Those who are calendar conscious might be aware that this week--the week of Thanksgiving and its accompanying Black Friday--represent the single best week of album releases in any given year!
It's true! Our close friends in the record industry, perhaps looking to make a dollar or two in these troubled financial times, hold back all their really big releases--the ones they expect to rake in the bucks, to be the perfect holiday gifts for you and yours--until this week, when we all can all line up outside stores at 4 a.m. and try to find a single one that actually sells records!
Well, it's the thought that counts--and I'm thinking that if I had limited funds and had to choose between the new album by Ke$ha and, say, great new collections by the Rolling Stones, George Harrison and the Who, I'd opt for Ke$ha any day of the week!
Do you realize how rare that album will be in a year?
Kanye West: My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (G.O.O.D. Music) Number one on my list of absolutely great records I'll be bringing in this weekend is the latest by charismatic rapper Kanye West, who in just a few short years has become a hero to many simply for being his lovable, gentle self! His latest album--samples of which have been floating out there on the Internet for weeks--is a certified triumph, not least because of his jaw-dropping candor in spelling out precisely what his "dark twisted fantasy" actually is! Ever the sarcastic gent, the man seems fixated on inviting the gang over for some milk and cookies, playing a few rounds of pin the tail on the donkey, then making some "anonymous calls" to folks in the neighborhood asking them if their refrigerator's running! Later, after some Lipton iced tea, Kanye and crew will don colorful masks, prance around the living room to Gershwin's "An American In Paris" and gleefully pretend they're all honking car horns! And if the neighbors call to complain they're making too much noise? The heck with 'em!
My Chemical Romance: Danger Days: The True Lives Of The Fabulous Killjoys (Reprise) I'm a little irked with My Chemical Romance for--I'll come out and say it--stealing the title I've always intended for my debut solo album, but I'll give them the benefit of the doubt since it's taken them years to come out with this album in the first place! A lot's happened since Woodstock, true, but the guys, after some "trouble in the studio" hijinks, have never sounded fresher! That said, whether there's an actual market for former emo dudes singing the praises of phenolphthalein solution, hexamethylenetetramine, sodium bisulfate, sodium carbonate, potassium hexacyanoferrate, calcium hydroxide, and ammonium iron sulfate is another matter entirely! Frankly, dudes, you should try to meet some chicks! Just a thought! Otherwise, great as ever!
Ke$ha: Cannibal (RCA) In many ways the greatest artist of her time--about 4:30 PDT this Saturday afternoon--Ke$ha has let down at least one fan--and that would by the hapless Amazon reviewer who noted only this week that "Everyone likes a good dance song to get the party going but don't look for it on this CD, unless you want to be let down like I was." Sadly, young Ke$ha's obsession with being so far out she's in has led her down the predictable path of complete immersion in the films of Italian cannibal horror directors like Ruggero Deodato, Umberto Lenzi and Joe D'Amato, and this new album--bolstered by such tracks as "Sleazy," "Blow" and "Grow A Pear"--may thus be jarring to the young teen audience that has stayed by her through thick and thin! Perhaps she should attend a religious service or two!
Nicki Minaj: Pink Friday (Young Money) I've been watching Nicki Minaj for nearly two years now! She seems to stay out late at night, walks her dog around the block while talking on her cellphone, and--most notably--greet her neighborhood UPS delivery man with, by my count, unseemly enthusiasm! Plus, I think she likes to eat at around 5 p.m.! So yeah, this record is pretty good! Everyone's talking about Nicki at the moment--she's on everyone's songs, they're on hers, and her new album cover makes her legs look like they're 6 feet long! I don't know about you, but that last thing's been my guide to finding quality artists for the last three years! Do you think her hair is real?
