ONE MORE LIGHT
Linkin Park (Warner Bros.)
Linkin Park’s transformation from the howling rap-metal of its breakthrough album Hybrid Theory to the radio-ready pop of its new album One More Light (Warner Bros.) is really only shocking to those who haven’t checked in with the band since the turn of the century.
Yes, it is a giant leap from Chester Bennington screaming lyrics and Brad Delson’s roaring guitars in songs like “Crawling” to the electro-pop of “Nobody Can Save Me” and “Sorry for Now,” where Bennington sounds like he has taken over Owl City. But there have been plenty of steps in between, during the past decade or so, and Linkin Park has clearly been sharpening its pop hooks.
With “Good Goodbye,” the band seems as sprightly as any number of pop newcomers, especially with its ahead-of-the-curve verses from Pusha T and British sensation Stormzy. The current single “Heavy,” which features newcomer Kiiara, sounds so timely and pop-oriented that it actually shocked some Linkin Park fans, though the fact that it is so well-crafted should have soothed any ruffled feathers.
Linkin Park has applied its considerable skills to songs and ideas that are far more mainstream and grown up, but shouldn’t that be expected? It’s one thing to fret about the future when you’re a 20-something, but if you’re pushing 40 and still haven’t come up with any answers, there’s a problem.
Bennington is actually now singing more inspirational songs like “Battle Symphony” and the title track, a touching, spare ballad where he stands up for those who are struggling, singing “Who cares if one more light goes out? Well, I do,” before a Coldplay-ish bit of guitar work kicks in.
One More Light shows how well Linkin Park has absorbed the current pop scene and applied it to their own music to genuinely reflect who they are today, not who some fans want them to be.
— GLENN GAMBOA, Newsday
STRAW IN THE WIND
The Steel Woods (Woods Music/Thirty Tigers)
Fame Studios producer Rick Hall maintains that southern rock was born the day Duane Allman goaded Wilson Pickett into covering the Beatles’ “Hey Jude.” Allman proceeded to tear down Hall’s Muscle Shoals, Ala., studio with a series of guitar fills that spawned a half-century of imitators.
Over time, that sound made its way from the Allman Brothers and other pioneers to Nashville’s country scene, where its sway remains obvious today.
Into this landscape come the Steel Woods, a Nashville band that bills itself as a hybrid of styles, from Americana to bluegrass to rhythm and blues. But they make no bones about being “steeped in the ethos of southern rock,” which is obvious from the first steely twang of their debut album, “Straw in the Wind.”
This is, above all, a Southern rock album — and a good one.
The album blends styles but draws its strength from power chords and soaring guitar solos set firmly in the southern rock ethos. Compelling vocals by Wes Bayliss wouldn’t be out of place on an early Marshall Tucker Band album.
Whether on a galloping murder romp called “Della Jane’s Heart” or the ballad “If We Never Go,” the Steel Woods demonstrate with gusto that this genre isn’t played out.
So no, the Steel Woods may not open new doors here the way Allman and others did way back when. But they do walk through the door in style.
— SCOTT STROUD,Associated Press
Bobby G with Curtis Grant, Jr., & the Midnight Rockers (Third Street Cigar Records)
Days before this outstanding, home-grown disc was released at a special event in Perrysburg on Friday, co-producer John Henry — owner of Waterville’s Third Street Cigars — made what appeared to be a bold claim: “We’re going to have an album that sounds as good as an Alligator Records album made right here in Toledo,” a reference to the pre-eminent blues label that’s based in Chicago.
Henry went on to say how neat it’ll be to have this Toledo-made product sold around the world on the Internet. He said he was already getting advance orders from blues fans in Europe.
Honestly, after listening to the infectious sound on this disc several times now, I can’t take issue with his comparison to Alligator.
This album is noteworthy for several reasons.
It is the first one in print that was recorded inside the new Toledo School for the Arts studio. More are coming, which is a great thing for the school and for area musicians.
The technical aspects of this disc are highly professional, from soundboard mixer/TSA teacher Walter “Mac” McKeever’s job of putting everything together digitally to the sheer clarity of the sound and the crisp reproduction. And the music itself is highly engaging.
Toledo-area bluesman and Mississippi Delta transplant Robert Lee “Bobby G” Gray, 73, who is being recorded for the first time in a career that spans more than 50 years, provides fine vocals — not too overpowering, but in an authentic blues vein, especially on the title track.
There’s a fluid, strong backup sound generated by Toledo-area band members Curtis Grant, Jr., on drums, Larry Gold on guitar, and Johnny “HiFi” Newmark on bass.
And, of course, there’s also a big assist from national blues recording artist Johnny Rawls. Rawls wrote or co-wrote all 10 songs. He graciously spent a week in Toledo in December as co-producer of this and another forthcoming album, and appears as a session guitarist on this disc.
This album also is the first of what Henry promises will be many under his new Third Street Cigar Records label.
— TOM HENRY,The Blade
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