Election night could provide a quick White House winner, or a flood of mail-in ballots and social division could delay results for weeks
Shine On: Badfinger 1974 by Badfinger: Ultimately, nothing—not the power-poppy “No Matter What,” not the radiant “Day After Day,” not the as-featured-on-Breaking Bad “Baby Blue”—dispels the pall that has hung over this tuneful foursome ever since its dissolution amid litigation, infighting, chicanery, and suicides. But in 1974, having disentangled themselves from Apple Records (where they labored in the long shadows of the Beatles), the members still thought they had a chance of putting their troubled past behind them and of capitalizing on what appeared to be a fresh start on Warner Bros. More than a few of the songs on this digital-only compilation suggest that, had they only stayed the course a little longer, they may have been right.
They That in Ships to the Sea Down Go: Music for the Mayflower by Passamezzo: You might not have realized it, but this year marks the 400th anniversary of the sailing of the Mayflower. (Strange, you think there’d be public celebrations or something.) You might also never have wondered what kind of music the ship’s 102 passengers (not counting crew) may have made to while away the time. Not to worry. This seven-member UK early-music ensemble has done the wondering—and the discovering—for you. Beginning with the contents of music books known to have been onboard (two psalters among them) and venturing into popular 17th-century singalongs in general, the program and performances humanize the Pilgrims with imagination and verve. And, as if the overall concept weren’t “controversial” enough, three selections celebrate tobacco.
Hate for Sale by the Pretenders: There’s a lot to like about this album: the punky energy; the prominence of James Walbourne’s guitar in the mix, the knowing changes of pace that honor Chrissie Hynde’s love of reggae, soul, and heartbreak (and of knowing changes of pace); the illusion, fueled by Hynde’s ageless voice and take-no-guff attitude, that some iteration of this band might go on making music this rough and tough forever—and this vulnerable. The heartbreak song is about what it’s called (“Crying in Public”), and it peaks with an anti-feminist couplet guaranteed to get under the skin of anyone still bothered by Hynde’s letting Rush Limbaugh use a Pretenders’ hit as his theme song.
Sockin’ It To You: The Complete Dynovoice/New Voice Recordings by Mitch Ryder & the Detroit Wheels: When both Ted Nugent and Chrissie Hynde cite a band as an inspiration, it behooves the uninitiated to discover what the fuss was about. Enter this three-disc package, which in chronicling Mitch Ryder & the Detroit Wheels’ brief but intense career also documents the flash point at which rock and soul collided: Over 50 years later, the repercussions from the revved-up medley of Shorty Long’s “Devil With a Blue Dress” and Little Richard’s “Good Golly Miss Molly” still shake windows and rattle walls. The group’s other charting singles (and many of their album cuts) followed the same formula, so if you enjoy one, you’ll probably enjoy everything else—at least up to the point that the Wheels came off.
Chrissie Hynde is in the news these days because her 41-year-old band the Pretenders has just released a strong new album, Hate for Sale (BMG). But it’s just the latest chapter in a long-running story that has been expanding apace ever since the appearance of Hynde’s autobiography in 2015. There is, for instance, her Dylan Lockdown Series, a collection of unplugged Bob Dylan covers (seven as of this writing) that Hynde and Pretenders’ guitarist James Walbourne have been posting to YouTube. (Check out “Blind Willie McTell.”)
And then there’s her 2019 solo disc Valve Bone Woe, on which she transformed her feline snarl into a feline coo and applied it to cosmopolitan songbooks both old (Hoagy Carmichael, Rodgers & Hammerstein, Charles Trenet) and not so old (Brian Wilson, Ray Davies, Nick Drake). A few of her sophisticated yet far from stodgy soundscapes might even yet give rise to the term “space-age bachelorette-pad music.” And her “I’m a Fool to Want You” blows Dylan’s out of the water.