Well, this was the big week when rappers 50 Cent and Kanye West went head-to-head in their dramatic battle to sell the most records! And I know I wasn't alone in quivering with excitement! Best of all--as a special bonus to buying the CDs, consumers were actually allowed to listen to them!
So forget the sales brouhaha--let's talk quality! I was pretty excited by the 50 Cent album, mostly because of that great picture in the CD booklet showing him actually eating a gun from a dinner plate! And the Kanye West album was great because one of the three billion tracks it blatantly ripped off--er, I mean, one of the fab tracks it included prominently credited Can, the ultragreat German band, who'll probably be getting lots of unexpected royalty money as a result!
The real winner? I'd say it was journalists all over the world, who could spew meaningless copy everywhere during an otherwise dreary news week! Just like me! Hey, I'm not proud!
James Blunt: All The Lost Souls (Custard/Atlantic) He's back and he's ready to rule the world! Or not! Everyone's favorite/most-hated contemporary singer-songwriter now has lots to live up to--at least in terms of sales--and in today's rough-and-tumble, set-'em-up-and-knock'-em-down, hyphenated-to-excess world, millions of people will be watching. And waiting. Is it a hit? Is it a miss? Will more joy be derived by a larger group of people if it actually is a miss? Because those people are all really very nasty? Heck, who can answer all these questions? Hopefully James Blunt! Or else he's in big trouble!
Chamillionaire: Ultimate Victory (Chamillitary/Universal Motown) Admittedly I may be one of very few music writers who confuse rapper Chamillionaire with youthful superhero Chameleon Boy of the Legion Of Superheroes--hint: the rapper doesn't have any visible antennae--but that hasn't stopped "legions" of rap fans from expecting the very best from this happy-go-lucky artist! With a host of guest stars including Three Six Mafia, Kelis, Busta Rhymes, Slick Rick and Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, surely only one thing stands in the way of this album being a massive success --and that's the absence of will.i.am, Timbaland and Kanye West! What the heck--they've been on everyone else's album! What's the deal?
KT Tunstall: Drastic Fantastic (Relentless/Virgin) Nothing but good things to report about KT, whose last record was playing in every clothing store I was dragged into during the past year, which means there's now an entire subculture of well-groomed males and females dying to hear this dandy new album! Marketing is so much cleaner than music! Anyway, she's ultra-talented, frisky, sings and plays well, and deserves every bit of her success! Too bad James Blunt said he'd retire from the business if she sells more records than him!
Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds: Playlist (Mercury) When I think of all the great songs that the great LA & Babyface team was responsible for in the past, a part of me always is saddened to think that there's no way all that great talent could ever put its unique spin on '70s classics by James Taylor, Dan Fogelberg, Jim Croce, and Dan Loggins! Well I'm in ecstasy now, baby! The ever-youthful Babyface works his magic not only on these fab songwriters but does a version of Dan Loggins's "Please Come To Boston" that may indeed rival Courtney Love's own near legendary take! This may well be the best collection of Babyface soft-rock classics ever made!
Barry Manilow: The Greatest Songs Of The Seventies (Arista) Holy smoke! Great minds do think alike! Move over Babyface, the Master has arrived, and he's singing "Bridge Over Troubled Water," "You've Got A Friend," and "The Way We Were"! But you know what? Our Hero Barry already made a great album of '70s covers about 10 years ago--it was called Summer of '78 and it featured stuff like "Sometimes When We Touch," "I Go Crazy," "When I Need You, "Reminiscing," and...oh, you get the picture. And it was conceptually brilliant! Seriously! But this thing? Between you and me--it smells like a sellout!
Mark Knopfler: Kill To Get Crimson (Warner Bros.) I think the last thing anybody expected from former Dire Straits frontman Mark Knopfler was a deeply personal solo album focusing on his teenage days as a music consumer! Unfortunately, basing an entire album upon his desire to be first-in-line to buy In The Wake Of Poseidon--the second King Crimson album--is a dicey proposition at best! Additionally, is it really in his best interest to voice such deadly intent via an album title? Last time I looked, statute of limitations laws didn't apply to cold-blooded murder!
Reba McEntire: Reba Duets (Lost Highway) Wisely forgoing recording an album of '70s hits, country superstar Reba McEntire has instead gone the duet route, here singing tunes with an intriguing array of well-known performers including popsters like Justin Timberlake, Kelly Clarkson, Don Henley, and Carole King as well as country-types Trisha Yearwood, Faith Hill, Kenny Chesney, Rascal Flatts, and virtually everybody you can think of except former president Grover Cleveland! Jai-alai players often use the term "arriba" in play--it translates to "up" in Spanish! Wouldn't it be fun to take her to a game? Just a thought!
Various Artists: Love Is The Song We Sing: San Francisco Nuggets 1965-1970 (Rhino) One of the most impressively packaged reissues I've ever seen, this 4-CD compilation of Summer-of-Love-related rare goodies and better-known tracks is absolutely one of the highlights of the year. Jammed with obscure tracks, demo versions and tracks by rarely heard but semi-legendary bands--and bolstered by excellent and informative liner notes--this is truly the goods. Artists included range from the very popular (Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane) to the somewhat popular (Blue Cheer, Beau Brummels) to the barely popular (Kak, Fifty-Foot Hose)--but it's quality listening throughout! Hopefully Kanye will buy it and make Frumious Bandersnatch eventual millionaires!
Paul Potts: One Chance (Syco Music/Columbia) Perhaps you've heard of this fellow! The winner of this year's Britain's Got Talent show, Potts is an opera-singin' dude who was signed by the charismatic Simon Cowell and has now released this exciting album! Guaranteed to sell by the billions to the sort of people who only buy one album a year, this disc is everything you always dreamed it would be and more! Buy it for your parents today and they'll overlook your shortcomings tomorrow!
Broken Social Scene Presents Kevin Drew: Spirit If... (Arts & Crafts) Let me highly recommend this new release from Kevin Drew, who, as its credit indicates, is a member of Canada's utterly fab Broken Social Scene. Featuring a wealth of interesting sounds not too far afield from his band's, this is a substantial set that rewards with each listen. Literally! I just made five dollars! Check it out!