"Son of Rogues Gallery," Various Artists (Anti-)
In 2006, actor Johnny Depp and director Gore Verbinski were working on "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest," when visionary music producer Hal Willner proposed the duo financing an album of pirate and sailing songs.
Willner had a track record of combining disparate artists in wild and wonderful projects, most notably "Stay Awake," a truly inspired set of reinterpretations of songs from vintage Disney films. Willner duplicated that magic with "Rogues Gallery: Pirate Ballads, Seas Songs and Chanteys," which became an underground classic. Aside from frequent moments of beauty it preserved revived songs that might have otherwise been forgotten, including possibly the filthiest and funniest song to come from olden times ("On the Good Ship Venus") — lovingly delivered by Loudon Wainwright III.
This two-disc follow-up has several gorgeous moments and great combinations — Dan Zanes with Broken Social Scene, Michael Stipe and Courtney Love, Iggy Pop and A Hawk and a Hacksaw, Tom Waits and Keith Richards, Katey Red & Big Freedia and Akron/Family, Marianne Faithfull with Kate and Anna McGarrigle, among them.
And, there's plenty of surprises to love over the course of 36 tracks, but "Son of Rogues Gallery" suffers as most sequels do — It doesn't seem as inspired as the original. The first "Rogues Gallery" featured the strongest sailing songs and the most shocking. "Son of" is a nice companion piece, but make sure to grab the original before diving into this one.
"Electric," Richard Thompson (New West)
Richard Thompson is one of the great guitarists and singer-songwriters. On his best days, he writes the kind of songs that secure themselves in your soul. "Shoot Out the Lights," "Wall of Death," "A Heart Needs a Home," "When I Get to the Border" and many others have become classics.
Producer Buddy Miller works well with artists like Thompson. He keeps things raw and honest. The focus is on the songs and the artist and Miller surrounds Thompson with some of Nashville's best artists.
That may be part of the reason the Miller-produced "Electric" is one of Thompson's best albums in years.
Thompson is one of the best at expressing bitterness. On "Electric," "My Enemy," "Good Things Happen to Bad People" and the lovely "Another Small Thing In Her Favor" all bristle with poetic ire.
That song is followed with the lustful and rocking "Straight and Narrow" which features an organ that sounds like it was imported from 1965. And the disc closes with "Saving the Good Stuff for You," which could've been a country classic in a better time.
"Electric" may not become one of Thompson's classic discs, but it certainly puts him back in the arena.
© 2013, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
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