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Watch Her Asterisk!
Lily Allen: It’s Not You, It’s Me (Capitol) Everyone’s favorite Popular Female British Singer of a few months back returns with her second album in her dutiful quest to become everyone’s favorite Popular British Singer for the next few months, and the big question is: Can she pull it off? I say yes! This is an upbeat, personality-filled album greatly aided by American producer Greg Kurstin–the onetime Geggy Tah member who’s also doing marvelous work with his duo the Bird & The Bee–and Ms. Allen seems so charming, sassy and colorful, who can resist her enticing personality? I’m especially taken with her upbeat track “F**k You”–a song that’s been long in coming, I’m sure you’ll agree–and am particularly curious how it will sound on the “CLEAN” version of this album, also available in fine stores and thus absolutely OK to buy for minors of all shapes and sizes! Once it tops the charts, everyone will be singing it!
Beastie Boys: Paul’s Boutique–20th Anniversary Edition (Capitol) Yes, it’s hard to believe 20 years have passed since this groundbreaking album was released! So much has happened since then! We got older! But the record that set the stage for a million careers is back, it’s digitally remastered, it’s available in regular, deluxe, Fine Fine Supafine Collectors’ Editions, and generally all over the place on the Internet at the moment. I suggest you go here to get the whole story, including a free track-by-track audio commentary, user photos, blogs, factoids, and everything else that makes the Internet (and music itself) fantastic when you pay your bills on time! Check it out today. As a special bonus: It’s pretty good!
India.Arie: Testimony: Vol. 2, Love & Politics (Motown) A very welcome return from Ms. Arie, who with a select few others–most conspicuously Erykah Badu, who’s also into this whole Volume 1/Volume 2 business–is taking contemporary R&B into warm and sophisticated 21st Century places and sounding better with each new album. Guests include Musiq Soulchild, veteran MC Lyte, and the intriguingly named Gramps Morgan–and the overall lyrical content, as is this artist’s norm, is uplifting, captivating and enlightening. Sort of like those commercials she’s been in, but with better music!
Buddy Holly: Memorial Collection (Geffen) The only upside of Buddy Holly’s premature demise 50 years ago–and admittedly, there are few upsides–is that the bulk of his extraordinary recording career can be manageably contained within a limited number of CD sides. This three-disc set contains his best-known material–and so well known is that material, it’s likely almost any contemporary teenager will recognize at least a few of these tracks: “Peggy Sue,” “That’ll Be The Day,” “Rave On,” “Not Fade Away, and “It’s So Easy” are just a fraction of the 60 tracks to be had here. Still, though it’s tempting, I wouldn’t recommend buying this for the easily influenced kids in your household, telling them, “Weezer have really gone all out with this one,” and then looking through their drawers and private papers while they’re obliviously listening to their new present! Too bad about that glasses thing!
Jon Hassell: Last Night The Moon Came Dropping Its Clothes In The Street (ECM) Yet another album bearing this ubiquitous title, avant-trumpter Hassell’s latest continues in the tradition of his previously non-traditional recordings with–in the world o’ avant-rock–people like Brian Eno and Peter Gabriel–and is thus a smooth, otherworldly listen throughout all of its 10 tracks. Word is the man’s about to tour the US for the first time in 20 years, so make it a point to see him if you have the inclination. Perhaps you’ll meet the person who noted on this album’s Amazon page, “I wish the title realized the Moon is feminine”! Don’t we all, babe!
Joni Mitchell: Joni Mitchell’s The Fiddle And The Drum (DVD) (Koch Vision) It may be hard to believe, but in my distinguished career as a music journalist and documenter of all things of great cultural import, I have rarely attended the ballet! Imagine the shame I would feel if some of my closest friends walked into my living room last week and saw me watching this DVD–which features the music of Joni Mitchell and a bunch of people dancing in leotards! But I admire Ms. Mitchell’s music greatly, not to mention her considerable skill as a painter, and if she calls what’s contained here “the best project of her career,” who am I to do anything but sit reverently on my couch and watch it? And yeah, OK, so maybe I did knit a little while it was on, but if I hadn’t, I would’ve knocked back a half-dozen wine coolers!
