Tina Turner/Bonnie Tyler – Point/Counterpoint

Forget the political debates, the debate between Tina Turner and Bonnie Tyler is more interesting: Holding Out For A Hero (Bonnie Tyler) versus We Don’t Need Another Hero (Thunderdome) (Tina Turner)

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Leon Bridges – Coming Home

DNA: Sam Cooke and Male Version of Amy Winehouse’s Retro Vocal Style

Leon Bridges’ “Coming Home” is one of the finest albums I’ve heard in the last five years. Much like Amy Winehouse, who artfully paid homage to female singers of the 60s, Leon Bridges grabs us willingly back several of decades. Make no mistake, Bridges isn’t a gimmick act. The whole presentation of this album is an excellent showcase of Bridges’ songwriting and vocals. It’s hard to believe that he is merely 26-years-old because his voice is so strong yet nuanced.

The album isn’t that long, but that’s okay. There’s a good mix of gospel, R&B, soul, and pop on “Coming Home.” It’s packed beginning to end with one good song after the next. “Lisa Sawyer” is one of the album’s best songs; it’s also an excellent introduction to Bridges’ songwriting and vocal phrasings. Bridges works hard to tell a story about his mother, using phrasings that are complex and rarely heard in songs these days. The album’s opening song — “Coming Home” — sets the mood and sounds as if the song has been around with other soul favorites for the last 40 years.

I suggest listening to the album start-to-finish; it clocks in at around 40 minutes. Highlights include “Smooth Sailin’,” which is vocally and lyrically one of the finest pop songs you can find in recent years. “Flowers” is also a notable song, which features an uptempo backbeat and pop song style.

My guess is that Leon Bridges is just as good live as he is a recorded musician. He makes things sound effortless. “Coming Home” and Leon Bridges are too good to think his retro-60s sound is a gimmick. “Coming Home” is pure goodness, leaving you wanting more.

On a scale of 1 (Boss Hog) to 10 (Roscoe P. Coltrane), “Coming Home” is a 10 (Roscoe P. Coltrane)

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The War on Drugs -Lost In The Dream

DNA: Bryan Adams and Bob Dylan with a pinch of Roxy Music in the 80s

Do you have an album you enjoy more for the atmosphere it provides than its individual songs? Yeah . . . I do, too. One of those albums is The War on Drugs‘ “Lost In The Dream.” It’s an album from 2014, but I am reviewing this album like it’s a new release because, in my world, The War on Drugs is not on enough peoples’ radar.

This album is atmospheric. The sound and songs are dreamy and beautiful. Adam Granduciel’s vocals are lazy, perhaps borrowing unintentionally from Bob Dylan and Bryan Adams. Each individual song is a work of art. The most impressive facet of the album is that the band fits together all the pieces of art into a unified masterpiece.

I’m a lyrics man in most instances; The War on Drugs is not one of them. I don’t think I can recite you any lyrics to this album, and perhaps I’m missing out. The music and song composition is what brings me back to this album again and again. The album starts with “Under The Pressure,” a near nine-minute collage of jangly guitars, keyboards, and muted but deliberate vocals. “An Ocean In Between The Waves” is my favorite song on the album. It combines a driving bass line, dreamy guitars, and vocals sound authentic to the mood of the song. “Eyes to The Wind,” “Disappearing,” and “In Reverse” provide additional texture to this abstract piece of art.

I absolutely love this album. From working through the band’s discography backwards, it sounds like “Lost In The Dream” is the band’s finest work to date. Promise me you will listen to this album a few times before passing judgment. By the second play, you will planning your next road trip with this album as your soundtrack.

On a scale of Brian Ralph Johnson (“Forget It”) to John Bender (“Get It”), “Lost In The Dream” is John Bender 9 (“Get It”).

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Divine Intervention in Music – David Bowie

There are moments in music when a higher power interferes to create something magical. It doesn’t matter what you believe in; it could be a god, Mother Nature, ju ju, magic, or some other meta-physical influence. One of my friends calls it “The X Factor.” Some songs have it, some albums have it, and some musicians have it more often the not. These are the moments in music when you get the chills, goosebumps, or the hair stands up on the back of your neck. Whatever happens, I know you’ve experienced this phenomenon.  I’m going to write about the moments in music when this phenomenon happens to me.

In light of David Bowie’s untimely passing, I’ll focus on a mere few seconds on the album “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders From Mars” that is pure magic. Those few seconds are between the songs “Ziggy Stardust” and “Suffragette City.” At the end of “Ziggy Stardust,” Mick Ronson plays arpeggios on his guitar that sound bright and hang out there in the ether. The guitar creates almost a dream state; however, your gut knows something is coming right around the corner and it’s not going to be pretty. “Suffragette City” comes at you at 300 m.p.h. and doesn’t relent until the song is over. Those few magical seconds between the two songs make all the difference as to how I hear each song. I never want to hear each song in isolation, ever.