My summer has been filled with deep loss. My younger brother David succumbed to major injuries sustained in a motorcycle accident on June 1st. Along with the comfort and love from my family and friends, music was a necessary daily elixir. Many nights I would listen to vinyl in my mother's home, albums I'd left there years ago, or a handful of new/used pieces I picked up at one of my favorite Akron, OH vinyl shops.The ritual of cleaning each piece, placing it on the turntable, dropping the needle, studying the album art, reading the liner notes... it was a much-needed distraction. Here are three new pieces that have aided me in my latest life's journey.
Nick Cave - Push The Sky Away (Bad Seed Ltd)
Mr. Cave lost his teenage son in a tragic accident last July and is set to release Skeleton Key in September, his first new music since said tragedy. In the interim, something about his 15th album released in 2013 offered me a very deep and satisfying comfort. And while I do miss Bad Seeds guitarist Blixa Bargeld's noise bursts and long-time musical foil Mick Harvey's numerous contributions, the stark arrangements by Cave and Warren Ellis -- his partner in music soundtracks -- offer an eerie, atmospheric quality that permeates one's soul. This is an album where the listener can "feel" the tension in the grooves. The songs "Higgs Boson Blues" (Stephen Hawking warns that the Higgs boson, or "god particle," could end the universe one day) and "Jubilee Street" are both long, ruminative centerpiece tracks that define each side. When my darkness finally subsides, "I am transforming / I am vibrating / I am an embryo eating dark oxygen / I am glowing / I am flying / Look at me..."
Brian Auger's Oblivion Express - Closer To It (RCA)
... and when my gloom finally lifts, I know that "Happiness is Just Around the Bend." That song and this album were played non-stop when I was a teenager. If those musical memories are truly comforting, so be it. The jazz vibe is soaring and fierce, Mr. Auger's band firing on all cylinders. UK-based Auger even handles his own vocals. Wonderful covers of the Gene McDaniels's classic "Compared to What" and Marvin Gaye's juggernaut "Inner City Blues" help to nourish my recovery. Yes, they harken back to a time of innocence, when death and darkness seemed so very distant and the future offered nothing but unbridled optimism.
Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers - Greatest Hits (Geffen)
Say what you will about Mr. Petty once domination of FM radio, but he remains one of American's greatest rockers. True that formulaic FM rock programmers over-saturated his music on the radio during the '70s and '80s, yet his music has aged incredibly well and he remains one of my favorite songwriters. This first-time-on vinyl, double LP 180 gram collection could have easily been a triple LP set. Petty has always been deft in his cover selection and on this comp he tackles the Thunderclap Newman tune "Something in the Air," a song that I hold in very high regard. TN's Hollywood Dreams is a much-coveted album worthy of any collection, vinyl or otherwise. And if the sing-along rock anthems "American Girl" or "Free Fallin'" aren't on your top 50 rock songs playlist, then you are not a true rock 'n' roll fan. Petty's simple, evocative jangle rock songs are as American as apple pie.