Lindsey Buckingham and Christine McVie
Lindsey Buckingham/Christine McVie (Warner)
It’s not fair to criticize Lindsey Buckingham and Christine McVie for going adult contemporary, since that’s what Fleetwood Mac has been for 40 years. And this is basically Fleetwood Mac, with rhythm section Mick Fleetwood and John McVie on board, sounding pretty great on “In My World.” But there’s no getting around that this is a pallid reprint of the Mac’s world-beating stuff—particularly Buckingham’s voice, which is so creaky it’s depressing. Luckily, McVie’s is in fantastic shape, and she shines on “Red Sun,” which actually does approach classic Mac until Buckingham phones in a stultifying solo.
Is This the Life We Really Want? (Columbia)
Roger Waters, never cheerful, gives his grimness focus on Is This the Life We Really Want? Waters foregrounds Donald Trump as the album’s malevolent specter, sampling DJT speaking on the title track (no word on royalties litigation). Waters offers no solutions beyond “We can say ‘fuck you’ / We will not listen to your bullshit and lies,” and over the course of an hour, it becomes exhausting. But you’re not going to hear a better approximation of late-period Pink Floyd. As usual, longtime Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich twiddles all the right knobs; the introductory “When We Were Young” evokes Dark Side opener “Speak to Me,” and the first proper song, aptly titled “Déjà vu,” references “Mother” and “Comfortably Numb.” And if the title track goes full Radiohead, that’s payback I suppose.
We’re All Alright! (Big Machine)
Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy Cheap Trick is still recording new material and touring. Unfortunately, We’re All Alright! sounds less like Cheap Trick’s muscular take on power pop and more like the odious muscle-bound cock rock of Foreigner (with whom they’re appearing at Jiffy Lube Live on July 25). The band finds its feet a bit on “Nowhere” and “Floating Down,” but on songs like “Long Time Coming,” the music is stripped of humanity and turned into the macho posing of a third-rate AC/DC impersonator. Not alright.
The Mission (Universal)
Keeping the faith, we have Styx; as Lawrence Gowan eagerly yelps, “Light it up, let’s get this show on the road!” From the opening moments of “Overture”—hell, from the simple fact that the opener is called “Overture”—The Mission is loyal to the band’s proggy, grandiose hard rock scheme. And die hard fans (?) will rejoice at the still-celestial harmonies on songs like “Radio Silence” and the half-awesome guitar wank of “Trouble At the Big Show.” But oh, those horrible lyrics: “Locomotive tell me where you are / Now that you’ve become the distant star / Did you lose your faith where you belong? / Did you hide from those who you did love?” Mercy!
Marseille (Harmonia Mundi)
In the never gets old department, Ahmad Jamal is back, sounding as fresh as he did on 1953’s Live at the Pershing. He’s accompanied here by drummer Herlin Riley and bassist James Cammack, who blend superbly with Jamal’s spacious voicings, which are on glorious display in the free-rhythm passage introducing “I Came to See You/You Were Not There.” Jamal offers three versions of the title track; the first opens with dark chords from Jamal and inventive varieties on a simple military roll by Riley, and the last features vocalist Mina Agossi, who sings the port city’s praises in French and English—the same text lands flat as recited in the middle version by poet-rapper Abd Al Malik, but ah well. And Jamal turns in a playful “Autumn Leaves” for those craving more familiar fare.