Trouble Andrew: Trouble Andrew (Capitol) If you’re a fan of snowboarding and you like music, you apparently already know who Trouble Andrew is and will be grateful that his LP of two years ago has now been remixed, remastered and rekindled! If you’re a fan of Santogold, you may also know that Trouble Andrew is her boyfriend! And if you like a mixture of punk, electronica, and scuzz-rock, you’ve probably heard this album already and don’t even know it! However, if you’re not familiar with any of the things I’ve just mentioned, I’ve got this great ballet DVD you can borrow while I drive to the store!
Ryan Leslie: Ryan Leslie (Next Selection/Bad Boy) The maker of “Diamond Girl” who apparently scored 1600 on his SATs but somehow forgot that Seals and Crofts had a hit of the same name, who has pointed out “They try to put me in a box–it’s impossible!” without specifically pointing out who “they” are–are they the people who casually note that both his first and last names are gender-neutral?–and the man who, after a reputable career as a producer, is now emerging with his very first solo album is, uh, the guy who made this album! I think it’s pretty good–but then any album with a last track actually called “Gibberish” has already won half the battle!
Bobby Valentino: The Rebirth (Blue Kolla/EMI) A skilled R&B singer likely to appeal to that lovable “older demographic” who remember when Bobby Womack was a member of the Valentinos but now desperately need bifocals, Bobby V is featured here with Lil Wayne, Timbaland, Raphael Saadiq, Yung Joc and several musicians not nearly so famous! His fans love him, those who haven’t heard him would like him if they did hear him, and he’s back and better than ever! Celebrate him home!
Glen Campbell: Greatest Hits (Capitol) Though his recent “career revitalization” album didn’t take off as strongly as some anticipated, this new collection of 16 hits–remixed for a contemporary feel–theoretically might even serve him better. For songwriting alone, such standards as “By The Time I Get To Phoenix” and “Gentle On My Mind” sit very nicely alongside lesser-known hits such as “Dreams Of The Everyday Housewife”–hey, I just saw a housewife yesterday!–and in total present a welcome summation of Campbell’s distinguished and colorful career. From the high of Jimmy Webb’s “Wichita Lineman” to the low of the Foo Fighters’ “Times Like These,” it’s all here! Skip certain tracks at your leisure!
Enter The Fray!
After that fabulous Superbowl show–just imagine, Bruce Springsteen, Jennifer Hudson and Faith Hill all in one place–and next week’s Grammy Awards, I, like you, think this may be the most exciting week in music history!
And indeed, it’s this week–when music’s movers and shakers congregate in Los Angeles for their beloved awards ceremony–that they’ll be anticipating the sales figures of this week’s new releases, arguing whether it’s likely Melinda Doolittle will outsell Cannibal Corpse, and discussing what exactly that whole “digital download” thing is in the first place!
True, there may be a few fistfights, and yes, some record label folks won’t feel comfortable having to hitchhike home due to ongoing budget cuts, but one thing’s for sure: When it comes to this week’s new releases–just like next week’s Grammys–everyone’s a winner, baby!
The Fray: The Fray (Epic) From seemingly out of nowhere comes the Fray, the Denver-based band whose rise to international stardom came with their smash single “How To Save A Life,” which most people who stayed home and watched TV heard on Grey’s Anatomy–while other more popular people went out and enjoyed living! Well, their new album’s here and it’s at least as good as that last one–in fact, I’d suggest it’s even better–and if you like melodic rock with hooks galore, this is precisely the album you need to pick up this very minute! In fact, if you’re so inclined, please go here this Wednesday (Feb. 4th) to watch a video stream of the band performing live at Webster Hall! It’s all coming together marvelously!
Dierks Bentley: Feel That Fire (Capitol Nashville) You know what? When I think of the grand tradition of Country Music, I think of names like Hank, Waylon, Willie, and Dolly. Sadly, the name “Dierks” doesn’t really roll off the tongue quite so easily! But, of course, what’s in a name? Give up? Letters! And yes, letters have been written left and right about Mr. Bentley’s growing fanbase! Many have suggested that the already enormously popular, rising country star–who was nominated for a Grammy for his prior Long Trip Alone–may at this very moment be reaching his artistic zenith! With its catchy title track and the interestingly titled “I Wanna Make You Close Your Eyes” I wouldn’t be at all surprised! Get in on the action!
