You want well-rounded? This week's new releases feature acts who made their names in the '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, and '00s!
Maybe today's music scene is as its absolute zenith--and consumers of all ages will be rushing to retail outlets to pick up the latest exciting recordings from their respective heroes!
Or maybe record companies are now completely at wit's end--and hurling anything out there in hopes something, somehow will stick against the wall!
Or maybe it's all just completely random and there's no natural order to the world whatsoever!
Nah! That would be stupid!
Let's go get coffee!
NICOLE ATKINS & THE SEA: Neptune City (Red Ink/Columbia) Can't say I was expecting much when I came across this set--a "major label debut album" by a New Jersey-based singer that on the surface seems a fairly anonymous package. But yikes, can this lady sing! Her big, big voice evokes the sexy hoochie-mamas of the early '60s in ways I haven't heard in years! Great production, great songs, and a very strong presence that hasn't been obliterated by The Man just because it's slightly out of the ordinary. I strongly suggest you buy, watch the Twin Peaks DVDs, close your eyes, and imagine the life you could have led if you'd only had the courage! Then make popcorn!
Blackout (Jive) The verdict is still out on whether everyone's favorite l'il troublemaker can resurrect her career with this set, but with the unexpected success of "Gimme More" and the world now gone completely awry thanks to, well, you know-- this may just be the best album of the former teen queen's career! With beats galore, contributions from producers Danja and Bloodshy & Avant, among others, and Britney opining about the state of her world--not to mention her actually uttering the words "my derriere," I'm inclined to suggest the Earth will forgive her for all her temporary foibles, take her back and reinstate her in her rightful place as Queen Of The Universe! Unless something else happens!
BACKSTREET BOYS: Unbreakable (Jive) What becomes a one-time mega-famous boy band trying to make a comeback most? Making a brand new album chockfull of singles that are all, in their own unique way, "unbreakable" at every radio format you can imagine! Word is that the album is already "approaching platinum" in Japan, but they mean it literally! Record store clerks keep filing it next to albums that actually sell!
ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACK: I'm Not There (Columbia) Can't say that I had maximum expectations for this 2-CD soundtrack album--Bob Dylan covers? What an idea!--but this is a fantastic collection. Part of its charm is that the many singers involved(including Eddie Vedder, Roger McGuinn, Sufjan Steevens, Karen O, and essentially Everyone Hip Ever) do a marvelous job of interpreting the material, each keeping their own identities in the background and allowing the overwhelming quality of Dylan's songs to shine through. Dylan himself appears on the title track, but--if its title is to be believed-- apparently doesn't! Weird!
ARMOR FOR SLEEP: Smile For Them (Sire) They're from New Jersey! They come out of the exciting "emo" scene! They slowly but surely toured around the country, methodically making new friends in every state of the union! They left the indie world and signed a deal with a major label! Then came the time to record their next album! They did! Then they walked into a record store and said, "Hey, look--Armored For Sleep put out a new album, too!" Then they went to a cajun restaurant!
Unknown Pleasures, Closer, Still (Rhino) Just out from Rhino are these three deluxe reissues of a band currently in the spotlight yet again--they don't ever seem to leave--and, as always, they reward with every listen. The uniqueness of the material, singer Ian Curtis's haunting voice, and Martin Hannett's singular production style makes them sound as if they were just recorded yesterday; part of their charm, of course, is that they're always going to sound that way. In each case, the "bonus CD" is a live performance recorded during the relevant timeframe. Like Interpol and She Wants Revenge, they sound just like Nick Drake!
BABY BASH: Cyclone (Arista) Word is that this is Baby Bash's "commercial move"--i.e., the Latin rapper is inexorably moving into the teen pop market because he's had a whiff of what can be had there: It's green, and you can't smoke it! All things considered, though, he's lots more fun than having a bunch of soccer-moms-to-be over your house singing "the wheels on the bus go round and round" while a bunch of sobbing infants drool all over your furniture and you keep looking at your watch!
LEVON HELM: Dirt Farmer (Dirt Farmer/Vanguard) A classy return to form by the one-time lead vocalist of the Band, Dirt Farmer is a fine addition to his former group's legacy. Highlights include superb musical arrangements, a selection of material (traditional and otherwise) that reflects on the Arkansas-born singer's roots, and Helm's distinctive voice--a bit grainier but still as soulful as you'd expect from the man who sang "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down." Throw in Fergie and the Pussycat Dolls and you'd have a smash!
PUSCIFER: V Is For Vagina (Puscifer Entertainment) The latest project from Maynard James Keenan of Tool and A Perfect Circle deserves kudos for including Satan as a guest musician but thumbs down for its lackluster album title: What about the 49 other states?