After releasing two albums in 1973 and a live, contract-fulfilling disc in 1974, Gallagher returned rested and recharged in 1975 with a new record label, Chrysalis, and a band with almost three years of hard touring under their belts. With its attention to detai, Against the Grain sounds more practiced and intricate than most of Gallagher's previous studio discs, but still includes some of his most powerful rockers. The supercharged "Souped-Up Ford," where Rory howls and wails, with his voice and smoking slide, and "All Around Man," an urgent blues rocker that begins with Gallagher screaming and crying together with just his electric guitar until the band kicks in with a stop-start blues rhythm, are two of the definitive moments. "Bought and Sold" adds congas to the mix to bring a more rootsy and even jazzy feel to Rory's table. But it's on the acoustic tracks where the guitarist and his band really lay into the groove.
At their best, cover albums have a strange way of galvanizing an artist by returning to the songs that inspired them; the artists can find the reason why they made music in the first place, perhaps finding a new reason to make music. Robert Plant's Dreamland – his first solo album in nearly ten years and one of the best records he's ever done, either as a solo artist or as a member of Led Zeppelin – fulfills that simple definition of a covers album and goes beyond it, finding Plant sounding reinvigorated and as restless as a new artist. Part of the reason why this album works so well is that he has a new band – not a group of supporting musicians, but a real band whose members can challenge him because they tap into the same eerie, post-folk mysticism that fueled Led Zeppelin III, among other haunting moments in the Zep catalog. Another reason why this album works so well is that it finds the band working from a similar aesthetic point as classic Zeppelin, who, at their peak, often reinterpreted and extrapolated their inspirations, piecing them together to create something startlingly original.
Seventy-one minutes of live Pearl Jam plus an unreleased song? It's aural nirvana for fans of the reclusive, integrity-driven Seattle quintet. Pearl Jam are nothing if not passionate and unabashedly rocking, and this 16-track offering, recorded during their Yield tour, illustrates why the mumbly voiced rock deity and his band of merry men inspire such ardor in their followers. Eddie Vedder's emotive vocals, Mike McCready and Stone Gossard's raw and raging fretwork and edgy, catchy, whisper-to-a-scream dynamics are deftly and inspiringly captured. Though a few staples (including "Jeremy") are missing, songs running the gamut of the band's seven-year career–from "Corduroy" to "Nothingman" to the Neil Young-penned "F*ckin' Up"–more than make up for any exclusions. The breadth and scope found on Live on Two Legs (a take on the Queen song, "Death on Two Legs"?) proves the once über-"alternative" Pearl Jam have struck a loud chord in the mainstream…and that's not a bad thing.