Melinda Doolittle: Coming Back To You (Hi-Fi) I think the entire world would be stunned if American Idol “reject” Doolittle decided to make her very first album a tribute to Bob Dylan’s 1963 classic The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan–and title it after her favorite songs by Leonard Cohen, Maxine Brown and Mungo Jerry respectively! Luckily, that’s not the case at all! But sure enough, in the grand Idol tradition, she’s singing two Robert Johnson covers here! All in all, that’s quite a last name!
Wynonna: Sing: Chapter 1 (Curb) Referred to by some as the album that “has become known as Wynonna’s musical DNA”–hopefully they weren’t biochemists!–Sing: Chapter 1 is country star Judd’s seventh solo album and an ambitious one at that! Drawing from all the music that’s ever inspired her, including multi-genre classics like “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry,” “Anyone Who Had A Heart,” “I Hear You Knocking” and “Ain’t No Sunshine,” the disc is well-sung, well-intentioned, and, well, out now! Rumors that a miniature stuffed poodle was repeatedly hurled in the air during the cover photo session are simply not well intended! Wynonna is tops in my book!
Leona Lewis: Spirit: The Deluxe Edition (J) Certainly one of 2008’s major success stories was that of charming Leona Lewis, who’s likely to win an award or two this Sunday, and who in turn now awards us with this “deluxe” edition of her solo album–newly bedecked with a bunch of music videos and four previously-unreleased-in-the-U.S. tracks, including her UK #1 smash version of Snow Patrol’s “Run.” As an additional bonus, the album comes with a cover featuring a great new picture of the singer! Hey, she’s quite attractive!
Willie Nelson And Asleep At The Wheel: Willie And The Wheel (Bismeaux) Country legend Nelson’s pairing with Western Swing champs Asleep At The Wheel was long in coming; apparently the team-up had been suggested by distinguished record producer Jerry Wexler way back in the early ’70s, but it never came to be. If you’re a fan of either artist–or Western Swing–you’ll likely love this collection of classics; if, on the other hand, you dislike all three, you should check out some of the latest DVDs at Blockbuster! I love this thing!
Original Motion Picture Soundtrack: He’s Just Not That Into You (New Line) I’m completely into any movie that includes italics in its title–heck, I just listened to Lisa Loeb’s Cake And Pie last week–and I suspect this album will greatly appeal to fans of this movie! Just look at the line-up of artists: The Human League, R.E.M., the Replacements, the Cure, Corinne Bailey Rae, Lily Allen–it’s a chick-flick attendee’s dream come true! So I guess those rumors about this film being based on a sex therapist’s diagnosis were simply nasty and nothing more! Let’s go see it!
Graham Nash: Reflections (Rhino) A 3-CD collection by any solo artist might seem excessive, but in the case of Graham Nash–whose career began with the Hollies in the ’60s and then fully bloomed in Crosby, Stills & Nash and their various permutations–it really just scratches the surface. The man who supplied the high harmonies and pop hooks to CSN&Y–he was writing “Marrakesh Express,” “Our House,” and “Teach Your Children” while his good pal David Crosby was singing about almost cutting his hair–Nash is a sturdy and economical writer, and his work in this collected context sounds surprisingly impressive. You should buy it!
Asa: Asa (Downtown) Very appealing American debut by a young French/Nigerian singer (pronounced Ah-Shah), this disc skirts the boundaries between pop and R&B and shows a worldly collection of influences–American R&B, Jamaican and African among them–displaying a serious artist at work. Classic rock fans with poor vision: there is no “I” in this name. Palindromically spectacular!
Cannibal Corpse: Evisceration Plague (Metal Blade) A long-awaited CD/DVD set by everyone’s favorite Brutal Death Metal band, this features great tracks like “To Decompose” and the surprisingly thoughtful “Skewered From Ear To Eye” and–ultimately–is a joy through and through! “I think it’s the tightest and most musically competent record we’ve ever done,” notes Corpse member Alex Webster. “Not that the other ones weren’t competent…” Oops! Out of room!
