CD reviews: Madonna, Geoff Achison & The Souldiggers, Conspirator

Madonna MDNA/Boy Toy/Live Nation/Interscope

Next year will mark the 30th anniversary of the release of Madonna’s debut album.

That’s right, three decades of music from the Material Girl.

For those like me who grew up watching her rise in the ’80s, that’s sobering news. We’re all getting older, and yet Madge retains a certain attitude of youthfulness that belies her current 53 years of age.

That may be why her new CD, “MDNA,” still manages to be entertaining despite the fact that it’s mostly musical drivel.

From the kickoff track “Girl Gone Wild” to Nicki Minaj and M.I.A. assisted tracks such as “I Don’t Give A” and “Give Me All Your Luvin’,” the album is a mess of repetitive dance grooves and studio manipulation.

Sure, I know I’ve just described almost every Madonna album in existence, but “MDNA” goes above and beyond in its delivery of mindless music. With that said, you have to hand it to Madonna for continuing to pump out these albums that make us wish it could be the Blonde Ambition Tour days of the ’90s all over again.

The music is bubbly and mindless, with all the substance of cotton candy, but somehow Madonna manages to take it to another level. Few performers have that ability, but for Madonna it has worked for almost 30 years.

Key Tracks:“Turn Up the Radio,” “Give Me All Your Luvin’,” “I’m a Sinner”

Geoff Achison & The Souldiggers

Little Big Men/Jupiter 2 When Geoff Achison was growing up in rural Australia, he had a limited record collection and no real way of knowing how the guitarists on those records were producing the sounds he heard.

When Achison himself started playing guitar, he simply experimented with the instrument, coaxing his own unique sounds out of his guitar and amplifier.

Over time, Achison became well-known in Australia for his unconventional guitar playing, which many compare to that of Jeff Beck.

“Little Big Men” was actually released in Australia a few years back, but has only become available here in the U.S. this month.

Achison’s deep, heartfelt voice adds a touch of warmth to what are already great blues compositions. Achison plays guitar and sings on tracks that include “Crazy Horse,” “Happening” and “Feel Like a King.”

The American release also features three bonus tracks.

This is fairly straightforward blues music, and Achison’s backing band, The Souldiggers, are more than capable of backing the guitarist.

With blues music of this quality, one wonders why this album took so long to make it from Down Under to the U.S. Rather than ponder that issue though, it would be better to immerse yourself in the blues-drenched guitar work of a true original.

Key Tracks:“Happening,” “Little Big Men,” “Bit By Bit”

Conspirator Unlocked: Live From The Georgia Theatre/SCI Fidelity

With the advent of computer programs and software such as Pro Tools and GarageBand, just about anyone who is interested in making music can launch a recording empire from the comfort of their own bedroom.

That same technology revolution also has given rise to various bands that incorporate electronic elements into their work. Conspirator is one such group.

Made up of bassist Marc Brownstein and keyboardist Aron Magner of Disco Biscuits, as well as DJ Omen, Conspirator sounds a lot like Widespread Panic if it incorporated a DJ and stopped John Bell from singing.

On the band’s latest album, “Unlocked: Live from the Georgia Theatre,” the trio is joined by guitarist Chris Michetti and an impressive list of drummers, including Mike Greenfield of Lotus and Adam Deitch of Pretty Lights.

From the nearly nine and a half minute opener “Park Ave.,” it is obvious that this is not exactly a band that is gunning for a few spins on a local radio. Instead, much like Widespread Panic, it is the live show that allows the listener to fully appreciate the various talents put forth by Conspirator.

The absolute wanton abandon heard on “Velvet Red” as that song goes into “Feed the Wolf” and then back into “Velvet Red” demonstrates why Conspirator’s reputation as an awesome live band is growing.

Listen for yourself when Conspirator performs live April 18 at the Pour House on James Island.

Key Tracks:“Velvet Red,” “Feed the Wolf,” “Commercial Amen”

By Devin Grant