Holy smoke! Every week I stick my hand into the grab bag of new releases and expect to come up with some winners, some losers, and a big batch of people nobody in their right mind has ever heard of.
This week? Bingo! Come Thanksgiving vacation--the biggest shopping week of the year, by some counts--and every big artist and album you've ever heard of, including U2, Genesis, the Apple Pie Motherhood Band, Bob Marley and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, all have "new" product for consumers to gleefully purchase! And most of these albums--reissues all--include secret, previously unissued "bonus" tracks that every fervent collector will have to buy to prove their devotion to their most favorite artists ever!
May I be candid?
It almost appears the American music industry is in danger of commercializing the holiday season!
Luckily, as we all know, the man can't bust our music, and if we all just stick together, everything will work out in the end! That's why Fall Out Boy's new album Infinity On High--their recent album with five bonus tracks--is No. 1 on my personal Christmas shopping list! How about yours?
Sebastian Bach: Angel Down (Merovingian Music/Get off My Bach Productions/Caroline) The incredibly unexpected return of classical giant Bach, previously thought to have lived and died between 1685-1750, may indeed be one of the year's most sensational highlights! True fans realize that the baroque composer has in fact been alive and kicking since the late '60s, when his former band Skid Row--featuring legendary Irish guitarist Gary Moore--garnered headlines making them almost as big as pals Thin Lizzy! His fab new solo album features singer Axl Rose--renowned for his work with Guns 'N Roses--and his much-discussed single "[Love Is A] Bitchslap," a smarmy look backward at his "Well Tempered Clavier" series. In more ways than one, this stuff is classic!
Jordin Sparks (19 Entertainment/J Records): In the history books, there's no doubt Ms. Sparks will be remembered as American Idol's Season Six winner! Which of course presupposes that history books will remember that American Idol was a TV show some people once watched! All I know is, Graham Parker once recorded an album called Squeezing Out Sparks and Amazon.com has an entry on their Jordin Sparks forum page titled "Hyped-Up crap that the majors expect us to eat!" Frankly, I'd be inclined to blame the colonels and generals, but today's military mindset is too spooky to second-guess! All told, I bet this album is just great! Gotta run!
OneRepublic: Dreaming Out Loud (Mosley Music Group/Interscope) Boldly foregoing the expected space between the "e" and the "R" in their Utopianesque band name, these guys clearly don't play by anybody's rules! With an unexpected liaison with unsung hero Timbaland--say, he's becoming quite popular!--resulting in smash-ish hit "Apologize," and a stated intent to move their listeners "the way Bono does onstage," these lovable rapscallions may be one of the year's biggest breakout bands ever! In a final irony: They're actually pretty good!
Keith Urban: Greatest Hits (Special Edition) CD/DVD (Capitol) Just one of the many Holiday product packages of the season, this firm-and-fully-packed dual disc set is a great showcasing of a country-based artist that most rock 'n' rollers would truly dig were they to envision him in a purely rockish context! Given a world in which humans can be plucked from the year 2007 and sent back in time to Los Angeles in 1970 where they might eventually sign to David Geffen's fledgling Asylum Records label as a country-rocker and eventually join the veritable Eagles and become a worldwide superstar, he's not bad for an Australian! Plus, word is his wife is hot!
Led Zeppelin: The Song Remains The Same (Remastered) (Rhino/Atlantic) Part two of the Biggest Band Ever's 2007 return to the spotlight, this repackaging of their prior film soundtrack is juiced up and ready to go with never-before-released live versions of "Black Dog," "Over The Hills," "Misty Mountain Hop," "Since I've Been Loving You," "The Ocean" and "Heartbreaker"--all of which rock royally, babe! These guys are gonna be big!
Frank (Universal) Sadly now known for all the wrong reasons, the plucky Ms. Winehouse can finally be heard Stateside with the inevitable release of her 2003 debut album--a very solid piece of work that would be garnering oodles more respect here if she weren't such Celebrity Target material. Top-notch singing and playing highlight this set, and such songs as "F*** Me Pumps"--apparently her ode to working at a North London gas station--drive home her uniquely Amy Winehousian perspective. Surely I'm not alone in suggesting most guys would kill to bring this woman home to meet their moms!
Various Artists: The Brit Box (Rhino) It's hard to argue that this 4-CD set isn't one the grooviest collection of fab British pop music ever. Aside from its fabbish packaging--these Rhino folks win Grammys for this stuff--the song selection is pretty much impeccable, especially for fans of "UK indie, shoegaze and Brit-pop gems of the last millennium," as the box is accurately subtitled! I give its producers credit for slipping hip stuff by Eugenius, Moose and the Shop Assistants alongside the expected Smiths, Cure and Echo & the Bunnymen stuff, and look forward to an eventual American Box, which ideally will feature Johnny Cash, James Brown, Charles Mingus, Steve Reich and Fats Domino! I'm glad we can categorize music in this manner!
Melissa Etheridge: The Awakening Live [DVD] (Island) Fans of Melissa Etheridge will be thrilled to note that aside from her Live Sets performance here, the much-lauded singer-songwriter can now be observed performing her new album The Awakening live from New York's Hard Rock Café. I'm into it! Noticed from a preview clip that audience members for the show include Al Gore and his wife Tipper! My head hurts--how are you gonna act?
Freeway: Free At Last (Roc-A-Fella/Def Jam/G-Unit) With its heartwarming initial single "Roc-A-Fella Billionaires," its cast of producers including Kanye West, Lil Jon, Scott Storch and Swizz Beatz, and guest appearances by Jay-Z, 50 Cent, ?uestlove and some other people, this is the right album for the right moment! And that moment is likely to be sometime in 2008, when you have it in your hand, are attacked by thugs, and can hurl it directly into their foreheads! Incidentally, I think they are charging for it!
Beyoncé: The Beyoncé Experience Live [DVD] (Sony) I don't think any of us were expecting new Beyoncé material in time for the holiday season--especially a DVD in which she and a hard rock rhythm section play all four sides of Electric Ladyland live in concert! I don't normally quote press releases, but I would like to mention that this DVD "captures the most eagerly-anticipated tour of 2007, `The Beyoncé Experience brought to you by Samsung and L'Oreal Paris!'" Sheesh, I can still remember when she was slugging it out for Vicks Vapo-Rub and Geico!