It's me, world traveler that I am, writing this blog in beautiful Nashville, Tennessee--one week later than last week, when I was situated in a luxurious Miami condominium, and one week prior to next week, when I'll doubtlessly be penning vital truths in Sherman Oaks, California, where the Diet Coke flows freely and, for kicks, I often listen to the albums I'm writing about!
But still, tonight is special! After a brief stroll through downtown Nashville, hoping to rev up for the sharp critical analysis this blog regularly demands, I passed a venue offering one of the most enticing entertainment experiences of a lifetime--"NUDE KARAOKE," as the prominent signage promised--and instantly returned to my hotel, hoping to write while the iron, as the cliché would have it, was still hot!
And admittedly, it is odd! But writing with an iron is the way I like to do things lately--and if that means bothersome clusters of consonants that I will later have to fix by hand, so be it! And if that also means actually reading what I write, what the hey? We all win!
Drake: Take Care (Young Money) I think we've all been waiting for the new Drake album, and for good reason! After all, since the animated hero dropped the "Ludwig Von" from his name, perhaps in the hope of regaining some of the street credibility he and his friend Scrooge enjoyed years ago, we've all been wondering if he had the necessary talent within him to make him an untainted superstar, or whether he'd ultimately be a comedic figure on par with, say, Goofy, or the intellectually superior but still strangely vague Gyro Gearloose! Well, I say wonder no more! Between great songs like "Over My Dead Body," "Shot For Me," and "Look What You've Done," Drake has fashioned a fully flowing, wondrous set that--with the help of Rihanna, Lil Wayne, Rick Ross and Nicki Minaj--spells out to all of us the dangers of hanging out with the notorious Beagle Boys and their ilk! That said, between "Crew Love" and "The Real Love," I'd be real nervous if I were Daisy or Minnie!
Various Artists: Glee: The Music, The Christmas Album Volume 2 (Columbia) It's been a long wait, but finally the producers of Glee have allowed an album to be released capitalizing on the fame of the much-loved TV show--and what an album it is! Filled to the brim with wonderful holiday music, and boasting an impeccably creative album cover featuring a Christmas ornament, the dudes and dudesses at Glee are heard here singing wondrous new concoctions, including "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town," "Little Drummer Boy," and the marvelously suspenseful "Do You Hear What I Hear"! The only caveat: As a Glee fan, I wonder if non-believers might accuse the guys and gals here of ripping off the aging Justin Bieber, who just released a so-called Christmas album of his own! Can I be honest for a minute? That simply couldn't be the case! Forget record release schedules--these guys got here first!
Webbie: Savage Life 3 (Trill) In many ways the best rapper on the planet--no, wait a minute, I'm exaggerating, in Way 173 the best rapper on the planet--Webbie has spent an extraordinary amount of career time explaining that his chosen name has absolutely nothing to do with his fascination with the Internet or those weird things going on between his fingers and toes, but in the end...who cares? With such great new tracks as "Trilla Than A B***h," "In Dis B***h," "Made N***a" and the stunning "Mo A**," it's obvious the man's unparalleled devotion to the classic television show Dragnet has affected his art in a manner that few other artists can likewise claim! Special bonus: The cover pic--in which the heroic rapper ponders the witty comebacks of actor Harry Morgan--is nearly as delightful as the music within!
Gym Class Heroes: The Papercut Chronicles II (Decaydance) Always a daring band, the refreshing Gym Class Heroes here take on of pop music's all-time classics--The Rolling Stones' The Papercut Chronicles--and give it a timely "newish" spin! As a result, their charming blend of alternative rock and Hip-Hop makes their cover of the Stones' "Wejustfreestylin' Pt. 2" markedly better than the original, not least because that version featured a croaky vocal by the late Brian Jones, who rarely sang and--you may agree if you've heard the original--with good reason! Yet the band's obsession with seeming current in these changing times occasionally takes its toll, and tracks like "Fingertips Pt. 2 Pt. 2" often seem less like song remakes than poorly formulated mathematical equations! But the great album cover and song titles like "Make Out Club" ultimately prove that these guys know exactly what they're doing--and that's either taking it to the limit, living on the edge, or being so horribly boring you'll confuse them with the Plain White T's! You decide!
David Nail: The Sound Of A Million Dreams (MCA Nashville) Naysayers may doubt the roots credibility of contemporary country music, but I suspect this bold new release by singer David Nail may raise some eyebrows and, dare I say, win a few converts along the way! Taking a few cues from today's best contemporary classical composers--and perhaps borrowing excessively from the title track of Tim Buckley's classic Starsailor album--the singer has overdubbed literally one million songs and phrases compiled by a Harvard psychologist for a paper on the effects of nicotine on the R.E.M. state, most of which are thankfully in the same key, and fully let his freak flag fly! In short? When it comes to creating art for the sake of art, David "nails" it!
The Who: Quadrophenia - The Director's Cut: Super Deluxe Edition (Geffen) They say that nothing succeeds like excess--well, maybe that only applies to well-meaning blogs--but if you're a Who fan, you'll have little to argue about as far as this reissue is concerned: One of the band's greatest albums, a 2-LP classic, is offered up here in super-generous form: 4 CDs (including the original album on two discs, and demos and other extras on the others), a vinyl 7-inch single, a DVD featuring eight tracks in a stunning 5.1 surround-sound mixes, a hard-back book, and other Who paraphernalia certain to excite the band's fan base during the coming holiday season! It's a worthy treatment for a very worthy album, and if you can afford the price tag--it's $131.62 on Amazon at this very minute--it might be right up your alley! That is, assuming you bowl!
Can: Tago Mago 40th Anniversary Edition (Spoon/Mute) While we're talking about classic albums, let's not forget this extra-special reissue by one of the finest bands in pop music history--and that would be Germany's Can, who in 1971 released this massively influential double-LP of unclassifiably great music, and now see their efforts rewarded via this special edition, which also includes a bonus CD of 50 minutes of previously unreleased live material! How good is it? Too good! Featuring the classic Can line-up including singer Damo Suzuki, and a staggering array of oddly modern-sounding tracks--odd only in that this stuff was being played 40 years ago--it's a welcome reminder that while mainstream music has offered up an array of artists who come and go every year, the truly great artists--and Can is among them--have left a legacy unlikely to ever diminish. Fantastic.
Ray Charles: Singular Genius: The Complete ABC Singles (Concord) To people of a certain generation--younger baby boomers, most notably--Ray Charles was a very distinguished singer and pianist who apparently played a lot of great, artful blues and jazz in the '50s, much of which they'd only hear later in their life. Because most of what they heard by the man is what's contained on this very valuable box set--an array of classic singles, all of which contain a healthy sampling of blues, R&B and gospel, but often veer toward pop and, at times, even country music. What's on these 5 discs is no less mind-blowing than the earlier material, and when seen in total--tracks like "Georgia On My Mind," "Hit The Road, Jack" "Busted," "Crying Time" and much, much, more--the 106 songs here are a jaw-dropping, wondrous collection indeed. Things really don't get much better than this.
Waylon Jennings: Live At The US Festival, 1983 DVD (Shout Factory) Make a point of checking out this DVD, which captures one of country music's greats at his peak, singing his best material and essentially offering all that was great about him in easily digestible form. Though his contributions have never been forgotten--as this year's tribute album projects amply illustrate--seeing the man himself at work is the best possible reminder of his raw magnetism and artistic appeal. Great stuff.