It's an exceptional week for record releases, you'll surely agree!
The Hope For Haiti Now compilation--despite its tragic origin--is, artist for artist, one of the year's most spectacular collections!
Fresh-faced, newer performers like Lady Antebellum and Corinne Bailey Rae have returned with extremely solid new albums!
And new CDs from David Bowie and Barry Manilow are certain to excite the elder among us!
In short, this could be the dawning of a new age in which recorded music experiences a stunning financial rebirth! Or the last gasp of a dying industry choking on its own legacy of torpid excess!
Various Artists: Hope For Haiti Now (MTV Networks) You'd have to be tone-deaf, hard-hearted, or not very bright to pick up on this bountiful collection of music performed just last Friday night, and here's why: It's cheap! And all profits are going to the worthiest of charitable causes! And while it's true few people are likely to be fans of all the artists heard on the 20 tracks here, mathematics alone dictate you should like at least one of them! For just $7.99, you can score that track, the 19 other ones you don't want, and convince yourself that by your purchase you've fulfilled your yearly quota of charitable acts and simply go about your business! For peer pressure purposes, buying this may even better than an "I Voted" tag!
Lady Antebellum: Need You Now (Capitol Nashville) First impressions always count, so I'm happy to report that when I was introduced to new Nashville titans Lady Antebellum last year, the first thing I could think to say to them was, "Hey, isn't the antebellum part of your brain?" Little did I suspect back then that the attractive trio would be heartily embraced by the public, nominated for a Grammy, and be such good momentum-builders they'd actually release their new album during Grammy Week! It's great--but of course you already knew that!--and now sets the appropriate groundwork for a future collaboration with Lord Medulla Oblongata!
Corinne Bailey Rae: The Sea (Capitol) A fine return from the UK's Corinne Bailey Rae, a singer who impressed many with her debut album and then faded from view somewhat. Sad to say, that had much to do with the death of her young husband in 2008--a horrific event which unavoidably colors many of the fine songs on this package. That said, the warmth that colored her first collection is also amply in evidence here, and the end result is an appealing, sometimes disarmingly sober set of songs. Highly recommended.
Beach House: Teen Dream (Sub Pop) Between these guys and Wye Oak, the new rule of thumb in Baltimore must be that all bands must consist of boy/girl couples--and that's all right with me! This duo's third album, Teen Dream is content-rich physically--a CD and accompanying DVD including separate videos of each song on the CD--and artistically as well! Famous for their echoey-drone upon which a reverberated female vocal politely wails--sort of what you'd expect to hear if you were a high school guy sneaking into a girl's locker room when the only one in it was the arty smart girl--Beach House are getting better with each album and with luck may soon obtain that large house in the wealthy suburbs for which they clearly pine!
Celtic Woman: Songs From The Heart (Manhattan) A smashing commercial success, Ireland's Celtic Woman have captured the world's heart, as this fan's Amazon review of their recent Christmas album makes abundantly clear: "I play it while reading, relaxing, cooking, writing--well, you get the picture!" Yes we do, young lady! The new disc features such memorable tracks as "Amazing Grace," "O, America!" and "My Lagan Love" and is as captivating as all of their others have been! But wait, you ask--who is the red head on the album cover? According to the group's website, "the lady on the cover of all the Celtic Woman CD's and DVD's was chosen as a physical representation of a Celtic Woman. She is beautiful yet mysterious, and her physical characteristics, Red Curly hair and blue/green eyes, are synonymous with our image of what a Celtic Woman should be. She is not, and never has been a performer with the show." Hey, I used that same logic when we made the New This Week banner!
Barry Manilow: The Greatest Love Songs Of All Time (Arista) Call me kooky, but ever since "Copacabana," I've decided Barry Manilow is not only a fine singer and role model but also, well, the stuff of legend! His latest collection, here just in time for Valentine's Day, offers 13 fabulous tracks such as "The Look Of Love," "Love Me Tender," and "I Only Have Eyes For You," and they're all arranged and sung in that warm, comfortable Manilowesque manner that just makes me--and not just me, almost everybody!--sit close to that certain "someone special" and talk about my hectic day! Later we break out the Young Jeezy and smack each other around, but that's for another review!
Pat Metheny: Orchestrion (Nonesuch) A fairly daring solo project from always inventive jazz guitarist Metheny, Orchestrion is a solo album unlike most you've ever heard. A crack team of inventors (no lie!) created, and I quote: "a veritable made-to-order solenoid orchestra that includes, among other things, bass, pianos, percussion, marimbas, guitar-bots, and a mellifluous cabinet of carefully tuned bottles." All of this, mind you, being launched and/or played by Metheny via his guitar and various footpedals. You'd probably be impressed even if you didn't know all that and simply heard the record; Metheny's sense of melody and creative arrangement hasn't slowed in over 30 years. In short, a classy, dazzling, very listenable affair.
David Bowie: A Reality Tour (Columbia Legacy) As someone who stopped intently listening to every David Bowie album since Scary Monsters, but occasionally found myself happily surprised with his later material, A Reality Tour is welcome reminder of the breadth of his work: A 2-CD version of the DVD documenting his 2004 tour, 30 tracks in all. In this context, the over-familiarity of such tracks as "Changes" and "Five Years" allows some of his lesser heard, later work--like "I'm Afraid Of Americans" or "Loving The Alien"--the opportunity to shine. Bowiephiles who may already have the corresponding DVD (which came out in 2004) should know that this set contains three previously unreleased tracks from the tour: "Fall Dogs Bomb The Moon," "Breaking Glass" and "China Girl." Give it a listen.
Tindersticks: Falling Down A Mountain (Constellation) This British hipster combo has been around for years, alternately ultracool or sadly nondescript, but their recent return to the scene--especially with this album--seems more substantial than one might expect. Well-played, atmospheric material with a few more hooks that usual, longtime singer Stuart Staples in fine form throughout, this might even be called a "return to form" if Tindersticks had any form in the first place! Dig it!
Michael Jackson: This Is It DVD (Sony Pictures) The new Michael Jackson movie? This is it! The last piece of commercial product to ever bear his name? Of course! Who would dare exploit his name?