From his early days as a pub rocker in Brinsley Schwarz through his stint with Dave Edmunds redefining a unique brand of English power pop, Nick Lowe has always been a classic stylist.
Able to write nearly perfect 3-minute songs like “Cruel to Be Kind,” “What's So Funny About Peace Love and Understanding,” and a slew of others, Lowe has always made the creative act of penning a tune seem effortless.
He takes that unique talent to another level on his latest release, “The Convincer,” a soulful song cycle that focuses on that most enduring of topics: love.
Continuing where the relatively low key “The Impossible Bird” started in 1994, his most recent effort is a mostly quiet, mature affair. Not coincidentally, it contains some of his best work.
Lowe's arrangements are spare without being thin and each song sounds like a classic. Picking out highlights on such a fine release seems futile, but especially noteworthy are “Cupid Must Be Angry,” which has the feel and tone of a vintage Phil Spector-produced girl group, and “She's Got Soul” a gentle swinging ode to a great woman.
- ROD LOCKWOOD
This five-CD set puts the career of Simon & Garfunkel in perspective, with extensive liner notes, rare photographs, and bonus tracks, many previously unissued - plus the discs are packed in replicas of the original sleeves (the five discs also can be bought separately in a jewel case). “Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M.,” “Sounds of Silence,” “Parsley, Sage, Rosemary & Thyme,” “Bookends,” and “Bridge Over Troubled Water” have been remastered, so the sound is upgraded. Taken sequentially, the discs show the duo's growth as artists and writers, their maturing as performers. Taken as a whole they are testament to a remarkable body of work.
- RICHARD PATON
Everyone loves a good blues harmonica, and Detroit native James Montgomery, who has had his own band since 1970, has played with the likes of B.B. King and Bruce Springsteen. Unfortunately, his seventh disc doesn't have the cut-loose quality you would expect from someone with his resume. The only exceptions are his cover of Bo Diddley's “Mona” and two songs on which he's joined by James Cotton. The disc mixes in a couple of originals with covers of songs from John Lee Hooker, Willie Dixon, and even Hank Williams, but the technique seems more methodical than jump and jive.
- TOM HENRY
In his eagerness to protest an unjust world , trumpter Dave Douglas has dipped into the past and picked up the gauntlet once held by Archie Shepp, Charles Mingus, and Max Roach to create a nine-piece suite inspired by the works of a number of activists and authors. Built around a performance titled “Thoughts Around Mahfouz” ( the author Naguib Mahfouz), and inspired both Mahfouz's prose and a realization by the composer about war and profit which hit him during the NATO action in Yugoslavia, Douglas uses the voices of various instruments to convey feelings such as anger, confusion, and pain.
- LARRY ROBERTS