The Music Ramble is the monthly music blog of Erik Ritland. The St. Paul, Minnesota journalist and musician is the founder of Rambling On. Learn more about us on Reddit, Twitter, Facebook, or our website.
Our third monthly music series spotlights new releases from Pink Floyd's David Gilmour, the Rolling Stone's Keith Richards, and Jack White's The Dead Weather.
Rattle That Lock (Columbia 9/18/2015)
Essential tracks: "In Any Tongue," "Faces of Stone," "A Boat Lies Waiting"
In 2014 David Gilmour said goodbye to Pink Floyd with The Endless River. The mostly instrumental album, which prominently featured keyboardist Richard Wright who died of cancer just a couple years before, was pieced together from lengthy Division Bell era jam sessions. Moody and ambitious, it was a fitting final statement from the band.
While The Endless River sounded thoroughly like a Floyd album, Rattle That Lock finds Gilmour branching out into some different territory. The title track is upbeat, dance-y, and fun, something his old band hadn't been since “San Tropez” from their 1971 masterpiece Meddle. Minor key “Faces of Stone” feels like an Irish folk song, “Girl in the Yellow Dress” is straight lounge jazz, and closing “Today” begins with an angelic choir before breaking into a funk/disco sort of thing (really). Each experiment works in its own laid back sort of way. At the very least fans of Floyd from Saucerful of Secrets to Meddle with appreciate his willingness to try new things.
Not that there isn't anything for Pink Floyd fans to love. Moving “In Any Tongue” is reminiscent of, and on par with, classics like “On the Turning Away” and “High Hopes.” Sad, minor key acoustic verses fade into quiet piano chords that usher in an intense chorus. The anti-war song also features some of Polly Samson’s best, most emotive lyrics:
On the screen the young men die
The children cry in the rubble of their lives
What has he done? God help my son
Hey, stay awhile, I'll stay up
The volume pumped right up is not enough to drown it out
I hear "mama" sounds the same in any tongue
The entire lyrics are as memorable. Not only is this song the best on the album, it's one of the best of 2015 – and of Gilmour's career.
Another highlight is a touching tribute to Richard Wright, "A Boat Lies Waiting." Laid back and reminiscent of Wright's creative work with Floyd in the early '70s, it has more uncharacteristically strong lyrics:
What I lost was an ocean
Now I'm drifting through without you
In this sad barcarolle
It rocks you like a cradle
It rocks you to the core
You'll sleep like a baby
As it knocks at Death's door
Musically, wistful piano and slide guitar give it a "Pillow of Winds" feel. It would have fit well on Meddle.
Although the songs jump around sonically there's a Floyd-ish cohesion to Rattle That Lock. Similar acoustic instrumentals begin and end the album, and of course the guitar playing, feel, and voice of each song is decidedly Gilmour. It might not be a classic but it's definitely a strong addition to his solo catalog.
Crosseyed Heart (Republic 9/18/2015)
Essential tracks: "Heartstopper," "Something for Nothing," "Goodnight Irene," "Lover's Plea"
Considering how much he's abused his body it's a small miracle that Keith Richards is still making albums. As such, Crosseyed Heart – a laid back collection of blues, boogie woogie, and white soul – is a minor gift from the rock gods.
"Heartstopper," "Amnesia," and "Trouble" are the most Stones-y tracks, loping along in a customary Keith Richards sort of way. The white soul of "Nothing on Me” and “Suspicious" are surprisingly affecting. His sense of subtlety has improved with age, and his grizzled, weathered voice gives the performances extra weight. Fun Warren Zevon homage “Something for Nothing” is lovingly (and fittingly) sardonic.
Richards uses the solo album format to branch out a little. Jazzy "Illusion" features a typically sultry guest appearance from Norah Jones. "Long Overdue" dips into reggae, folky Leadbelly homage "Goodnight Irene" is sweet and sincere, and the opening title track pays tribute to the delta blues that Richards absorbed as a kid. The eclectic mix keeps the album interesting.
He’s still most comfortable with what he's used to, though, and that's not a bad thing. "Blues in the Morning" could easily be an outtake from Exile on Main Street. Sweet, melodic “Robbed Blind” and emotive album closer “Lover’s Plea” are tender and soulful in the vein of Stones classics like “I’ve Got the Blues.”
All in all Crosseyed Heart is a fun album. Fans of the Stones will dig it, as will anyone who enjoys organic rock, soul, and blues.
Dodge and Burn (Third Man 9/25/2015)
Essential track: "Impossible Winner"
If you like a) fuzzy, Jack White-ish riffs b) shout-y, Jack White-ish vocals/"melodies" and c) easy, not super creative Jack White-ish lyrics, then you'll love Dodge and Burn. Personally, I'm a little bored with it. It's weird how White subsumes his other band members, as even their music, lyrics, and shouted melodies sound like him.
Don't get me wrong. Dodge and Burn is an enjoyable album of fuzzed out guitar rock if you like what Jack White does. I'm just sort of bored with it, and am getting impatient for him to reach his full potential. Much less make a masterpiece.
Brooding, darkly melodic album closer "Impossible Winner" is the only song that sounds any different than what surrounds it. Not coincidentally, the piano and string led ballad is easily the best song on the album.