They say that music is the window into the soul!
Actually, I don't think they do, but it sounds like something they probably would say if they thought about it!
And so it is that two of this week's hottest new releases--by rapper Eminem and hip cult love goddess Tori Amos--reveal much about the current state of not only the music business but life itself! Not to mention what's considered a good album title in 2009!
In this corner, Relapse, Eminem's latest ode to the oxygen disenfranchised! And in this corner, Abnormally Attracted To Sin, Ms. Amos's latest deeply autobiographical opus!
The winner? Whatever corner of the room America keeps its television set--where everyone can watch American Idol's concluding week in relative peace and not have to interact with other bothersome humans!
Eminem: Relapse (Interscope) Time goes by so quickly it's hard to remember--isn't this the guy famous for hugging Elton John on TV or something? Cool! Well, it's hard to not enjoy this lovable Detroit-based rapper's many exciting new videos, controversial though they be, and admire his apparent desire to belittle, besmirch and befun(!) all that America holds dear! I still chuckle at the warmth he displayed a few years ago, when I asked him what had changed since his previous album, and he told me that a "certain part" of his body had gotten larger! One rarely hears that! As for this new album, it's a laff-a-minute glimpse into the heart and soul of Mr. Marshall Mathers a full 10 years after the release of his famous Slim Shady album, an audio slideshow that's more fun than most new albums, and one that's available both in the usual places and in all sorts of custom deluxe shapes and sizes via eminem.com, where I suggest you head at your leisure for the good of all mankind! Or else you'll be killed!
Crack A Bottle (Edited) - Eminem
Tori Amos: Abnormally Attracted To Sin (Universal Republic) You wouldn't know it from looking at the doll baby on this album cover, but the highly talented Tori Amos was reportedly the bookish sort in her early years and apparently drew the inspiration for her new album title from a series of self-evaluative essays she wrote in high school on the varied topics of Sines, Cosines and Tangents, Sino-Soviet relations, and Sign Language for the hearing-impaired! But her cellphone battery died when she told her new label what she wanted to call it, and now look! Anyway, her new album--her 10th if you don't count that weird one--is ambitious, literary, melodic, quirky, and filled with the sort of visual imagery that will only be immensely helped by the deluxe version's inclusion of 17 "visualettes" to accompany the album's new songs! Great! I keep my visualettes in my glovebox next to the kleenex!
Maybe California - Tori Amos
Eric Clapton & Steve Winwood: Live From Madison Square Garden (Reprise) Those who always wanted to see Blind Faith live but never got the chance were likely thrilled-to-the-gills at this recent concert, when that band's two principals, years after the fact, got together to play such tunes as "Had To Cry Today," "Presence Of The Lord," "Well All Right," and "Can't Find My Way Home"! The glaring omission of "Toad" may have put a crimp on the venue's beer sales, true, but the surprising inclusion of Buddy Miles' "Them Changes" likely evened things out! All told, this is well-played and well-sung stuff, as Winwood and Clapton's skills remain at peak levels, and the wealth of material from which they draw--via the Traffic and Clapton solo catalogs--remains quite impressive. While it's great to hear their version of Traffic's "Glad," following it up with Cream's "I'm So Glad" and an onstage fistfight would have made the night even more fun!
Can't Find My Way Home - Blind Faith
Ruben Studdard: Love Is (Hickory) Since it's American Idol's big week, what say we celebrate by focusing on the release of the new Ruben Studdard album--his fourth, if you're counting, and one that's sure to be deeply enjoyed by his many Rubensque fans! Bolstered by two of the best producers in the business--Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis--and a slew of highly listenable tunes, including covers of Extreme's "More Than Words" and Michael Jackson's "I Can't Help It," the album features 13 songs in all! Final track "Wet Pillow" may be the most fascinating! You've got to love this guy!
Together - Ruben Studdard
Van Morrison: Astral Weeks Live At The Hollywood Bowl: The Concert Film DVD (Listen To The Lion) It's admittedly strange to watch a DVD of a concert at which you yourself were in the audience--I'm the tall guy in black drinking the large beer--but if there was any concert I wouldn't want to miss, it was this one--and I'm glad to see it again! Shot last year and thoughtfully reviewed here, this was Morrison's first deliberate performance of the entire song cycle that comprises his all-time greatest album, and it was fine indeed! The song sequencing is a little wacky-revisionist, but so is the man himself! It's great! So is he! Dig the look!
Beside You - Van Morrison
Method Man & Redman: Blackout! 2 (Def Jam) I don't think any of us were expecting this album, especially if we had no idea there was a Blackout! 1! But the long-lived rap duo--I think it's safe to call them manly--are back after their work on film and television and ready to reclaim their rightful et cetera! As always, their street level expression of some of mankind's most grim existential dilemmas--typified here by "How Bout Dat" and "I Know Sumptn"--would likely be misunderstood by those who don't naturally speak English, which makes us, as English-speakers, profoundly lucky yet again! And the album cover? If they ever find their motorcycle keys, they can drive out of there!
How Bout Dat Featuring Ready Roc, Streetlife (Edited) - Method Man & Redman
Van Hunt: Use In Case Of Emergency (Rare Items From The Vault) (private release) A very talented, musically versatile dude who's led a more adventurous career than most returns here via his own website, vanhunt.com, with a new release that features some interesting odds and ends you would like very much, were you to hear it! His previous album Popular was issued in advance CD form but never actually made it to the stores; perhaps one day that too will be available on the internet and the world will be as one! Also, I'd like to fly!
Jarvis Cocker: Further Complications (Rough Trade) A dandy record by the former frontman of Pulp--a British band that delighted the world and then mysteriously vanished!--this is Cocker's second solo album and one that displays the warmth, wit and irony that has made him a favorite of Pulp fans everywhere! Produced by Steve Albini--famous for his work with Bush and Page & Plant--yeah, that's good!--the album has been commercially bolstered by an editorial review on Amazon declaring it "contains the more roughed up tunes Cocker has been peddling since parting with Pulp." Sounds enticing, huh?
Further Complications - Jarvis Cocker
Ed Palermo Big Band: Eddy Loves Frank (Cuneiform) The third Palermo album of big band interpretations of Frank Zappa material, this disc is marvelous--and precisely what you'd want to play for someone who enjoyed Zappa's Grand Wazoo and Waka Jawaka albums but was put off by the "funny stuff" that followed thereafter. Bandleader Palermo--who fronts this 16-piece band in New York--has created something unique here, and something that accords Zappa all the respect he has long deserved. Seek it out!
Parachute: Losing Sleep (Mercury) Riding some hot radio action and excellent placements on One Tree Hill and a Nivea commercial, Parachute were selected "Adult Artist To Watch" by Clear Channel and have chosen a fantastic album cover to launch their career!
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