More than a few familiar faces highlight this week's new album releases--in fact, it's fair to say they may be a bit too familiar.
Some would say it's because today's music market is skewing markedly older--teenagers aren't buying CDs, everyone's downloading music for free, videogames and DVDs offer more value for money, blah blah blah.
Others would say it's because the sale of singles is cannibalizing overall album sales. Why buy the complete album by Soulja Boy, some ask, when all anyone really needs is "Crank That (Soulja Boy)"? Older artists never have hits, so if you like 'em, it's the album or nothing, dudes!
My theory is a shade more conspiratorial--and, as those with any knowledge of fair trade practices know full well, perhaps even technically illegal:
Maybe the record companies all got together in a great big room and decided they'd make this Old Artists Week!
It could happen!
The Black Crowes: Warpaint (Silver Arrow/Megaforce) Well this band of merry fellows certainly made the news this week, and why not? Their outstanding new record, in many ways the decade's best, certainly merits all the comparisons it's received to Sgt. Peppers, What's Going On, Pet Sounds and the top 100 albums of all time! I'd happily spend the rest of my life listening to every golden note on this fabulous five-star CD! That said, I do wonder if it's appropriate to say this sort of thing without listening to it!
Bauhaus: Go Away White (Bauhaus Music) This semi-famed Brit band's first album since 1983 will apparently also be its last, sources say--so if you're one of those people who grew up painting your nails black while listening to Bauhaus and watching John Hughes movies, this is your lucky day! If, on the other hand, you're inclined to say you always preferred Love & Rockets to Bauhaus because you thought Peter Murphy was simply too stylistically derivative, please avoid talking to me in crowded rooms because I'm in a hurry and simply don't care either way!
Jackson Browne: Solo Acoustic, Vol. 2 (Inside Recordings) Jackson Browne's a classy guy, and I'd have to say his first three or four albums are some of the '70s' finest recordings in pop. I made an agreement. Even though he later sort of lost me by slicking up his sound and writing about subjects that seemed less deeply felt than his earlier material, I've always respected the dude and wished him well. Like its previous all-acoustic predecessor, this new disc showcases JB in an intimate setting, interacting with his audience and playing material drawn from his entire career, and it's very good. But I still can't figure out how to buy the ringtones for it!
Michael McDonald: Soul Speak (Motown) It's difficult to argue with success, and so it is that famed Doobie Brother crooner McDonald--the man who made the phrase "Ya Mo Be There" resonate among all world culture--has returned with a third swoop of oldies for Motown. And while sure, there's Motown material here like Stevie Wonder's "Living For The City," the bulk of this stuff comes from other sources like Leonard Cohen ("Hallelujah"), Van Morrison ("Into The Mystic"), Bacharach & David ("Walk On By") and even Bob Marley ("Redemption Song)." If you still have your hearing, it's great!
Alan Jackson: Good Time (Arista Nashville) When it comes to country stars with the initials AJ, Alan Jackson is tops! Though I'm not one to judge by appearances, I hope he'll take off his hat and sunglasses when driving that car on his album cover; with luck, he'll look down and notice he needs new pants! Though I still have to give this disc a fair listen, I will note that such tracks as "I Wish I Could Back Up," "I Still Like Bologna," "Sissy's Song" and "If Jesus Walked the World Today" sound unusually promising by today's conservative country standards! Am I missing something?
The Gutter Twins: Saturnalia (Sub Pop) Leave it to the always hip Sub Pop label to rescue us from the doldrums of old guys making records! This very agreeable set features newcomers Greg Dulli (of the Afghan Whigs and the Twilight Singers) and Mark Lanegan (of the Screaming Trees), and it's a keeper! Appearances by members of the Queens Of The Stone Age, Joseph Arthur and Martina Topley-Bird make this a descriptive sentence! It would be safe to say that Dulli and Lanegan bring out the best of each other, but heck--why should anyone play it safe?
The Doors: Live In Pittsburgh 1970 (Bright Midnight Archives/Rhino) Frankly, anything by the Doors is great by me, and this unexpected package--from the same reams of recordings that resulted in their classic Absolutely Live set and much more--is a sheer delight for longtime fans. When you get down to it, their entire catalog is so familiar by now that new levels of joy can be had simply by reading such "new" song titles as "Push Push" and "Tonight You're In For A Special Treat." As Andrea True would earnestly request just six years later: "More, More, More"!
Carlene Carter: Stronger (Yep Roc) Though she's had her ups and downs in the past few years, it's great to see Carlene Carter out there making records again. This new disc features strong material, much of it personal and penned by Carter, backed by producer and former Clover/Doobie Brother John McFee, among others. Her voice as well as her material is deeper, and all things considered this is a nice return to form worth checking out. No lie!
Jim White: Transnormal Skiperoo (Luaka Bop) An interesting dude who's been making "out there" country-tinged records for the past few years--and largely appealing to that massive fanbase who regularly buy "out there" country-tinged records--this handily titled platter features hipsters like (co-producer) Joe Pernice, Tucker Martine and Laura Veirs, among others, and is more of the same good stuff. For that matter, fans of macaroni and cheese often prefer the Stouffer's brand and refer to that company's product as "more of the same good stuff." Six of one, half-dozen of the other!
Flogging Molly: Float (Side One Dummy) I'm a little put off by this Irish-American band, who feature a lead singer named Molly Malone who, incredibly, literally gets flogged on every single track the band records! And this new album's title track--in which the poor lassie is apparently tossed into a vat of Guinness post-flogging--is frickin' unbelievable! You'd think it would be illegal, but thanks to various "truth in labeling laws" they're getting away with it scot-free! What must U2 think?