Releases by Jeff Beck, MGMT and Gucci Mane highlight the first paragraph of this week's blog about hot new albums!
Alternately, releases by people about whom you might be mildly curious--such as Natalie Merchant and Jason Castro--are the subject of the second!
Finally, the reissue of Iggy & the Stooges' Raw Power merits its own mention in this third paragraph!
Lastly, this final sentence precedes the actual body of album review copy!
Jeff Beck: Emotion & Commotion (Atco/Rhino) Albums by Jeff Beck--who to many represents the pinnacle of rock 'n' roll guitarists--are few and far between, and this latest release is his first studio session in seven years. Is it good? You bet! It's also something of a stylistic mishmash: Between instrumental tracks such as "Over The Rainbow" and Puccini's "Nessun Dorma" are vocal numbers featuring the likes of Joss Stone, Imelda May and Olivia Safe, all of them well-played and well-sung, but something of an unfocused sonic smorgasbord compared to the glory days of Beck's earlier work with past singers Rod Stewart or even Bob Tench. But what the hey? Ever since the legendary guitarist was plucked from the ground and eaten by a giant eagle--as this cover oddly hints--scattered sessions are really all we can expect from the former Yardbird!
Natalie Merchant: Leave Your Sleep (Nonesuch) Renowned for her former work with 10,000 Maniacs and her own highly respected solo career, singer Natalie Merchant returns here with her first new studio album in six years, and boy are her arms tired! Longtime fans can recall Merchant's early days when virtually everything she sang literally made no phonetic sense; this new two-disc set now features her singing 19th and 20th century poetry and lullabies, and, ironically, though she carefully enunciates each word, the words themselves make no sense! It's just one more reason why you should buy this, rip it, change the genre classification to "World Music," and then tell all your feminist friends you're really into Natalie Merchant! That way everyone wins! Merchant's best in half a decade!
Gucci Mane: Burrrprint (2) HD (Asylum) Though still a victim of America's harsh penal code, Gucci Mane hasn't allowed temporary setbacks to hinder his recording career! Thus comes this fab new album, highlighted by a welcome diversity of tracks like "Gucci Speaks," "Shawty Lo Speaks," Rick Ross Speaks," "DJ Khaled Speaks," "Yo Gotti Speaks," "Lil Kim Speaks," and the completely unexpected "Alley Boy Speaks"! In some ways a creative landmark and in other ways a cynical cash-in by a rapper savvy enough to discern his limited shelf life, Burrrpring (2) HD has all the titular hallmarks of a listing in the Dish Network monthly programming guide! Hey, I just said "titular"!
MGMT: Congratulations (Columbia) When New Yorkers MGMT recently scored multiple Grammy nominations for their debut album, their future looked assured; these days the complete works of Orchestral Manouevres In The Dark sound uncannily commercial! But leave it to these crafty artist types to take an unexpected left turn and start writing songs about members of the Television Personalities while sounding like an "uncommercial" Flaming Lips! Now all their former fanbase thinks they've sold out simply by being difficult! In short, they can't win for losing! But it's all right now, they've learned their lesson well--you can't please everyone, so you've got to please yourself!
Coheed & Cambria: Year Of The Black Rainbow (Columbia) When it comes to long-haired art-rockers tragically influenced by Rush but good enough to make you forget it, it's either Mars Volta or Coheed & Cambria! In this case, it's C&C's music factory, and if you're looking for quick uninvolving kicks, look no further! For indeed, inside this record sleeve--which looks as if someone hurled a mudball at Yes's 90125 album--is a disc which has been described as "the eagerly awaited prequel to 'The Amory Wars' tetralogy"! Translation? Sexy as hell!
The Stooges: Raw Power: Legacy Edition (Columbia/Legacy) One of the most influential rock 'n' roll records of all time makes its royal return here in a generous "deluxe" format--meaning the original 1973 recording is accompanied by a second disc featuring a previously unissued live set recorded the same year, as well as two fascinating outtakes! Now back in its "original" David Bowie-mixed configuration, the album is a roaring, treble-heavy masterwork, featuring Iggy Pop in his prime singing "Search And Destroy," "Your Pretty Face Is Going To Hell," and "Death Trip" among other classics, essentially laying down the rhythmic and chordal framework for what would later become known as punk rock! Also available in an ultra-deluxe configuration available here, this record is where it all started...and ended! "It" in this case being the Stooges' Columbia recording career, but you get the idea! Like a skinnier Christopher Cross!
Kaki King: Junior (Rounder) A superb guitarist whose singing career now seems to have blossomed--and not a franchise specializing in trousers--Kaki King arrives at Rounder Records with a superb new album filled with excellent musicianship, haunting songs, and an album cover that looks like the J. Geils Band's Showtime if you squint really hard! Produced by Malcolm Burn, the disc is a classy affair that in its limited edition "deluxe" format is also accompanied by a DVD showcasing a Toronto performance by King filmed in 2008! Why don't you buy this thing?
Rafter: Animal Feelings (Asthmatic Kitty) They say you can't judge a book by its cover--but if you'll notice, they never said you couldn't judge an album by its cover, and that makes all the difference in the world! Boasting a fantastic jacket that in some ways is reminiscent of any adolescent's first night at Hooters, Animal Feelings starts off with the catchy, hitbound sounds of "No F**king Around" and then, relevantly, continues with 10 additional songs! Is it good? Let's just say that if no other albums ever come out from now on, this baby could zoom straight to Number One!
108: 18.61 (Deathwish Inc.) It may be a personal dream of mine that 108 would get it together and release an album of cover versions including "98.6," "634-5789," "1984," "2112, "1,2,3,4" and "Empire State Of Mind," but these hardcore/punkers are clearly in it for their art rather than for kicks, so they'd probably have none of it! That said, they're at least twice as good as longtime rivals 54!
Jason Castro: Jason Castro (Atlantic) Former American Idol contestant Jason Castro's debut album is finally out, and it's everything you might've imagined and more! In my case, it's been a marvelous salad dressing!