I spent this weekend watching superstars the likes of Lady Gaga, Bono & The Edge and Usher wish former President Bill Clinton a happy birthday at the Hollywood Bowl during a gala celebration that was conspicuously streamed by Yahoo!
I bought a brand new computer that I am at this very minute writing with--and as we all know, getting a new pencil, pen or computer means that any writer will write better, more succinctly and more directly to the point than he or she ever has before!
Finally, I am listening to an advance of the complete Chess Masters of blues legend Howlin' Wolf--and anticipating writing about the first solo album by a former member of highly regarded pop combo Fall Out Boy!
Best of all? Earlier today I brushed my teeth!
Casting Crowns: Come To The Well (Provident) I tend to start this blog with an album that the industry proclaims is likely to be the week's biggest--and so it is that I'm writing about a band that strikes me as being somewhere between Counting Crows and Culture Club--I can't explain why--and I'm doing so proudly! A highly regarded, apparently religious group of dentists, the Casting Crowns have created a worldwide stir largely because of their drilling techniques, and this new set, wholly devoted to manufacturers of those "well" things we're all expected to spit into after getting a cavity filled, is one heck of a unique project! Tracks such as "Courageous," "Face Down," and "My Own Worst Enemy" encapsulate nearly all of the day-to-day dramas a normal dentist's office experiences, perhaps even more rhythmically than usual, and in all, bring an excitement that has long been lacking in contemporary rock 'n roll! If you're like me, the album's closing chorus--"now rinse"--will leave you numb, drooling, and completely incapable of drinking a can of Diet Coke without spilling it all over your shirt! I think it's a masterpiece!
Jane's Addiction: The Great Escape Artist (Capitol) A new album by Jane's Addiction may be just what the doctor ordered! Especially if the doctor has a degree in clinical psychiatry and he's interested in examining the root causes of depression! "I'm sort of interested in all things that mildly fascinated me in the early '90s," you'll say, "and so here it is, 2011, and I'm hearing material that isn't substantially different from all this band recorded before...and yet, still, I feel hollow. Empty inside. As if I were duped for actually paying attention to this stuff while the real world--and indeed my very life--passed me by!" Perhaps predictably, most doctors will then reply, "What are you--nuts? This set features Perry Farrell, Dave Navarro and the rest of the guys back and better than ever, reclaiming all that was theirs before they split up to seek even larger success with such artists as...as...as..." At this point, both you and the doctor will laugh, perhaps share a beer or two, and maybe pass around a canister of peanut brittle! "I remember when I really, really wanted a red bike," you'll say, grinning! "And I wanted to fly," the doctor will chuckle! When his phone rings, he won't answer!
The Smiths: The Smiths Complete (Rhino) I always get a kick out of reviewing a collection of a band's complete work, maybe because the notion of saying it sucks is just too funny if you're into negating an artist's complete reason for existing! Luckily, at least in this case, the Smiths' complete album catalog---featured here via 8 CDs--is one of the best popular music has to offer, and at $55.30--which is what Amazon appears to be selling it for--you're looking at one of the biggest bargains out there! Among the most mature, fully-formed, and unique catalogs any rock 'n' roll band has offered up, the Smiths' recordings still sound remarkably fresh, humorous, moving, gripping, melodic, and just about any other word you'd care to apply to deep and meaningful pop music! Given the choice between purchasing this and taking a casual acquaintance to Red Lobster for dinner--call me crazy, but I suspect I would opt for the music!
Patrick Stump: Soul Punk (Island) A new album by the major songwriting dude in Fall Out Boy is certainly a big deal! That's probably one of the reasons the guy is all dressed up on his new album cover--well, that, and because he's been told that the Yellow Rectangular Objects from the planet Rongu, who found his former band mildly entertaining, would like to take him back to their planet for--who the heck knows?--an interview or a vivisection! I'm hoping it's just an interview, because I'd like to see him return to Planet Earth and check out the world's few remaining record stores to find out where exactly they're stocking this album! "Hey man, I put it in the hip-hop section," some younger clerks will say! "No, man, it should go in the alternative rock section! It's kind of punk! Can't you read?" Still, prospects for strong t-shirt sales are high, and word is a few people have actually heard this! "We're kind of into his last name," they told an unnamed source! It's kind of exciting!
Joe: The Good, The Bad, The Sexy (Kedar Entertainment Group) One of my all-time favorite contemporary R&B singers--well, except for Larry, Mike, Herschel and George--Joe simply can't stop in his quest for world domination! Simultaneously good, bad and sexy, Joe tells it like it is throughout all of this set's fabulous 11 cuts, most notably in "Pull My Hair," which--if you'd simply take a look at his picture on the album cover--may be be the finest track in the history of R&B! As recorded by Joe! On this album! The arch-enemy of rapper Fat Joe--as you might imagine--the svelte Joe simply knows no bounds, can't be stopped, and certainly merits the praise offered up via his bio: "R&B singer Joe has been nominated for seven Grammy Awards, but is still to win any." Clichés aside, this is no Ordinary Joe!
Shelby Lynne: Revelation Road (Everso) A fine album by singer Shelby Lynne, who has traversed the nether regions between country music and rock, between twang and pop, between a lifestyle that has been laid our before her that she has apparently rejected, and a deep need to express her musical soul wherever it may take her! Gifted with a superb voice, excellent musical taste, and a future as a designer of troubled greeting cards, Ms. Lynne, like Bogie and Bacall, has it all! Collect the set!
Original 7ven: Condensate (Saguaro Road) Anyone who ever saw the Time perform live--and I'm lucky enough to have managed that--knows that they not only were a fabulous live band, but song for song, onstage antic for antic, they often outdid their more famous mentor Prince--and in the scheme of things, the total commercial output of band mainstays Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis really left more of a mark on contemporary pop music! The Time are back--under this new Original 7ven moniker--with Morris Day upfront, and this record brings back many memories and more! Great to hear, and a reminder of some spectacular talent that has perhaps faded from most people's memories! Check it out!
Etta James: Heart & Soul: A Retrospective (Hip-O Select) It's that time of year when spectacular packages by immortal artists are assembled by record companies purely for the sake of gift-giving--and when it comes to greats like Etta James, who going to argue with 4 CDs of her best material? Featuring prime stuff drawn from a variety of labels between 1955-2008, Heart & Soul showcases one of America's finest R&B/blues/jazz singers working her way through "At Last," "Tell Mama," and a marvelous array of familiar material as well as a few previously unreleased tracks. Highly recommended.
Various Artists: T Bone Burnett Presents The Speaking Clock Revue - Live From The Beacon Theatre (Shout Factory) Assembled for a very worthy cause and featuring an impressive array of talent (Elton John, Elvis Costello, Leon Russell, Gregg Allman, Ralph Stanley, Neko Case, John Mellencamp, the Secret Sisters & more), this collection, recorded at New York's Beacon Theatre, features superb playing, immaculate singing, impeccable production, and one heck of a dandy alarm clock on its cover! Where I come from, they call that a win-win! Then they go home and look for a thesaurus!
M83: Hurry Up, We're Dreaming (Mute) Known to some as a Los Angeles based French artist named Anthony Gonzalez, and still others as a type of firework that is significantly more powerful than a cherry bomb, an ash can and, indeed, an M80, M83 makes fantastic albums--of which this is the sixth and quite good--and is deceptively slick when it rains, so drive carefully and wear your seatbelts! Hey, was that a cop?