What an extraordinary week!
Massive pop stars have sadly passed, Miley Cyrus and the word "pantsless" appeared on the homepage of a well-known internet portal, a significant partial eclipse of the sun caused profound psychic confusion among the most sensitive, and it's the closing week of American Idol!
Plus MET-Rx Protein Plus Creamy Peanut Butter Crisp bars continue being offered at local 7-11's for the staggering rate of two for $5!
Additionally, new albums have been released! That's kind of cool, too!
John Mayer: Born And Raised (Columbia) Poor John Mayer! Enviably talented, a fine singer, songwriter and guitarist, a witty, affable guy, the dude is simply too good-looking and too involved in the moment--steeped and unsteeped in the world of Facebook and Twitter--to be judged purely on the basis of his raw ability! It's fair to say most people's perception of him is only partially based upon his musical skills! It just ain't right, as those of us poorly schooled in grammar might say! Yet in fact, this new album--like all of his others--is filled with top-notch singing and playing, clever songcraft, and the sort of thing that, say 20 years or so ago, would have been the sole relevant factor in our perception of him! And we would say he's quite good! Personally, I like him, I'm glad he had some help here from co-producer Don Was, who likewise knows his stuff, and I'm quite certain he'll do very well with this album! Still, if on a dark and stormy night he walks to the edge of a steep cliff overlooking the ocean, raises his fist heavenward, stares upward, tears in his eyes, and shouts, "Why, Lord, why?," someone will probably tweet about it! Silly man!
Garbage: Not Your Kind Of People (Stunvolume) Precisely because no one thinks about Garbage anymore, or listens to the horrendous crud promulgated by our dying radio industry, a new album by the band can arrive completely expectation-free, and be enjoyed not on the basis of whether it contains a hit or not, but purely whether it's a worthwhile musical experience! And guess what? This is great! Loud, dynamic, gloriously trashy whenever it wants to be, this latest set by the long-gone Garbage offers up all of the great things that made the combo so intriguing in the mid-'90s: loud pounding, melodic droning, ominously sexual vocalizing by the wonderful Shirley Manson, and a whole bunch of concise, rocking tunes that pop out of your stereo speakers and gleefully push your face into the mud! Plus, between songs like "I Hate Love" and "Beloved Freak," you get the sense that the band's overall sense of personal values has not changed one iota! Not to be overly enthusiastic, but they're quite enjoyable!
Paul & Linda McCartney: Ram (Concord/Hear Music) It's safe to say that this album along with the later Band On The Run stand as the most satisfying post-Beatle work of Paul McCartney, and this newly remastered edition--available in most versions with a bonus 8-track CD--coming as it does in mid-2012, couldn't make that case any more strongly. Boasting superb sonics, some of McCartney's best-ever solo tunes--I am a complete sucker for "Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey," and via the bonus disc, the non-album "Another Day" makes an appearance here--and the surprisingly gleeful, tuneful backing vocals of Linda McCartney, the album is, note for note, exactly the record the man should have made once the Beatles were gone, and its tunefulness and natural informality--its deliberate lack of polish--make it an indisputable pop treasure. A fantastic work that sounds better with each passing year.
Tedeschi Trucks Band: Tedeschi Trucks Band Live: Everybody's Talkin' (Legacy) How strange that this supremely musical combo--an 11-piece band centered around husband/wife guitar team Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks--are so good, and so skilled at what they do, and yet they somehow seem oddly...unfashionable. Not as hip as, say, Nicki Minaj. Yet the raw musicality of their work, the creative way in which they blend the blues, pop and soul with their own unique music, stands so much higher than that pop fluff, this album is likely to stay in print--or at least in demand--for years longer than those of their more glamorous companions on the pop charts. A fine set, and a great testament to musical skill--and one likely to appeal to a very wide swath of music fans of all ages. Recommended.
Haley Reinhart: Listen Up! (19 Recordings) As I have noted in previous blog posts, I am not the biggest fan of American Idol, thus have limited expectations when it comes to any of the artists the televised talent show has produced. But it just so happens I was at some biz function recently where Ms. Reinhart--apparently a contestant on the show's 10th season--sang a version of a Carole King song honoring the latter singer herself, acquitted herself reasonably, and was then rewarded with a fine dinner of filet mignon! Despite a peculiar urge to stand up, stroll over to her table, and introduce myself with a sly, "Good Lord, lass, you look precisely like Karen Black's illegitimate love child"--between you and me, this typically does the trick--a helpful waiter walked over and offered me more wine, and then Peter Noone walked by! Later, I didn't recognize my car when the valet brought it! I like my life!
Kris Allen: Thank You Camellia (19 Recordings) Speaking of American Idol--and frankly, who isn't?--this latest set by the Season 8 winner, pictured at right on his album cover, is pleasant, workmanlike, and the sort of thing one might really like if one were taking a cross-country trip with no working radio and only one CD in the car and gravitated to American Idol because of its unfailing promotion of "least offensive" vocalists. During said trip, those particularly bored might note that the singer's name formed such fascinating anagrams as Laser Link, Earn Kills, Renal Silk, and Snarl Like, before pulling into a McDonald's for that inevitable Quarter Pounder! Yep, like you, I'm kind of into it!
The Knack: Havin' A Rave-Up! Live In Los Angeles, 1978 (Omnivore) I remember seeing the Knack in their prime back in the late '70s in Detroit and being mildly puzzled by the number of young teen girls literally screaming in glee while the band played--in a manner that seemed less like teens 15 years earlier spontaneously screaming at the Beatles and more like people acting like they thought they were supposed to act. It was odd. Later I found out that a few dozen rats were released in the back of the theater, but why quibble? This unexpected live set portrays the fab band at the height of its "My Sharona" glory, and in retrospect--considering how rock critics of the era disliked the band so fervently--it all sounds great to me! Next thing you know, people will start thinking rock critics are stupid! Hah!
Soulsavers: The Light The Dead See (Mute) A worthwhile new set from the team of Rich Machin and Ian Glover, who last released the highly enjoyable Broken--here teamed with Dave Gahan of Depeche Mode, who provides lyrics, vocals, and heck, maybe some cotton candy, too! They never really go into what constitutes a collaboration in 2012! Don't know about you, but I'm completely into Depeche Mode and often wear a sweatshirt bearing their name! And I think you'd like me if you met me!
The Hollies: Radio Fun (EMI) Always funny to see what slips on through, and this fantastic collection of live BBC tracks by the Hollies--recorded between 1964-1971--features many of their biggest hits, some great obscurities, and at 32 tracks, may be one of the best representations of this comparatively undersung, quietly spectacular band. Currently only available as an MP3 download domestically, it's the sort of thing serious music fans should probably be looking out for, now that record stores have been banned and that new curfew took effect! I hate guns!
UFO: The Chrysalis Years (1980-1986) (Capitol) Fans of hard rock of eras long past will be pleased by the recent antics of Capitol/EMI--who have taken to gathering up numerous albums by artists like Robin Trower and, here, UFO, and combining them in generous box sets featuring a plethora of discs, bonus tracks, and fabulous artwork! Yep! There's no reason to ever leave the house now! Got any peanut butter?