Country music (for those who want to call it such nowadays) is among the mot popular of genres across the musical universe. From radio to television, it seems like it is inescapable. Just look at how many so-called country musicians get onto all of the karaoke contests across all of the TV networks. Look at all of the pomp and circumstance around all of the country music awards shows on television. While country music gets so much attention, sadly its brethren (of sorts) in the realms of bluegrass, Americana and folk get far less attention and credit from the mainstream. This is the case despite the reality that all of the genres are so tightly interwoven. That is why each year, Phil’s Picks has put them all together into one year-end list honoring the best of all four of those genres, which are all really part of one bigger family of music.
This year has seen plenty of notable releases from across those genres, too. Case in point is Delta Rae’s latest album, The Dark. This group, originally from Durham, North Carolina, has walked that blurred line of country and Americana so well over the years and continues to do so to this day, and its new record proves that so well. Bela Fleck’s latest album, My Bluegrass Heart, is unquestionably among the best of the year’s new bluegrass albums, on another hand. Ronnie Milsap also returned with a great new, pure country music record in the form of A Better Word For Love, showing that thankfully, real country music is not dead yet. Even Alan Jackson – another pure country artist – thankfully released new material this year that is noteworthy in the form of Where Have You Gone. The record is another nice reminder that there is still hope for real country in a sea that is so awash in pop music that masquerades as country. All of these records and more are part of Phil’s Picks’ 2021 Top 10 New Country/Bluegrass/Americana/Folk Albums list.
As with each list done annually, it consists of the year’s Top 10 New titles, plus five additional honorable mention titles. That brings the total to 15, yes, but the title remains, Top 10. Those honorable mention titles just deserve their own special recognition.
Without any further ado, here for your consideration is Phil’s Picks’ 2021 Top 10 New Country/Bluegrass/Folk/Americana Albums list.
PHIL’S PICKS 2021 TOP 10 NEW COUNTRY/BLUEGRASS/FOLK/AMERICANA ALBUMS
John Hiatt with the Jerry Douglas Band – Leftover Feelings
Delta Rae – The Dark
David Crosby – For Free
Bela Fleck – By Bluegrass Heart
Ronnie Milsap – A Better Word for Love
Stoney Creek Bluegrass Band – A Miner’s Life
Alan Jackson – Where Have You Gone
Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats – The Future
Langhorne Slim – Strawberry Mansion
Blackberry Smoke – You Hear Georgia
Valerie June — The Moon and the Stars: Prescriptions For Dreamers
Robert Plant & Alison Krauss – Raise The Roof
The Felice Brothers – From Dreams to Dust
Son Volt – Electro Melodier
Rick Faris – The Next Mountain
That’s all for this year’s list of top new Country/Bluegrass/Americana/Folk records. It is still not the end of this year’s top new music lists, though. Still on tap are lists for the year’s top new rock and hard rock/metal albums, new live CDs, and the year’s top new albums overall. That is all on the way, so stay tuned!
Led Zeppelin front man Robert Plant and country music songstress Alison Krauss returned this month with their second new release in the form of Raise The Roof. The 12-song, standard edition (Target offers the record in a deluxe edition that features two bonus tracks, bringing the total to 14) is the duo’s first new record in 14 years, and will receive support with a tour planned to launch in the new year. The 53-minute record is, at least in the ears and mind of this critic, a mixed bag that maybe was not entirely worth the exceptionally long wait. That is not to say that the album is a failure, but it could have been better at the same time. The record’s main positive (and negative) is its sequencing. This will be discussed shortly. A much clearer negative is the issue of record’s lyrical content. This will be discussed a little later. Another semi-positive comes in the record’s musical content. This will also be discussed later. Each item noted here is important in its own way to the whole of Raise The Roof. All things considered, they make the album one of the lesser of this year’s new albums that, again, simply proved to not be worth the wait.
