Morrissey, Judas Priest top this week's new music

Morrissey and Judas Priest's Rob Halford. (Reuters photos)

Morrissey and Judas Priest's Rob Halford. (Reuters photos)

Darryl Sterdan, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 3:03 PM ET

ALBUMS OF THE WEEK

Morrissey
World Peace is None of Your Business


Some guys just have a knack for making friends. Then there’s Morrissey. In the past few months alone, the eternally bitchy Brit-popster has squabbled with everyone from the cast of Duck Dynasty (he called them “animal serial killers”) to his longtime opening act (he claims she gave him a cold that led to the cancellation of his tour). So it’s no surprise that the 55-year-old Moz is in typically prickly form on his 10th solo album since departing the beloved Smiths. Befitting its title, World Peace is None of Your Business is more political than personal, beginning with the sarcastic title cut that chides every voter and taxpayer as a “fool.” Over the course of the 80-minute deluxe edition, he works his way down the usual list of topics, skewering masculinity (I’m Not a Man), marriage (Kick the Bride Down the Aisle), the education system (Staircase at the University), the prison system (Mountjoy), man’s inhumanity to man (Earth is the Loneliest Planet) and, of course, man’s inhumanity to animals (The Bullfighter Dies). But even though big mouth strikes again here, he doesn’t do so quite as loudly and forcefully as he has lately. After embracing his inner rocker for much of the past decade, Morrissey takes his foot off the gas here. Instead of the punchy beats, chunky guitars and focused songwriting of his most recent albums, the emphasis is on dreamier, meandering pop full of jangly melodies, exotic textures and gauzy production. Coupled with his usual soaring croon, it all serves to stress mood over momentum — and sometimes soften the impact of his deliciously barbed attacks. You could ask him why, but we all know what his answer would be.

RATING: 3.5 (out of 5)



Judas Priest
Redeemer of Souls


Forget their souls; what Priest really need to redeem is their reputation. Any way you slice it, the past few years have tarnished the metal gods’ lustre. Their “farewell tour” turned out to be a bait-and-switch. Beloved founding guitarist K.K. Downing went over the wall. And their last disc — 2008’s Nostradamus — was a bloated concept album greeted by near-universal indifference. So there’s little doubt the 40-year-old British icons have something to prove with their 17th album. And to their credit, even they seem to realize that. Redeemer of Souls comes off as their latest course-correcting attempt to return to the sound of classic Priest — or, more accurately, the various sounds of their assorted eras. So you get a bit of everything: The bluesier fare of their early days; the chugging riffs and biker anthems of their mid-period; the spikier, hard-driving arena-metal of their later years — but thankfully, very little of the self-indulgence that has dragged down their recent works. And while that makes for a decently nostalgic time, it also results in a disc that’s somewhat unfocused, with few songs that deliver the laser-precision power and propulsion of their old hits. As for airhorn-piped frontman Rob Halford, he continues to scream for vengeance about Vikings and Damocles and the dead and the usual horror, fantasy and sci-fi themes. But this time, there are also a lot of defiantly (or perhaps defensively) pointed proclamations about how they’re still kicking and not giving in because they’ve been to hell and back and now there’s no turning back until they go down in a blaze of glory. He may be able to convince himself and their rabidly faithful fans of that. The souls on the fence might be a slightly harder sell.

RATING: 3 (out of 5)



NOW HEAR THIS

Ginger Baker
Why?


Why not? At 74, cantankerous drummer Baker remains in fine form on his first solo album in ages. Carefully constructing thick, deep tom-tom grooves while his sax-fronted VIP trio tastefully revisit and revamp Baker’s own oldies and jazz covers, the Cream/Blind Faith/Air Force vet perfectly hits the sweet spot between post-bop and Afrobeat. If you disagree, I dare you to tell him.

RATING: 3.5 (out of 5)

The Babys
I’ll Have Some of That!


Back on their feet again. Sort of. After three decades away, half the underappreciated ’70s and ’80s outfit — guitarist Wally Stocker and drummer Tony Brock — recruit a John Waite soundalike and resurrect their melodic pop-rock crunch. It won’t win any new fans, but it’s a treat for old ones.

RATING: 3 (out of 5)

Peter Frampton
Hummingbird in a Box


Frampton comes to the ballet. Sort of. The singer-guitarist’s new mini-album was commissioned by the Cincinnati Ballet — but fear not, fans. While it leans slightly toward acoustic guitars and compositions that are more freewheeling and fluid than focused and fiery, these seven bluesy songs are still more about classic rock than classical ballet.

RATING: 3 (out of 5)

Rich Robinson
The Ceaseless Sight


Some birds shouldn’t fly solo. Especially if they can’t feather their nests with something more interesting than the generic Stones and Band knockoffs that dominate Black Crowes guitarist Robinson’s underwhelming third album.

RATING: 2 (out of 5)

Hellyeah
Blood For Blood


Everything heavier than everything else. Sounds impossible. Until you hear the relentless intensity and (yes) bloodthirsty brutality of the southern groove-metal supergroup’s fourth disc, that is.

