Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds - Push the Sky Away (Bad Seeds Ltd.) Rating: 10 (out of 10)
A kinder, gentler Nick Cave? Hardly.
Don't be fooled by the lack of bluster in this edition of the Bad Seeds catalogue. Every song is a tightly-wound, finely-honed gem created by a master noir stylist.
Nothing seems out of place in Push the Sky Away with Cave the storyteller leading a veteran ensemble, familiar with the twists and turns of his baroque mind, through nine surreal bluesy lullabyes. At times the musicians are barely playing above a whisper while Cave sings his lines over the ambient rumble in hushed tones.
From this aural document it's difficult to trace the Bad Seeds' origins back to the noise rock of Cave's former band The Birthday Party but it's all of a piece. The music has gone through many transformations to get to this point - punk, postpunk, garage rock - with musicians dropping in and out of the picture.
This time around Mick Harvey, a founding member of the band three decades ago, is absent, while Barry Adamson, another founding member with immaculate Manchester punk credentials, rejoins the Bad Seeds and apparently will be with them on tour including an April 6 date in Vancouver at the Vogue Theatre.
David Bowie - The Next Day (Columbia/Iso Records) Rating: 8 (out of 10)
Great Bowieisms throughout The Next Day, David Bowie's first album of new material in a decade. He made the record in New York over the past couple of years with longtime producer Tony Visconti and a group of musicians who he's worked with in the past (including Gail Ann Dorsey and Earl Slick).
The 14 original tracks (plus three on bonus CDs) play with the idea of Bowie as an icon revisiting different stages in his artistic development (Ziggy Stardust, Thin White Duke, Berlin) in new contexts.
Most of the material is on the mark especially considering this is someone who was supposedly in retirement.
Jimi Hendrix - People, Hell and Angels (Sony Legacy) Rating: 6 (out of 10)
Latest release in the exhaustive Hendrix catalogue features material recorded after his first three classic trio albums - Are You Experienced? (1967), Axis: Bold as Love (1968) and Electric Ladyland (1968) - and before Band of Gypsies were an entity.
These tracks are the first forays into what he wanted to do with Buddy Miles in Gypsies.
John McDermott’s extensive liner notes documenting this period are outstanding.