Though I'm not the sort of writer who responds to comments left on this blog--I mean, why mess with the riff-raff when I could be out having a steak dinner?--I do read them!
And so it was that last week, looking over the vast array of fan mail I receive, there were two comments that particularly touched my heart!
The first was from reader Tiffany Reynolds--who if her avatar is any indication, is a cartoonish figure who favors wearing a red hat! Her succinct communication? "Leave Your Comment"!
The second, even more heartwarming message came from one "joe m," who seems to favor upper case letters only in the body of his commentary: "HEY DON'T FORGET THE NEW HEAVEN AND HELL BONEHEAD"
Don't worry, Joe! You were just a week early, that's all!
Stay well, the both of you!
Bob Dylan: Together Through Life (Columbia) The man's 46th release--which follows an album that, believe it or not, debuted at No. 1--this highly listenable disc offers further proof that when respected, literate artists not especially known for their vocal skills--oh, say Dylan, Leonard Cohen and Lou Reed--get older, they're even less especially known for their vocal skills! Get my drift? In Mr. Dylan's case, however, such quibbling seems meaningless, especially since new tracks such as "My Wife's Home Town," credited to Bob Dylan and Willie Dixon, sound as if they were plucked from some mystical, foggy blues radio station from the '50s! Maybe they're supposed to! His band is strong, Dylan sings convincingly, and the only puzzle is that the man often referred to as the greatest lyricist in rock 'n' roll is co-writing songs with Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter! Who's admittedly a step up from Gene Simmons and Michael Bolton, but so is Marcel Marceau! Oh, what the heck--this guy could be the next Bruce Springsteen!
Mike Jones: The Voice (Ice Age/Warner Brothers) It's been a long time since rapper Mike Jones released a new album--and certainly a bit longer than I let on back in July 2007, when I reviewed The American Dream, which, unfortunately, I never actually heard and in fact never came out! But I bet it would've been great! On this new second album, the Houston rapper is looking sharp--squint at the cover and he looks like Batman!--sounding convincing, and apparently now carrying a bullhorn for additional authenticity! Such strong tracks as "Drop & Gimme 50," the appealingly titled "Cuddy Buddy" and the memorable "I Done Did It" will hopefully sway public sentiment in favor of the troubled New York weekly dear to Jones' heart! I know I'm convinced!
Heaven & Hell: The Devil You Know (Rhino) The long-awaited return of Heaven & Hell, featuring Ronnie James Dio, Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler and Vinny Appice, who started touring as Black Sabbath circa 1980, after Ozzy Osbourne departed, is out this week, joe m! And it's as great as everyone expected! Boasting red-hot tracks like "Double The Pain," "Eating The Cannibals," and "Fear," and art direction straight out of the Night At Bald Mountain segment of Fantasia, it's a masterwork thanks to the as always compelling operatic vocals of Dio--who many consider the most charismatic figure in all of rock 'n' roll! Well, it's between him, Jack Johnson, and John Mayer! As the group's first set of original material since 1992's Dehumanizer, it's got a great cover!
Melody Gardot: My One And Only Thrill (Verve) An excellent album sure to appeal to that crowd that drinks wine and listens to Diana Krall and Madeleine Peyroux, Gardot's latest is getting a strong buzz, as they say, not just because of her past personal misfortune (she was involved in a serious accident while riding her bicycle some years back) but because of the deeply compelling nature of her music! She's a superb singer, a captivating performer, and someone to whom music is much more than a means to make a living! Additionally, she's female!
Ben Folds: Ben Folds Presents: University a Cappella! (Epic) It's safe to say that this is the week's most unusual release, as it features a bunch of people you've never heard of covering Ben Folds' material in the a cappella format--meaning using only their voices! I mean, huh? It's actually an interesting sonic experience; hearing "Brick" sung by the Ohio University Leading Tones, say, is better than not hearing it! Whether you prefer the University of Colorado Buffoons to the Princeton Nassoons is of course your decision, but if you've ever enjoyed the raw vocal tracks of the Beach Boys or Todd Rundgren's 1985 A Cappella album, or drunkenly screamed while driving through the Holland Tunnel--and who hasn't?--this is just the record for you! If not, perhaps a new chess set will suffice!
A Camp: Colonia (Nettwerk) Fans of Swedish band the Cardigans should already be aware of A Camp, the collaborative effort of that band's singer Nina Persson and Niclas Frisk, himself of Swedish band Atomic Swing! Their second album together--the first was big news in Sweden--is interesting, melodic, not quite as exotic sounding as the Cardigans, and more substantial than you might be inclined to think on the basis of its cover! Especially if you hang out at bowling alleys!
The Sensational Alex Harvey Band: Live At The BBC (Fontana International) Couldn't let the release of this fabulous 2-CD live set go by without commenting: One of the all-time great rock 'n' roll bands, this combo was both significantly ahead of their time and enormously enjoyable in the live format, and this collection, from 1972-73 BBC performances, captures them in their absolute prime. Featuring the monolithic "Faith Healer" (twice!), a cover of Jacques Brel's "Next" and the memorable "Gang Bang"--which Bob Seger used to cover live at the time, no lie!--this album is a fantastic introduction to the late Harvey, who remains one of the most charismatic figures in all of pop. If you ever have the opportunity to check out video footage of the man onstage, please do!
Cocktail Slippers: Saint Valentine's Day Massacre (Wicked Cool) The world needs more all-female rock 'n' roll bands from Oslo, you'll surely agree, and this colorful bunch--including Rocket Queen, Squirrel, Modesty Blaze, Sugar Cane and Bella Donna--probably not their real names--completely fits the bill! Kind of deliberately retro, in that '70s-'80s kind of way, the gals are colorful live performers and the sort of thing old rock critics get a kick out of when ordering drinks at crowded bars and wondering where they left their cigarettes! Their new video "In The City" features Little Steven! If you're in Oslo this Saturday, check 'em out at Bakgården på Palace Grill!
Primal Scream: Beautiful Future (B-Unique/Rhino) They've been around for years, this record's been out for months and is finally available in the States in digital form, and you know what? It's great! Weirdly enough it sounds like the record they might've made back in 1996, after Sonic Flower Groove, when the future of pop music was a cross between Television and the Byrds, drugs weren't invented, and people were working for CD-ROM magazines! Cool! Make sure you install Quicktime!
Barcelona: Absolutes (Universal Motown) This nice record is sadly marred by every listener's compulsion to imagine both the members of this group and I'm From Barcelona going out to dinner and trying to tell strangers what band they're in!
Get Bob Dylan tickets here!