Thursday, Jun 21, 2018
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CD reviews: Tsar has a terrific time celebrating rock and roll

Pure adrenaline, razor-edged screams, and riffs that bounce off the walls like ornery, hyper-active children make Tsar a pure rock-and-roll pleasure.

At only 33 minutes long, "Band Girls Money" is a celebration of punky mayhem, delivered with breakneck efficiency and lots of attitude slathered on liberally. There's not a wasted move on this disc, which comes out kicking and screaming on the title track, followed by the appropriately titled "I Wanna Be Dead."

Tsar is where the Stooges meet Guided By Voices, bringing the energy from Iggy's band and melding it with the Voices' power pop sentiments. "The Love Explosion" sounds like a long-lost GBV song with its "oh, oh, oh" chorus and fuzz guitar melody.

Considered one of the last purveyors of Sunset Strip debauchery, Tsar celebrates rock for rock's sake echoing glam gods T. Rex and Sweet while paying homage to Cheap Trick.

The comparisons could go on - throw in KISS and the Monkees just for kicks - but Tsar transcends its influences with a release that bares its teeth and offers unfettered energy for folks who like their rock delivered straight-up with no chasers.


Electronic and dance music continues to find favor as a genre through which record labels can reinvigorate their musical catalogs. On "Motown Remixed" classics from Smokey Robinson, Stevie Wonder, Gladys Knight, and Marvin Gaye, among many others, are given new musical identities. "Let's Get It On" takes on a suave, stepping groove; "Papa Was A Rolling Stone" is given a mellow beat and jazz ambience, and the Supremes' "My World Is Empty Without You" is slowed down and embellished with strings. When soul standards are only lightly tweaked, it hardly seems worthwhile. But the majority of these remixes retain the integrity of the originals while giving them up-to-the-minute arrangements.


Curtis Stigers continues to emerge as a top-shelf crooner of jazz. He's old school, but far from being another Sinatra imitator. On this album, Stigers - a singer, saxophonist and songwriter - has only two self-penned songs but does wonderful covers of numbers by artists including Sting, Willie Dixon, and Tom Waits. He adapts the art of the love ballad to fit his own style, draws upon your emotions with an unpretentious, heartfelt sound, and uses occasional vocal gymnastics to provide a little bebop and subtle artistic twist to standards.


The 73-year-old Ranglin has been making unusual, interesting guitar music since he started blending the big band sound and light jazz with world music. You can detect the influence of his native Jamaica in much of his work, mostly in the form of ska. Here, Ranglin joins some top Jamaican jazz artists for a fresh, lively assortment of 16 tracks, artfully backing Ranglin's guitar with percussion, keyboards, and an assortment of brass.


CINEMA: A WINDHAM HILL COLLECTION, Various Artists (Windham Hill/Legacy) This heartwarming disc features new interpretations of theme songs from movies over six decades, including Casablanca, Babe, The Wizard of Oz, and The Graduate. Nine of the 12 songs were recorded specifically for this disc, including a lovely Jim Brickman piano solo on Over the Rainbow. T.H.

RUN, Old School Freight Train (Acoustic Disc) The label name emphasizes producer and founder David Grisman s goal of preserving and maintaining the integrity of acoustic music. He ll go a long way doing just that with this talented, dynamic quintet of virtuoso musicians and this bright package of contemporary music. A few vocals highlight a dozen pieces skillfully played on guitar, bass, fiddle, mandolin, and banjo. K.R.

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