With exciting DVDs by rockers Justin Bieber and AC/DC, long awaited returns by the Cars, Christopher Cross and Nazareth, and stellar new recordings by the like of the Wild Beasts and the Wilderness Of Manitoba, this is shaping up to be one heck of a release week!
And all of them are as great as you think they are!
Still, for the life of me, I've had the hardest time taking the Bieber DVD out of the player and focusing on anything else!
But don't let the fact that I've had bothersome leg cramps for nearly 10 days and can barely get off of my couch cloud the issue!
Justin Bieber: Never Say Never (DVD) Like most of us, I stood outside a theatre marquee for nearly 36 hours so I could be assured a spot to see the premiere of Justin Bieber's fabulous new movie--and I'm here to tell you it was completely worth it! Incredibly, one of the teenage girls sitting in front of me during the screening got violently ill--stomach cramps, apparently--during the first 10 minutes of the flick, and her harried girlfriend asked me if I wanted to finish off a completely unopened box of Mild Duds plus a pack of giant Twizzlers! And they tasted great! The movie was terrible of course, but this lady who must've been the mother of the two adolescent boys sitting next to me kept giving me the eye and offering me popcorn! Later that night I put on my "hoodie" and danced in front of the mirror for about 20 minutes before calling it a night! And tomorrow I'm calling a close friend of mine who once actually met Usher!
The Cars: Move Like This (Hear Music/Concord) I find it somewhat ironic that the first new Cars album in years is called Move Like This, since I can remember seeing them perform onstage in their prime back in the '80s and was struck by the fact that they barely moved at all! It was like they were completely stationary! So now that 30 years have gone by, are they secretly urging an entire new audience to emulate them and keep completely still? What a bummer! But don't let that prejudice you! To keep things on an even keel, remember this: It's quite possible that all of the world's troubles this millennium are directly the result of our quest for oil to feed the unceasing appetite of the modern-day automobile! And if there is one of man's creations that could specifically be blamed for his eventual demise, it clearly would have to be the car! Still want to hear this thing?
Warren Haynes: Man In Motion (Stax / Fantasy) Believe me, the last thing in the world I thought I'd be writing is that one of the week's very best new releases is the solo album by Warren Haynes--the guitarist who between his band Gov't Mule, his work with Allman Brothers and the Dead, and his unrepentant hippie hairstyle, has to be the very antithesis of present-day fashion--yet here's the absolute truth: If this dude had slicked-back hair, was 20 years old, and released this album on the modern-day equivalent of England's Demon Records, say, it would be universally acclaimed as a masterwork of contemporary blue-eyed soul, the showcasing of a tremendous artist working at the same aesthetic level as Robert Palmer and Frankie Miller, and pretty dang funky to boot! It's quite good! I am indubitably impressed, both with the man's singing and, of course, his guitar playing, his skill, strength and stamina, and the pacing of this very good, very strong album! Buy it today because it's the right thing to do!
Booker T. Jones: The Road From Memphis (Anti-) Speaking of Stax, which we just were, take a gander at the latest from Stax keyboard legend Booker T. Jones, whose work from its inception to 2011 retains an almost freakishly consistent level of taste, consistency and metronomic precision! He's not bad! This latest set features an unexpected but fascinating cover of Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy," guest appearances by stellar Detroit guitarist Dennis Coffey, My Morning Jacket's Jim James, and--on album closer "The Bronx"--a vocal by Lou Reed! Somewhere within the wacky garage in which I'm penning this sits an early recording of the Velvet Underground performing a track called "Booker T," so all is right with the world, the circle is unbroken, and popular music can now come completely to a halt while we upload everything we own to some cloud or other and, at last, dance around naked the way we've always wanted to! It was all a dream!
Christopher Cross: Doctor Faith (Eagle) Oftentimes as a critic I find myself relying on the so-called "product descriptions" which sites like Amazon utilize to let consumers know precisely what they might be getting--and I have to admit, it's great! Don't know what to say? Let them help! "The album is by all means a new Christopher Cross masterpiece," they report, "and will surely match all expectations." Cool! I expect it to leap out of its CD case, fly to the center of my living room ceiling, emit a shining, pulsating light, and persistently howl at such a high frequency that I'll run out of my house and hide in my car! On the other hand, my next-door-neighbor, a longtime Christopher Cross fan, expects it to be great! And maybe we'll both be right! Frankly, it sounds perfectly fine to me, and if the dude wasn't stigmatized by being declared "best new artist " by the Grammy folks a few decades ago, we'd probably all think this was quite good, well-sung and well played, and make a few jokes about the album title and a certain DC Comics hero with a much manlier name! Later, perhaps predictably, we'd open up a box of Cracker Jacks and be cynical about the prize inside!
Wild Beasts: Smother (Domino) One of the U.K's better and more substantial bands--apparently they were up for some Mercury Prize thingie over there, which is no small deal--return now with their third LP, and it is quite good, a step-up from their laudable debut of a few years back, and a fine indication that unlike some of their more fashionable compatriots, they are not the sort of rockin' dudes that arrive with a big bang and then sadly, but inevitably, fade into oblivion! Nope, the songwriting here is consistently good, the lead singer still sounds like he's getting punched in the stomach while having root canal work done, and the album title--no small thing--is a synonym for a certain cause of death! Check, check and check! Buy it today!
AC/DC: Live At River Plate [DVD] (Columbia) A captivating science fiction film starring Aussie rockers AC/DC, Live At River Plate features the band performing in Buenos Aires during their 2009 so-called "Black Ice World Tour"--but here's the catch: The group has been shrunken to the size of small insects, and the "River Plate" of the title is, literally, a salad dish that is inadvertently being washed by a nearsighted housekeeper named Felix, who works for a wealthy couple living near the Salado River! Miniscule and horrified by the sight of the giant servant reaching for a bottle of Dove dishwashing liquid, the band play hits such as "Back In Black," "You Shook Me All Night Long," and, inevitably, "Highway To Hell"--all in hope that their loud, classic-rock shrieking will capture Felix's attention and ideally save them from the sudsy doom awaiting them! It's all for naught, though! The band dies in the end! But it's cool, because it's just a movie! I plan on watching this more than once!
The Wilderness Of Manitoba: When You Left The Fire (tinyOGRE) Years ago you had to seek out the tiny print on the back of an album jacket to discover that a band was from Canada--nothing wrong with that, mind you--but the bands' American record labels tended to gloss over that fact! These days, however, Canada is so ultrahip that some bands have actually started dropping the names of entire provinces! And so it is that Toronto's entirely compelling TWOM make their Stateside arrival, via an arty, excellent debut album certain to make the fact that Canadian drugstores sell codeine pain relievers across the counter the second most memorable aspect of our fascinating neighbor to the north! Great songs, great singing, nice textures: It must be that national health plan thing!
Nazareth: Big Dogs (Eagle) They've been around for years, and they've got a new guitarist now, but in the scheme of things Nazareth remain one of the best and most consistent hard rock bands out there. Blessed with good taste from the very beginning--whether it was selecting choice songs to cover and making them their own, or their own, creatively arranged material--the band has always had their own distinct sound, and in vocalist Dan McCafferty, a talented, top-level frontman. This new album focuses on live studio performance, with a minimum of overdubs, and considering it's coming a full 40 years after their debut album--you really couldn't ask for more. A fine showing. No lie!
Ooooo: Ooooo (Tri-Angle) There are few occasions in my life when I deeply miss my former life as a record store clerk--but just thinking about being behind the counter when some poor unsuspecting customer comes up and asks me whether we have this album gives me goosebumps!