Robert Plant and Alison Krauss’ recently released album, Raise The Roof is a record that sadly will not have everyone wanting to raise the roof. It is not a failure, but it is also not a complete success. This is proven through the duality in the album’s sequencing. The sequencing is both positive and negative because it starts off weakly with its brooding opener, ‘Quattro (World Drifts In).’ Honestly, things do not really even start to pick up until the record reaches its fourth song, ‘Trouble With My Lover.’ The song’s arrangement immediately conjures thoughts of Peggy Lee’s rendition of Little Willie John’s classic song, ‘Fever.’ From there, things do finally pick up and remain relatively stable at least until the record’s end. So again, the negative of the sequencing is thankfully only temporary. To that end, it is not enough to be too problematic, but is still unavoidable in talking about the record’s shortcomings even with its more positive side in mind. While the sequencing is mostly a positive, the record’s lyrical content proves negative, but again not to the point that it makes the record a failure.
The lyrical content featured in Raise The Roof is so problematic because it is mostly the same thing from one song to the next – love gained and lost. Throughout the record, those overarching themes are so prominent. Even early on, audiences get the theme in the form of the album’s second song, ‘The Price of Love.’ This is one of the many songs in this record that focuses on lost love. It opens with Krauss singing, “Wine is sweet and gin is bitter/Drink while you can/You won’t forget her/You talk too much/You laugh too loud/That’s the price of love/The debt you pay with tears and pain/The price of love/It costs you more when you’re to blame.” Plant joins in with Kraus in the song’s chorus. The whole statement here is, as noted, one of those oh woe is me songs about love lost. The mood that these lyrics set alongside the song’s musical arrangement is melancholy to say the least. Some will appreciate that mood and the wording in the lyrics, but others will likely be far less receptive, even if they are going through so much of what is in this song. It really does make the song problematic in its own right. Add in that, again, love gained and lost is pretty much all that the songs’ lyrical content presents, and the problems only continue from here.
‘Going Where The Lonely Go’ continues to show the problem with the record’s lyrical content. Herein is yet another song that is just about love lost. That is made clear as Krauss sings in the song’s lead and second verse against the decidedly melancholy honky tonk style musical arrangement, “Rolling with the flow/Going where the lonely go/Anywhere the lights are low/Going where the lonely go/Making up things to do/Not running in all directions/Trying to find you/I’m just rolling with the flow/Going where the lonely go.” Now herein lies even more problem, not just with the lyrics, but with the music, too. The lyrics present the song’s subject as someone who is over that significant other. This is someone who is moving on, yet the song’s musical arrangement is so sad and melancholy. It really does not match. Meanwhile the lyrical theme is again that of a relationship that has met its end. It is anything but unique, but rather more of the same from Kraus and Plant in this record. It further detracts from the engagement and entertainment.
‘Can’t Let Go’ is yet another example of audiences getting more of the same, lyrically from this album. Herein is yet another song whose lyrical content is melancholy as it focuses on a broken relationship. This is made clear as Kraus sings, “Told you, baby/One more time/Don’t make me sit all alone and cry/Well, it’s over/I know it/But I can’t let go/I’m like a fish out of water/And a cat in a tree/You don’t even want to talk to me/Well, it’s over/And I know it/But I can’t let go.” The song’s second verse is similar with the mention of the candle “burning bright” and the subject feeling like he/she has “been shot.” What is so interesting is that in this case, the song’s musical arrangement is in direct contrast what with its energy. In the same breath, that energy helps to translate the sense of denial that the song’s subject feels in this case. To that end, the song works. Yet at the same time, the song’s lyrical content is still so much in the same vein as the other songs examined here and the rest of the album’s entries. Keeping that in mind, that audiences get the same kind of lyrical content from one song to the next, it detracts noticeably from the record’s presentation. It is not enough to make the album a failure, but it still certainly does take away from the album’s engagement and entertainment.
