Hi! Just came back from one of the more exotic vacations of my lifetime--I can't believe humans can actually fly if they're willing to pay enough money!--and I couldn't be more excited about this week's new album releases!
Especially if I was barely conscious!
Well-known names, superstars, rising talents, obscure bands no one's ever heard of and likely never will--who could deny that this is music's all time peak and we're living through it?
Well, maybe my friend Larry--but that's just because he reads all the Best Buy circulars every Sunday since he's really into getting a new hard drive! What say we ignore his prejudiced opinion and simply drop down the cash to purchase this week's great new hot product? And if you can't make it a tax write-off, that's your problem!
Jackie Evancho: Dream With Me (SYCO/Columbia) I think we've all been a little taken aback by the spectacular talent displayed by young Jackie Evancho, the unbelievably cute 10-year-old who rose to fame via the best TV show ever--America's Got Talent--and can apparently sing anything ever written as if she were a hyper-sensitive 30-year-old divorcee out of therapy for less than a month and loving it! This new album--in which Evancho has imagined herself a cast member of the same Mary Tyler Moore show that brought both Valerie Harper and Cloris Leachman to their peaks of fame--is a comparative stunner, not least because of Jackie's intriguing fixation on a potential future in which silicon-based life forms have completely defeated the future growth of carbon-based beings--which is, like, us--all the while boosting the comparative relevance of many of the cast members of Sesame Street! It kind of blows my mind and makes me wish I never watched TV! That said, she's quite good and her album deserves to be in the home of millions! Frankly, this was never an issue for Lena Zavaroni!
Neil Young: A Treasure (Reprise) I think we can all agree that Neil Young is one of the most talented musicians in pop music and that sometime in the early '90s he stopped making records that some of us might consider "essential"--not that they weren't groovy, but, to be polite, their fabness quotient dwindled somewhat. But this new collection, featuring "countrified" tracks recorded between 1984-1985, definitively proves that Young was writing songs and making music that ranks among the best of his career during this period--and that it has been unreleased until now is something of a tragedy! For that matter, so is the fact that a so-called "compassionate" God would allow ugliness, starvation and personal cruelty to reach an all-time high during the past 20 years--but really, how relevant is that? Especially since reality TV is getting better than ever! In sum: A bold, strong album that could only be improved via the use of quotation marks around the word "treasure" in the album title! Quote marks are hipper than ever!
Barry Manilow: 15 Minutes (Stiletto/Fontana) An unexpected, albeit longish updating of the Cure's classic Seventeen Seconds, this great new concept album by well-known crooner Barry Manilow is thought-provoking, melodic, highly literate (thanks to lyricist Enoch Anderson), and, like most of the singer's past work, directly inspired by Andy Warhol! Taking Warhol's classic "in the future everyone will be famous for 15 minutes" spiel into bold new territory, Manilow explores the unexpected, sometimes deadly price the quest for fame can often bring--with album closer "The Black Angel's Death Song" serving as a terrifying warning of what may come to those who lust after recognition! Continuing Manilow's ascent into complete hipness via association is his co-production here with the West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band's Michael Lloyd! Can "Mandy Had A Hard Day Sunday" be right around the corner? This dude writes the songs the whole world sings!
Pat Metheny: What's It All About (Nonesuch) An excellent showing for the ultra-skilled Metheny, whose jazz guitar prowess over the years continues to be more and more refined. Here he devotes an entire album to acoustic performances of well-known pop classics ranging from "The Sound Of Silence" and "Cherish" to "Pipeline" and "Betcha By Golly Wow," all of them tasteful, wonderfully played, and accessible to longtime fans, jazz neophytes and--perhaps most significantly--music fans who may have never purchased a jazz album in their lives. From some camps this might be seen as a sellout of sorts, but coming from Metheny, it seems a thoughtful diversion likely to bring him fans from entirely new quarters. Slick move, dude!