New Bruce Springsteen Album: Quite Good!
New releases by Bruce Springsteen, Franz Ferdinand and Hoobastank are always something to consider–and this week we got ’em!
What say we consider using the Springsteen and Franz Ferdinand albums as things to listen to this week?
And maybe use the Hoobastank to, I dunno, patch the ceiling in case it’s raining or something?
For that matter, how about we use the Dean Martin as a potential present for members of the older generation–so they can remember their glory days as they begin their inevitable descent into silent, blissful slumber?
And finally, how about we use the rest of these albums as objects that can occupy our time so we can sit around doing nothing as life goes on all around us without our actual participation?
Hah! Just kidding! That’s what always happens whenever I use the word “Hoobastank”!
Bruce Springsteen: Working On A Dream (Columbia) It’s an old cliché that most rock critics tend to look favorably upon “The Boss” because he reminds them of former glories, personal or otherwise, but here’s the scoop: This is a very good album. His best since Tunnel Of Love, which came out in 1987. No kidding. I’ll tell you why, if you don’t mind a personal aside. Way back in 1978, when Springsteen was touring to promote Darkness On The Edge Of Town–my personal fave of his works–I met him backstage with a friend who worked for his label. Two things struck me: He mentioned that he’d put “Tell Me” by the Dirty Angels on the intermission tape playing before his set because he loved the song, and he told a guy standing next to me who was wearing a “Thank God For Girls” button that he liked Benny Mardones (who’d called his just-released new album that), too. I find this relevant because with all that’s come in Springsteen’s career since then, his basic roots as a hip rock ‘n’ roll guy with a great sense for pop melody and hooks have been overlooked for the serious “statements” he’s been compelled to make since then. Which is all well and good, but bottom line is that I’ve been less than thrilled with his conspicuous embracing of the Woody Guthrie legacy or the political significance of such tracks as “The Rising.” So while I haven’t thought about this aspect of Springsteen in years, I found myself noticing that weird musical references were popping up here and there–distinctly Byrdsian harmonies on “What Love Can Do,” topped off by dual-voiced instrumental ending riff very much in stylistic keeping with the Mike Hugg-era of Manfred Mann, which if you know what I mean you’ll instantly hear. Furthermore there are instrumental sweeps–and overall instrumentation–significantly more adventurous and pop-embracing than anything the man’s recorded in a few decades. And to top it off, right in the middle of the soccer-mom embracing “Queen Of The Supermarket”–this from the dude that used to write about Queens of Arkansas, no less–the man kills all chances for radio airplay with a proudly sung F-bomb, for which I congratulate him. In all I would say this is an inspired, major return to form for Springsteen and one of the best albums I’ve heard from a major pop artist in a couple of years. What happened?
The Bird And The Bee: Ray Guns Are Not Just The Future (Blue Note) Another great album by an artist not as well known as Springsteen, but similarly groovy. The second by The Bird And The Bee–the duo of singer Inara George and multi-instrumentalist Greg Kurstin, who played a great set in our studio a few years back–this set is sophisticated lyrically, gorgeously melodic, and features a much-needed tribute to David Lee Roth called “Diamond Dave,” a song that should have been written years ago. The intelligence at work here never fails to impress, and the songs themselves–particularly “Witch”–are absolute standouts. They should be perceived as major artists…while outside, mysteriously, pigs fly!
Hoobastank: FOR(N)EVER (Island) Imagine a hard-rockin’ band that scores an unexpected radio smash with a ballad that launches a thousand prom dances, and spends the rest of their career trying to reclaim their hard-rockin’ credibility! Yep, those poor Goo Goo Dolls! Meanwhile, Hoobastank–it’s got to be a name thing–sit there similarly wondering whether they should rock out or sing earnest ballads that men won’t know but little girls will understand! And just as the CD booklet can be inserted into the CD case backwards or forwards–signifying two distinct moods of the ‘tank–so too does this music had two sides! Who will win? The wimps? The rockers? The people that put the CD back in its rack and go buy ice cream? Nope! The winner will be a guy named Larry, in Allentown, Pennsylvania–who’ll find a sack filled with hundred dollar bills in a Best Buy parking lot, leave without buying anything, and take a year off reading the complete works of John Lilly and J.G. Ballard! Money is funny that way!
