Have you ever heard the expression “workmanlike”?
That’s a nice way of saying “nothing terribly extraordinary going on, but still…it could be worse.”
I wish I could say that this week’s new releases represented a “workmanlike” effort on part of today’s major labels to release records that America is clamoring for–but, sadly, that would be…incredibly sexist! I mean, women work too!
So, to be diplomatic–and for that matter politically correct–let’s just say that everybody, whether male or female, should agree that this week’s releases are less than compelling!
Let’s meet for coffee and discuss it further!
Bee Gees: Odessa (Expanded Edition) (Reprise/Rhino) Oh, what the hell–I just spent two entire minutes writing a review of an album that just got delayed two weeks, so why not start this week’s blog off with the album that, brand new or not, is the best thing coming out this week? That of course would be this deluxe reissue of the Bee Gees’ spectacular 1969 album Odessa–a masterful work that represented this wonderful band at the peak of their first run at pop stardom. Originally a 2-LP set, this special edition features the same gold-embossed, red velvet cover containing 3 full CDs, including the original stereo version, the mono mix, and a batch of related demos and songs recorded during the same sessions. Hitwise, the set includes “First Of May,” which you may have heard–but what you haven’t heard is even more impressive. The later levels of fame the Bee Gees obtained via Saturday Night Fever have obscured their status as pop geniuses for some, but a thorough listening to this record will set the matter straight now and forever! Yes! Buy it today and tell all your friends that music “peaked” in 1969 with the Bee Gees! Then see your financial advisor about that bothersome 401K issue!
Eliane Elias: Bossa Nova Stories (Blue Note) Here’s the deal: Go to Starbucks and get some coffee, pick up this album on your way home, then invite a really attractive girl over to listen to records! When she comes, put this on, and as “The Girl From Ipanema” starts the album off, confess to your visitor that you’ve actually always been “unsure” about most rock music, and that hip-hop generally leaves you cold, but the smooth and soothing music of Brazil has always held an allure for you that continues to grow with each passing year! Soon “Desafinado” will start, and if you play your cards right–if you manage to convey true sincerity as you directly glance into your visitor’s eyes–she won’t hurl hot coffee in your face and call you a simmering sissy while her masked friends invade your apartment, loot all your valuables, and make fun of your taste in music! Yeah, this record is that good!
The Derek Trucks Band: Already Free (Columbia) People in the know already are hip to the fact that Derek Trucks is quite the good guitarist–including the Allman Brothers, for whom he has played for several years! Since it’s now been officially decided that all pop music is completely ephemeral and the only thing that matters is musical ability and complete devotion to musicianship rather than blatant careerism, this may indeed by the album that lifts him from his already considerable status as a skilled player to–who knows?–a superstar the likes of which the world hasn’t seen in years! Featuring guests like Susan Tedeschi and Doyle Bramhall, the album is additionally aided by a title that will indicate–at least to slower fans–that it’s being issued free of charge! As a result, retail re-orders could be staggering! I’m quite enthused!
Original Soundtrack: Notorious (Atlantic) Like many, I’m completely stunned that someone in Hollywood thought there would be any money to be had in a hip-hop remake of Alfred Hitchcock’s 1946 film classic Notorious, but you know what? This thing works! With help of modern-day superstars like Jay-Z, Lil’ Kim, Too Short, and newcomer “Puff Daddy”–not to mention superb singer Faith Evans, apparently in the Ingrid Bergman role–such tracks as “”Kick In The Door,” “Notorious Thugs” and the superb “Party And Bulls**t” create an action-packed score likely to recreate the excitement many felt while watching Cary Grant’s antics in Hitchcock’s original classic! I didn’t know rap was even invented then, but what the hey!
Heather Headley: Audience Of One (EMI Gospel) A wonderfully emotive singer who has won Tony awards and received Grammy nominations, Ms. Headley follows two albums in the pop/R&B mode with this brand new gospel album–which may not make newspaper headlines but is certain to wow gospel fans with her vocal prowess and personal sense of religious devotion. Why the change? Apparently Headley was unhappy with the “provocative lyrics” that had lately been supplied to her while preparing to make a new record. “I never wanted to compromise anything, ” she now says. “Now I want to make sure God is happy. This album is for Him.” Here’s hoping He can find a record store!
Kreator: Hordes Of Chaos (CD/DVD) Steamhammer/SPV It would be safe to say that fans of Heather Headley’s new album probably wouldn’t enjoy Kreator’s latest and vice-versa! Everyone’s favorite German thrash legends–well, not everyone’s, especially after their 2005 classic, Enemy Of God–return with a few upbeat numbers including “Corpses Of Liberty,” Warcurse,” and personal fave “Absolute Misanthropy” and are bound to make an impression on humans worldwide! Some attribute their negativity to their finally being told that “Kreator” should actually start with a “C” and thus their entire professional career has no meaning! Others simply think their pants are too tight! It’s a toss-up!
Arthur Lee: Arthur Lee / Love Love Live: Whisky A Go-Go 1978 (Friday Music) Following this dissolution of his classic L.A.-based band Love, and prior to his unfortunate prison stint in the ’90s, singer Arthur Lee never quite followed through on the promise of his band’s earlier, classic work. These two releases, originally issued by Rhino Records during the ’80s, document two such periods when he was attempting to make a go of it. Neither are particularly outstanding: The live record, featuring a reunion of sorts of the original ’60s band, is fascinating listening for fans but oddly colorless; the solo album is a mishmash featuring some interesting solo tracks and unnecessary covers of Jimmy Cliff’s “Many Rivers To Cross” and the Bobettes’ ’50s hit “Mr. Lee.” But both are welcome in CD configuration after all this time, and I suggest that–after buying every other album in Lee’s catalog–you seek them out. He’s better than nearly everybody!
Original Soundtrack: Underworld: Rise Of The Lycans (Lakeshore) These Underworld movies are great, of course–though nothing matches In The Folds Of The Flesh, which you should see immediately!–and this soundtrack is pretty groovy, too! If you’re like me, you’ve always thought that the Cure would be immensely aided by the addition of Maynard James Keenan, so you’ll enjoy “Underneath The Stars (Renholder Remix)” here, which is officially by “The Cure (f/ Maynard James Keeenan/Puscifer and Milla),” certainly a billing the world’s been waiting for! Also appearing are tracks by Perry Farrell, Deftones, AFI, Alkaline Trio, Thrice, Blaqk Audio, and a bunch of “those” kind of artists–you know, the ones that people with tattoos like! Jumpin jiminy, you’ll declare, I’m going to Bimini!
Steve Kuhn: Life’s Backward Glances (ECM) One of America’s finest jazz pianists, Kuhn’s released fewer recordings than many of his contemporaries since the ’60s, and this package–a limited edition box set–contains three of his finest, all recorded for ECM during the ’70s: Ecstasy (1974) Motility (1977) and Playground (1979). The latter features Kuhn with singer Sheila Jordan, with whom he’d later continue to work to great success. And here’s hoping someone somewhere reissues his extraordinary 1971 Buddah album with string arrangements by Gary McFarland. Wonderful stuff.
Late Of The Pier: Fantasy Black Channel (Astralwerks) By a great new British band receiving tons of acclaim, this disc features two US-only bonus tracks and an album cover depicting a bunch of musical instruments crashed on a mountaintop! Tell everyone you really liked ’em before the plane crash, then go pick up a sandwich!