If rock 'n' roll theoretically glorifies all that is young,sexy and rebellious, it's an odd week for new releases!
Among this week's highlights: A box set celebrating the 40th anniversary of Queen, the 30th anniversary edition of the firstGo-Go's album, and a 4-CD collection of Iggy Pop recordings dating back to1979!
Throw in a few fascinating new releases by Levon Helm andNRBQ, and it's all too clear: Popular music stopped being made in 1981 or so!
That's why, frankly--speaking strictly as a contemporarymusic fan--I'm so into real estate, the bothersome issue of probate, theexciting new fashion trusses being designed in Belgium, and that great new JustinBieber DVD!
And though I won't be exploring it in depth this week,apparently there's a great new DVD covering the complete biography ofKe$ha--from her early days as Billie Holiday's personal assistant, through hermarriage to Beatle John Lennon, to her memorable gig at Woodstock, her briefapprenticeship in Fleetwood Mac, her temporary stint with Britney, Christinaand Justin on the Mickey Mouse Club,her memorable gig in Destiny's Child, and her current rebirth as a "youthful"solo artist!
I can't believeshe knew Billie Holiday!
Il Volo: Il Volo (Geffen) It's admittedly surrealistic enough that atrio of Italian teenagers should become world-class superstars purely on thebasis of their appearance on an Italian TV show; even more strange is the factthat they would name themselves after their favorite automobile--Sweden'swonderful Volvo--and then, after all that hubbub, go on to actually spell the car's name wrong! That said,the avant-garde trio's surprising affection for the mid-'70s art-rock ofPremiata Forneria Marconi, Area, Banco and all those Goblin dudes, topped bytheir natural urge to cover "'O Solo Mio"--it's a genetic thing--makes this newrelease one of this week's absolute highlights! It would sure be great if oneof their biggest fans was Asia Argento, and she was reading this, and shedecided to pick up the phone and call me up to tell me that I was a jerk, and Imet her someplace on Sunset while she was getting another tattoo and...oh wait,what does this have to do with that Il Volo album?
Danger Mouse &Daniele Luppi: Rome (Capitol) Idon't mean to go all Italian on everyone, but this new disc by DangerMouse---which pays tribute to all that fabulous Italian film music that soundsparticularly groovy when you're listening to it in a speedingautomobile--features hip names like Alessandro Alessandroni, Jack White, NorahJones, Jim Nabors--well, not really--is an absolutely fabulous disc, filled tothe brim with lush, melodic, colorful music that is sure to tickle your fancy!Deliberately anachronistic, analog-based and surprisingly substantial, the albumis essentially a bold statement, that statement being: Yes, we know this really is the coolest music ever made, but admittedlyit's rather long in the tooth, and today's biggest hits are nowhere near assubtle, so why don't we just consider this a temporary aberration, and perhapsmy friend Cee-Lo will discuss "contemporary music" in greater detail on that hotnew show The Voice? Have you ever reallylooked at a plate of spaghetti?
Seether: Holding Onto Strings Better Left To Fray(Wind-Up) A fascinating South Africanband who went to Nashville and worked with producer Brendan O'Brien to makethis fab new hard rock record, Seether seem, strangely, a band out of time! Ifthey don't get back to the laundromat by midnight, they'll get locked out! Thislatest album--adventurous, noisy, lyrically subtle, and, oddly, completelydevoted to smash rock hitmakers the Fray--includes tracks with great titles like"Fur Cue," "Country Song," the admittedly wordy "Yeah" and "Dead Seeds," androcks not only like a mutha but like an actual mother! I suspect that if this album were blared from helicopterscircling over the Mideast, nothing substantialwould really happen but it would be weirdas heck! Just a thought!
Amor de Dias: Street Of The Love Of Days (Merge) It's an odd blog post when I actually writeabout something I like a lot, but so be it: This new album, the joint offeringby Alasdair MacLean of the Clientele and Lupe Núñez-Fernández of Pipas, is oneof this year's finest works: lush,melodic, subtle, arty, it's all any fan of either band might hope for. Withalternating vocals by both parties, a sound verging somewhere between Brazilianand Italian film scores--it's that descending piano thing--and an intimacy thatoffers up a sophistication one rarely hears from pop music these days, thealbum is an absolute treasure and demands your immediate purchase!Incidentally, "Amor de Dias" means "love of days" in Spanish, and "My dad makeslittle men out of pipe cleaners" in Swedish! They so rock!
