Hello and welcome to this very special edition of New This Week!
If you noticed I forgot to write a post last week, you're not alone! I tried my hardest, but after spending 15 minutes trying to write something interesting about spectacularly-named R&B artist Lloyd--who, tragically, was the single artist of note to release any product whatsoever last week, but who went uncovered because I couldn't manage to track down his last name--I decided to give myself, and you, a break and finally watch the fourth season of 24, which had been sitting on my shelf for a few years now!
Besides, I reasoned, why should I waste the 200th post of New This Week on a bunch of artists I'd only make fun of? I didn't spend the past four years reviewing 2,000 albums in spectacular depth and detail only to peter out half-heartedly with a lame joke about some television show starring Jeff Bridges' dad!
Plus, I had to go pick up my pants at the dry cleaners!
Blake Shelton: Red River Blue (Warner Bros. Nashville) When it comes to charismatic country artists currently named CMA Male Vocalist of the Year who also star in NBC-TV's top-rated reality show The Voice and are married to country star Miranda Lambert, you've simply got to be talking about Blake Shelton--or else you've rendered this entire sentence completely pointless! A likeable, funny man whose winning personality shines on his current hit "Honey Bee" and whose title track's harrowing tale of the 10 plagues sent by Moses after the Pharoah refused to let his people go would certainly be a show-stopper if it actually existed, he's pretty cool! I'm inclined to give this album a complete thumbs up if only because it's got a song on it called "Hey"--and phonetically, that's as country as you can get!
Colbie Caillat: All Of You (Universal Republic) Why do I like Colbie Caillat? Is it because she's the embodiment of pretty, bright California girls who can dazzle all onlookers merely by the energy and zest she brings into any room she enters? Is it because her thoughtful and mature yet strangely sensual singing style evokes a potential 22nd century science fiction heroine? Is it because her name sounds like something you'd find on Aisle Three of the local Whole Foods Market? Is it because for years I've collected magazine advertisements for Ipana and Pepsodent toothpastes and now, oddly, she somehow fits right in? Hah! No way! I'm just into blondes!
Incubus: If Not Now, When? (Epic) While I'm not their biggest fan, I've always admired Incubus for their ability to stay relevant no matter what the era--between their duet with the Airplane at Woodstock and their memorable cameo in Car Wash, they never went artistically astray--and this new album certainly continues that tradition! Sounding nothing at all like the Incubus of years past, this new album is surprisingly melodic, almost-folkish pop that in terms of pure sonics could easily have been released on the Asylum label during the mid-'70s and been produced by some Japanese guy with, I don't know, a brain tumor or something, and years later now stand as an immensely collectible, acid-folk objet d'art! I mean, theoretically, something like that could have happened! That said, if the album title reminds you of something a bright kid in the back seat of a station wagon would say to his dad to convince him to pull off at a rest stop so he could go to the bathroom, you wouldn't be wrong either! Hey, all of life is an either/or thing!
Yes: Fly From Here (Frontiers) I listened to this latest Yes album with a completely open mind and absolutely no idea who's currently in the band--the long-lived dudes seem to shuffle around a lot, and the last time I was paying attention a friend and I saw them on a double bill with Asia at the Gibson Amphitheatre in Los Angeles and I remember 1) I was impressed with Asia, 2) I was disappointed Jon Anderson wasn't in Yes anymore and 3) I had to pay 11 bucks for a beer poured into a moronic plastic guitar-shaped cup and spilled beer all over my shirt! Stupid cup! Anyway, this new album features most of that same line-up of Yes--Chris Squire, Steve Howe, Alan White--and keyboardist Geoff Downes, who along with album producer Trevor Horn was a member of Yes back in the early '80s when singer Anderson departed the very first time.The big news is current vocalist Benoit David--surely a fave of fusion jazz pianist David Benoit--who had the unenviable task of singing Anderson lyrics like "Mountains come out of the sky and they stand there" in concert but here, singing all-new material, sounds completely fine and dandy! Hey, maybe this whole progressive rock thing has always been cool!
Shirley Lee: Winter Autumn Spring Summer (Missing Page UK import) The lead singer and main songwriter of Spearmint, who remain my very favorite undersung British band of last decade or two, Lee returns here with his second solo album--a very substantial, 2-CD set thematically documenting relationships, the four seasons, the departed UK DJ John Peel, and a host of other interesting topics, all via clever lyrics, catchy melodies, and a level of sophistication and warmth that I must say continues to seem unparalleled by most of his contemporaries. Though it's not to easy to find his material in the States, I highly recommend all of it, and suggest you seek out this new set via maybe by going here. In fact, why bother ever leaving the house?
Qluster: Fragen (Bureau B) Fans of pioneering German band Cluster--or, for that matter, Kluster--will be thrilled with this new release by Qluster, which features original band member Hans-Joachim Roedelius, here collaborating with one Onnen Bock, a "sound installationist" who's previously worked with the Berlin Philharmonic, and who fits into the musical framework superbly. A bit less "ambient" than past Cluster works, Fragen is meaty, quite listenable, and reportedly only the first part of a planned trilogy the new duo has been working on since 2007. Highly recommended.
George Thorogood & The Destroyers: 2120 South Michigan Avenue (Capitol) Tried and true, out there still making records, here's George Thorogood, this time paying tribute to the Chess Records Legacy--featuring a host of classics penned by Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Willie Dixon, and Bo Diddley, among others, and adding contemporary bluesmen Buddy Guy and Charlie Musselwhite as special guests. The well-intentioned Thorogood's puzzling title selection--2120 South Michigan Ave is, after all, the address of Ruby's All Star Hair Grooming Salon in the Detroit suburb of Livonia--is certain to inspire more than one two-for-one special's at Ruby's and will likely cause a similar stir at its celebrated neighbor, Charlie's Liquors! He really is bad to the bone!
Theory Of A Deadman: The Truth Is... (Roadrunner) It's hard not to like Vancouver's Theory Of A Deadman, if only because of their fantastic name! It's like--what, don't you guys think there actually are dead men? Like, you know--that people can actually die? Is it a matter of theoretical principle? Do all Canadians feel that way? Cool! Luckily, as the album title implies, the guys spell out all their innermost theories on the great songs here, the best of which include "Bitch Came Back," "Drag Me To Hell," "Lowlife," and--most tellingly--the climactic "We Were Men," apparently derived from the folk legend of Circe, the Canadian goddess who once transformed men into pigs purely because she could do it and hey--let's be real--wouldn't you? Coincidentally, I'm thinking of getting this album cover tattooed on my chest!
Sons And Daughters: Mirror Mirror (Domino) A sharp, textural jolt here from Brit rockers Sons And Daughters, whose 2008 set This Gift was a surprisingly sturdy, interesting set, and who return here with an album that is perhaps a tad more subtle but worthy of many repeated listenings. Plus, anything that even slightly recalls Uriah Heep's Look At Yourself has to be great!
Pimp C: Still Pimping (Rap-A-Lot) Though he's long since gone, this posthumous collection features Hip Hop great Pimp C accompanied by a treasure trove of similar greats, including the illustrious Bun B! Still, the regretful absence of Adrenalin A, Dilated D, Effervescent E and Frickin' F does squander a marvelous commercial opportunity!