While the lyrical content featured in this record detracts noticeably from the album’s presentation, its musical counterpart makes up for that issue at least to a point. As noted in an examination of the songs here, that is made clear. The musical arrangements do well in their own right to help translate the emotion in each song’s lyrical approach. What’s more, the arrangements are unique of one another, too. The record opens with a light, piano-driven neo-folk piece that echoes influences of songs from Fleetwood Mac, what with the harmonies and subtle vocals. ‘The Price of Love,’ which immediately follows, is something of a neo-folk rock composition. Meanwhile, ‘Go Your Way’ bears a sort of country music approach. Plant’s vocal delivery here in its style and sound actually works surprisingly well. As the album progresses into ‘Trouble With My Lover,’ listeners get more of a bluesy style composition before things change again in its immediate follow-up, ‘Searching For My Love.’ In this case, audiences get a light, pop/country/rock style composition a la the Eagles. From there on through to the album’s end, the arrangements continue to change, ensuring together with the noted arrangements, listeners’ engagement and entertainment. Looking at the record’s bigger picture, it is really this item and the sequencing of the arrangements that really keeps things just interesting enough for audiences. Keeping that in mind, those two elements prove to be the album’s saving graces. That is even with the problems that the sequencing poses in mind along with the problems of the record’s lyrical content. Overall, the sequencing and the musical arrangements do just enough to make Raise The Roof a work that won’t leave audiences raising the roof, but will ensure the album is worth hearing at least once.
Robert Plant and Alison Krauss’ new album, Raise The Roof is not a record that will make audiences want to raise the roof. At the same time though, audiences will agree that it is worth hearing at least once. That is thanks in part to the sequencing. While the sequencing causes the record to start off slow, it thankfully does pick things up not too long after the fact, and keeps them moving from then on. It also ensures that the album’s featured musical arrangements keep changing and in turn keep listeners engaged and entertained. These elements do just enough to make up for the shortcoming that is the record’s lyrical content. The record’s lyrical content is problematic because it lacks any real originality. Every single song focuses on either love gained or lost. There is no fun lyrical content, nor anything serious. It is all just that overarching theme of relationships, which really does become boring rather quickly. Even with that in mind, it is not enough to doom the album, but rather keep it from becoming one of the year’s top new albums.
Raise The Roof is available now through Rhino Records. More information on the record is available along with all of Robert Plant’s latest news at:
Greta Van Fleet’s next album will come in the new year.
The band announced it will release its new album The Battle at Garden’s Gate on April 16 through Lava/Republic Records. Pre-orders are open.
In anticipation of the album’s pending release, the band debuted its second single, ‘Age Of Machines‘ Thursday. The single’s premiere comes less than two months after the band debuted the album’s lead single ‘My Way, Soon’ and its companion video.
While ‘My Way, Soon’ continues the lend itself to comparison to Led Zeppelin, GVF’s latest single is a stark stylistic contrast to its existing body of work. The song’s arrangement sets a decidedly brooding atmosphere through the use of its guitars, bass, and heavy drums. Yes, front man Joshua Kiszka is still easily likened to Led Zeppelin front man Robert Plant here, but that is the closes comparison that one can make.
The production that is used in the song gives the sound from the band in whole a certain echo effect. The guitar riffs throw back to the golden age of rock thanks to that production and their own approach. The drums and bass collectively sound so full, too, while the use of the choral vocal element adds its own touch to the song.
The lyrical content that accompanies the song’s musical arrangement touches on a familiar topic. According to information provided about the song, its lyrics center on “the influence of technology on modern life; the role conflict plays in the global sphere; the deceptive fulfillment of tangible riches; and philosophical questions about life, love and power.”
Kiszka addressed the song’s lyrical content, albeit indirectly, during a recent interview.
“There was a lot of self-evolution happening during the writing of this album that was prompted by experiences I had, experiences we all had, so a lot of contemplation occurred,” he said.
Kaje Jiszka expanded on Josh’s comments.
“It’s reflecting a lot of the world that we’ve seen, and I think that it’s reflecting a lot of personal truth. What Josh does very well with the lyrics is telling ancient tales with a contemporary application,” said Jake.
Drummer Danny Wagner built on his band mates’ comments with his own thoughts, discussing not just the band’s new single, but the group’s forthcoming album, too.
“We realized that while growing up, we had been shielded by many things, and we were unaware of a lot of things,” said Wagner. “And then we were thrown out into this huge world, and it was a bit of a culture shock at first. But as we started to travel a lot, meet new and different people and experience different cultures, our definition of ‘normal’ changed.”
