Great new records by famous movie stars, completely useless greatest hits sets by artists who are barely memorable, and new discs with words like "beyondo," "babble" and "drugs" in their titles make this the greatest album release week of August 2011 yet!
That said, I must offer one caveat: Many of them can also be listened to!
Thus, this week--just to make things fun--I've decided to spend the entire night listening to Deep Purple In Concert 1970-1972 and then pretend what I'm hearing comes from the actual albums I've listed below!
Can I let you in on a little secret? As far as this blog goes, I don't think it will make the slightest difference at all!
Jeff Bridges: Jeff Bridges (Blue Note) Let's be honest: Way too many "country"-oriented albums of late have suffered due to middling material, disturbingly slick production, and a deliberate shift toward inoffensive, middle-of-the-road lyrical concerns. I say this only because I find absolutely nothing wrong with the new Jeff Bridges album, find its production by celebrated producer T-Bone Burnett to be enormously sympathetic and appealing, and, frankly, find Bridges' apparent limitations--his advanced age, his "other" career as an actor, his roughened voice--to be actual assets here. Plus, the songs are often quite dandy. I therefore recommend this album, plan to file it next to all the other extraordinarily well-produced efforts by T-Bone Burnett, and will continue facing every album ever produced with a completely open mind! Except for rap and, er, stuff on J Records! Yeah, plus albums with birds on their covers!
Blue October: Any Man In America (Up/Down) It's been a while, but the latest from rockers Blue October is an absolute aesthetic win! Accurately described as "a cathartic tale of heartbreak and healing through thirteen distinct songs," this great new album focuses on the "any man in America" of its title--in this case, Larry Glinski of Hollywood, Florida, randomly selected via Facebook or something--and follows him from his earliest days in kindergarten to his admittedly unexpected demise at the hands of an orthopedic surgeon in 2009! Boasting a fabulous array of compelling tuneage--including "The Chills," "The Getting Over It Part," and "The Worry List"--the album is capable of being purchased in CD format, inserted into a CD player and actually played, and--if so desired--actually listened to! I quite like it, though I do find some of the low frequencies somewhat annoying! You too?
Breaking Benjamin: The Shallow Bay: The Best Of Breaking Benjamin (Hollywood) A 2-CD set devoted entirely to the "best" of Breaking Benjamin is fascinating on many levels! Not to be impolite, but doesn't it actually imply the band's output actually includes a number of tracks that might be regarded positively? I mean, let's put this in perspective: If I were kidnapped behind enemy lines and tortured for several months, I might declare that the "best" experiences included not being allowed any Kleenex, being slapped repeatedly by a beautiful woman, and being force-fed cashews, some of which were less than perfect! But would that make the entire experience at all positive? Who can say? All I know is, back when they were declaring that Eric Clapton was God, they had no idea that Breaking Benjamin's Aaron Fink was waiting in the wings! I think Aaron is a funny name!
Psychic Babble: My Brother's Ears / My Sister's Eyes (Yenta Records) Certainly one of the most rewarding experiences in my workaday world involves grabbing a CD for which I have absolutely no expectations, playing it on the CD player reportedly near my telephone, and saying--"hey, wait a minute--this is actually quite memorable, distinctly pleasurable, at not at all like the common crud I'm now sadly used to!" And in fact, this CD--the work of one Colin Frangicetto, also of Circa Survive--is by far one of the finest records I've heard this year: Ten songs filled with memorable hooks, appealing rhythms, and the sort of likeable chord changes one might associate with other, better-known artists, yet heard here in a more stimulating, adventurous context! I'm inclined to like it very much and recommend you purchase it! No lie!
The War On Drugs: Slave Ambient (Secretly Canadian) Any artist that mentions Neu!, Spacemen 3, Tom Petty and Blood On The Tracks in their bio simply has to be interesting--it's the new rule! And so it is that The War On Drugs is also quite interesting! Like, are they deliberately mocking the early '70s' famous "war on drugs"? Are they referring to an actual war--and implying that the war itself is on drugs? Are they one album away from covering "Spill The Wine" and "The World Is A Ghetto"? Frankly, my friends, I think we all are! Buy this today--because on a points-per-word basis, war, drugs, slave, ambient, secretly and Canadian is a veritable record-setter!
Various Artists: Jazz At The Hollywood Bowl (Hip-O Select) Certainly one of the benefits of record companies clamoring to make any money whatsoever on their catalogs includes the compelling reissue now and then--and albums like this are occasionally the pleasing result! The "complete" version of a jazz set performed at the Hollywood Bowl back in 1956, this new release includes the original 2-LP set documenting this event that was released 55 years ago and, to our great fortune, includes 11 additional Louis Armstrong tracks never before released, among other highlights! Featuring an unbelievable cast of mid-20th century jazz heavies--Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Art Tatum, Roy Eldridge, Buddy Rich, Illinois Jacquet, etc.--the collection is a fabulous document of a time long past, a superbly played batch of great music, and a welcome addition to anyone's record collection. Recommended.
Mondo Beyondo: Ursula 1000 (ESL Music) Word is that "Ursula 1000" is the stage name of a DJ named Alex Gimeno--but considering the album name, the artist name, and the completely fab album art, let's simply assume it's the work of actress Ursula Andress, cloned fresh out of a James Bond movie and raring to go with a music set that features the B-52's Fred Schneider on one track, songs entitled "Don't Get Your Panties In Bunch" and "Red Hot Mama," and loud, danceable rhythms absolutely certain to make you forget that the human heart beats approximately 2.52 billion times in the course of 70 years and then--in a stunning twist--you die! Off-putting? You bet!
Deep Purple: In Concert 1970-1972 (Eagle) A mere six months ago I never would have predicted that I'd be completely entranced by the collected works of Deep Purple, but here I sit, listening to the umpteenth recorded version of "Wring That Neck" and thinking that I've rarely heard anything cooler! A reissue of a collection featuring the classic band's BBC sessions from 1970 and 1972, this powerful set showcases the band precisely at their most interesting moment--the birth of the so-called "Mk II" line-up--and sounds great when you're illegally speeding in your automobile, if you're so inclined!
Her Space Holiday: Her Space Holiday (No More Good Ideas) Would be appropriate to mention here the final album by Mark Bianchi's Her Space Holiday--one of the past decade's more compelling, if low-key, musical projects. Sophisticated, personal, and sometimes eerie stuff, Bianchi's output has yet to receive the wider hearing it deserves, and this latest set--by design, the last under the HSH name--puts the catalog to rest distinctively, and with considerable class. Seek this one out!
Various Artists: Tribute: Johnny Boy Would Love This (Liaison Music) A rich, 2-CD set offering up welcome tributes to late UK cult figure John Martyn, this collection features big names like Robert Smith, Beck, Phil Collins, the Swell Season, Snow Patrol and many more covering Martyn's distinguished catalog--and significantly, more often than not changing Martyn's original arrangements not one iota. One of the better tribute records out there, if it sends any new fans out there to Martyn's original classic recordings, I'd consider it a complete success. Give it a listen.