I suggest you fasten your safety belts and get ready for a summer of retrospection!
For indeed--between books arriving in the mail and phone calls from record company publicists, all signs indicate that this coming August will bring us the best 40th Anniversary of the Woodstock Festival we've ever experienced!
If you're not aware, the original Woodstock Festival, held in upstate New York during the summer of 1969, was an historic event in which teenagers and festival-goers in their early 20s signed a pact asserting that their music, their generation, and their political ideals represented all that mankind could and ever would aspire to! It was great, and pretty significant! Later, after rolling around in the mud a little, they drove home, got jobs, started losing their hair, created heavy metal and bought widescreen TVs!
Others, of course, tragically perished!
It was a pretty special time!
Various Artists: The Woodstock Experience [box set] (Sony Legacy) Some may call it crass commercialization, but when you get down to it, this collection--featuring dual albums by the Jefferson Airplane, Janis Joplin, Santana, Sly & the Family Stone and Johnny Winter, all of which are also available separately--is anything but. In short, the offering here is a classic album by each of the above artists as well as their actual performances at Woodstock. Not a bad notion at all, and considering the studio albums involved--Volunteers, Stand!, I Got Dem Ol' Kozmic Blues Again, Mama and Santana's superb debut--you're already talking quality works from the get-go. Throw in those memorable live sets--portions of which are available again elsewhere in the newly re-released Blu-Ray and DVD versions of the commemorative film--featuring much music never before officially released, all for an extremely reasonable price, and you may have the bargain of the Aquarian Age! Most of this, of course, was eclipsed in terms of overall quality by the more impressive and aesthetically pleasing performances offered by Alanis Morissette, Kid Rock, Lit and Korn during the even more memorable Woodstock '99 festival, but that stuff's on another label!
Moby: Wait For Me (Mute) Famous for distinctly odd reasons--departing his past as a DJ/techno dude to make pop records, creating an album of songs utilized by a record number of corporate sponsors, bald--Moby still manages to make interesting records! This is one of his better ones! Low key and personal, featuring a variety of vocalists, with nothing transparently aimed at the commercial marketplace, Wait For Me may be his best record ever! On the other hand, it may not be! But being afraid to say so either way is my business and not yours!
Brad Paisley: American Saturday Night (Arista) Paisley's stature as a Country Music superstar should in no way be diminished by this fine new release, which shows him at the top of his game musically and willing to explore concepts certain to strike a familiar chord among loyal listeners! I'd be the last reviewer in the world to make a musical judgement based purely on a song's title, but the collection of tracks on display here--including "The Pants," "No," "Water" and the quietly moving "Then"--are in many ways reminiscent of themes broached but never fully explored by the likes of Heidegger and Husserl in years past, but even catchier! Saturday Night's alright for Brad Paisley--and it should be alright for all of us as well!
Jeremih: Jeremih (Def Jam) Chicagoan Jeremih has made quite an impact with his single "Birthday Sex"--and of course, with a title like that, who wouldn't? But it isn't all titular razzle-dazzle, believe me--the man has music etched into his very soul, as this set's most convincing tracks--"Hatin' On Me" and "Imma Star (Everywhere We Are)"--make abundantly clear! What is it that makes him so special? "I have no boundaries," the man himself has said! "It excites me to see what there is to come. I'm a writer, I'm a singer, I'm a producer, and I can play instruments. I feel like that's what sets me apart from all the other artists out there." That plus he doesn't believe in the letter "A"! He's the best yet!
Rob Thomas: Cradlesong (Atlantic) Something To Be Tour: Live At Red Rocks (DVD) (E1 Music) An underestimated singer/songwriter who's sold an enormous number of albums on his own and with Matchbox Twenty--more than 80 million--Rob Thomas has managed to keep his head above water creatively for the duration of his career! Sad to say, I haven't heard the new album yet, but if the charisma on display on this new DVD--shot at Red Rocks back in 2006--is any indication, it's likely to continue the trend!
Andy Sheppard: Movements In Colour (ECM) A superb British saxophonist who's been making increasingly more interesting records since his 1988 debut on Antilles, Sheppard takes his bow as a leader here for ECM with a superlative package that is both intricate and surprisingly accessible. Backed by guitarists John Parricelli and Eiving Aarset, percussionist Kuljit Bhamra and stalwart ECM bassist Arild Andersen, Sheppard is particularly upbeat on the intriguingly named "Bing," and will likely make new fans of anyone who's yet to hear him. Highly recommended.
Levon Helm: Electric Dirt (Dirt Farmer/Vanguard) The follow-up to the Grammy-winning Dirt Farmer, the latest disc from the former drummer and singer with the Band is solid, approachable and deep in those elements of Americana that made his former group so memorable. Helm is again produced here by Larry Campbell, the album was likewise recorded in Helm's own studio "The Barn," and the overall effect--via familiar tracks like the Grateful Dead's "Tennessee Jed" and Muddy Waters' "Stuff You Gotta Watch"--is of a distinguished artist making the music he holds most dear, and doing it wonderfully. Helm's in better voice than he was last time out--medical problems had dogged him earlier--and you'll like what you hear.
Wilco: Wilco (The Album) (Nonesuch) Wilco's seventh album overall, and one that continues to show the band's unparalleled artistic growth, Wilco (The Album) has been on the receiving end of some interesting promotion--including a full preview streaming on NPR, an appearance at the New Orleans Jazz Fest, and well-reviewed, ongoing tour--and will hopefully sell accordingly. Partially recorded at Neil Finn's studio in New Zealand, the album features a guest appearance by Feist on the duet "You And I" and a wealth of sounds and influences that don't detract from the band's much-lauded originality. Good stuff!
Tanya Tucker: My Turn (Saguaro Road) The legendary hot babe of country--who released her first hit when she was just 13--Tucker is back with an album full of country covers, putting her personal spin on classics by George Jones, Merle Haggard and Buck Owens, singing a track with Jim Lauderdale, and benefiting greatly by the fine production work of Pete Anderson. For once, all experts agree: That's quite a hat!
Ted Nugent: Ted Nugent: Motor City Mayhem DVD (Eagle) You've got to love Ted Nugent! Or else he'll shoot you! Captured here in front of a Detroit audience, the colorful guitarist opens up with the Star Spangled Banner, runs through such classics as "Cat Scratch Fever," "Wango Tango" and Radiohead cover "Wang Dang Sweet Poontang," then--rather disturbingly--guts and eats the entertainment-starved Detroit audience! It's pretty cool!