Ne-Yo: Libra Scale (Def Jam) I've never been less than impressed with Ne-Yo, not least because his name is simply easier to say than "New York"! A quadruple threat--a great singer, songwriter, dancer and nuclear physicist--the man has talents that beat most of his contemporaries, hard and repeatedly! This new jam, as they say, is based on a concept that I can completely get into: "A trio of garbage men...are granted all that they've ever wanted--special powers, money, fame, women-- after encountering a mysterious figure.The only catch? The men must use their powers to fight crime in their city and must never ever fall in love." Sadly, the "mysterious figure" has a grim sense of humor--for the three garbagemen actually live in a small South Dakota town where no one even jaywalks! So you've got about nine or so songs featuring the dudes clustered around a gas station's soda machine watching pretty girls walk by, muttering "if only..." to themselves while bending steel bars in their bare hands for their own amusement! Maybe Ke$ha will come visit!
The Rolling Stones: The Rolling Stones 1964-1969 Vinyl Box Set (ABKCO) & The Rolling Stones 1971-2005 Vinyl Box Set (Universal Music Group) Well, if every year brings one patently obvious Christmas gift, this pair of box sets actually offers two. The combined efforts of two different record companies--ABKCO and Universal--bring us individual, limited edition boxed sets of the Rolling Stones albums, in thick, gorgeous, 180-gram vinyl configuration--featuring their original album covers in noticeably extra sturdy format, superbly remastered sound, and, if it need be said, some of the best rock 'n' roll music ever performed. The ABKCO collection features 13 LPs in all--the band's first nine studio albums (the first five in their original mono format), two EPs (The Rolling Stones and Five By Five), two hits collections (Big Hits [High Tide And Green Grass] and Through the Past, Darkly [Big Hits Vol. 2]), and the 1975 "outtakes" set, Metamorphosis.
The Universal set features 18 LPs, from Sticky Fingers to A Bigger Bang--the latter of which, along with the equally lengthy Voodoo Lounge and Bridges To Babylon, is packaged as a 2-LP set to maximize sound quality. And sound quality is maximized here: To an older generation who grew up holding these original albums or their American replicas in their hands, or a younger generation who may have already downloaded this stuff or have CDs lying around--regardless of the age spread, the bottom-line warmth and kick that these 12-inch vinyl slabs have is about as remarkable as you might predict. Within a week of seeing the Beatles finally hitting iTunes, holding these albums--holding these things, not sound files--and playing them makes the best possible case that this is the way this music was meant to be heard. And very loudly, at that.
George Harrison: All Things Must Pass vinyl box set (Apple) Speaking of vinyl, and speaking of classic albums, here's a deluxe, 180-gram vinyl reissue of George Harrison's masterwork--which interestingly is being released in limited edition and will be available as of this Friday at music retailers participating in Record Store Day. While the tracks themselves will also be available digitally at GeorgeHarrison.com, this may be the appropriate time to pick up the set--remastered and restored at Abbey Road Studios--in its original, fully groovy vinyl format. It's all too much!
The Who: Live At Leeds: 40th Anniversary Super-Deluxe Collector's Edition (UMe) What say we get carried away and just release a super deluxe version of every record that was ever any good? This set--which features the Who's original classic 1970 live recording at Leeds as well as the next night's set in Hull--features the same rockin' tunes, two complete live performances of Tommy, a vinyl album, a 7-inch single, a fab booklet, and just about everything a good Live At Leeds fan should have in his or her household come the holidays! At least until that new Hinder record comes out!
The Grateful Dead: Road Trips, Vol. 4 No. 1: Big Rock Pow Wow '69 (3CD) (Rhino) Grateful Dead fans must be ecstatic with the seeming nonstop flood of new Grateful Dead releases coming down the pike--most of them with sound quality much better than the tapes that have floating around for the last few eons. This particular volume, just the latest in the band's Road Trips series, catches the band shortly before the release of Aoxomoxoa, a period which I personally favor, and in fact can be heard favoring here--as running around the Hollywood, Florida, Seminole Indian reservation at which this performance was recorded was my 15-year-old self, wisely avoiding the orange juice being passed around, which, according to the liner notes, was laced with "orange sunshine," and next Monday's physics class was going to be a bitch! Who says you can't go home again? Outstanding, Dead dudes!
Jessica Simpson: Happy Christmas (Primary Wave) Not only does this contain the best-ever version of "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)"--Jessica sent it to me personally! Check out the Christmas tag! Yo, baby!