Franz Ferdinand: Tonight: Franz Ferdinand (Domino/Epic) Though I’ve been a longtime fan of Franz Ferdinand and wish them the best, I suspect they will forever be living in the shadow of their incredible early single “Take Me Out”–and as a result, all of their work since then will inevitably be compared to it and judged inferior. Luckily, back home, their moms are extremely influential in their respective social circles and will eventually change the tide of public opinion! Do you think that bothers them?
Dean Martin: Amore (Capitol/EMI) As it closes in on Valentine’s Day, why not take the time to buy your loved one this fabulous collection of romantic tracks, bring home a bottle of champagne, and celebrate the fact that despite all the difficulties out there in the real world–the unemployment, the crime, the decreased housing values–you still have each other? If anything will then warm your heart, it’ll be the 15 tracks here–from “Just In Time” and “Let Me Love You Tonight” to the album’s namesake, “That’s Amore”! On the other hand, if you live alone and tend to focus on the various opportunities you’ve
missed in the course of leading your life, such as it is–skip the CD and buy two bottles!
Crooked X: Crooked X (EMI) They’re young, they claim AC/DC and Metallica as inspiration, and they find jokes about “John Doe and Exene Cervanka gone bad” difficult to understand! Until their parents shake their heads in disgust and wonder what their kids are getting into! Their music’s been in Rock Band , they’ve opened for Kiss in Sweden, and they were just the subject of an MTV special called Rock’N’ Roll Dream. Perhaps most interestingly, they’re from a town in Oklahoma called Coweta! I wish I was in that band!
Peter Cincotti: East Of Angel Town (Warner Bros) While we’re discussing crooner types, let’s not forget the brand new album by talented pianist-singer Peter Cincotti, whose skill at “combining old and new,” as his bio has it, has made him a chartbuster from the veritable get-go! Fans of the man are sure to fall deeply in love with this new effort, just as fans of the English language are sure to fall for his bio, should they happen to read it! Apparently he has “two successful albums under his belt”–which, frankly, must make sitting down difficult!
James Brown: The Singles, Volume Six: 1969-1970 (Hip-O Select) If ever a record should be in your collection, it’s this great collection of Brown tracks, including “Mother Popcorn,” “I Don’t Want Nobody To Give Me Nothing (Open Up The Door I’ll Get It Myself),” the quite famous “Funky Drummer,” “Talking Loud And Sayin’ Nothin,” and –one of my personal favorite Brown tracks ever, due to its even-handed title–“Let A Man Come In And Do The Popcorn.” If you’re a multi-sensate, buy this and the Cincotti CD and put’ em both on shuffle play!
Brian Wilson: That Lucky Old Sun DVD (Capitol) Very happy to recommend this DVD of former Beach Boy Wilson performing his latest album live in the Capitol Records studios–not to mention the bonus Yahoo-produced footage–shot earlier this year. Excellently produced and filled with a rich array of bonus material, it’s a grand showing by one of pop music’s living legends, and pretty rich musically as well. Check it out or live at home, ashamed!
Leathermouth: Xo (Epitath) This side project of My Chemical Romance guitarist Frank Iero seems destined for massive radio airplay, largely due to hit-in-the-making “I Am Going To Kill The President Of The United States Of America”! May I suggest you not look for it via any search engine?
