Greatest hits collections, live albums by artists whose careers began only an album ago, rappers with dollar signs in their names, and American Idol finalists--this may indeed be the best time to buy new albums in this month's history!
For that matter, it may also be a great time to invest in real estate or marry someone purely for their looks!
But let's not get carried away. Instead, let's just focus on a week of solid new releases, yet again proving the wisdom of Richard Dimples Fields' 1982 smash, "If It Ain't One Thing It's Another." Then let's all pick a record company--any record company--and buy all their new releases so that we can do this again next year too!
I'm into tradition! Are you?
Blake Lewis: Audio Daydream (A.D.D.) (19/Arista) Aside from Jennifer Love Hewitt's harrowing bikini scandal, one of the week's biggest stories will certainly be whether this new album by American Idol contestant Lewis will outsell that of his Idol partner Jordin Sparks--which, you'll remember, was deemed less than a success by those in the know! I'm thinking it may do the trick, thanks to clever marketing! That "A.D.D." in the album title will attract mothers of troubled youths, audio engineers, radio programmers, and people passing by CD racks with a shopping cart! Like it or not, others often control our behavior!
Wyclef Jean: Carnival Vol. II: Memoirs Of An Immigrant (Columbia) Despite having an absurdly surrealistic array of guest stars--Paul Simon, Shakira, System Of A Down's Serj Tankian, Mary J. Blige, Akon, Norah Jones, Astro Boy, Arnold Stang--the sixth solo album by former Fugee Wyclef is surprisingly good in spite of itself. Mainly because the whole affair is deliberately constructed to resemble an action-packed party where nearly anything goes, including weird people plopping in and out of the audio mix. I went into this a cynic and emerged about an hour later! Click on this link to check out his dandy Live Sets performance--or something even more interesting!
Ghostface Killah: The Big Doe Rehab (Def Jam) Fans of the Wu-Tang Clan will find much to enjoy on this fab new set, bursting with guest stars like Method Man, Raekwon, Kid Capri, the illustrious Ox, and on "Yapp City," the intriguing duo of Trifa Da God and Sun God! Talk about important friends! I'm especially taken with the album cover, which displays a scantily clad nurse wearing thigh high red boots wiping the sweat off our hero's brow while his crown sits on the arm of his throne! As an added bonus, one of the hundred dollar bills plastering the CD's back cover was inadvertently stamped with a recycling logo by his label's art department--who, presumably, were too taken with the glory of their creation to actually notice! Don't sweat the small stuff, dudes!
Rufus Wainwright: Rufus Does Judy At Carnegie Hall (Geffen) I'd say most music critics have long felt that not enough people have covered entire Judy Garland albums--so young Mr. Wainwright's remarkable achievement is likely to be welcomed with open arms by nearly everyone! While some of us may keep our own lists of artists we'd like to see do the same--I'm thinking Ozzy Osbourne, P. Diddy, and Garth Brooks, mostly--let's give credit where it's due: Rufus got there first. And he was dressed to kill!
Godsmack: Good Times, Bad Times...Ten Years Of Godsmack (Universal Republic) You've got to love these guys if only for this collection's title, which wisely evades the central issue of overall percentage of good times vs. bad times! Out of Boston and rockin' up a storm--you can quote me!--Sully Erna and the boys not only cover Led Zeppelin via this set's title track, they lay out their entire musical career for the world to see! And it's somewhat admirable! Major disappointment: The absence of Ghostface Killah's buddies Trifa Da God and Sun God, who seem at least nominally related!
Various Artists: Live Earth: The Concerts For A Climate In Crisis (CD/DVD) (Warner Bros.) Few can knock the array of talent on display here on this special CD/2DVD set documenting highlights from this July's Live Earth concert events--seen or heard here are Madonna, Keith Urban, Alicia Keys, Genesis, the Beastie Boys, Snow Patrol, Kelly Clarkson, and...oh, just about everybody you can think of. And also Bon Jovi! Even fewer can knock the fact that net proceeds from the sale of this package will be donated to the Alliance For Climate Protection! But having watched this over and over again, I must say this: Where the heck were the nets?
Too $hort: Get Off The Stage (Jive) I have long been fascinated by Todd Anthony Shaw, better known to the world as rapper Too $hort, for reasons that some might consider personal. Perhaps a decade ago, part of my job involved listening to CDs and pulling out 30-second samples for consumer sampling. The sole requirement: each 30-second segment had to be G-rated. It's my duty now to report that despite a full eight-hour day of repeated listening to a then-current Too $hort album, I could not find a single 30-second stretch without offensive language! Later that night I drank heavily and kicked my dog!
Daft Punk: Daft Punk Alive 2007 (Virgin) Their second live album, recorded in front of 18,000 people in Paris, is fascinating stuff--and an interesting case study of today's music biz. Here's a group that has an enormous worldwide fan base making a very successful living without anything even approaching a commercial pop radio hit. And unlike Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops, I believe they're French!
James Brown: The Singles, Vol. Four: 1966-1967 (Hip-O Select) Forgive me for sounding like a schmuck, but track for track, the 42 tunes heard on this fabulous 2-CD collection pretty much beat every other album being discussed this week--and this isn't a greatest hits set, it's just a legendary musician's regular output during the years of 1966 and 1967. Most notable are "It's A Man's Man's Man's World" and "Cold Sweat," but everything--even the Christmas stuff--just leaps out of the speakers and grabs you by the head. One suspects Paul Simon was taking notes!
Nelly Furtado: Loose: The Concert (Geffen) Just one of a series of new live CD/DVD packages emerging in recent weeks, this package spotlights Ms. Furtado at the height of her second burst of fame--singing tracks like "Promiscuous," "Maneater," "I'm Like A Bird, " and "No Hay Igual." More accurately: they are those songs! This glut of product is so unnerving! Incidentally, I love her logo.