Queen: Queen 40 Limited Edition Collector's BoxSet (Hollywood) Why not celebrate 40years in the rock 'n' roll business by issuing an exciting limited edition boxset only available from Amazon.com? That's what must've been going on in thefascinating headspace of the remaining members of Queen--whose catalog, youmight not remember, was one of the very last to make the configurational leapto CD in the early '90s, and in doing so was burdened by bonus "remixes" whichhad a six-month shelflife at best! This new batch--their first five albums--areremastered, sound great, have relevant, timeless bonus tracks, and probablyshould have been issued like this in the first place! Though they might not beeveryone's cup of tea, Queen were ambitious, skilled, quite likeable,deliberately "over the top," as some might say, and, all things considered,quite good! All albums are available individually; I prefer the first, but youmight like all the rest of them! Buy them today!
Go-Go's: Beauty And The Beat: 30th Anniversary Deluxe Edition (Capitol) There's a generation out there thatlooks very fondly upon the Go-Go's purely because they were--how to say thiswithout sounding sexist?--a band of chickswho rocked, gals who didn't need any help from "the man" to get their sounddown, to depict the now-obvious truth that regardless of one's sex, one onlyneeded three chords, some hairspray and the truth to get on down! Of coursemuch has changed since then--sexism in the music industry has completelyvanished, war has been abolished, world hunger is a ghastly memory, and mostmales now prefer deep and profound thinkers in their women rather thanstatuesque go-go dancers--well, except for really tall blonde ones--so, 30 yearsdown the line, we can give this music the fair and judicious listening thathistory demands! The verdict? Hey, their voicesare too high!
Iggy Pop: Roadkill Rising...The Bootleg Collection1977-2009 (Shout! Factory) While we're dwelling in eras long past, let'sgive a special hand to the people at Shout! Factory who assembled this 4-CDcollection of Mr. Iggy Pop, whose sheer enjoyability has not altered one iotafrom the earliest recordings here--circa 1977--to present day. Boasting amarvelously tasteful album cover and tracks from two separate Detroit gigs atwhich, coincidentally, I was in attendance--I'm the tall guy, wearing black,probably drinking--the set spotlights Stooges highlights, interesting mid-periodstuff like "Five Foot One" and "Nightclubbing,' and such glories as the Batman theme and "Hang On Sloopy." Sinceno single Iggy Pop gig ever resembles any other, every track here is worthhearing--so you should probably buy this before it vanishes! Or you do!
NRBQ: Keep This Love Goin' (Clang!) Longtimefans of NRBQ who haven't been paying attention might be jarred to learn thatthis new album--which is quite good--is actually the product of a "revamped"band, which, after very many years, now consists of original member Terry Adamsand those musicians who comprised his recent Terry Adams Rock & RollQuartet. It's a lengthy story, but suffice to say that those who enjoyed Adams' previous band--as well as the stunning and gloriousNRBQ legacy--will find much to enjoy here. Not to sound all cornball, but ifanything embodies the spirit of rock 'n' roll, this music does. Check it out.
Levon Helm: RambleAt The Ryman (Dirt Farmer Music / Rounder) Anyone who appreciates classicAmerican music, Americana, roots--call it what you'd like--is bound to enjoythis fine 2008 live session by former Band vocalist/drummer Helm, who atNashville's historic Ryman Auditorium is heard in excellent form, singingclassics from all genres and, unsurprisingly, a batch of Band standards as well. Among theguests: Sheryl Crow, Buddy Miller, John Hiatt, Billy Bob Thornton and more.Also available on DVD, it's a collection of fine artists backing up an evenfiner one.
Tinie Tempah: Disc-Overy (Capitol) Either: The next big thing from England--ora mean-spirited genetic modification of '50s toy doll Tiny Tears? Only Chatty Cathyknows--and she won't shut up! Or: A guy walks into a bar andannounces "I'm Tinie"! Et cetera!