CD reviews: Rage Against the Machine, Tommy Talton, Blur

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

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Rage Against the Machine
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    Tommy Talton

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    Blur

Rage Against the Machine Rage Against the Machine XX/Legacy

Few musicians in the past 20 years have had as much political impact as the four men that make up Rage Against the Machine.

When Zack de la Rocha, Tim Commerford, Brad Wilk, and Tom Morello released their eponymous major label debut in November 1992, their timing couldn’t have been any better.

The youth of America was just then being snapped out of their musical haze from the ’80s, thanks to bands such as Nirvana and Jane’s Addiction. So when “Rage Against the Machine” hit the record shelves, there were more than a few open minds ready to receive the band’s politically charged, incendiary style of music.

Few had ever heard anything like it, and listening to that album 20 years later, it still sounds as fresh and forward-thinking as it did then.

Legacy has just released a special commemorative box set to observe the 20th anniversary of the album’s release. In addition to a CD that includes the original studio album remastered along with three bonus B-sides, the set includes a CD of original demos for the album; a DVD of the complete “Battle of Britain” concert filmed in London in 2010 as well as 22 live and studio music videos; another DVD that features the band’s first public performance in October 1991 at Cal State North Ridge as well as 10 additional live performances; a 180-gram vinyl record pressing of the original album; a poster; and a 40-page book with liner notes by Public Enemy’s Chuck D.

It’s a lot of material to sift through, and some of it was previously released in one form or another, but for any diehard fan of Rage Against the Machine, this set is musical heaven.

Key Features: The extras are all great, but most interesting is the video footage of that first Rage show in October 1991.

Tommy Talton Let’s Get Outta Here/Hittin’ the Note

If the name Tommy Talton seems familiar to you, then you’re most likely a fan of ’70s Southern rock.

Talton figured heavily into that part of music history, forming the band Cowboy, which recorded for the now-defunct Capricorn Records, and playing guitar with the likes of Gregg Allman, Bonnie Bramlett and Clarence Carter.

In the ’90s, Talton moved to Europe, where he toured and recorded successfully for more than a decade before returning home to America.

On “Let’s Get Outta Here,” Talton’s third release on Hittin’ the Note Records, the singer-songwriter turns in a collection that will delight any fan of that wonderful collision of rock, blues and R&B.

“You Can’t Argue With Love,” co-written by Rick Hirsh of Wet Willie fame, is one of those frank songs about that most powerful of human emotions.

One of the CD’s best tracks, “Slacabamorinico,” is a true story about a Confederate veteran who almost singlehandedly brought back the Mardi Gras celebrations to Mobile, Ala., after the Civil War. Talton, accompanied by legendary keyboardist Chuck Leavell and a mean brass section, beautifully captures the Gulf-state sound associated with Alabama and Louisiana without seeming to try to force things.

Overall, the music on “Let’s Get Outta Here” demonstrates that Talton is a musician who knows a thing or two about writing a decent set of songs, but even more important is the fact that the guy still has the vocal and guitar chops that first got him noticed nearly 40 years ago.

Key Tracks: “You Can’t Argue With Love,” “Slacabamorinico,” “Give a Little Bit”

Blur Parklive/Virgin

Back in the ’90s, if you were a fan of British rock music, then you were likely either a fan of Blur or Oasis.

It was sort of the same way folks considered themselves fans of either The Rolling Stones or The Beatles back in the ’60s.

While Oasis was arguably the more commercially successful of the two bands, especially here in the U.S., there’s no denying the dent that Blur put in the musical culture of the ’90s, especially in the band’s native England.

At the conclusion of this year’s Summer Olympic Games in London, officials threw a concert in Hyde Park and wanted a contemporary band that best exemplified Britpop at the time. Forget the possibility that those officials might very well have tried to reunite Oasis for that show, although there’s no evidence that it happened. Forget as well the fact that Blur hadn’t really existed as a band for almost a decade before reuniting in 2008. The powers that be at the Olympics chose Blur to headline that special closing ceremony concert.

Listening to “Parklive,” the live recording of the event, it is clear from the opening song, “Girls and Boys,” that England is still packed with Blur fans.

The audience nearly drowns out singer Damon Albarn on many of the songs.

For any Blur fan out there, this 25-song, 2-CD set is on par with Crowded House’s farewell concert from the steps of the Sydney Opera House back in 1996.

The difference here is that, unlike Crowded House, Blur seems to be prepared to continue as long as fans keep showing up to sing with them. This is an exceptional live concert recording of a great band giving it another go, and obviously delighted to be doing so.

Key Tracks: “Girls and Boys,” “Beetlebum,” “Song 2”

By Devin Grant