Happy New Year!
Two weeks away from the rigors of penning a thought-provoking essay on the week's best new album releases has likely done me--and thus you--a world of good!
Why? Because my New Year's resolution, as of this very moment, is to shy away from writing this blog in a smarmy and snarky manner, to start telling it like it is no matter whose feelings might get hurt, and, most importantly, to stop leaving secret messages via the last word of every seventh album review in this blog for the past 48 weeks and just have some fun!
Won't you join me?
Ke$ha: Animal (RCA) The whole world is talking about Ke$ha at the moment--largely because non-American writers can't find that wacky "dollar sign" key to write about her! But that's not the only reason! The charming American singer has already been widely heard via her vocal on Flo Rida's "Right Round," and she's just set a new download record with her hot single "TiK ToK"--which has received conspicuous placement in such shows as Melrose Place, Project Runway and Petticoat Junction and may indeed be the best song yet! With a distinguished production crew along for the ride--including Dr. Luke and Max Martin--it's likely that Ke$ha's Animal will be a huge hit and yes, people will stop compulsively saying "gesundheit" whenever they hear her name!
Kanye West: VH1 Storytellers [CD + DVD] (Def Jam/Roc-A-Fella) I have no notable feelings about Kanye West whatsoever, except that 1) He's not a singer, 2) He's into the Alan Parsons Project, and 3) He gets on people's nerves a lot! And, I mean, is that so wrong? Still, having been less than impressed with nearly everything he's done, I have to give him full credit for this Storytellers package, which fills in, at least for me, more than a few gaps about the man! For starters, I can't believe what a lucky break he got after trading his cow for some magic beans, climbing that beanstalk, slaying the giant and grabbing the gold! And who could have imagined that he was the little Dutch boy who saved Holland by keeping his finger in the dike? He does go on a bit here and there--for the life of me I couldn't get that joke about him trying to find his motorcycle keys--but all told, Kanye remains a top talent!
Katharine McPhee: Unbroken (Verve Forecast) Maybe because at this very moment I'm listening to Bruno Nicolai's soundtrack to La Notte Che Evelyn Usci' Dalla Tomba--better known here as the '71 Italian horror flick The Night Evelyn Came Out Of The Grave--I'm inclined to like this new Katharine McPhee album! Check out that cover pic--she looks like she could've starred in it! Yep, the former American Idol babe is back, on a brand new label and with songs co-written with Paula Cole, Ingrid Michaelson and Rachael Yamagata! As an album it hangs together better than most ex-Idol efforts--no howling histrionics for Ms. McPhee--and, as all great albums must, it concludes with a cover version of Melanie's "Brand New Key"! And her version slaughters Kanye's!
Taylor Hicks: Whomp At The Warfield DVD (Image Entertainment) Like many, I picked up this DVD sight unseen and expected at least a little professional wrestling! But no dice! Instead, we've got Taylor Hicks the singer--and not just a singer, but the American Idol guy who KO'd Katharine McPhee in Season Five of American Idol, became the champ, and went about his business singing R&B tunes and covers of "Wherever I Lay My Hat" and slowly dropping off public radar! This live performance brings many words to mind--"capable," "adequate," "functional," "good-hearted," "well-intentioned," "two-for-one tequila nite," "where did I put my car keys?," "oh god--how can I drive home?"--and is thoroughly inspirational! Buy it today!
Findlay Brown: Love Will Find You (Verve Forecast) In a stunning turn of events--an actual good album!--we are gifted with the second official release by British singer Findlay Brown, compellingly produced by Bernard Butler of Suede and wonderfully arranged, emotive, and intimate! I would tell you more, but I am struck by a product description that offers the following phrase: "influenced as much by Phil Spector and Ennio Morricone as by Roy Orbison or The Beatles." How about "influenced as much by a gumball machine and leg of lamb as by a black Camaro and a Zorro DVD"? That would be true, too! Writers can say anything!
Ashley Brown: Speak Low (Ghostlight) What the world needs more of is attractive female singers singing the Great American Songbook--especially if they've starred in the original cast of Mary Poppins on Broadway and played Belle in Beauty And The Beast! Running through 13 tracks of standards like "As Time Goes By," "My Funny Valentine" and "I'll Be Seeing You," Ms. Brown sings with perfect enunciation, absolute purity, and in some ways is even better than Green Day!
Sugaree: The American Dream (Leon Russell Records) An interesting multi-genre debut here from Sugaree--the daughter of Leon Russell--who's spent at least six years on the road with her famous father providing background vocals and percussion! All of which is no mean feat, considering that her mouth was taped shut! I would buy this!
Various Artists: The BYG Deal (B-Music) This came out a few weeks ago and merits a mention if only because it represents the first legitimate American appearance of any recordings from France's pioneering jazz label of the late '60s. Though their original vinyl pressings were terrible (and, strangely, did show up in American cut-out bins), BYG's selection of artists was stellar, including jazzmen like Don Cherry, Sun Ra, Archie Shepp and Paul Bley and a few out-there rockers, including Daevid Allen & Gong and some Magma people! Cool! This collection offers 22 snatches from the BYG catalog--some pretty rare snatches at that--many of which today's most compelling younger artists continue to stylistically emulate and hope we won't notice! Check it out!
Youth In Revolt: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (Lakeshore Records) A not-bad array of selections here by the Fruit Bats, hip Frenchie Jacques Dutronc, Beulah and the immortal pairing of Fun Boy Three and Bananarama, among others, this set should provide ample inspiration to any youngster upset with his appearance or social status who might be looking to kill everybody over 30!
Toxic Holocaust: Hell On Earth (Relapse) The reissue of this great 2005 classic from Portland's Toxic Holocaust allows me the opportunity to run its fabulous cover art! Sometimes that's enough!