Short Cuts: Clutch, Black Stone Cherry, The Rolling Stones

CD Review: Clutch – Psychic Warfare
Weathermaker Music
All Access Rating: A

Clutch - Psychic Warfare 2105
Psychic Warfare is real. Neil Fallon says so on a fantastically frenetic "X-Ray Visions," and the battle is joined, Clutch working itself into a swarming, groove-powered lather. Fallon's skirmishes of the mind are soundtracked with momentum-gathering riffing and hooks as tight as balled-up fists in a song that goes from a rolling boil to a tension-packed simmer as Fallon makes band introductions based on astrological signs before Clutch again blows the lid off the place. It's as if an invading army is overrunning an enemy territory, setting off another equally delirious, earth-scorching conflagration called "Firebirds." Clutch is just beginning to show its hand, and it's an unbeatable one, as Fallon's oddly compelling tales of the weird ("Decapitation Blues" tackling the subject of reanimation and all) are couched in unstoppable, hard-rock fury ("Sucker For The Witch"), cinematic Western noir ("Our Lady Of Electric Light"), nasty, cat-scratched funk ("Your Love Is Incarceration") and sizzling blues ("A Quick Death In Texas"). After hitting an all-time high in delivering an agile and sinewy Earth Rocker LP in 2013 with hooks that killed, Clutch simply refuses to rest on its laurels, the hardscrabble, haunted blues of "Son of Virginia" rising into a thunderous closing epic as Clutch declares war on mediocrity.

CD/DVD Review: Black Stone Cherry – Thank You: Livin' Live, Birmingham, UK October 30, 2014
Eagle Vision
All Access Rating: B-

Black Stone Cherry - Thank You:
Livin' Live, Birmingham, UK
October 30, 2014
A simple "Thank You" from Black Stone Cherry will suffice, as these post-grunge sons of the South rise again in a country that has embraced with open arms. Their third album, 2011's Between The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea, hauled ass all the way up to No. 1 that year in Great Britain, and Black Stone Cherry hasn't forgotten that. With a raucous, high-energy performance at Birmingham's LG Arena – now available on DVD, Blu-ray or as a CD/DVD combo entitled "Thank You: Livin' Large, Birmingham, UK October 30, 2014" – just over a year ago, they showered the audience with appreciation and stomping, sleazy riffs dug out of Nickelback's homogenous compost heap and recycled under a different brand. Though shot professionally in high-definition, the sparkling clean camera work isn't very imaginative. Neither is Black Stone Cherry's generic music, which has always been willing to rinse itself free of grit and earthiness for a glossy shine. Still, the photography does manage to heighten and add fuel to Black Stone Cherry's fiery passion, plainly evident in swaggering, arena-sized rockers "Rain Wizard," "Me and Mary Jane" and "White Trash Millionaire." And the crowd is clearly with them, singing in unison with every word to almost every number. Youthful exuberance and full volume only go so far, however, as Black Stone Cherry suffers from occasional bouts of off-key singing, bland guitar work and loose drumming – the hot messes that are "Bad Luck and Hard Love" and "Holding On ... To Letting Go" being the most egregious crimes. On the other hand, more poignant material such as the soaring "In My Blood" and "Things My Father Said" forms a strong bond between crowd and the performers, making the concert feel like a family reunion. And for fans of Black Stone Cherry, this is a nicely arranged package, as live material and interview footage from a performance at Download Festival are nice additions, even if the lack of liner notes is glaring.

2 CD/DVD Review: The Rolling Stones – From The Vault: Live In Leeds 1982
Eagle Rock Entertainment
All Access Rating: B+
The Rolling Stones - From the Vault:
Live In Leeds 1982

The Rolling Stones had miles to go before they slept. Their 1982 European Tour in support of their 1981 release Tattoo You would be their last for a stretch of seven years, but before unexpectedly going dark for such an extended break, the Stones had to attend to one more piece of business: a daytime show on July 25, 1982 at Roundhay Park in Leeds, England, now available in digital formats or as a 2-CD/DVD package that also comes in Blu-ray. For all its clarity and glossy definition, the cinematography is rather odd, employing an overabundance of fairly extreme facial closeups – the most awkward of which focus on Bill Wyman's vacant expression – in some weird shuffle. At the same time, it highlights the Stones' outlandishly gaudy fashion sense and intently studies the instrumental flair of Ronnie Wood, Charlie Watts and Keith Richards, while drinking in Mick Jagger's excitable onstage charm. Another in an ever-expanding "From The Vault" series of classic, previously unreleased concert material, this set is an uneven affair. As tired and disinterested as they appear early on during "When The Whip Comes Down," "Going To a Go Go" and "Shattered," the Stones are revived by the bluesy "Black Limousine," a rough-and-tumble cover of Eddie Cochran's "Twenty Flight Rock" and a rip-roaring, ramshackle version of "Little T&A." Perfect on a summer day, with a massive crowd in attendance, their breezy, blissful version of "Just My Imagination" is sunny and soulful, and on "Tumbling Dice," "Miss You," "Beast of Burden" and "Brown Sugar" they seem to savor every delicious note. Well-written liner notes give necessary context to this historic performance, the last for piano player Ian Stewart with the Stones, in a nicely designed booklet that rounds out what is, for the most part, a solid live release. Just please leave poor old Bill alone.
– Peter Lindblad

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