It may just be my imagination, but I can see two trends afoot in the record biz as the holiday season approaches!
First: Most of today's top rap artists seem to have no problem whatsoever when it comes to getting their product out in the stores during these precious few weeks! Writer's block? Not for them!
Second: Most of today's top rock artists have been today's top rock artists for several years now! That's why I'd have to recommend the latest releases by rockers Pink Floyd and Radiohead! The Floyd's Oh By The Way is a happy-go-lucky, 16-disc romp encompassing their entire discography! Only slightly less impressive is Radiohead's new Radiohead box set, a sweet 7-CD collection of all of the band's albums but their latest! Both sets serve as an excellent introduction to those band's catalogs!
And for those rock fans looking forward rather than backward? Social Security!
Bow Wow and Omarion: Face Off (Columbia) A battle royale of former teen titans or a nonstop party platter? With first single "Girlfriend," it's obvious that everyone's favorite twosome are aiming straight for the hearts of their loyal female fans! And will those fans buy the CD or--as only real fans would--the deluxe CD/DVD combo which features actual behind-the-scenes footage of the guys at work? Only time will tell! Incidentally, if you type the words "bow wow birthday" into a well-known search engine, the first entry will be "date of birth: 9 March 1987"! Do you think that makes dogs happy?
Dave Matthews Band: Live At Piedmont Park (Bama Rags/RCA) It wouldn't be a normal half-year if a brand new live Dave Matthews Band CD wasn't released, and I assure you, it is! What makes this set different than its many predecessors is that it was recorded at Atlanta's Piedmont Park and features guest artists Gregg Allman and Warren Haynes of the Allman Brothers and is being released this week! Available both in CD and CD/DVD format, the disc can also be purchased directly online from the band's website--and get this: fans who do that will be given a bonus disc just for kicks from Generous Dave and company! Yikes! It's as if artists were secretly getting rid of retail middlemen and going into business on their own!
Mario: Go (J) Just as I've often wondered if pouring salt on snails really bothers them, I've wondered what might happen if Mario joined forces with Bow Wow and Omarion! Would they make a record? Would they form a crime-fighting trio? Would they repeatedly ask Mario if he liked Donkey Kong just to bug him? Hopefully we'll know soon enough--but for now, Go will have to do! Featuring contributions from Timbaland, the Neptunes and Akon, this album sounds like other hot new albums featuring Timbaland, the Neptunes and Akon--but one also featuring Mario! It's like...science!
Delta Saxophone Quartet: Dedicated to You...But You Weren't Listening (MoonJune Records) One of the year's finest jazz albums--and something of a surprise--is this Brit quartet's tribute to the UK's pioneering band Soft Machine, who during the late '60s and '70s made some of the finest albums in contemporary music. Featuring an appearance from Soft Machine bassist Hugh Hopper and 14 colorfully arranged tracks taken from all stages of the band's career, this album is melodic, inventive, by no means as harsh sounding as you might expect from the saxophone quartet format, and, sadly, not the sort of thing you'd want to hear before watching a Celine Dion DVD!
Celine Dion: Live In Las Vegas: A New Day DVD (Epic) Within the past year I have come to love all that Celine Dion represents in contemporary music! This gala DVD celebrates the close of my favorite Canadian's five-year stint playing at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas, and is packed to the gills with exciting live footage, all her big hits, and an unbelievable five hours of never-seen-before footage! Special highlight: the 41-minute "Because You Loved Me (A Tribute To The Fans)!" All told, this may be all you'd ever want in a Celine Dion DVD, especially if you wanted one in the first place. Count me in!
Alizée: Psychedelices (RCA Victor Europe) If everyone's got their own little guilty pleasures, I have to admit that mine has been the amazing live performance videos of French pop singer Alizée--a cute-as-a-button teen chirper who sings zesty pop tunes and is something of a convincing stage dancer as well! Though I've yet to find an American release by her, this brand new album and its completely fab title will surely bring joy to all who get an earful or an eyeful! Towering!
Wu-Tang Clan: 8 Diagrams (Loud/SRC/Universal) Certainly long-awaited in the hip-hop world, the Wu-Tang Clan's first album since 2001's Iron Flag should garner lots of attention this week by people writing about this week's new releases! Featuring contributions from every member of the group--RZA, GZA, Raekwon, Ghostface Killah, Inspectah Deck, Method Man, Masta Killa, and reportedly one from the late Ol' Dirty Bastard--the disc includes a track based on the Beatles' "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" and is supposed to be one of the best albums ever made, according to some! Incidentally, Inspectah Deck is my favorite rap name!
Birdman: 5*Stunna (Cash Money/Universal) Sometimes you can find out a lot about artists by checking out retail Internet sites! For example, did you know that over at Amazon, customers who searched for "birdman" also expressed interest in both the Space Ghost And Dino Boy: The Complete Series and Birdman And The Galaxy Trio: The Complete Series DVDs? That may be just one of the reasons Birdman won the VMA Viewers Choice Award for his video "Stuntin' Like My Daddy!" Ten years from now this paragraph will be incomprehensible!
Styx: Caught In The Act: Live & More (A&M/UME) I rarely do this sort of thing, but if I can be so bold, I'd like to refer you the review I wrote of this spectacular package when it first emerged in 1984! It's quite good! I figure if record companies can recycle this stuff, so can I!
Beanie Sigel: The Solution (State Property/Roc-A-Fella) With a mesmerizing array of guest stars including R. Kelly, Styles P, Scarface and Raheem DeVaughn, its all-inclusive single "All Of The Above," and the phonetic similarity of the artist's name to a cartoon show featuring a seasick sea serpent, this package looks like an absolute winner! And check out that nifty album title! Is the "solution" political, chemical, or about the New York Times' crossword puzzle? Let's all find out together!