Alan Cross’ weekly music picks: Rod Stewart and Cher resurface with new songs

Rod Stewart performs at Madison Square Garden on August 7, 2018 in New York City. Michael Loccisano/Getty Images

As the leaves turn, the weekly lists of new releases grow longer. Along with the regular selection of new releases, the number of box sets and reissues begins to grow as the industry’s thoughts turn to the Christmas shopping season.

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Here are some picks to listen to as we head into October.

1. Rod Stewart, Blood Red Roses

A few hours before a performance in Toronto back in August, Rod Stewart dropped in on a bunch of music industry types to play tracks from his 30th studio album. He seemed quite chuffed about the new material which veers across a series of genres, including — wait for it — EDM. He’s also feeling his age on some songs, singing “Now I am getting older/And the girls are getting younger” on Cold Old London. There’s also at least one song about a dearly departed friend (Farewell, dedicated to this late buddy, Ewan Dawson). The record is a bit uneven, but it’s fascinating how Rod still has one of the most distinctive voices in music.

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2. Cher, Dancing Queen

Yes, it’s Cher covering ABBA. Forty minutes of everything from the title track to SOS to Mamma Mia to Waterloo to Fernando. Why? She enjoyed appearing in the movie Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (in which she provided two songs for the soundtrack), so she thought she might as well record an entire album of ABBA tunes. I’m not entirely sure who this record should be marketed toward, so it could be one of those albums you buy in some sort of ironic gesture.

3. The Joy Formidable, AAARTH

Let’s clear up that title. It’s derived from the Welsh word arth, which means “bear” —which sort of makes sense, given that the band is from Wales and like many Welsh bands, is quite proud of their heritage. But why riff on the idea of a bear? Dunno, but previous albums have included The Big Roar and Wolf’s Law, so maybe it’s a spirit animal thing. Their fourth album is a self-released project, and from the sounds of the record, the band took advantage of the freedom to do a little experimenting. Out of everything they’ve ever done, this is the most rawk album they’ve ever released.

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4. Tom Petty, An American Treasure

Five days short of the first anniversary of Petty’s death comes the first in what will probably be a series of posthumous collections. Fans can choose from several flavours of An American Treasure, ranging from a 26-track “standard edition” to the much-expanded 60-track box set to a super-deluxe edition containing an 84-page hardbound book. There’s also the obligatory vinyl version, featuring six LPs. Caution is required for the casual fan, though. Rather than including all the big hits again, these collections focus on deep cuts, B-sides, live recordings, alternate takes and a few unreleased songs. That means if you’re looking for Runnin’ Down a Dream or The Waiting, you’ll have to go elsewhere. But if you’re looking to discover the immensity of what we lost with Petty that October night last year, this collection could be revelatory.

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5. The Pursuit of Happiness, Love Junk

Thirty years ago, a scrappy indie rock band managed to get their homemade music video on MuchMusic, something that never happened to scrappy indie rock bands back then. The reaction was so strong, a bidding war erupted and before long the band found themselves in the studio with their dream producer, Todd Rundgren. Although Love Junk was a product of the late 1980s, it made an incalculable contribution to the foundations of the CanRock that was to come in the ’90s, thanks to a steady stream of friendly alt hits. The record has been reissued in an expanded version with extra tracks (demos, alternate takes, even a couple of Christmas songs), band interviews and plenty of liner notes.

London Calling — The Blinders, Brave New World

Is this Manchester trio the best young band in the UK? That’s what some of the wags in the British music media have said. Might be worth streaming their new album, Columbia. Arctic Monkeys fans will find something to like here, although fans of Donald Trump and the Kardashians might want to take a pass.

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Undiscovered Gem — John Grant, He’s Got His Mother’s Hips

John is a 50-year-old singer-songwriter who works out of Denver. He’s something of a cult hero thanks to his slightly off-kilter approach. This track from an upcoming album entitled Love is Magic features bits of Bowie, Iggy and Zappa.

Throwback Thursday — Depeche Mode, I Feel You

Twenty-five years ago this month, Depeche Mode became one of the first bands to try to interact with fans using this new thing called “The Internet.” They set up in an AOL office (remember them?) and had all kinds of issues trying to get online, as did their fans. At the same time, though, tracks from their 1993 album, Songs of Faith and Devotion, were somehow leaked to a few music billboards and became some of the first songs to be filed-shared. The band’s label saw what was going on but elected to ignore it. “This’ll never catch on,” they said. Right.

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Alan Cross is a broadcaster with 102.1 the Edge and a commentator for Global News.

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