2008 Village Voice Pazz & Jop Poll ballot
1 Beangrowers, Not In A Million Lovers (Minty Fresh)
2 Little Jackie, The Stoop (S-Curve)
3 Darker My Love, 2 (Dangerbird)
4 Momus, Joemus (American Patchwork)
5 The Rosebuds, Life Like (Merge)
6 Robert Forster, The Evangelist (Yep Roc)
7 El Goodo, Coyote (Grease)
8 Mercury Rev, Snowflake Midnight (Yep Roc)
9 MGMT, Oracular Spectacular (Columbia)
10 Van Morrison, Keep It Simple (Lost Highway)
2008 Village Voice Pazz & Jop Poll ballot
1 Beangrowers, Not In A Million Lovers (Minty Fresh)
2 Little Jackie, The Stoop (S-Curve)
3 Darker My Love, 2 (Dangerbird)
4 Momus, Joemus (American Patchwork)
5 The Rosebuds, Life Like (Merge)
6 Robert Forster, The Evangelist (Yep Roc)
7 El Goodo, Coyote (Grease)
8 Mercury Rev, Snowflake Midnight (Yep Roc)
9 MGMT, Oracular Spectacular (Columbia)
10 Van Morrison, Keep It Simple (Lost Highway)
Albums To Inaugurate Presidents By!
What better way to commemorate the swearing in of a brand new president than to purchase brand new albums and give the economy the boost it sorely needs?
If you’re asking yourself that question, you’re in luck! As new release weeks go, this one’s pretty good: Up-and-coming bands have returned with solid albums, a few old-timers have returned to the party, and industry icons are seeing their classic work repackaged in fine form!
Even better: Superstars are playing at the White House, the Grammys are just around the corner, and troubled rappers being “forced to wear pink” garners major headlines! Meanwhile, Soulja Boy has made the leap and now become an actual cartoon!
All told, things absolutely couldn’t be finer!
Animal Collective: Merriweather Post Pavilion (Domino) Eight albums out, Animal Collective have risen to the occasion and released their finest, most commercial and–dare it be said–airplayable album ever! Named after a well-known Maryland live music venue, the disc represents those earlier times in which the band, in their own words, “used to go to shows there while growing up and have fond memories of times spent on the lawn.” Reports that We Like Wearing Short Pants And Beanies While Playing Croquet was already in use merely take up valuable review space! As an additional tribute, the album art depicts the upholstery pattern of the back seat band members used to lie on, nauseated, on the ride home!
Antony And The Johnsons: The Crying Light (Secretly Canadian) Sometimes you can pick up a record, look at its cover art, and instantly know you have to own that album! Other times, you can pick one up, examine it really closely, then drop it instantly, sweating, hoping no one saw you look! Guess which applies here! An intense piece of art, featuring the captivating vocals of Mr. Antony and subtle musical backing by composer Nico Muhly, The Crying Light is an excellently produced, mature art statement that doesn’t deserve the implication that the person on the cover is waiting to catch a frisbee! So let’s not imply it!
Mariah Carey: The Ballads (Columbia) I don’t know about you, but for me, there comes a time every few weeks or so when I’d like nothing better than to drive around LA, preferably with my top down, listening to Mariah Carey sing her best-known ballads! Well heck, am I in luck! This great new collection, out just in time for Valentine’s Day, offers all of her biggest–at least those recorded for the Columbia label–in one super-deluxe package! Included among them is the track that first stole our hearts years ago–“Vision Of Love”–and a whole lot more that I absolutely know were huge! And oddly, for some really strange reason, even though I know she’s one of the most popular recording artists in music history, that’s the only hit of hers with a name I can remember! I’m thinking I’m kind of out of it!
Andrew Bird: Noble Beast (Fat Possum) Some say that the career of singer-songwriter Bird has really “taken flight” these days, and indeed, with this seventh album, many are expecting to see this “wing” its way high on the charts! Available as a single or deluxe edition (the latter is titled Noble Beast/Useless Creatures and includes a second disc of unreleased material), this disc has it all, creature-wise–Bird, Beast, Possum–and should put to rest those troublesome comparisons to Budgie, the Byrds, the Eagles, and Pat Benatar!
Cash Cash: Take It To The Floor (Universal Republic) Usually I scoff at this sort of thing–I mean, wasn’t “cash” slang for money once?–but when you combine the fantastic cover graphics recalling the best of Miami’s TK label in the late ’70s, the charming album title, and the agreeably hitlike “Party In Your Bedroom,” you come up with “boisterous techno-pop,” as it has been described, that just makes you feel good all over! In an unrelated note, this album’s page on Amazon includes a consumer discussion entitled “Is music crappy lately, or am I just getting old?” Clever use of “either/or,” clownhead!
