CD Shorts

Reviewed this week: Doug Ratner & The Watchmen; Nick Lowe; and Pink Floyd

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Friday, March 16, 2012

Doug Ratner & The Watchmen
Lessons Well Learned

The Watchmen have steadily crafted themselves into a solid, tight unit that showcases Ratner's considerable songwriting talents. Their approach springs mostly from roots-rock traditions of the '70s, but also incorporates some of the better, more long-lived pop/rock elements of '80s bands like The Police and The English Beat. This EP shows substantial improvement over their previous full-length, Eye to Eye, yet also retains a few country-ish moments that carry over from that effort. A cover of Pink Floyd's "Money" shows off the band's instrumental prowess and ability to rock in a weird meter. Lessons Well Learned was recorded at The Carriage House (an actual carriage house) in Stamford, Conn., and the production is superb. These guys list Longmeadow as their hometown, and are having a release party March 16 at Pearl Street Nightclub at 9 p.m. —Tom Sturm


Nick Lowe
Labour of Lust
(Yep Roc)

Inexplicably, Nick Lowe's second album—containing his biggest hit "Cruel to Be Kind"—has been unavailable in this country for decades. Yep Roc corrects this oversight with a handsome, sharp-sounding reissue that adds a worthy B-side, the hushed acoustic "Basing Street," to the mix. Originally released in 1979, Labour of Lust smartly straddles New Wave and pub rock, with forays into country rock and an unfortunately earnest romantic ballad. But besides the immortal hit, the highlights aren't the expected power pop tunes. The real gems are darker and weirder: "Cracking Up," with its slinky groove and convincingly paranoid lyrics ("I'd make a knife out of a notion") and the percolating rhythms and mechanical riffs of "Big Kick, Plain Scrap." While this album isn't quite the equal of Nick Lowe's classic debut, it ultimately demonstrates more range and verve. —Jeff Jackson


Pink Floyd
The Wall—Experience Version

Star Wars and Pink Floyd's The Wall share a similar place in my pop-culture world. When I was a kid, Star Wars captured my imagination and sense of youthful adventure. When I was a teen, The Wall seemed like a dark reflection of my own angst-ridden, hormone-besieged soul. Now that I'm an adult, Mr. Lucas and Floyd have managed to get me to buy more versions of their wares than I'd like to admit. The latest version of The Wall (at least the one I downloaded from iTunes) comes packed with extras, including an early demo of the album and a collection of live recordings. The demo tracks are interesting, but mostly fill me with relief that the flaws were eventually polished off these crazy diamonds. Conversely, the concert tracks featuring the soaring solos of guitarist David Gilmour present a band in top form building on what was arguably its greatest work. —Mark Roessler




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