January 28, 2020

Mike McGear – McGear – Esoteric

By Kristi Kates | Sept. 7, 2019

Paul McCartney might have the looks and the major fame, but his twin brother, Mike McCartney, who uses the pseudonym McGear professionally, is no slouch. This is a re-release of McGear’s 1974 sophomore solo album, which was produced by his Beatles brother and also featured Linda McCartney and several other members of Wings and The Chieftains. McGear’s acclaimed cover of Roxy Music’s “Sea Breezes” is here, as well as the uber-catchy “Leave It,” and the smorgasbord scrapbook of sounds and psychedelia that is “The Man Who Found God on the Moon.”  ***
The Gathering – Souvenirs – Peaceville
The Dutch alternative rockers went big on this album, with special versions that offer four additional tracks and come on double gatefold vinyl. Infusing electro-rock tracks with hints of jazz, the band, fronted by singer Anneke Van Giersbergen (who has since left the band), opens strong with first tune “These Good People,” highlighting some spooky Sigur-Ros-like piano riffs before the guitars and harmonies jump in. Industrial-rocker “Golden Ground” digs into the band’s favorite plodding dark tempo, while standout “Monsters” proves to have the album’s strongest commercial hook. ** ½

Jonathan Larson – The Jonathan Larson Project – Ghostlight
Larson was the creator of the major stage hit Rent but suffered an untimely death due to a tear in his aorta before the play even hit Broadway, leaving fans devoid of any further works from the skilled composer. Now, 16 new originals — sourced in part from Larson’s own papers — have been arranged for a five-piece band and performed by an equally skilled set of singers. The music itself veers from impassioned Broadway-worthy fare (“SOS,” “One of These Days”) to intriguing glimpses into ’80s dance-pop (“Out of My Dreams”) and more. ***
Valis Ablaze – Render – LB Records
Directly following its debut album, Boundless (out last spring), Valis Ablaze apparently ran right back into the studio to record its sophomore effort. Playing on the heavy end of alternative rock, the set was previewed by its first two singles: “Proxy,” a hook-heavy, radio-friendly short tune, and “Hollow Heart,” which highlights the pushed range of singer Phil Owen’s vocals. Like the preview songs, the rest of the album isn’t immediately catchy but consistent and solid. Tracks like its closer, “Elevation,” hint that more progress is likely on the way from this band. ** ½


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