Umphrey’s McGee: Mantis (SCI Fidelity) Well known for being one of those trailblazing “jam band” thingies, this group has considerable music skill, a good grasp of melody, and enough discipline to fashion shortish songs (there’s about 10 of them here) without the expected over-reliance on instrumental dexterity one might usually find with others of their ilk! Speaking of “ilk,” would it be inappropriate for me to mention here that this may be the very worst band name I have ever heard? Yes! Instead, let’s have cake!
Miles Davis: Kind Of Blue: 50th Anniversary Legacy Edition (Columbia/Legacy) If any jazz album was a natural candidate for gala deluxe huzzah massive overkill reissue it would be this one–the first jazz recording most people acquire and generally not the last. Including 2 CDs, a DVD, a 12-inch blue vinyl pressing, book, poster and more, the set is a complete labor of love, and certainly worth picking up if you’re in the mood to hear Kind Of Blue all over again. True, the packaging has taken a few hits from consumers regarding the manner in which the CDs and DVD are overly exposed to scratching, and this is about 15th reissue of this thing, but I just spent this much money going to the movies a month ago and my feet got sticky! I want to buy my life over again!
Jane Monheit: The Lovers, The Dreamers And Me (Concord) Highly respected in that Netherworld where jazz and Broadway-type vocalists meet, Monheit has devoted her ninth album to the works of songwriters she admires–and has drawn from an interesting array of composers both old (Cole Porter, Jimmy Dorsey) and new (Fiona Apple, Corinne Bailey Rae). Well-played and slightly slick, this set displays technical excellence (a fine band, all produced by Matt Pierson) and is just the sort of album you’d want to give to someone who is neither a lover nor a dreamer. Ironically, Monheit already has it!
Swervedriver: Raise / Mezcal Head (both Second Motion) Right around now is a great time for everyone to slap their foreheads and realize that they got it all wrong in the early ’90s by making superstars of humans like Vanilla Ice and letting fantastic bands like Swervedriver fall by the wayside–sad, broke and ashamed! But it’s not too late! Apparently this fab Brit band’s first two albums have been reissued with bonus tracks and–frankly, like most of that stuff back then–it now sounds better than ever and worthy of everyone’s instant purchase just to make things right! If you like hard-charging melodic rock verging on excess–and hey, who doesn’t?–you’re bound to like this! If you don’t, well, it wouldn’t be appropriate to say you’re an idiot, but I could subtly imply it with this very sentence! If I wanted!
Titus Andronicus: Airing Of Grievances (Beggars/XL) According to knowledgeable Wikipedia experts, “Titus Andronicus may be Shakespeare’s earliest tragedy; it is believed to have been written sometime between 1584 and the early 1590s.” So how the hell can a play make a CD?
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!
But no, unless you are a fervent fan of Front 242 reissues and the always charming Richard Simmons–whose new DVD Supersweatin’: Party Off The Pounds admittedly sounds captivating–there’s really not much new in the way of music product in stores this week. For that matter, there are fewer stores than ever now, too! It’s great!
So why not wind the year up with a heady recap of what I, the writer, consider to be the year’s most interesting albums?
Oddly enough, because this blog focuses on the week’s hottest new releases, I often forego the opportunity to write about records that are actually good!
Therefore, as an added bonus, I’ve listened to nearly all of these!
Beangrowers: Not In A Million Lovers (Minty Fresh) When it comes to three-piece, female-led combos from Malta, you can’t beat the Beangrowers! They’ve been around for a bit, but their most recent album combines throbbing rock, booming bass, and the fine guitars and vocals of Miss Alison Galea–and the overall effect is of intense, sexually-charged material of the sort the Throwing Muses once attempted, weakly, and a coyness and maturity reflecting a more contemporary combination of, say, the Motels’ Martha Davis and Curved Air’s Sonja Kristina! Just what the world’s been waiting for! Witty song titling–check out “Good Band Bad Name” and “Life’s A Bitch Then She Sings In Your Band”–catchy tunes, and an underlying respect for the intelligence of their audience: They’ll never fly!