Bassist Sam Kiszka also shared his thoughts on the band’s new material.
“I suppose that everything has changed except what got us here in the first place,” added Sam. “Everything – our perception of the world, perception of life itself, what it means to be an artist, what it means to be part of a beautiful, gorgeous society. We’ve gained a larger understanding of why we’re all here.”
Greg Kurstin (Adele, Foo Fighters, Paul McCartney) produced The Battle at Garden’s Gate.
More information on Greta Van Fleet’s new single and video is available along with all of the band’s latest news at:
Woodstock. Live Aid. Farm Aid. The Concert For New York City. These concerts are just some of the biggest concert events of the 20th century. As memorable and important as they are to the music industry and the history of modern popular music, they are only a small handful of the most important concerts held throughout the 20th Century. Next Tuesday, Eagle Rock Entertainment will add another concert to that list when it releases Live at Knebworth. The concert was held June 30th, 1990. Tabbed as “The Best British Rock Concert Of All Time,” it was held to raise money for Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy and for The Brit School For Performing Arts. Even a quarter of a century after it was originally held, it proves to be just as enjoyable a concert experience as any that have been held since, including those previously noted. One of the reasons it proves so enjoyable twenty-five years after it was originally held is its lineup. The show’s lineup consists solely of British acts, many of whom had themselves received the coveted Nordoff-Robbins Silver Clef Award at one point or another. Along with the acts tapped to perform at the benefit, their choice of songs for the concert adds to the concert’s enjoyment. Having noted both the concert’s lineup and the performers’ chosen songs, they would be nothing without equally notable production values. Thankfully, the audio and video both prove to be quality even a quarter of a century after the concert was first held. The audio has even been tweaked, creating a sound that especially those with home theater systems will appreciate. The combination of all three elements in this one presentation makes the package in whole even a great start to 2015 for Eagle Rock Entertainment.
When it was originally held on June 30th, 1990, Live at Knebworth was tabbed as being “The Best British Rock Concert Of All Time.” When compared to other major concert events such as Woodstock, Live Aid, Farm Aid, and others that have been held since, it proves to be more than just “The Best British Rock Concert Of All Time.” It proves to be one of the best concerts of all time, too. One reason for the concert being bestowed both titles is its lineup of performers and acts. The concert’s lineup is composed of some of the greatest British acts of the 20th Century including but not limited to names that today are music royalty. The list includes the likes of: Eric Clapton, Pink Floyd, Elton John, Paul McCartney, Robert Plant, and Genesis. Audiences will be interested to find out that many of the acts tapped for the concert also were recipients of the Nordoff-Robbins Silver Clef Award. That aside, audiences will especially enjoy every act’s performance. From Clapton’s full on performance of ‘Tearin’ Us Apart’ to Paul McCartney’s emotional performance of ‘Hey Jude’ to Pink Floyd’s ethereal ‘Shine on You Crazy Diamond’ to its equally driving show closer ‘Run Like Hell,’ the acts chosen for this concert and their performances keep audiences fully engaged from start to finish, clearly showing the importance of their inclusion in the show.
Speaking of the songs , the songs chosen by the acts on the bill are just as important to the presentation in whole. That is because in large part, the songs chosen by each act are songs that were familiar to fans then and are just as familiar and popular with the current generation of fans. Dire Straits’ set included the hugely popular ‘Money For Nothin.’ Genesis included its beloved hit ‘Pinball Wizard’ in its set along with ‘Mama’ and ‘In The Midnight Hour’ among a number of other fan favorites. The Beatles’ ‘Can’t Buy Me Love’ and ‘Hey Jude’ are even older than this recording. But they are just as popular with Beatles fans of all ages today as they were when Paul McCartney was part of the then Fab Four. So having both of those songs included in his set will create a sense of both joy and nostalgia among fans of both McCartney and the Beatles regardless of age. The sight of McCartney’s late wife Linda singing along, handling keyboard duties serves to enhance those feelings even more, this showing even more the importance of the set lists chosen by each act. Robert Plant’s mix of solo material and Led Zeppelin classics generates just as much enjoyment for anyone that has any knowledge of Plant’s career both on his own and as part of what remains one of the greatest rock bands of all time. The songs noted here are songs that are still played on classic rock radio stations across America and even the U.K. to this day. The fact that they were just as insanely popular back then as they are even today speaks volumes. It’s just a microscopic view of the impact of the acts’ set list on the enjoyment of this recording. There are plenty of other songs that could make that argument just as easily. And audiences will agree with that sentiment, even finding their own songs to make that argument when they pick up this recording for themselves next week. It still isn’t all that makes the concert so enjoyable for audiences. The quality of the footage both in terms of its video and audio lies at the base of everything. If not for the quality of the footage in both avenues, neither the acts nor their set lists and performances overall would be worth the watch.
