Jettisoning not only the funk-metal rhythms of their earlier work but also long-time guitar hero and wacky eyewear model James B Martin, King For A Day… Fool For A Lifetime for the most part pursued a more back-to-basics garage sound that slotted in with the post-grunge environment of 1995. The album holds up well today, with Mike Patton achieving new heights of visceral howling on the likes of Cuckoo For Caca, but among the bonus tracks there's little to get excited about other than the tragic-comedy Bee Gees cover - I Started A Joke.
Coming off an intense and emotionally rough period that surrounded the recording and release of 2013's No Morphine No Lilies, drummer Allison Miller's Boom Tic Boom is in upbeat, adventurous form on 2016's Otis Was a Polar Bear. Which isn't to say that she and her bandmates weren't game for adventure on No Morphine No Lilies. On the contrary, the group found its footing on that album born out of a tumultuous year that included Miller taking care of her sick girlfriend, two of her bandmates having babies, and Miller drawing attention, some unfairly negative, for a Huffington Post article she wrote about being a lesbian feminist in the jazz world.
Mavis Staples is a soul-gospel legend, but her momentum keeps building as she targets the future. She just won a Grammy for a Blind Lemon Jefferson cover, but her latest album takes her to a new plateau enlisting contemporary songwriters such as Neko Case, Nick Cave, Ben Harper, Tune-Yards, Valerie June, and M. Ward (who also produced). It’s an inspired set that frames Staples’ emotionally raw, transcendentally intimate voice in mostly spare arrangements that cut to the heart. Ward does a masterful job of simply turning Staples loose amid the positive vibrations of Harper’s “Love and Trust,” Tune-Yards’ “Action” (which even starts with some surf guitar), Son Little’s “One Love” (not the Bob Marley song, but a new one that sounds like a Ben E. King tune), and Ward’s own “MLK Song,” a stark ballad featuring his acoustic guitar backing Staples as she talk-sings words of peace by her civil rights mentor. The album feels stunningly fresh and cutting edge; expect to see it on some Top Ten lists later this year.
The original 10-song album from 1985 has been remastered from the original tapes and is expanded to included nine bonus tracks including demos, new mixes and live performances.