New releases by Madonna, the Doors, former J. Geils Band singer Peter Wolf and the BoDeans conclusively prove that 2010 is really the '80s with a better health plan!
And in an era when record labels have voiced their interest in reducing the number of individual album tracks to "decrease consumer cost," and decided it might make better strategic sense to release a pair of "mini-albums" by a brand new artist in a given year--rather than a full-fledged debut set that might easily tank and lay all their plans to waste--I say why not?
After all, I'm saving all my money to buy the Ke$ha box set this Christmas!
Madonna: Sticky & Sweet CD/DVD (Warner Brothers) As time goes by, it becomes easier and easier to enjoy Madonna and value her enormous contribution to popular culture! This generous set--which captures the pop goddess in live performance in Argentina before 65 billion fans and includes both a CD and DVD--gives us all a chance to step back, hear such hits as "Like A Prayer" and enjoy them all over again, and decide once and for all that for all the focus that's been placed on her celebrity, her ability to make a great pop record has been somewhat underrated! Plus, she's good looking! Almost as good looking as the lady on her album cover!
Alizée: Une Enfant Du Siecle (Jive import) While we're on the subject of attractive female vocalists, let's not forget the long-awaited return of French pop singer Alizée--who at 25 has become something of an internet sensation in the last 10 years partly because of her dance skills, one must admit! Working with a cadre of French electro producers, the charming young vocalist returns with a smoother sound than displayed on her previous three CDs, but one no less appealing! Since most of the lyrics are in French, it's easy for English-speaking fans to simply gaze at her album cover and assume she's singing about how she'd really like to take a cruise to the States and maybe stop by your house to say hello and maybe share drinks and a few laughs, who knows? I mean, that's what I've been told! She's my favorite!
Slash: Slash (Dik Hayd) As one who has never been particularly fond of Guns N' Roses and thought Velvet Revolver to be a whole lot of nothing, I'd be pleased to announce that guitarist Slash--who played a major role in both bands--has finally found himself artistically and released an album that at last displays him as an instrumentalist who no longer slavishly imitates other older and better guitarists and depends on a silly top hot to assure himself iconic status in the world of rock cartoons! But instead, with a laundry list of guest vocalists that includes Ian Astbury, Ozzy Osbourne, Chris Cornell, Kid Rock, Fergie, Iggy Pop and Maroon 5's Adam Levine, he's crafted a record that sounds like a series of unrelated guest appearances on other people's albums! Still, it says here that "Slash is widely considered one of the greatest rock guitar players of all time," so I guess this must be lots better than it sounds! Having opinions is hard!
Peter Wolf: Midnight Souvenirs (Verve) Somewhere between the classic, hard-charging blues rock of the earliest J. Geils Band's albums and their later unexpected turn as pop singles makers with "Centerfold" and "Love Stinks" sits Peter Wolf, unexpectedly squeezed on both sides and now paper thin! His latest solo set, which bears his distinctive artwork and a number of guest vocalists including Merle Haggard, Shelby Lynne and Neko Case, Midnight Souvenirs is an enjoyable romp through bluesy Americana, R&B and country music and exactly the sort of thing you'd expect from a guy whose last CD was declared "one of the 500 greatest albums of all time" by Rolling Stone! I have them all on a shelf in my garage and pull that one out at least every year-and-a-half! In short, this new one is a quality production and very likely to rank in the Top 1000 in the mag's next ranking, certain to be coming in the next two years! Love may stink, but Peter Wolf, most assuredly, does not!
The Doors: When You're Strange: A Film About The Doors (Rhino) The soundtrack to Tom DeCillo's new film about the Doors is a worthy listen--interspersing various readings by actor Johnny Depp with interviews with band members and some captivating live tracks, most of which showcase the legendary band at their best. The biggest question of all may be whether the film will attract the younger audience whose major exposure to the band might easily be the Oliver Stone film--Val Kilmer as Jim Morrison--and set off yet another booming revival in Doors-mania, which seems to occur every decade or so and, from my perspective, with very good cause. And I think the time may be right.
Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings: I Learned The Hard Way (Daptone) It would've been difficult to believe a few years back that Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings and their religious stylistic recreations of the glory days of '60s soul and R&B would one day be at the commercial forefront of music, but the acclaim is growing by the day, and I Learned The Hard Way will likely be a hit. It doesn't hurt that the eight-piece Dap Kings are a terrific band, nor that Jones is an appealing, highly believable vocalist. Plus, everything else is boring, so, like why not? As the great philosopher William Preston once asked, "Will it go round in circles?" Later, he'd get a hamburger!
Jakob Dylan: Women & Country (Columbia) An interesting second album for Jakob Dylan--son of Bob, former Wallflower, and a talented hat-wearing songwriter himself! The new set--much less barebones than its predecessor Seeing Things--is sympathetically produced by T Bone Burnett and worthy of your attention if only for discerning precisely which woman and which country young Mr. Dylan is singing about! After an initial listen, I'm guessing the women are either Elly May Clampett or Courtney Love--but I'm positive the country is Bolivia! Find out for yourself!
Codeine Velvet Club: Codeine Velvet Club (Dangerbird) There's always a danger when a member of a popular band wanders off to do "a solo project" that if the project takes off commercially, the original band might be left hanging in the wind, broke, penniless and wondering what they did to deserve such a fate! At least theoretically, that is, because there are no recorded instances of that actually happening! But in this case, Jon Lawler, member of the Fratellis, has formed a group with Lou Hickey called the Codeine Velvet Club, and they are quite good, deliberately '60s evocative, and to my ears, considerably better than the Fratellis themselves! Check out tracks such as "Vanity Kills" and "Hollywood" and see if you don't agree! Everybody should do a solo project!
BoDeans: Mr. Sad Clown (429) They've got quite a history behind them, and Kurt Neumann and Sammy Llanas have had their name on several excellent albums as the BoDeans--particularly their 1986 debut Love & Hope & Sex & Dreams, which I just played a month or so ago! Unfortunately, whatever made the BoDeans special back in the mid-'80s isn't quite so discernible 25 years later with Mr. Sad Clown! Of course, back then I could hear in my right ear, days were exciting and nights even more so, and the guy who invented the internet kept leaving messages on my answering machine! Dope!
Dr. Dog: Shame, Shame (Anti-) A fabulous band now no longer allowed in the living room after the mess they made on the carpet! Larry & the Robots would have been such a better name!