I am peculiarly fascinated by the release of this week's new album by Whitney Houston!
This because I believe her entire career has been based on the number of records she can sell!
I remember back in the old days, before her first album came out, when her label sent out an expensive calendar featuring Whitney in many rather enticing poses; it was the first indicator that they had planned on spending an extraordinary amount of money on this artist! They did not do this for the A's, D.L. Byron, the Sports or the Thompson Twins!
And yes, she sold lots and lots of records! In fact, she's famous for it!
So if this new album doesn't sell lots of records--because, after all, that's what she's famous for--it must mean her new album is very bad!
Sometimes record companies make this stuff easy!
Whitney Houston: I Look To You (Arista) Aside from the fact that she has sold lots of records, what meaning does Whitney Houston have for me, a human? Well, she sang "Memories," an old Soft Machine song penned by Hugh Hopper, on a 1982 album by Material! Her label spent lots of money making a Whitney Houston calendar because they thought they could potentially sell a lot of her albums! Nick Lowe got the biggest paycheck of his life because Curtis Stigers sang "What's So Funny About Peace, Love And Understanding" on the soundtrack to The Bodyguard, a movie Whitney appeared in and sang a well-known song written by Dolly Parton in, and it sold a megazillion copies! Whitney then starred in a bunch of movies I never saw, was on some dopey reality show, and won so many awards they merit their own page on Wikipedia! I can't think of any song she sings that has any meaning for me whatsoever! I just know she sells a lot of records! Hopefully her new one will similarly sell a megazillion--or else it will prove that unlike other R&B greats like Aretha Franklin, having your career based solely on your ability to sell a megazillion records rather than your raw artistic talent may ultimately have its downside! Her hair looks good, though!
The Black Crowes: Before The Frost... (Silver Arrow/Megaforce) As we all know, the Black Crowes got some poor rock critic in trouble a while ago for apparently reviewing their most recent album without actually listening to it, if you can imagine! Sheesh! So to avoid any similar controversy, I ask you to imagine an unexpected, well-played song suite detailing the early lives of guitarist Dick Wagner, bassist Gordy Garris, drummer Bob Rigg, and guitarist Don Hartman--an intriguing Detroit-based rock 'n' roll band who recorded three albums for Vanguard Records between 1969-70! But see, where it gets interesting is: Imagine an album detailing the intimate lives of the Chippewa Indians--also known as the Ojibwa--who in early times inhabited Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota and even Ontario! Even before there was a Frost! An album about all that would be really cool! But yeah, I haven't heard this!
Pitbull: Rebelution (Polo Grounds) One of the great things about music videos is that they can really turn you on to new music! Frankly, if you'd asked me a few months ago what I though about famous Miami-based bilingual rapper Pitbull, I might've said, "You've got to be kidding! I actually have spent more time thinking about the dog of the same name!" But now--after repeated viewing of the great music video "I Know You Want Me (Calle Ocho)"--I can safely say that Pitbull has featured some of the most attractive women I've ever seen in his music video! He's not a bad rapper either, I guess, if that makes a difference!
The Used: Artwork (Reprise) After years of seeing potential profits go down the toilet due to rampant Internet downloading, the Used--marketing pros to the last--have decided to muddy the waters for cheapskates unwilling to fork out actual cash for their brand new album! As a result, those pesky leeches looking for a free ride will find that no matter what, any folder they expect to contain actual MP3's of this new album will now simply be labeled "Artwork"--and as a result, they'll be forced instead to march down to their nearest record store and, with some resignation, demand Used product!
Chevelle: Sci-Fi Crimes (Epic) As the product description helpfully notes, "Chevelle's 2009 album is the work of a band taking stock of itself after a strenuous decade of recording and touring"! And as this fun-loving Chicago-based band knows all too well, between the recent "cash for clunkers" federal program and the unexpected success of the great flick District 9, there's potential money to be had by giving people exactly what they want when they want it! Thus, I'm happy to report that this is the greatest album of all time! Hopefully the deluxe edition will be SyFy Crimes, but I'm getting ahead of myself!
Richard Lloyd: The Jamie Neverts Story (Parasol) I must say that in all my years of enjoying the work of guitarist Richard Lloyd--both as a member of Television and as a solo artist who I once thought sounded like Bob Welch--I never envisioned that the man had not only met Jimi Hendrix but actually was good friends with his buddy, hot cult artist Velvert Turner! So I guess an album of Hendrix covers by the guy makes sense! Buy this, stare at the cover, and consider that anagrams "Ramjet Envies" and "Jean Rivets Me" may make the most sense of all! Later, grab some rice pudding!
A.A. Bondy: When the Devil's Loose (Fat Possum) A talented and passionate guitarist and singer, A.A. Bondy was once a member of the fabulous group Verbena but--as was the norm for all talented rock groups about a decade ago--they disbanded, dispirited and friendless, and attempted to artistically gather themselves together for a statement that would last through all eternity! It often rained! A.A.--short for Auguste Arthur--then reemerged in 2007 with a great solo album called American Hearts, and is now back again with When The Devil's Loose! What's it sound like? "I ate catfish and walked around a lot," reports the artist himself! Hey--haven't we all?
John Fogerty: The Blue Ridge Rangers Rides Again (Verve) Grammar teachers the world over will insist that the title should rightfully be "Ride" instead of "Rides," but of course that overlooks the fact that Creedence Clearwater Revival founder Fogerty's original Blue Ridge Rangers album featured only Fogerty himself, overdubbing himself into joyous oblivion! Also: Grammar teachers never buy albums anyway! This new one, though, features a batch of great songs--most of them familiar--a great band (including Buddy Miller, Greg Leisz, Jason Mowery and Kenny Aronoff), and guest vocalists like Bruce Springsteen, Don Henley and Timothy B. Schmitt! And after hearing that CCR set on the new Woodstock box set, I'm inclined to liking John Fogerty lots more than usual! Wonder what Perez thinks?
Blue Cheer, signed to Thurston Moore's Ecstatic Peace label, and now, in Moore's own words, are providing "a soundtrack for the new groove"! They are very good, their music is exciting, and the tension they must feel when they play live venues--where by law, signs reading "EXIT" must be conspicuously posted--is undoubtedly palpable! I bet you can almost feel it!
David Bazan: Curse Your Branches (Barsuk) The former major dude in Pedro the Lion emerges here with his first solo album and comparisons to John Prine, Randy Newman and Leonard Cohen! But great as they may be, did they ever devote an entire album decrying the predatory tactics of one of our best known financial institutions? Dilettantes!
- Whitney Houston