Little Jackie: The Stoop (S-Curve) I would’ve never expected one of my favorite records of the year to be the work of Imani Coppola, whose previous solo album was not exactly a personal humdinger. But together with multi-instrumentalist Adam Pallin, the pair have created a marvelous, sassy, retro-feeling album loaded with melody and smart-ass wordiness that evokes personality like nothing else I’ve heard all year. It’s quite good!
Darker My Love: 2 (Dangerbird) A great second album by one of America’s finest bands, these LA dudes have a knack for evoking many of the best hipster bands–the Byrds, the Stone Roses, My Bloody Valentine–but never sounding the slightest bit imitative, which in today’s vaporous times is not easy. Additionally, they have been known to cover Can! In short: On the path to greatness!
Momus: Joemus (American Patchwork) His first album in a few years–and a collaboration, at that, with Glasgow “breakcore” musician Joe Howe–Joemus is as creative an effort as any Nick Currie (that’s Momus!) has recorded, which means it’s spectacular. To the uninitiated, this stuff will appear to be a batch of witty and intelligent songs sonically “played with” to musical effect; to the initiated, it will sound exactly the same way! That’s part of its charm! Momus continues to grow more as an artist with each album, there are very few others out there with a fraction of his creativity, and if you haven’t heard him, you’re missing something very good.
Rosebuds: Life Like (Merge) Hard to precisely spell out the exact appeal of this terrific North Carolina band; the songs are moody and hummable, the melodies just quirky enough to sound fresh, and the overall character–interesting ones being in short supply–is warm, friendly, quite unique. Throw one of these songs on a movie soundtrack and money will be made!
Robert Forster: The Evangelist (Yep Roc) The first solo album from Forster since his friend and Go-Betweens co-founder Grant McLennan died, The Evangelist is a solid and emotional package that evokes the best work of Forster’s former band. Containing three songs co-written with McLennan, the disc is mature, compelling, and addictive listening. One of the year’s highlights, and a worthy addition to his band’s marvelous legacy.
El Goodo: Coyote (Grease) OK, well I feel like I’m cheating since this record isn’t officially out for a few weeks, but I’ve had the advance for two months and have been playing it more than most other new releases, so give me a break. They’re Welsh, it’s their second album, they obviously copped their name from the Big Star song, and if you ever enjoyed Teenage Fanclub or the Pooh Sticks during their creative peak, you might be inclined to like this, too. Excellent stuff.
Mercury Rev: Snowflake Midnight (Yep Roc) Their best album since Deserter’s Songs was released 10 years ago, this shows New York’s Mercury Rev continuing to grow–merging electronics and rhythms with atmospheric lyrics and mood in a way that few others have managed halfway as interestingly. They remain underrated; this is a gem.
MGMT: Oracular Spectacular (Columbia) Kudos to this NY duo for breaking through both critically and commercially with a package that–I’m sorry–can’t help reminding me of Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark whenever I hear
it. But that’s OK! They’ve crossed genres and generations with this debut–which appeals to nearly anyone who hears it and is actually up for a
Grammy–and I wish them great success.
Van Morrison: Keep It Simple (Lost Highway) Was reminded of Morrison’s greatness at the Hollywood Bowl a few weeks back when he performed Astral Weeks live, but this unassuming disc–his latest of a few dozen–served as an earlier reminder. With tasteful, bluesy backing, Morrison sang about not going to nightclubs anymore, actually used the word “entrainment” in a song title, and best of all, happily sang these self-penned lyrics: “Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah/
Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah/ Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah” Hey, I know exactly how he feels! Bye!
One of the reasons why I’m glad I have this blog is because I find out things I wouldn’t if I didn’t have this blog.
Just looked at my messages and I got one from, of all people, Nelson Slater–whose album Wild Angel I once discussed in a long-ago Lou Reed interview here. Don’t think Nelson liked its cover, but I’m happy to show it whenever I can. Nelson is making music today and you can find out more by checking out his MySpace page here. Please do.
Secondly, I got this message:
Dear Dave DiMartino
Your fond reference to Fête Foraine by the Apartments came to me through Google. And so did this, which seems to be destiny.
Anyway, here it is, shot Dec. 20th in Sydney:
I think she read this.
Anyway, thank you Sophie, wherever you are. You made my week.