Ricky Flake: A mixed bag of old and new releases

This first December column kicks off with my review of the debut album from a Baltimore-based quartet, followed by consideration of a reissue from Arthur Lee & Love, plus my thoughts about a Tymon Dogg release.

"Fireball," Western Star (Saustex Media, ***)

This Nov. 20 CD/LP/digital release comes from a band that cites three main sources of inspiration: Thin Lizzy, The Pixies and the Old 97s. It was produced by lead guitarist for the 97s, Ken Bethea.

I've heard only one recording by the 97s and was never a fan of The Pixies, but this music has no audible reminders of the best of Thin Lizzy, who were about well-rehearsed twin lead guitars and nifty vocal melodies. These guys are using guitars instead of synthesizers and samples, but there are not many hooks present.

"Fireball" has a hooky chorus, as does "Thousand Heartaches." "Forever and a Day" is all-around nifty, as are parts of "Aeroangel."

The songs aren't catchy enough for this reviewer, but others might enjoy it.

"Reel To Real," Arthur Lee and Love (High Moon Records, ****)

This Nov. 27 CD/vinyl/digital release is a reissue of Love's final studio album, originally released in 1974. The deluxe version features remastered audio from the original tapes, a 32-page booklet with a David Fricke essay and much more.

The album features "Arthur Lee's Black Beauty" band: drummer Joe Blocker, guitarist Melvan Whittington and bassist Robert Rozelle augmented by guitar-ace John Sterling and�cameos by guitarists Harvey Mandel and "Buzzy" Feiten. There are 12 alternate takes/bonus songs in addition to the songs from the original LP.

Favorite original album songs are the horn-driven "Time is Like a River," the Stax-flavored "Good Old Fashioned Dream," the slide-powered "Singing Cowboy" and the catchy "Be Thankful For What You Got."

Fans of soulful music that's sometimes psychedelic will dig this one.

"Made Of Light," Tymon Dogg (Thin Man Music, *** 1/2)

This Nov. 6 CD comes from someone who was a friend and songwriting partner of Joe Strummer and member of The Mescaleros. There are two CDs, labeled "Side One" and "Side Two," which indicates availability in vinyl/digital formats for this well-crafted album. Tymon sings British-accented "better world" lyrics in a regular-guy voice, but there's tremendous instrumental variety.

The lavishly orchestrated "Conscience Money," the piano-powered "Like I Used to Be," the violin-drenched "That's The Way It Is" and the humorous "Perfect Match" are my favorite tunes.

This is a good one for discriminating listeners.

Martha's Trouble Christmas singles

The Alabama-based couple who released two of my favorite Christmas recordings (2002's "Christmas Lights" and 2008's "This Christmas" now available on their website, Amazon and possibly iTunes) released two nifty digital holiday singles in October. "River" and "White Christmas."