Elliott Murphy’s catalog of more than four dozen first-rate albums ranks among rock’s best-kept secrets. If you’re familiar with his name, chances are you’re old enough to remember his handful of 1970s releases on major U.S. labels, which earned him excellent reviews and a “new Dylan” tag. Either that or you live in Europe, where this New York–born rocker has been based in subsequent decades and has built a devoted cult following.
Murphy shines particularly brightly when he’s on stage. His catalog includes more than a few fine concert CDs and videos, but a show that he recorded in Bilbao, Spain, in January 2015 offers a particularly good place to start discovering why his audiences cheer so loudly. You can download a high-quality video of Live in Bilbao from his website for free (though a modest donation is suggested). If you act quickly, you can also buy on the same site a newly issued, signed, limited-edition 69-minute CD that includes all but a couple of encores from the concert. (Only 300 copies have been pressed.)
The sold-out show embraces material from throughout Murphy’s career, starting with “Hangin’ Out” from Aquashow, his 1974 debut LP, and “You Never Know What You’re in For” from Night Lights, his 1976 third album. Also here are such relatively recently penned standouts as “And General Robert E. Lee,” “Green River,” and the irresistibly infectious “Come On Louann.”
All these well-hooked tracks evidence Murphy’s deft lyricism and expressive vocal work. And all of them benefit from the major contributions of Olivier Durand, the singer’s musical partner for decades, who is one of rock’s finest unsung guitarists. There’s plenty of room for Durand’s pyrotechnics in these expansive tracks, nearly all of which clock in at more than five minutes.
Save your money, because after hearing—or better yet, watching—Live in Bilbao, you’re probably going to want a lot more from Murphy’s vast catalog.
The Troggs, The Trogg Tapes. The Troggs—a major force in the British Invasion and an influence on many bands that followed them—displayed a dual personality in their 1960s hits: they served up biting garage rock on numbers like the U.S. chart-topping “Wild Thing” and such major U.K. singles as “I Can’t Control Myself.” But they also had a softer side, as evidenced by numbers like “Any Way That You Want Me,” another British hit, and “Love Is All Around,” which made the Top 10 in both America and England.
Both sides are represented on The Trogg Tapes, a newly reissued 1976 LP that features the group’s original lead singer, Reg Presley, and drummer, Ronnie Bond. The album includes gentle mid-tempo numbers like “After the Rain” and “I’ll Buy You an Island” as well as rhythmic hard rockers such as “We Rode Through the Night” and a version of “Gonna Make You,” a song they first released in 1966. The album does also embrace a few throwaways, such as “Rock ‘n’ Roll Lady” and “Rolling Stone,” but the program offers enough winners to make it worth seeking out by anyone who likes the Troggs’ better-known early work.
Kate Klim, Something Green. The Nashville-based Kate Klim developed the 10 folk/pop songs on this excellent fourth album while going through a divorce, but the mood here is more hopeful than you might expect.
You can sense Klim’s mindset right from the opening track, the propulsive title song, where she deftly draws parallels between the controlled-burn technique of forest management and her failed marriage. “Sometimes they burn it down so the rest don’t go…so something new can grow,” she sings. “I know it’s hurting now but underneath the smoke, I see something green.” Other highlights on the entirely self-penned album include the contemplative “Highland Park” and “Songbird,” which features prominent piano by Klim and sounds like something that could have fit right in on Joni Mitchell’s classic Blue album.
Terry Klein, Good Luck Take Care. This impressive third record from Terry Klein, which should appeal to fans of artists like Guy Clark and Billy Joe Shaver, sounds too polished to have been recorded and mixed in a mere four days, but that’s how long it took to make. Klein, who is based in Austin, Texas (like seemingly half the musicians in America these days), composed all the songs (one with a co-writer), and they’re loaded with wit, evocative imagery, and homespun wisdom.
The record, which Thomm Jutz winningly produced, strikes a good balance between rockers and acoustic ballads. There are moments of lightness here, such as “The Ballad of Dick Trickle,” about the late NASCAR champion, but the best moments come in the story songs that tug at your heartstrings—like the tragic tale of “Cheryl” and the pensive, melancholy “What You Lose Along the Way.”