RATING: 3 (out of 5)

OLDIES OF THE WEEK

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
CSNY 1974


Love the one you’re with. As in: Take what you can get. The former, of course, is a Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young classic. The latter, realistically, is probably the best way to reconcile yourself with the mercurial folk-rock foursome’s increasingly intermittent interactions and spotty output. Thankfully, now is one of those times when hell has frozen over, the galaxies have aligned (and, more to the point, Neil Young hasn’t scuttled the whole affair with his ADD antics and persnickety perfectionism). After years of rumours, disagreements and delays, CSNY 1974 — a four-disc collection of live recordings from the quartet’s notoriously troubled reunion tour — is finally seeing the light of day. Turns out it’s well worth the wait. And the investment of your time and cash. Painstakingly assembled by Graham Nash, the 40-song document finds the group sounding far more together than you’d expect from a set that David Crosby once jokingly titled What Could Possibly Go Wrong? Despite tales of rampant drug abuse, deteriorated relationships and other distractions, the harmonies are spot-on, the performances are powerful and razor-sharp, and the mood is convivial. The three CDs are structured like a show on the tour, with full-band electric sets surrounding a mid-show acoustic section. The set list features all the CSNY classics you expect, along with a big hunk of Young fare, including the title track to his then-current On the Beach album and rarities like Love Art Blues, Pushed it Over the End, Hawaiian Sunrise and the snarky banjo ditty Goodbye Dick, recorded just days after Nixon’s resignation. Naturally, since Young was involved, the sound quality is fairly remarkable, recreating the warmth of acoustic performance with full-stereo separation and the precision of audiophile-level 192kHz/24-bit remastering (depending on which version you buy). On top of that, the set includes a 188-page book and a DVD with eight songs filmed during the tour. What is not to love?

RATING: 4.5 (out of 5)

Philadelphia International Records: The Collection
Various Artists


A heart full of soul is a good thing. A box set full can be even better. Especially if it comes with plenty of funk, R&B and disco on the side. Philadelphia International Records: The Collection contains 20 classic albums from the ’70s and early ’80s heyday of the dynamite Philly label founded by songwriter-producers Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff. But it’s not just a hits comp. The roster blends immortal acts like The O’Jays, Lou Rawls, Teddy Pendergrass, Patti Labelle and The Jacksons with lesser-known standouts like Dexter Wansel, Jean Carn and The Jones Girls, with each disc in its own cardboard sleeve featuring original artwork. The 36-page booklet offers little more than quick-hit anecdotes and album credits, but the timeless tracks — including If You Don’t Know Me By Now, Love Train, Backstabbers, Me and Mrs. Jones, TSOP, You’ll Never Find Another Love Like Mine and Enjoy Yourself — tell you everything you need to know.

RATING: 4.5 (out of 5)

MORE OLDIES & GOODIES

John Mellencamp
Performs Trouble No More Live at Town Hall July 31, 2003


The title sums it up — but doesn’t do it justice. Fresh off the release of his folk-blues cover collection Trouble No More, the artist formerly known as Cougar turns in an earnest and earthy New York performance, augmenting the disc’s juke-joint classics, backporch jams and roots-rock ravers with similarly rustic renditions of hits like Pink Houses and Small Town. No trouble here.

RATING: 4 (out of 5)

Pennywise
Yesterdays


They’ve come full circle again. With singer Jim Lindberg back in the fold, the Hermosa punks get back to their roots by resurrecting, relearning and re-recording a slate of punchy, propulsive fare co-written with late bassist Jason Thirsk in the ’80s and ’90s — and tossing an old band-practice tape into the mix to boot. Turns out you can go home again. Or at least back to the basement.

RATING: 3.5 (out of 5)

Daniel Lanois
My Music for Billy Bob


Well, some of it, anyway. Free-spirited producer and musician Lanois unearths his long-out-of-print soundtrack for Thornton’s 1996 cinematic tour de force Sling Blade — but in typical fashion, he also rejigs the mostly instrumental offering, dropping some cuts, adding previously unreleased fare and resequencing the disc. What hasn’t changed: His ethereal amalgam of ambient electronics and southern-gothic roots.

RATING: 3 (out of 5)

The Doors
Weird Scenes Inside the Gold Mine
Light My Fire: A Classic Rock Salute to The Doors
Various Artists

Mr. Mojo rises again. In person and in absentia. Unbelievable as it sounds, The Doors’ 1972 double-disc comp Weird Scenes Inside the Gold Mine is out on CD for the first time — albeit with zero extras or previously unreleased fare, so there’s really little point unless you’re a completist. Equally unnecessary is Light My Fire: A Classic Rock Salute to The Doors, a hodge-podge of Jimbo and co.’s classics revamped by oldsters like Ian Gillan, Todd Rundgren, Leslie West, Edgar Winter, Keith Emerson, David Johansen and Pat Travers. Speaking of weird scenes.

RATING: 3 and 2.5 (out of 5)

IN THE PIPELINE

July 22

Alvvays, Alvvays
Anberlin, lowborn
The Beatles, Meet the Beatles! The Japan Box
The Black Angels, Clear Lake Forest
Common, Nobody’s Smiling
Fozzy, Do You Wanna Start a War
Freeman, Freeman
Jay Z, Made in America DVD
La Roux, Trouble in Paradise
Marillion, A Sunday Night Above the Rain
Freda Payne, Come Back to Me Love
The Raveonettes, Pe’ahi

Twitter: @Darryl_Sterdan
darryl.sterdan@sunmedia.ca


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