The vast majority of albums are compilations of unrelated songs that, except for being made by the same person or group, have no unifying theme or cohesiveness. It s the way we ve come to accept the packaging of this product we call music.
Every once in a while, however, a band or artist creates a seamless series of songs that flow together in a way that sweeps the listener along on an almost cinematic journey.
British rock quartet Coldplay s first new project in three years has that kind of an impact, along the lines of Dark Side of the Moon, Sergeant Pepper s Lonely Hearts Club Band, or The Joshua Tree the latter, like Viva La Vida, produced by Brian Eno.
Each of the 10 songs stands on its own well enough with catchy melodies, interesting and obtuse lyrics, and meticulous production.
But taken as a whole, there s magic to the way the melodies, rhythms, tones, layers, and arrangements combine to create moods and atmospheres.
Singer-pianist Chris Martin, bassist Guy Berryman, guitarist Jonny Buckland, and drummer Will Champion generally opt for understated and gentle rock songs, with only an occasional ramped-up guitar or pummeling drum beat.
They open the disc with Life in Technicolor, a surprising instrumental number for a band known for intriguing lyrics. But the jangly, upbeat number gets things off to an uplifting start before Coldplay slides into a series of twilight-like tunes that shimmer with shades of color.
A real gem is 42, starting off with Martin on solo piano and lazy vocals as he drifts along like a dreamy Pink Floyd ballad, then the band suddenly kicking up a wave of roiling guitars, with Martin singing with intensity, You thought you might be a ghost. You didn t get to heaven but you made it close.
Lovers in Japan/Reign of Love conjures up the emotional balladeering of U2 at its finest while the strings, shifting layers, and sliding bass lines of Yes have a Beatlesque complexity and beauty.
The title track opens with staccato strings and quickly builds into an anthem, barreling its way toward a crescendo as Martin sings of power gained and lost, but that was when I ruled the world.
Viva la Vida is Spanish for Live the Life, and Coldplay leads the way as we enjoy this journey together.
These five veterans, who honed their considerable skills playing alongside a Who s Who of country music legends, have joined forces for a truly great traditional album.
Their music is all original stuff, yet it sounds like it was done by the industry legends who influenced them.
For years these guys separately shared the stage with such artists as Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, Buck Owens, Dwight Yoakam, Raul Malo, and others. They were featured instrumentalists or handled some vocal chores for the headliners, but here they take turns writing and singing their own creations.
The result is a dozen outstanding barroom numbers with fine melodies, drenched in oldtime country sound and performed expertly throughout. There are no weaknesses and, despite the album s name, hopefully this quintet will churn out more like it.
Walter Trout plays the blues with an intriguing mix of guts and grits, his music imbued with a deep-seated passion for the best the music has to offer.
It helps that his band this time around is filled out with Kenny Aronoff and James Hutch Hutchinson on drums and bass respectively, a rhythm section equally adept at swinging or staying in the pocket.
They allow Trout to explore every element an ace blues guitarist has at hand: great tone, fiery energy, and a willingness to rip off into a solo knowing the rhythm section will be with him when he comes back. After stints with Canned Heat, John Lee Hooker and John Mayall, Trout obviously appreciates the value of tight playing.
His songwriting is refreshingly topical on tracks like Welcome to the Human Race, Child of Another Day, and Can t Have It All, providing a grizzled veteran s updating of the blues. Trout also sings with plenty of soul, making The Outsider, a refreshing release from one of the best the blues has to offer.
The Dixon-Rhyne Project mixes old school jazz with modern modes of expression on this delightfully strong indie release.
But the biggest eye-opener is the realization that a quartet driven by a 71-year-old on a Hammond B-3 organ can still be pretty hip, loose and captivating. That s what happens here with organist Melvin Rhyne, who achieves great chemistry with saxophonist Rob Dixon, guitarist Fareed Haque and and drummer Kenny Phelps.
The quartet plays like a solid jam band you d love to get to know better, hitting a groove that s beautiful, lively and complex enough to elevate a listener s sense of intrigue. Rhyne was once associated with the late Wes Montgomery, a fellow Indianapolis native held in high reverence for his work on the jazz guitar.