It's been an eventful week in pop music, what with the sad passing of rock singer Ronnie James Dio--whose presence will certainly be missed--the re-release of the Rolling Stones' 1972 classic Exile On Main Street, and new albums by younger artists Janelle Monáe and LCD Soundsystem, both of whom seem poised for great things!
It's also been an interesting week for aquatic life in the Gulf Of Mexico!
Yep, in the scheme of things, new albums--whether in CD or vinyl configuration--and gaping ecological disasters that will have a profound effect on all of us for the remainder of our lives both rely on petroleum products to get their point across!
It's just one more reason why it may be best for all of us to stay inside with our doors closed until this whole music and "ecology" thing blows over!
As always, happy to help out!
The Rolling Stones: Exile On Main Street (Deluxe Edition) (Universal) One of the best things about the lovable Rolling Stones still being alive and kicking is that they can help promote things like this--a re-released version of the 1972 album many consider to be their best, boosted by 10 new tracks, ostensibly from the same era, and a separate DVD release of Stones In Exile, a new documentary featuring clips from the famous C**ksucker Blues film and the guys just clowning around in France, making music and worrying about the eventual threat of the Internet and its impact on the record industry! The new stuff is quite good, the "old stuff" sounds better than ever--I still love Jagger's bathroom-sounding vocal on "Sweet Virginia"--and the album only sounds better with age! Personally, I'd rather see the same treatment given to Their Satanic Majesties Request, but apparently that just makes one of us! Sort of sounds like Guns N' Roses, if each band member were replaced by members of the Rolling Stones!
LCD Soundsystem: This Is Happening (DFA/Virgin) There's a major buzz going on for this, the third album by these hip/culturally aware namedropping dudes with fascinating record collections, and that's fine by me! You know how it goes: All the really cool people were hip to their first album, they told all their friends, who love the second album, and now everyone wants their third album! Lead LCDboy James Murphy clearly has his finger on the cultural pulse, and nothing illustrates that better than fab track "Drunk Girls"--which I assure you sounds nothing at all like "Drunk And Hot Girls," "Drunk Girl," "Drunk Girls Dig Me," "Drunken Girl," "Drinking With The Girls," "Drunk Girlfriend," "Girls Don't Drink, "or the admittedly esoteric "Drink The Girl," all part of the existing pantheon of pop music and worthy playlist additions all! Warning to female readers: Don't date this guy!
Janelle Monáe: The ArchAndroid (Wondaland Arts Society) There's something to be said about a singer Grace Jones would probably find "too weird," but all bets are on these days for Janelle Monáe, whose earlier work impressed many, but with this--officially her debut album--she should be launched into the stratosphere, especially with that hat of hers! With famous names abounding--like OutKast's Big Boi, Nate Wonder, Sean "Doo-Wha-Diddy" Combs--and influences like (and I quote) "Salvador Dalí, Walt Disney, OutKast, Stevie Wonder, Octavia Butler, David Bowie, Andy Warhol, and John Williams," all she needs are a couple of catchy tunes, and the same America seduced by Lady Gaga will eat her weirdness right up! Bonus album title anagram: The Dr. Arachnoid!
Tracey Thorn: Love And Its Opposite (Merge) A pleasingly adult, thematically consistent album by admirable Brit singer Thorn, once of the Marine Girls and Everything But The Girl, this record is precisely what you need to listen to right now! Smooth, subtle, lyrically adept, featuring contributions from members of Hot Chip and the Invisibles among others, the album indirectly posits a world in which Thorn left the Marine Girls in the early '80s but never met future EBTG partner Ben Watt, both of whom would then go on to massive popular solo success--an '80s version of James Taylor and Carole King?--that would overshadow the eventual existence of hair metal and grunge and become future President Bush's favorite artists, who in his newly mellowed state would never think to invade Iraq, thus allowing the Mideast to simmer down and eventually rise to a level of prosperity that would ultimately result in--dare it be said?--unprecedented world peace! But of course that never happened! Nice album, though!
Nas And Damian "Jr. Gong" Marley: Distant Relatives (Universal Republic) What happens when rap meets reggae? They make a surprisingly artful album together, largely because even highly regarded hip-hop stars don't quite know how to act around guys nicknamed "Jr. Gong"! I mean, would you? In a world where "Jah Rule" makes apparent grammatical sense, what should we make of "Nah Mean"? Is rap really that nasty? And given that Nas is the son of jazz musician Olu Dara and Jr. Gong's father was Bob Marley, what does the "distant" in that album title mean? Give up? It means that I've written just enough sentences to make this look like a meaningful record review! It's all about appearances, babe!
Band Of Horses: Infinite Arms (Brown/Fat Possum) From its opening track "Factory," Infinite Arms lets listeners know this is no ordinary Band Of Horses album! For starters, how glue is actually manufactured really isn't on most people's minds these days--but if Trigger, Fury and wisecracking Mr. Ed have anything to do with it, 3M will soon be seeing its Scotch tape sales soar! While some neigh-sayers out there feel the group is still feeling its oats...um...(et cetera)...No, this is actually a nice album, why saddle these guys with a moronic review? Next up: a collaboration with power-poppers the Shoes!
Hot Tuna: Live At The New Orleans House, Berkeley, CA September 1969 (Collector's Choice) While the post-Volunteers Jefferson Airplane albums have dated poorly, and offshoot band Hot Tuna's records got less interesting as they went more and more electric, it's funny how the latter band's quietly intense acoustic debut album sounds better and better with time. This set of previously unreleased performances by guitarist Jorma Kaukonen and bassist Jack Casady comes from the same live sessions that produced that original Tuna debut and, predictably, sounds nearly as good. Featuring songs that would appear on that album ("Death Don't Have No Mercy") and the electrified ones that would follow ("Keep On Truckin'"), this collection would have been a redundancy 40 years ago but sounds like a priceless piece of work in 2010. Check it out!
Otis Redding: Live On The Sunset Strip (Stax) Likewise, this 2-CD set of unreleased live recordings by soul legend Otis Redding--all recorded during three sets on "the Sunset Strip" (one hopes he was in an actual venue)--might've been a bit much during the singer's too-brief lifetime, as there are many song redundancies. But that said, there are too few recordings of the man, not a single song interpretation sounds like another, and the mix of his classics like "Respect," "Mr. Pitiful" and "I Can't Turn You Loose" with the likes of "Papa's Got A Brand New Bag" and "A Hard Day's Night" is refreshing any way you look at it. Would love to see more the Stax Records archives unveiled.
The Black Keys: Brothers (Nonesuch) It's hard to argue with the deliberately rockin' minimalism of Akron's Black Keys, as the duo--guitarist Dan Auerbach and drummer Patrick Carney--can simply claim to be avant-garde whenever they play a bum note! As a guy who has to write a blog about new releases each and every week, I can relate to that! Still, if they're going to give us an album cover bearing nothing but the words "This is an album by The Black Keys. The name of this album is Brothers" and top it off with a Nonesuch Records logo last seen in the early '70s, how about adding "But this record is not being released with a budget list price, as was our label's norm back when this logo was first used"? Next up: the Odyssey and Westminster Gold sessions!
Bo Bice: 3 (Sugar Money) It is nice to know that there is life after American Idol! Also wheaties, cheerios, and--eventually--unemployment checks!