a watery canal. HHHH

— Holly Harris


Updated on Thursday, November 26, 2015 9:44 AM CST: Rearranges images

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