January 23, 2020

Hawkwind – Road to Utopia – Cherry Red

By Kristi Kates | Oct. 20, 2018

Dave Brock, Mr. Dibs, Haz Wheaton, Magnus Martin, and Richard Chadwick make up the current incarnation of Hawkwind, now (remarkably) on its 31st album. The band brought along conductor and writer Mike Batt to add some orchestral elements to reboots of a selection of their tracks; it’s a little weird, but you can at least appreciate the band’s nods to prog-rock on tracks like “Psychic Power” and the newly bossa-nova “Quark, Strangeness and Charm,” as well as its ability to rope in Eric Clapton as a special guitar guest on “The Watcher.” **

Paul Carrack – These Days – Carrack UK
Carrack’s live shows always seem to run under the radar, but if you ever catch one, you’ll be treated to some of the best twisty-turny songwriting you’ve ever heard, and he replicates that feel well on this studio set. Co-writing several songs with his former Squeeze bandmate Chris Difford brought out even more of Carrack’s wit on these smart and soulful tracks that never fail to tell a story. Standouts on this collection include the Squeeze-esque “Life in a Bubble,” faintly Motown “You Make Me Feel Good,” and the sleek pop of “Amazing.” ***

Jason Mraz – Know. – Atlantic
Mraz’s first full-length studio set in nearly five years is a reverse-politics venture for the singer-songwriter, who said he’d penned a long list of “frustrated and angry” songs in the wake of the 2016 presidential election but shelved most of them for this more positive set of love-focused folk-pop tracks. Among them, the romantic “Let’s See What the Night Can Do” and “Better with You,” the pay-it-forward sentiments of “Have it All,” and the banter of “More Than Friends,” which features vocals from the ubiquitous Meghan Trainor. ** ½

Josh Groban – Bridges – Reprise
Steve Jordan, Dan Huff, Toby Gad, Bernie Herms — an impressive set of producers worked with Groban to get this album made. The first single, “Granted,” shows off the baritone’s distinctive vocals, as does the original romantic ballad “More of You.” Elsewhere on the set, his duets with Sarah McLachlan (“Run”), Andrea Bocelli (“We Will Meet Once Again,” in Italian,) and a delicately pretty cover of Simon and Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water” all work flawlessly. ***


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