Backed by an assortment of players including members of his groups Monday Night Band and Candy Golde and assisted by guest vocalists like Robert Pollard (Guided by Voices) and the members of Hanson, the longtime Cheap Trick drummer steps out with a 13-song covers album. The covers are not the usual suspects though; this sublime set of pop rockers begins with Pollard singing his own "Do Something Real" but the set soon flashes back to the '60s with a nice take on the Who's "Armenia in the Sky" and it's kindred spirit, Paul Revere and the Raiders' bouncy pop gem "Him or Me" featuring Hanson. Two of the most striking vocal turns come from Alejandro Escovedo who handles the Rolling Stones' "Tell Me" and his own composition "Slow Down." A variety of vocalists can sometimes hamper this type of collection but everything here flows together nicely including a blues-rocked cover of Bob Dylan's "It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry" with Soul Asylum's Dave Pirner behind the mic. A good listen throughout and a revealing insight into some of the sounds that inspired Cheap Trick.
A pop rock singer with a voice that mashes up the bright tones of Gwen Stefani with an occasional huskiness that recalls Stevie Nicks, Crown Jwlz ("CJ") is well on her way to joining those artists on the hit parade with the seven songs on this debut EP. On "Cool," a cut that includes a little hard rock guitar, CJ sings with the power and attitude of one of Pat Benatar's anger-toned rockers, and her lyrics portray strength throughout whether she's extoling the virtues of sticking with her lover on "Party Past the Sunrise" or showing a bit of vulnerability on the big and tender orchestrated ballad "Without U." In short, Crown Jwlz is not the latest entry in the mindless pop fluff sweepstakes; CJ's penchant for lyrical cool and radio-ready hooks may soon have her positioned as the royalty that her stage name alludes to.
The Last Ditches
The Last Ditches are not exactly a household name but within are found some well-traveled players including former Johnny Thunders and the Heartbreakers guitarist Walter Lure and drummer Bobby Rondinelli who has beat the skins for everyone from Black Sabbath to Rainbow to Blue Oyster Cult. Rounded out by guitarist Binky Philips and bassist Randy Pratt, here the band presents a solid set of punk-tinged guitar-oriented rockers including the Kinks-like "That's What We Do," the Romantics-flavored "Where Am I" and the fun to sing-along to put down of "So So-So." A little funk creeps into the mix for "Itchin' for a Fight," and with most of the set recalling the Thunders era there's the obligatory heroin song in "Monkey on My Back." With only a couple exceptions Lure delivers hip-ly growled Willy Deville-style vocals throughout and this impressive set was completely written by band members except for a cover of Thunders' "I Wanna Be Loved."
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