Apologies for the lack of an exciting New This Week post last week--my trip to Florida was cut short one day due to bothersome weather conditions, and as a result, I was driving cross-country rather than dutifully posting my summation of the week's new releases! Suffice to say they all were the best records ever released!
That said, I should also point out that during the drive, I was feeling a bit "iffy" about my abilities as a music critic! Why? Because due to my involuntary immersion into the formulized world of satellite radio, the following question was put to me:
If you were stuck on a desert island with only one CD, and it had to be either the best of Bob Marley or Barry Manilow...which would you choose?
My dilemma? Neither answer felt right!
Luckily, a bird hit our windshield and the moment passed!
The Game: LAX (Geffen) Supposedly this celebrated rapper has announced that this album may be his last. Hey, shouldn't that be for us to decide? Though well-known producers abound--including Scott Storch, Coole & Dre, and Dr. Dre--the unexplained absence of Dre and the Family Stone, Toby Dre, and Yo-Yo Dre speaks volumes, according to one source! Incredibly, the affable rapper says he recorded over 220 tracks for this album before deciding on the final song sequence; no word as to whether his dog ate most of them on the way to school! But if they ever do come out, calling them the "ex-LAX" tracks would certainly be impolite!
Solange Knowles: Sol-Angel And The Hadley Street Dreams (Music World Entertainment/Geffen) I was all set to be cynical about this return effort from Beyonce's little sister--that orange make-up she's been wearing lately kind of creeps me out--but I have to report I am very surprised by how good this album is! The songs are hip, she can really sing, and hilarious jokes about filet of sole and orange roughy would be of little use to anyone! Maybe it's time we all grew up!
The Verve: Forth (On Your Own/Megaforce) Newly reunited and offering us their first new album since "Bittersweet Symphony" was a hit--and that was 11 years and three Richard Ashcroft albums ago--the Verve sound great right now! Could all that time off have made them better? Could the music scene have gotten so bad in 10 years' time that now "just alright" in 1997 terms equals "great" in 2008? Could this just intrinsically be a great album despite being by the Verve? Probably not! But why ask so many questions?
Slipknot: All Hope Is Gone (Roadrunner) It's 2008 and Slipknot have released a brand new album called All Hope Is Gone! Life is great! Speaking of the CD, group member Corey Taylor recently declared, "I think it's the best thing I've ever made. And I challenge anyone to prove me wrong." Meanwhile, a Volvo carrying Taylor's former kindergarten teacher and a beautiful papier-maché ashtray mysteriously vanished in Des Moines that same day! Coincidence or...something more? Don't ask evil Slipknot!
Little Feat: Join The Band (429) When it comes to bands who've been around for years in some form or another, Little Feat is one of them! Their new album not only contains the usual fine playing they're noted for, but some guest artists with pretty large fan bases, including Dave Matthews, Bob Seger, Jimmy Buffett, Vince Gill, Brooks & Dunn, and Emmylou Harris, among others. Everything sounds great, appropriate respect is paid, a good time is had by all, and then--mysteriously--it's 2008 again! I'm completely into it!
Matthew Sweet: Sunshine Lies (Shout! Factory) Whether a brand new artist, a chart-topper, or a dependable craftsman with a perpetual ear for melody, Matthew Sweet has never stopped making quality music in the course of his career. This, his latest set, features friends Susanna Hoffs, Greg Leisz and Richard Lloyd, and is defined by the man himself as "power-pop-folk-rock-psychedelic-melodic-singer-songwriter-type stuff." That pretty much pegs it! Buy it before he turns to music journalism!
Uriah Heep: Wake The Sleeper (Universal) In some ways the best band that ever existed next to Styx, Uriah Heep have returned with their first new studio album in 10 years! Verve fans who bought "Bittersweet Symphony" when it came out along with the last Uriah Heep album will most definitely feel a sense of déjà vu if they buy both artists' new albums this week as well! As for the rest of us...well, we're in the middle of a paragraph about Uriah Heep! Who cares about us?
Blues Traveler: North Hollywood Shootout (Verve Forecast) Is it just me, or are the last 15 years of our lives starting all over again? Good ol' reliable BT are back--apparently touring with Live and Collective Soul--and meanwhile Hootie and his Blowfish are in the news as well! To add to the surrealism, the final track on this disc is concisely titled "Free Willis, Ruminations From Behind Uncle Bob's Machine Shop" and features the voice of Bruce Willis! Next week let's watch St. Elmo's Fire, rub our shoes together, and go back even farther!
Jan & Dean: Jan & Dean: The Complete Liberty Singles (Collector's Choice) With a new Brian Wilson album due momentarily, why not prepare the way via this extremely choice 2-CD set of the very best of fellow '60s surfboys Jan & Dean? It isn't very often that a well known artist's best work can be suitably contained in one concise package, but within this set reside "Surf City," "Drag City," "Dead Man's Curve," "The Little Old Lady (From Pasadena)" and just about everything else '60s-hitwise you'd want to hear by the onetime dynamic duo. Toss in the superb packaging and liner notes and you now have to buy this by law!
DragonForce: Ultra Beatdown (Roadrunner) The fastest, loudest band in the world just debuted their new single on Guitar Hero III and will likely sell millions! Times are changing! Don't be a hater! Give generously!