Garland Jeffreys: The King Of In Between (Luna Park) I confess to being one of many who perhaps let my memory lapse about just how inspiring NY-based singer-songwriter Garland Jeffreys can be. But his latest set, his first for a while, drives home the point and more--and in fact sent me back listening to every album the man ever made. An autobiographical piece, the disc is simply outstanding: Superbly written and sung tracks, one or two strangely reminiscent of Van Morrison circa latter-day Them, the collection is one of the more powerful albums I've ever heard from an artist this late in his career. Rocking, lots of fun, and a true return to form, The King Of In Between oozes with meaning and adult-oriented sentiment. Highly recommended!
Depeche Mode: Remixes 2: 81-11 (Reprise) A follow-up to the band's previous Remixes 81-04, this collection--available as a single or triple CD set--takes material from as far back as 1981's Speak And Spell and puts it through remix hell; aside from a cast of hipsters including M83, UNKLE and Francois Kevorkian, the presence of former Depeche members Vince Clarke and Alan Wilder as guest remixers is likely to excite longtime fans, perhaps unpleasantly so. Though there's some repetition to be had here--true fans will likely have several of these remixes already, especially if they dropped the big bucks needed for that huge 12-inch box set some years back--the overall effect is still pleasant, and a strong testimonial to the band's long stretch as top-notch music creators.
Dean Martin: The Best Of The Dean Martin Variety Show: Collector's Edition (Time Life) Fans of Y! Music's second-best blog Framed who might wonder what esteemed writer John Kordosh does in his spare time--when he's not driving up and down the West Coast on his moped sampling Michelob Ultra--might find it interesting that once, long ago, he, I and a few others made the inevitable Las Vegas trip to witness the great Dean Martin in action, live, onstage, and almost unbearably funny. Here, packaged up in a variety of formats, comes a sampling of what Dean Martin was all about, taken from his sometimes surrealistic NBC variety broadcast during the late-'60s and early-'70s. With a guest cast including nearly everybody you'd ever imagine, music performances cornball or otherwise, and Martin's untouchably cool, drink-in-hand persona, you've got one of the finest slices of TV entertainment ever crafted. Check it out!
The Beau Brummels: Bradley's Barn (Rhino Handmade) Though it's not quite out yet but available for pre-order here, I couldn't resist making note of yet another aesthetic triumph coming courtesy of the crew at Rhino Handmade. In this case it's the spectacular royal treatment given the Beau Brummels' majestic 1968 set Bradley's Barn--which, though critically lauded, sold next to zilch but now, more than 40 years later, sounds like one of the '60s' best-ever pop albums. Now two discs, and loaded with previously unissued recordings, excellent liner notes and--the only down side--a horrendous 1968 radio interview that, thanks to the "period" DJ, is almost painful to hear--this is by far one of the year's best reissues, and a welcome supplement to the now out-of-print Magic Hollow collection that Handmade released in 2005. Buy this or live in shame!
Smokey Robinson: The Solo Albums: Volume 5 (Hip-O Select) While we're talking about welcome reissues, let's not forget the excellent work methodically emanating from Universal's Hip-O Select imprint; in this instance, the label is especially appealing to those collectors out there who simply want everything by artists they admire. Here they can get a reissued version of Smokey Robinson's never-before-on-CD 1978 live set Smokin'. Recorded at LA's Roxy and packed with the hits that made him famous--with the Miracles and otherwise--the collection is a nice snapshot of the man during an interesting time in his career, and a welcome bolstering of his already impressive catalog. Keep it coming, Hip-O!
Vetiver: The Errant Charm (Sub Pop) I am completely into editing artist bios and sticking in surprise endings! Check this out: "Have you been sitting at that computer all day? You're overdue for a break. The new Vetiver album, The Errant Charm, is a superb soundtrack for an afternoon idyll. Take a moment to load the record on your mp3 player. Hell, if you still have a Walkman, the whole thing fits neatly on one side of a C-90 cassette tape. Select your favorite pair of headphones, and go for a stroll. But...for God's sake...look out for that bus!!" Next week: The Bible (Unpleasant Version)!