Last week, I had the great honor of interviewing the legendary Brian Wilson at Capitol Studios for a special event as part of a program called Inside Access from Chase. Enjoying a playback of perhaps my favorite album ever, The Beach Boys' Pet Sounds, was fun, fun, fun. God only knows how great that album is. This experience reminded me of how much I still love listening to albums -- however threatened the album itself may be in today's music world. So from time to time I think, wouldn't it be nice to support musicians far and wide by sharing with you some of my own current pet sounds here -- the new music I'm listening to today?
THE VERBS - COVER STORY
These days, few cover stories -- or cover albums -- are as enjoyable as this cool set by Meegan Voss and her famed husband, drummer and co-producer Steve Jordan, featuring contributions by other distinguished players like Willie Weeks and Pino Palladino. The Verb's cover of The Dave Clark Five's "Glad All Over" was already named as the "Coolest Song In The World" by Little Steven, and there's lots more cover fun where that came from, including a lovely take on Todd Rundgren's "I Saw The Light" and a suitably rousing version of The Kinks' "Til' the End of the Day."
EDWARD O'CONNELL - VANISHING ACT
I know very little about Edward O'Connell -- other than he's the brother of a woman I knew in prep school. Yet somehow this Washington, D.C.-based singer-songwriter has produced two splendid albums in a row - 2010's "Our Little Secret" and now "Vanishing Act." Many of the Classic Rock and Power Pop artists O'Connell has been influenced by would be fortunate to have new songs as strong and memorable as the standouts here, including the opening "My Dumb Luck," "Lonely Crowd" and the title track here. Please don't let this wonderful pop rock act vanish without a listen.
ROBIN GIBB -- 50 ST. CATHERINE'S DRIVE
Posthumous albums are always a risky proposition, but this new release shows that Robin Gibb still had some of the proven Bee Gees magic in him right to the very end. From the opening gem "Days OF Wine And Roses" to the moving conclusion "Sydney," Robin Gibbs' final demo recording of a song he planned to record with his surviving brother Barry, this album is like a lovely last visit from an old friend who is now greatly missed.
PAUL RODGERS -- THE ROYAL SESSIONS
Paul Rodgers is already one of the most influential and most imitated rock frontmen in history -- especially for his work with Free and later Bad Company. Yet his countless imitators generally lack a core soulfulness that has long marked Rodgers' best work -- going back at least to Free's "All Right Now." "The Royal Sessions" -- produced by Perry A Margouleff -- finds Rodgers sounding right at home in the legendary Memphis Studio where Al Green and countless others made music history. This is thanks in large part to the way he connects on Memphis classics with many of the city's finest players who have helped make things happen there for decades. "The Royal Sessions" is truly soulful stuff, and royally required listening.
GARY CALAMAR -- YOU ARE WHAT YOU LISTEN TO
One of the best rock albums that I've heard this year is an EP from a guy who's better known among insiders as a successful music supervisor for TV shows like "True Blood" and "Six Feet Under." Gary Calamar's songs here are infused with great New Wave energy and hooks aplenty. Far be it from me to tell anyone to quit their day job in this economy, but songs like "She's So Mid-Century" and "I Got An Idea" are full-time pleasures from an artist with great promise who's already delivering.
MICHAEL W. SMITH - THE SPIRIT OF CHRISTMAS
The Christmas album season is already upon us, and I'm already prepared to call my favorite Yuletide effort. This stunning collection by famed contemporary Christian recording artist Michael W. Smith - beautifully produced by Robert Deaton, David Hamilton and Smith -- features a series of inspired Yuletide collaborations with the likes of Vince Gill, Little Big Town, Amy Grant, Jennifer Nettles, even appearance by Bono. Yet the standout here is "All Is Well" that features Smith and Carrie Underwood giving two of the strongest performances of their respective careers. Warm your spirit with this new Christmas classic.
THE PAUL & JOHN - INNER SUNSET
Truth be told, that not-so-little word "Beatlesque" could be used to describe just about anything good, but that description sure fits this entirely fab and gorgeous song cycle by Paul Myers and John Moreman. This San Francisco duo delivers tunes that feel not just well-crafted, but deeply felt as well, including standouts tracks like "Everything Comes Together," "Long Way Back" and "Hungry Little Monkey." I feel fine in saying that "Inner Sunset" has a lovely inner glow.
WHO'S YOUR DADDY - ANTI-SOCIAL SECURITY
This L.A. vocal group promises "ACAPPELLA WITH ATTITUDE" on the cover, and they deliver on that claim all over their latest album that features energetic and witty covers of everything from "You Shook Me All Night Long" to "Some Kind of Wonderful" to "My Sharona" and a version of "Jessie's Girl" that my wife and I -- lifelong Rick Springfield fanatics -- have fallen in love with all over again. Don't have extreme Daddy issues? Then get to know Who's Your Daddy's harmonic convergence any chance that you get.