For Beatle fans, it's been an interesting few weeks: Within the past month, most of John Lennon's solo albums have been released, George Harrison's collaborations with Ravi Shankar have been repackaged, and--this week--Paul McCartney's Band On The Run is making the rounds once more!
Maybe just to put things in my own personal perspective, I've spent the last few weeks listening not only to the Lennon set but also the McCartney solo albums--from his very first solo album onward--and have attempted to hear all of them with the advantage of a 2010 perspective!
With no preconceptions about who was really the "cooler" Beatle--because, believe it or not, that's often been the means by which each artist's ultimate relevancy has been determined--I have to say it's been an enlightening few weeks!
Why? Because according to at least two policemen, driving around town listening to old ex-Beatles albums is a task best accomplished while actually wearing pants!
I suspect none of this would have ever happened had I never started listening to Grand Funk Railroad!
Paul McCartney & Wings: Band On The Run (MPL/Concord) With age comes wisdom, and so it is that in 2010, a listen to Paul McCartney's best-selling post-Beatles classic reveals that yes indeed--it is the best post-Beatles album ever released by a member of the Fab Four! Aside from the not-insignificant fact that it bore actual hit records such as the title track, "Jet," and radio hits "Nineteen Hundred And Eighty Five" and "Bluebird," the album simply continues to sound fresh and would sound exactly the same to those who had no knowledge whatsoever that McCartney was once a member of the Beatles! Additionally, all those things that once seemed liabilities during the first few McCartney albums--most specifically Linda McCartney's backing vocals--now seem surprisingly accessible in the wake of the delightfully amateurish vocal hijinks that would follow via, say, the Marine Girls, the Slits, and those militant chicks from the Pacific Northwest! Plus, "Helen Wheels," the original version of which is included in the deluxe version of this set, may be the finest Moby Grape tribute ever recorded! Between this, Ram and McCartney II, I'm thinking Mr. McCartney still has much to be appreciated for! See if you don't agree!
Jason Aldean: My Kinda Party (Broken Bow) Country star Jason Aldean continues to rise in popularity, not only because he's got his finger on the pulse of contemporary America, but when it comes to describing this country's soft white underbelly, he can't be beat! And so it is that My Kinda Party spells out precisely the goings-on that most of us have suspected, but have never been able to confirm, at the various Tupperware parties taking place in households well-to-do and otherwise in America's Deep South--where booze is cheap, thrills even cheaper, and a transparent orange sandwich-holder can arouse members of both sexes regardless of their age! I understand cider is often served!
N.E.R.D.: Nothing (Star Trak/Interscope) It's said that N*E*R*D is an acronym for Nothing Ever Really Dies--but perhaps less well known is the fact that it also stands for Never Eat Red Donuts, Nubiles Entertaining Robotic Discourse, and, most significantly, Neurosis Enveloping Reticent Dentists! And so it is that the highly talented trio of Pharrell Williams, Chad Hugo and Shae Haley have returned, paying tribute not only to '60s DC Comics star Sgt. Rock, but to Woody Woodpecker, the Buffalo Springfield's "Bluebird" and--oh, let's just say Prince's "When Doves Cry"! In some ways strikingly similar to John Kay & Steppenwolf's underrated 1990 classic Rise & Shine, Nothing offers everything its very name implies times two!
The Sound Of Music: 45th Anniversary (Sony Legacy) I will always be grateful to my parents for dragging me along to see original classics such as The Sound Of Music, My Fair Lady, Camelot and Funny Girl on Broadway, as they happened, when I was a mere squirt, and for playing those shows' original cast albums to the point of absurdity for years later, as I know every single word of every song performed in them and suspect I would probably end up singing them to myself in chronological order if I were ever lying comatose in a hospital bed and was struggling to maintain my sanity! Yeah, like that would ever happen! That said, I naturally was a snob when it came to seeing the actual movie versions of these productions, and thus feel no strong attachment to their respective film soundtracks--though I must say, 45 years later, adding a "bonus track" by a member of today's Glee cast certainly makes them infinitely more listenable and, I suspect, better pieces of art overall! If the hills have eyes, of course they're alive!
Brad Paisley: Hits Alive (Arista Nashville) When it comes to Nashville superstars named Brad, you can't go wrong if you're thinking Paisley--and the so-called "triple threat" talent that BP clearly is can do no wrong here, in a fabulous greatest hits collection greatly aided by a second disc of stellar live performances! Additional bonus: they're all by him! Paisley's warmth, exuberance and outright accessibility will attract music fans of every stripe--after all, who wouldn't want to hear tracks named "Ticks" and "I'm Still A Guy"? Whatever you do, don't focus on the obvious anagram!
Good Charlotte: Cardiology (Capitol) In this rough 'n' tumble world, I think most of us don't spend enough time considering the plight of one-time popular "emo" pop-punk bands who are still out there trying to make a living, even though merely mentioning the name "Yellowcard" in today's hippest social gatherings is certain to raise titters among those inclined to chuckle at the word "titters"! And so it is that Good Charlotte, now 58 years old, hefty and suffering from chronic asthma, return with a new album detailing four unpleasant months recently spent in their local cardiology unit, where continual indignities involving both their hospital gowns and sigmoidoscopes have given them a perspective both unique and, it must be said, unenviable! Still, this baby rocks!
Frank Sinatra: Frank Sinatra: Concert Collection (Shout Factory DVD) One of the year's best video collections--and surprisingly massive in scope--this seven-disc DVD set showcases the legendary singer very much in his prime, including his first-ever 1965 TV special, his classic televised set with Ella Fitzgerald and Antonio Carlos Jobim, and a cast including Count Basie, Dean Martin, Bing Crosby, Tony Bennett, and even Princess Grace of Monaco! An ambitious box set, lengthy, historic and never less than enjoyable, it's a superb documentation of one of America's most foremost entertainment icons and a natural Christmas present for the elders or young hipsters in your extended family! They won't even notice you sneaking behind the bar while they're watching it!
Huey Lewis & The News: Soulsville (W.O.W.) Records like this prove precisely how much MTV devalued music as music during its historic run in the '80s! Like, if you merely mention Huey Lewis & The News in a contemporary social situation--and I don't know about you, but I'm always finding myself in those sort of things--the natural reaction will be something between a guilty smirk and a condescending glare implying how in the world could you have ever taken them seriously? But this album--featuring the '80s rockin' dudes covering much of the Stax Records archive--is well-played, well-sung, sincere stuff that 30 years later beats the pants off this band's MTV contemporaries! Literally! So it's embarrassing to watch!
Black Dub: Black Dub (Jive) Exceptionally performed music by superstar producer/guitarist Daniel Lanois, drummer Brian Blade, bassist Daryl Johnson and singer Trixie (daughter of Chris) Whitley, Black Dub is one of those quirky albums that a major label releases now and then that appears to exist purely because it made musical sense--rather than it seemed to bear one incredibly great single and nine other pieces of insubstantial crud! As such, let's all ignore it and finally teach those nasty record labels that all we want are moronic hit records we don't have to pay attention to! Don't they get it? Then we can share a donut!
Matt And Kim: Sidewalks (Fader) Much like Dick & Dee Dee, Friend & Lover, Ashford & Simpson, Peaches & Herb, Mickey & Sylvia, Paul & Paula, Marvin & Tammi, the Captain & Tennile, Nancy & Lee, and Ike & Tina, Matt and Kim are air breathers!