Anyone who ever clocked Alan Merrill's vocals with glam rock geniuses The Arrows back in the mid-1970s, and thought they detected a hint of American R&B lounging around the edges, probably wrote it off as a trick of the light. Certainly, they could never have expected Merrill to follow through (eventually) with this, a 23-song tribute album to Arthur Alexander and Otis Blackwell, recorded with ex-Yankees frontman Jon Tiven, and dropping so neatly into the very heart of the songs that one wonders precisely what else Merrill has tucked away in his quiver. First and foremost, Double Shot Rocks' closest living relative is Denny Laine's Wings-powered tribute to Buddy Holly, Holly Days. There's the same sense of simply rolling through the songs for fun, of relaxing into the words and rhythms, and of caring less for slickness and studio trickery than for the sheer joy of singing and playing such great songs.
Heard here in a composer-conducted disc-mate to the première recording of Hovhaness’s early Cello Concerto (1936), City of Light (1970) has some lovely ideas, like the surprisingly sweet and simple string melody in the middle of the ‘Angel of Light’ movement (beginning at 1'30"), and the third movement, Allegretto grazioso, which sounds like a minuet in oriental garb. The outer movements, however, outstay their welcome.
Listening to a work of Armenian-American composer Alan Hovhaness, you recognize his characteristic style in a few measures. His music is often broadly expansive, painting sonorous landscapes that often use brass instruments to blend with and accentuate the strings. Also, while his peers experimented with serialism or highly intellectually challenging styles, Hovhaness maintained his world music-infused neo-Romantic style throughout his life. The result is an enormous body of work that are all a joy to listen to.