It took them five years to get there, but PROCOL HARUM and Esoteric are wrapping up the reissue programme which saw all the band’s albums remastered and gloriously expanded. Of course, there’s still non-classic “The Well’s On Fire” to be re-released, but October 30th will see the arrival of "Something Magic": the last record the ensemble put out in the ’70s before a breakup – the one that saw them introduce, thanks to the great Pete Solley, cosmic synthesizers to complement and contrast Gary Brooker’s piano, with Keith Reid‘s poetry reaching for a new realm. And the bonus tracks on this edition are most notable.
The word “experimentation” doesn’t really cover what Petra Haden‘s oeuvre is about. Mostly known for her a cappella renditions of rock classics, such as an entirely solo vocal delivery of “The Who Sell Out” or KING CRIMSON evergreens, in the last quarter-century the singer also collaborated with guitar explorers Bill Frisell, Mark Kozelek and James Williamson, yet her forthcoming release may be the boldest of all. This time, Ms Haden will handle the songs written by the acclaimed saxophonist John Zorn, with lyrics by Jesse Harris – who already recorded an album with Petra, 2016’s “Seemed Like A Good Idea” – including one that hasn’t seen the light of day before.
Regular classic rock aficionados may not know it but they’re very familiar with the oeuvre of the immensely talented Del Newman who died on August 10th. The sweeping strings on Elton John’s “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” and Rod Stewart’s “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy?”, on TEN YEARS AFTER’s “I’d Love To Change The World” and “People in Love” by 10CC, on a couple of songs on Harry Nilsson’s “Son Of Schmilsson” as well as “Tea For The Tillerman” and a few more Cat Stevens classics: it was all him, arranging and conducting various orchestras for various artists. Del was said to be holding the baton on WINGS’ “Live And Let Die” and “Band On The Run” which is a testament of George Martin’s respect for him, and also worked with Andrew Lloyd Webber and Charles Aznavour; and he also appeared on Eurovision to elevate Alan Sorrenti’s “Non so che darei” in 1980. No mean feat for a black Englishman who started out in the ’60s helping shape Gordon Giltrap’s debut LP and became part of pop music’s very fabric.
If anyone had any doubts about the post-millennial return of AMERICAN TEARS, 2019’s “White Flags” more than justified the ensemble’s comeback. With Mark Mangold’s keyboards raging and raving, that album felt sensational, revelatory even, and its follow-up “Free Angel Express” that’s scheduled for release on October 23rd is supposed to take things even further. This time it’s neither a solo effort, like last year’s one, nor a trio arrangement as it was back in the ’70s: now Mangold is joined by power metal maven Alex Landenburg on drums and a few guests. More so, this time the songs seem to be more topical and tuned into our times – something that the band always worked towards.
It’s not an underestimation to say that without Martin Birch – who passed away on August 9th, aged 71 – hard rock and heavy metal would sound different to what we’re used to. To illustrate this point, one has to name only three albums, three key records that he produced: RAINBOW’s “Rising” from 1976, BLACK SABBATH’s “Heaven And Hell” from 1980 and IRON MAIDEN’s “The Number Of The Beast” from 1982 – but the Englishman had worked his magic, as an engineer, on all the ’70s LPs by DEEP PURPLE and he stayed with MAIDEN from the start of their career to “Fear Of The Dark” after which the veteran retired.