The acts chosen for Live at Knebworth, their performances and set lists are all equally important to the concert’s overall enjoyment. However as important as each element proves to be, not one of them would be of any importance without the hard work of those charged with restoring the footage for its presentation here. Of course, being a live recording from Eagle Rock Entertainment, only the best is expected. And the best is what audiences get here. The audio has been re-worked and presented in DTS-HD. This will make anyone with a home theater system very happy as it will re-create with ear precision the feeling of actually being there. Even those without such a system will appreciate the work in question as the concert sounds just as good on a standard HDTV; especially one that allows audiences to switch to a “music” setting with their remotes. And while the original concert footage was recorded in standard definition, it doesn’t show thanks to the work of those charged with restoring the footage. Unlike so many older recordings that have been up-converted, the picture is relatively clear instead of grainy. While there is at least a little bit of that grainy look, it is hardly enough to work against the footage. Rather, it actually enhances that feeling of nostalgia created by the acts’ set lists. So to that extent, the work of those charged with restoring the concert’s footage has paid off even more than they might have known. Coupled with the set lists, the performances, and the very list of performers, the restoration work done for this concert becomes part of a whole that any classic rock fan will wholly appreciate, and that proves once more why Eagle Rock Entertainment remains today the leader in live recordings.
Live at Knebworth will be available on SD-Blu-ray next Tuesday, March 17th. Proceeds from the sale of the concert will continue to raise funds for Nordoff-Robbins Therapy and the Brit School for Performing Arts. More information on this and other releases from Eagle Rock Entertainment is available online at:
Freddie Mercury, the late front man of the legendary rock band Queen, was in his time one of the single most charismatic vocalists in the music industry. Many vocalists have tried to emulate the legendary singer’s energy and style. Few if any have succeeded. Sadly, Freddy Mercury was taken from the world in 1991, one of so many victims of the then emerging AIDS epidemic. The music world paid tribute to his legacy and memory in 1992 with a special live tribute concert. The concert, held at London’s Wembley Stadium has become one of the biggest and most powerful live concert events of the Twentieth Century, even after more than two decades since it was originally held. The only concert event that could compare to this event is Woodstock ’94. And now thanks to Eagle Rock Entertainment, the legacy of Freddie Mercury lives on once again thanks to the Blu-ray release of The Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert. While this SD Blu-ray release of The Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert is not the first time that the concert has been released to the masses, this release is the concert’s best yet. There is so much to be said of this latest re-issue. The best place to start is the overall audio and video presentation. Those charged with resurrecting the original footage are to be commended as the concert is presented here in its full original glory. Audiences get to see the show as it looked in its original recording. The audio sounds just as good. This is especially the case for those with home theater systems. The cinematography is incredible to say the least. The crowd shots and shots of the crowd from the stage are collectively the epitome of the adage that a picture is worth a thousand words. And of course, there is also the show’s set list and list of performers. Both by themselves and collectively, they make a bold statement that puts the finishing touch on this incredible latest re-issue from Eagle Rock Entertainment.
