It takes the Psychodots all of about two seconds to slam into gear on their latest disc and knock off any rust that may have accumulated over the 10 years since their last studio release.
"Terminal Blvd." perfectly captures the band's live sound: a combustible mix of thrashing pop and mid-tempo craftsmanship that packs virtuoso instrumental work and songwriting in three-and-a-half-minute packages.
The power pop trio of Sylvania natives drummer Chris Arduser, guitarist Rob Fetters, and bass player Bob Nyswonger invest everything they play with a Who-like energy that's as tight as you'd expect from guys who've been playing together for decades.
"Disposable Man," the relentlessly rocking Nyswonger-penned opening cut, starts out at full-throttle and establishes the Cincinnati-based band's sonic footprint: impeccably arranged vocal harmonies, Fetters' endlessly inventive guitar work, and an uncompromisingly fierce rhythm section.
"You Will Never Be Satisfied" and "Not A Pretty Face" display the band's unerring knack for '60s pop-era melodic hooks, updated in a warm mix that's modern without the brittle sound of digital recording techniques.
Both Fetters and Arduser released excellent solo albums earlier this year, so it's surprising they had enough material to deliver a disc of such consistently high-quality songs on "Terminal Blvd." We can only hope it's not another decade before their next Psychodots release.
- ROD LOCKWOOD
If you think you know Neil Diamond and his music through his hits and major tours, this disc encourages you to think again, because these 12 songs show another side of him. It's Diamond unplugged, but more than that, because these aren't hits reworked. They're new songs with resonant melodies, thoughtful lyrics, and convincing vocals. The pace is slow for the most part, though "Delirious Love" is enthusiastically uptempo. And there are no swelling orchestral crescendoes, no bravado on a collection that reveals a new facet of Neil Diamond.
- RICHARD PATON
Confidence never seems to be in short supply for the multitalented Bette Midler. It certainly isn't on this album, on which she breezes through a great collection of Peggy Lee covers. Midler's backed by a fabulous orchestra and gets a good assist on a duet from Barry Manilow, the album's producer. The sultry Midler quickly dispels any fears that she is an unlikely match to cover the more subdued Lee, instead showing that she is a brilliant fit. The project works because of Midler's insight and skills: She provides the right touch of sass and spark to make this something other than a routine tribute album.
- TOM HENRY
With her eighth studio album, McBride sets her sights on glory with new readings of classic country songs. She succeeds beautifully, bringing a little something fresh to each while retaining the feel of the original. The 18 tracks here are all gems, and her version of Johnny Cash's "I Still Miss Someone," a magnificent and haunting duet with Dolly Parton, is a highlight worth repeated plays. If we're lucky there'll be more of these traditional classics to come.
- KEN ROSENBAUM