It's a heavy duty week of big-time album releases, you may have noticed, and there's a reason for that. It's back-to-school time, and there's a whole world of college freshmen whose parents gave them more money than they actually needed! They didn't know any better! Plus, it's getting closer and closer to the holidays --which means record companies know that the time to strike is now, as gift-giving season unfolds!
Translation: There'll be lots of turkeys this Thanksgiving!
The Cheetah Girls: TCG (Hollywood) We all know it would be way too easy to take a potshot at the lovable Cheetah Girls--I mean, they sell boatloads of album to prepubescent fans who'd be similarly thrilled if this sounded like either Metal Machine Music or the latest Michelle Shocked album. So let's get down to brass tacks: Despite everyone's natural snooty urge to dismiss this music as little more than kiddie fodder, could it in fact be possible that this album is surprisingly catchy, startlingly mature considering the artists involved, and ultimately a dark horse candidate for Album Of The Year? Heck no! But I like their hair!
will.i.am: Songs About Girls (Interscope) Just about as polished and adept as you'd expect from the ubiquitous Black Eyed Peas mainstay, this new solo set has at least a few snazzy hit singles on it, as well as the expected guest appearance by will.i.am of the Black Eyed Peas! Don't think anyone really expected the girls of the album's title to be such a wide-ranging group: Eleanor Roosevelt, actress Anne Bancroft, cultish French chanteuse Lizzy Mercier Descloux, Eydie Gorme, Beverly Sills, Hannah Montana, actress Irene "Granny" Ryan of The Beverly Hillbillies, and--something I personally found jarring--my own mother all play a role! Not necessarily on this album, though.
GNAC: Arrival Of The Fog (LTM) The fifth album by Brit multi-instrumentalist Mark Tranmer of the UK's incredibly fabulous Montgolfier Brothers, this lush, moody set suggests a combination of Italian film music, mid-period Brian Eno and maybe even a splash of Erik Satie in places--evoking the standard music-for-a-film-yet-to-be-made comparison by tired rock hacks writing copy in their garage at this very moment! Check it out here!
Foo Fighters: Echoes, Silence, Patience And Grace (Roswell/RCA) A strong effort by this surprisingly long-lived band, this disc answers one question--no, the band members have not changed their names to Echoes, Silence, Patience and Grace, despite persistent rumors to the contrary--but raises an even larger one: If the Earth ever really was invaded by an alien race called the Foo, would this small group of guys really be sufficient to ward them off and actually save the planet? I'm only asking!
Herbie Hancock: River:The Joni Letters (Verve) An eloquent collection of Joni Mitchell compositions, masterfully played by jazz pianist Hancock and a stellar crew of instrumentalists, featuring an array of vocalists including Mitchell herself, Norah Jones, Corinne Bailey Rae, Tina Turner and even Leonard Cohen. Just between you and me, I suspect it will take the Cheetah Girls at least two more albums to top this!
Kevin Ayers: The Unfairground (Lo Max import) The first new album in many years from Soft Machine co-founder Ayers is one of the year's very best--in some ways as unique as his earliest recordings for Harvest Records back in the day. That day, of course, was March 19, 1973, and what a fantastic day it was! Featuring the expected stellar cast of musicians--Hugh Hopper, Phil Manzanera, newer dudes Teenage Fanclub and Ladybug Transistor, and a wonderful appearance by Brit folk singer and old friend Bridget St. John--The Unfairground is filled with superior songs, diverse and intriguing arrangements, and the unique vocals of Ayers, who at this late date gives Leonard Cohen heavy competition in the lower bass range. Read about it here! Then buy it, experience profound joy, and live forever!
Rascal Flatts: Still Feels Good (Lyric Street/Hollywood) They're a little bit country, a little bit rock 'n' roll! They may well be the biggest band in America at the moment, especially by people who would never use the term "may well" in the first place! I recently saw them perform live and now--thanks to the magic of today's wonderful "Internet," you can too! Critics around the world agree: country guys who don't wear hats are better than the ones that do! As simple as that!
Freezepop: Future Future Future Perfect (Cordless Recordings/Rykodisc) Some people might call this the 2007 version of electropop, and they'd probably be right. All I know is, if you have a taste for catchy tunes and artful boops and bleeps, think Depeche Mode remain gods among men, and are tired of doom 'n' gloom naysayers, you could do a lot worse than buy this album. For example: you could lose your car keys, get an upset stomach, or even fall off a cliff! Freezepop would win by a landslide!
Melissa Etheridge: The Awakening (Island) Can I make a confession? Ever since I first picked up Three Dog Night's Captured Live At The Forum album, I have enjoyed fantasizing that consumers who purchased it would bring it home, put it on, and hear the sound of running, hysterical screams, and finally--near the end of Side Two--three distinct, chilling gunshots. In a similar fashion, it's fun to imagine that this album might feature 40 minutes of barely audible breathing, the sudden buzz of an electronic alarm clock, and then, I dunno, maybe the sound of a shower running for five minutes or so. I would consider such an effort pioneering!
Queen Latifiah: Trav'Lin' Light (Verve) Every once in a while I get the hankering to dim the lights, pour myself a glass of wine, sit back in a comfortable chair, maybe even grab a smoke, and listen to some familiar old jazz standards--preferably played by a top notch musical crew--and write the following words: "I am listening to Queen Latifah!" Additionally, I have the power to fly and can walk through walls!