The first and most obvious factor to investigate in Eagle Rock’s new re-issue of The Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert is the audio and video mix. This concert was recorded almost twenty-two years ago. April 20th, 2014 will mark the twenty-second anniversary of this landmark concert. Being that high definition recording was still years away when this concert was recorded, it’s obvious that the quality of the footage would not be crystal clear in this presentation. But Eagle Rock openly noted on the recording’s case that this presentation is a Standard Definition Blu-ray. That means that Eagle Rock openly notes that the presentation contained therein is a standard definition recording. Those expecting pure 1080 quality video have only misled themselves. Eagle Rock Entertainment is not to blame here. That the footage still looks as good as it does over two decades later is a testament to those charged with maintaining and resurrecting it. And having the option to set one’s TV to “Cinema” to gain the full concert video experience only serves to make it even better.
The quality of the concert’s video footage is impressive to say the very least. It is presented in its original 4:3 aspect ratio. Though, with the advent of high definition televisions, most viewers can set their monitors to present the concert in full “Cinema” mode. That mode shows better than any how well the footage has stood the test of time. The audio mix is just as impressive as the video in terms of its quality. Every riff, every beat, and every chorus from the crowd of thousands is enhanced on this re-issue. In comparison to the concert’s previous releases, the audio mix has never sounded better. It has been enhanced so much that at times, the echoes of Brian May’s voice as he talked will make audiences think they are actually there in person. It has been mixed that well. That is quite the testament to those charged with restoring this concert to its former glory. And along with the footage, it is one part of a very strong cornerstone of this recording.
The video and audio mixes serve collectively as a solid base for The Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert. The concert’s cinematography adds an extra element of enjoyment to the recording, too. Much as was the case with Eagle Rock’s release of The Rolling Stones’ Hyde Park Live this Fall, the camera shots obtained over the course of this concert are extraordinary. There is something to be said about an entire stadium full of people singing in unison, arms high in the air, clapping in time. The visual effect both from the stage and from high above the sea of bodies is something that cannot be put into words. It is something that must be seen to be fully appreciated. Even seeing the shots in question from one’s own sofa, bed, etc. is awe inspiring. They collectively go to show the love that so many people had for Freddie Mercury and for Queen. While the concert’s audio and video mixes are the foundation on which the concert rests, the shots obtained by the camera crews give the show its shape. And what a shape those crews give the concert.
As one should be able to tell from everything noted already, there is much to like about Eagle Rock Entertainment’s new re-issue of The Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert on SD Blu-ray. Much has already been examined with this latest release from the leader in live recordings. But it would not be complete without making mention of the concert’s set list and its equally diverse lineup of performers. The show itself is set up into two separate segments. The first of those segments is the “Opening Acts” segment. This segment allows some of the acts tapped to perform at the concert to perform their own music and warm up the crowd at the same time. This segment runs the gamut to say the very least. It opens with a trio of songs from Metallica and follows that up with a medley of Queen hits courtesy of Extreme. Guns N’ Roses (the original Guns N’ Roses) closes out the opening acts segments. Def Leppard is also one of the opening acts. Their front man, Joe Elliot, joins Elton John, George Michael, David Bowie, Annie Lennox, and so many other acts from across the music industry for the “Main Show” segment of the recording. Having such a wide array of artists covering the music of one band is a bold statement. It shows the impact that Queen had on them as bands and artists. It also goes to show the respect that those bands and artists had for Freddie Mercury. It goes to show the kind of person he was and how important he was to so many around him. Keeping that in mind while watching the incredible shots, and hearing the equally incredible song selections is sure to bring a smile and maybe even a tear to some viewers’ faces. If it does one, the other, or both, then it has most certainly done its job. It means that Eagle Rock is that much more justified in once again unearthing this important piece of music history. It is available now in stores and online. More information on this and other live recordings from Eagle Rock Entertainment is available online at http://www.eaglerockent.com and http://www.facebook.com/EagleRockEnt. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.
