Ziggy Marley’s Fly Rasta, just the young Marley’s fifth solo studio album, is so varied that it almost seems like a collected release rather than an album. Yet, while it doesn’t have a coherent sound to unify it as a whole, it’s parts are great on their own. The songs range from mainstream pop songs such as “I Don’t Wanna Live on Mars” (deep message and all) to the more specific “Fly Rasta.” If there is anything that holds this eclectic mix together it’s the songwriting, which is compelling throughout.
The first number of times I heard “Valtz De Mon Pere” I was sure I was listening to one of the most classic love songs I had ever heard, a folk song from long ago: “Our grandchildren will know us/Because they’re made of our hearts.” It’s a brilliant love song and it’s followed by the stubborn, in-your-face, Mississippi/New Orleans sound of “J’ai Connais Pas,” a song that completely contrasts with it. There‘s a definite balance to this album, and a depth as well.
It’s difficult to imagine (as one who listened obsessively to Squeezing Out Sparks, Heat Treatment, Stick to Me, The Up Escalator, and—especially—Howling Wind way back in the 70s and early 80s) that Graham Parker and the Rumour would get back together through email so many years later. Part of the impetus may have been the documentary Don’t Ask Me Questions and part a request to perform in a Judd Apatow film.
Neil Young’s new album with The Promise of the Real, 2015’s The Monsanto Years, is a strange bird for our era. It’s a good old fashioned protest album from start to finish. That’s rare enough, but the fact that it is one of Neil’s best albums ever makes it a standout for 2015 and perhaps controversial for more than his attacks on pesticides, Monsanto, Starbucks, and Wal-Mart.