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Sound Bites: New LPs from Train, Lyle Lovett, Def Leppard

June 22, 2022
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Summer’s here and the time is right for a new installment of Sound Bites. The new release section is overflowing with the latest offerings from artists on tour this summer. Here are a few fresh warm weather titles that I’ve been digging into this week.

Lyle Lovett – “12th of June” (Verve)

Lovett’s first new LP in a decade is a multi-genre delight that keeps sending me back for repeated listening. “12th of June” is a mix of originals and covers that manages to pack a bit of everything that has made his music so original and enduring for more than 35 years. That includes big band jazz (“Cookin’ at the Continental”), levity (“Pants is Overrated,” “Pig Meat Man”); jump blues (“Straighten Up and Fly Right”); storytelling country tinted with western swing (“Her Loving Man”); duets with blues singer Francine Reed (“Peel Me a Grape,” “Gee Baby, Ain’t I Good to You”) and original songs that come off sounding like standards (“Are We Dancing”). The title track is the album’s touching centerpiece devoted to his five-year-old twins and how their presence has altered his life.

Train – “AM Gold” (Columbia)

Train goes retro on their 11th LP, their first in five years. Seemingly inspired by memories of growing up during a time when variety and good vibes ruled top-40 radio, Pat Monahan and company have crafted a truly diverse record that may have been inspired by nostalgia but in execution sounds mega-contemporary. The love yourself first dance-party title hit sets the tone. Ambrosia meets Hall & Oates on the soulful “Running Back (Trying to Talk to You).” Mexican pop star Sofía Reyes joins the band on the Latin dance pop confection “Cleopatra” while Jewel jumps in for the infectiously anthemic “Turn the Radio Up.” Train channels the band America on the jaunty “Ain’t No Easy Way” and themselves for “It’s Everything,” a tender look back on a once-great love.

Def Leppard – “Diamond Star Halos” (Mercury)

Speaking of retro, Def Leppard’s first album since 2015 celebrates the pomp and glitter of glam rock with 15 tracks that evoke the genre without overtly copping it. Produced by the band with Ronan McHugh, “Diamond Star Halos” is loaded with sing-along anthems (“Take What You Want,” “Kick,” “Fire it Up”) gutsy ballads (“This Guitar,” and “Lifeless,” both featuring Alison Krauss, and “Goodbye for Good This Time”) and songs that offer elements of both (“All We Need,” “Angels Can’t Help You Now”). The hour-plus runtime reveals some fluff that could have been trimmed or saved for B-sides to make a leaner, stronger album but most of what’s here is indication that Def Leppard is in a very good place these days.

“Skunk” Baxter – “Speed of Heat” (Renew/BMG)

The guitar icon who added a dose of virtuosic grit to numerous Steely Dan and Doobie Brothers classics finally steps out on his own for this inspired gathering of co-written originals and rearranged covers. Baxter’s chops have lost none of their edge on updated versions of “My Old School” (featuring a rare and impressive lead vocal from the guitarist) and on “Do It Again,” refashioned as an instrumental. Country star Clint Black surprises on the rocking “Bad Move,” Michael McDonald takes the lead on the ballad “My Place in the Sun” and Johnny Lang adds some bluesy funk to “I Can Do Without.” Baxter’s eclecticism shines on a hot-rodded version of the Shadows instrumental “Apache” and on a solo pedal steel reworking of Bette Midler’s “The Rose.”

Lettuce – “Unify” (Round Hill)

The Boston-based jazz-funk-hip hop collective kills it on this sprawling rave-up destined to help you shake-off any leftover cold weather blues. Conjuring Tower of Power, Earth, Wind & Fire, and James Brown’s Famous Flames, Lettuce’s eighth studio LP is a mostly instrumental mood-enhancing brass funk workout made even better with an appearance by Bootsy Collins on “Keep that Funk Alive.” The record’s lyrical essence is crystallized on the buoyant “Everything’s Gonna Be Alright,” a theme that continues on the sanguine “Change the World” and the hopeful “Get it Together.” The sextet features a Mainer in the band in Ryan Zoidis, a former member of Rustic Overtones. Lettuce makes music designed to lift you up and “Unify” is proof there is nothing old hat about that.

Last modified on Wednesday, 22 June 2022 07:17

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