Courtesy: Eagle Rock Entertainment/Eagle Vision/Montreux Sounds
Thank goodness for Carlos Santana. And Thank goodness for Eagle Rock Entertainment. This has been stated before already with the 2012 release of Carlos Santana: Greatest Hits Live at Montreux 2011. Now Eagle Rock has finished what it started with the release of Santana’s performance that same year with fellow guitar legend John McLaughlin (The Mahavishnu Orchestra). It has already been noted of seeing Carlos Santana and company live before that to see these musicians perform live is to not just see a concert. Seeing Carlos Santana and his band mates live is to truly take part in a musical experience. That applies in this brand new release just as much as in Eagle Rock’s previous live Santana Blu-ray. The musical experience is just one portion of what makes Santana & McLaughlin: Live at Montreux 2011 such a joy for music aficionados. Tied directly into the experience is the show’s set list. Just as with Santana’s previous live release via Eagle Rock, this show’s set list feels more like one giant jam session than a specifically structured set list. This is far better than anyone could realize. And lastly, audiences with HDTVs will appreciate the clarity of the recording’s sound and picture. Those with surround sound home theater systems will especially appreciate that clarity. Together with the set list and the general performance, it is one more factor that reminds audiences why Eagle Rock Entertainment is the leader of the pack in live recordings.
Taking in a performance of Carlos Santana and his band mates is more than simply taking in a performance from the highly talented musicians. Taking in a performance of these individuals is taking in a full musical experience. This is just as true in Santana & McLaughlin: Invitation to Illumination as it was on Carlos Santana: Greatest Hits Live at Montreux 2011. It is incredible to see Santana and his band mates sharing the stage throughout the two-hour plus performance. Unlike so many other bands out there today, Santana steps back on multiple occasions, allowing his band mates to get their fair share of time in the limelight. Simply put, he not only talks the talk, but walks the walk, too. Such humility, willingness to share the spotlight, and talent shows why Santana is still one of the greatest guitarists in modern music history. Audiences that have not yet gotten to see Eagle Rock’s previous performance from Santana and company will be in awe at the talent of both drummers Dennis Chambers and Santana’s own wife, Cyndi Blackman Santana. Blackman Santana’s skill with the sticks is unparalleled. Watching her perform whether with the rest of the band or by herself on her drum solo is like watching controlled chaos. By contrast, Chambers’ own performance behind his kit is the picture of talent and composure. Chambers’ body language is one of someone that is entirely relaxed. Yet his playing would seem otherwise. It’s an amazing juxtaposition. The band overall presents such talent throughout its performance.
The band’s performance throughout the two-hour plus concert is the central point of the recording. Also to be taken into consideration in the overall presentation is the show’s set list. The set list for this concert was comprised largely of songs from the classic 1973 album, Love Devotion Surrender. However, fans will also take note early on of the medley of songs including covers of Led Zeppelin’s ‘Stairway to Heaven’, Bob Dylan’s ‘A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall’ and saxophonist John Coletrane’s ‘Peace on Earth’. It even contains a cover of Albert Ayler’s ‘Our Prayer.’ The cover of Led Zeppelin’s ‘Stairway to Heaven’ was the highest of highlights throughout the medley of tunes. From the guitar work of both Santana and McLaughlin to David K. Matthews’ keyboards to every part in between, it is a cover that would make both Jimmy Page and Robert Plant proud if they see this performance. The same can be said of the late John Bonham’s son, Jason, too. While it’s a cover, one can’t help but think to one’s own self, which version is really better? Zeppelin’s version or this updated take on the classic song? That’s a tough call. But what can be said is that it is just as good as the original, if not better. It is an amazing point in the overall performance. Audiences will of course each find their own moment that they will call their favorite. This is just one of so many from which audiences will be able to choose. And it’s just one of so many that make Invitation to Illumination such a joy for audiences of all ages.
The set list and the general performance work together with this new release to make it one of the year’s best live recordings. There is one more factor that audiences should consider in examining what makes it one more expert release from Eagle Rock Entertainment. That factor is the presentation’s audio and video mix. The audio and video mix of this presentation is right on par with each live recording already released so far by Eagle Rock Entertainment this year. Those with home theater surround sound systems and the ability to set the audio on their HDTVs to a music setting will especially appreciate this. Those audiences will be entirely enveloped by the concert and see just why taking in a performance by Carlos Santana and his band mates is in fact not just taking in a performance, but being part of a true musical experience. Santana & McLaughlin: Invitation to Illumination Live at Montreux 2011 is available now in stores and online. Fans can keep up with the latest news and more from Carlos Santana online at http://www.santana.com and http://www.facebook.com/carlossantana.