Every week I compile a list of those albums most likely to cause the greatest commercial or critical stir, then prune that mighty list down to 10!
This week, however, after a lengthy examination, I could only find three or four albums that met those very high standards!
Additionally, I like to place the week's "biggest" album in the No. 1 slot--an influential gesture that may cause the sale of an additional 10,000-15,000 units per album, according to knowledgeable insiders!
But looking at the list below and attempting to put these releases in any kind of recognizable order, I have absolutely no idea which if any of these albums is bigger than any of the others!
Which must mean that they're all incredible!
Santana: Supernatural: Legacy Edition (Arista/Legacy) Well, why not start with the biggest brand name of the bunch? This 2-CD collection commemorates the 10th anniversary of the release of Supernatural, the spectacularly successful Santana album that took already iconic guitarist Carlos Santana to new levels of worldwide fame! With a quirky guest list including Rob Thomas, Dave Matthews, Lauryn Hill & Cee-Lo and Eric Clapton among others, the album offered a little something to nearly everyone, topped by the soulful, searing guitarwork of Carlos Santana throughout! The accompanying second disc here is a worthwhile 13-track collection of mostly previously unreleased tracks, upon which once again Matthews and Clapton are featured! So: If you already have and love this album, here's your chance to pick it up again and get a whole new bonus disc in the bargain! And if you don't have it--and in fact actively dislike it--sorry for wasting your time!
Juliana Hatfield: Peace & Love (Ye Olde) I hold Juliana Hatfield in special regard, mostly because she represents a sort of critical line of demarcation for me; even back in her earliest days in the '90s Blake Babies, while younger music writers were raving, I found most of her work surprisingly derivative and less than compelling! You know--boring! And I was surprised others felt differently! Well this is about her tenth solo album now since 1992's Hey Babe, and I'm happy to report that nothing has changed whatsoever! But with new tracks like "Let's Go Home" and "I'm Disappearing," it looks like there could be hope!
Mumford & Sons: Sigh No More (Glass Note) One of the year's better albums, by a new British quartet garnering raves all over, Sigh No More showcases a British version of "roots rock" that simultaneously evokes the Fleet Foxes, the Strawbs, and maybe even McGuinness Flint--in the way that the latter band's music attempted to evoke the Band way back in the early '70s. That so few other artists are attempting the same makes it all sound unnaturally fresh nearly 40 years later; I have seen the future of rock 'n' roll and it involves banjos and trumpets et cetera!
Gary Moore: The Definitive Montreux Collection (DVD and CD) (Eagle Rock) An excellent showing for Irish guitarist Moore--a superstar in Europe and one not quite so well-known Stateside. This package includes two DVDs collecting live performances from the Montreux Jazz Festival circa 1990,1995, 1997, 1991 and 2001, and an additional audio CD featuring 11 of the best from those sets. Moore's playing is always tasteful and in some ways as dynamic as that of his mentor, Fleetwood Mac's Peter Green; give a listen to "Still Got The Blues" here and be prepared to be immensely impressed. Excellent stuff.
Algernon: Ghost Surveillance (Cuneiform) Here's a fascinating album by a young Chicago band you should hear: They're an instrumental quintet (two guitars, bass, drums and vibes) and the music they play veers somewhere between art-rock, krautrock, and the stuff Tortoise used to do--but, they point out, it is scored and not improvised, and that's not a small distinction. Considering some of the excesses of the art-rock and post-rock scenes, it's worth pointing out that Algernon's brand of music is surprisingly accessible--almost movie soundtrack stuff--and intelligent but never show-offy. You'll like it if you hear it.
Kenny Rankin: Mind-Dusters, Family, Like A Seed, Inside, Silver Morning, The Kenny Rankin Album (all Sly Dog) Singer/songwriter Kenny Rankin was 69 when he died last June--and he'd had a long and distinguished recording career along the way. These welcome new reissues on the Sly Dog label illustrate the breadth of his talent: Recorded during the period of 1967-76, they show how easily Rankin could effortlessly shift from being a superb songwriter to a very appealing interpreter, a talent that only grew with time. Like A Seed's as good a place as any to begin, but all of these are worth seeking out.
Lightspeed Champion: Life Is Sweet! Nice To Meet You (Domino) The second solo album from Brit Dev Hynes, who merits a spot in the Rock 'N' Roll Hall Of Fame purely for naming his former band the Test Icicles! Like 2008's Falling Off The Lavendar Bridge, Hynes' latest is almost unbearably rich in terms of melody and creative song arrangement; likewise, the pointedness and personal nature of his material is of an unusually high standard. Few of the songs sound at all alike here, and I suspect repeated listenings will only increase the fabness factor for those willing to put in the effort.
Alt-Ctrl-Sleep: Earth Lens (Lakeshore) Didn't know much about this band and just plopped in the CD; was surprised by what I heard. It's the work of North Carolina husband and wife duo named Joe and April Diaco, who have noted elsewhere that their approach to music is "make it simple, melodic and dreamy." To that end, their new album oddly recalls late '60s classics like Suddenly One Summer by J.K. & Co. and Puzzle by Mandrake Memorial--less sophisticated, but similarly dreamy. Engineers agree: Must be the way they mic the vocals over the drone! Top it all of with a brilliant band name and we've got a winner!
Me, the Mob, and the Music: One Helluva Ride with Tommy James & The Shondells by Tommy James and Martin Fitzpatrick (Scribner) Have to put a word in here for the release of this new book by '60s pop star Tommy James about the very colorful time he's had in the music industry due to the shady antics of some record companies, the entire notion of being a '60s pop star, and generally making a whole bunch of very popular records that were once dismissed as bubblegum but now sound surprisingly good. Great to get an inside look at this stuff, especially from someone with such a juicy story. Read it!
Story Of The Year: The Constant (Epitath) In a surprisingly literal turn, Story Of The Year devote half of their new album to the top events of 1967 and the other half to algebra problems where X equals 3!