Right around now is the most exciting time of the year for new record releases!
Why? Because record companies need to wheel out all their big releases for the fourth quarter--to show that even if the past nine months have been a study in abject sales misery, they still have what it takes to produce the sort of sales winners they need to wrap up the year looking good!
As result, new box sets by superstars fill the racks alongside hot new discs by the holy triumvirate of Mariah Carey, Barbra Streisand and Ghostface Killah!
And luckily for consumers, recent quality control measures instituted by all the major labels have now made it a matter of policy that all new releases are simply great--with no filler, no wasted tracks, and no cause for regret among consumers brave enough to plop down top dollar for their beloved superstars!
And meanwhile? Hey--the new television season looks fabulous!
Mariah Carey: Memoirs Of An Imperfect Angel (Island Def Jam) I think we all knew this album was going to be a masterpiece when we discovered that the irresistible force that is Mariah Carey was going to cover the immovable object that is Foreigner's "I Want To Know What Love Is"...but then we forgot! Yet sure enough, the famous singer--now so good-looking she must by law appear on all her album covers three times--is back, working with The-Dream and Tricky Stewart, making videos with director Brett Ratner and, like most of us, dressing up like Eminem simply for the heck of it! An album so good it had to be spread over two discs--after all, those extra four mixes of "Obsessed" really help get the point across--Memoirs is all any of us could ever hope for in a Mariah Carey album! As an added bonus, the deluxe set includes a 36-page Elle "mini-magazine" featuring the complete scoop about MC plus--with any luck--fabulous advertisements prompting all of us to buy even more related product! Any way you look at it, it's the deal of the century!
Barbra Streisand: Love Is The Answer (Columbia) As always a step ahead of the competition, La Streisand answers the younger Ms. Carey's questions regarding "what love is" with the very title of her long-awaited new album--a brilliant simultaneous nod to the works of England Dan & John Ford Coley and Todd Rundgren's Utopia and the answer to the nagging question, "What was the name of the band formed by L.A. rocker Arthur Lee in the mid-'60s?"! A deluxe 2-CD set featuring the legendary singer in both orchestral and quartet settings, singing standards such as "Here's That Rainy Day," "If You Go Away," "Some Other Time," and "You Must Believe In Spring," the album also features a fabulous back cover picture of a cute dog staring at consumers, urging all of us--as only dogs can--to buy its Master's record so things will be stress-free at home! In short, fans of Maroon 5 should completely dig this!
Ghostface Killah: Ghostdini: Wizard Of Poetry (Def Jam) In his own way as legendary as Mariah Carey, Barbra Streisand and--I don't know--Breaking Benjamin, the Wu-Tang Clan's Ghostface Killah keeps coming back for more, treating all of us longtime fans to a non-stop assortment of intriguing raps, fascinating duets with illustrious partners, and inspirational album covers that--as is always his purpose--drive home the truism that there's no place like home! Even if you have to stumble through miles of poppy fields to get there! With guests like John Legend, Fabolous and Raheem DeVaughn, Wizard Of Poetry is loaded to the gills with the sort of hi-cred rapping and singing that will impress not only fans of Mariah, Barbra and Breaking, but maybe his fans as well! It's tough to say! My favorite track is "Paragraphs Of Love," but I may be reading too much into it!
Alice In Chains: Black Gives Way To Blue (Virgin) I can't say I was massively looking forward to this album--the band's first in 14 years, without original lead singer Layne Staley--but you know what? It's pretty good! With the addition of new guitarist/vocalist William DuVall, original bandmembers Jerry Cantrell, Sean Kinney and Mike Inez have put back together a combo that plays intense, emotional rock 'n' roll pretty convincingly! Hey, between you and me, 14 years is a long time! I completely forgot what Alice In Chains sounded like! But I think it was something like this, except for more surface noise! Packed to the brim with radio friendly hits like "Check My Brain," "Acid Bubble" and "Private Hell," this may be the album that makes the "Seattle Sound" famous! Plus, they have good coffee!
Miranda Lambert: Revolution (Columbia Nashville) I've got nothing but praise for this, the third album by country charmer Miranda Lambert--who sings, writes and performs with the very best of them and seems more like she makes records because she's good instead of just good-looking! So there's really be no point to photoshopping the name "Paris Hilton" over her name on the cover and telling your friends it's a great new Beatles tribute album just for kicks! Destined to debut at No. 1 on the country charts, Revolution is great--it's tuneful, charismatic, and solid through and through! At least at room temperature!
AFI: Crash Love (Tiny Evil/Interscope) A lot of people's eyes were opened back in late 2006 when AFI's decemberunderground entered the charts at No. 1! "Holy smokes," they exclaimed," don't these guys know how to punctuate?" Well, they're back with their eighth album, they're ready to fight the good fight against naysayers who claim that AFI stands for Air Force Intellectuals, and some contend they're more fascinating than ever! "The record is really more about how the great attraction to inappropriately shared intimacies, carefully constructed personas, and the loss of a sense of self can affect an entire world," explains colorful AFI vocalist Davey Havok, whose name certainly explains much about his own sense of self! Unless his mother was mean! Intense, ice cold, and bubbling over into occasional frenzy, Dr. Pepper would be a great soft drink to enjoy while listening to this!
Brookville: Broken Lights (Unfiltered) Make a point of checking out the third album by Brookville, the group headed by producer/multi-instrumentalist Andy Chase--who between his other band Ivy and his production work with many more hip artists has had a hand in some of the finest albums of the last 15 years! No lie! This latest disc is dreamy, meditative, features a cover of the Go-Betweens' "Haunted House," sounds more like a male-fronted Ivy than any of the previous albums, and is the sort of thing people will be listening to in 20 years or so! Unless they find the band name so nondescript they can't find it filed anywhere! It happens!
Breaking Benjamin: Dear Agony (Hollywood) Just as the critically lauded TV On The Radio made the bold move of making an album completely dedicated to an impressive intellectual discipline--Dear Science was a great record!--rockers Breaking Benjamin have apparently cast aside their more pedestrian fixations on actress Goldie Hawn and moved on to addressing a much more unpleasant and far-reaching concept! With 12 great tracks including "Into The Nothing," "Hopeless," "I Will Not Bow" and "Hopeless," this peppy collection will undoubtedly rile Agony somewhat---though as an idea rather than an actual object, it of course has no means to respond! Wow!
Hope Sandoval & The Warm Inventions: Through The Devil Softly (Nettwerk) As appealing and low-keyed as she was while singing with Mazzy Star, Hope Sandoval returns triumphantly, her voice drenched in soft reverb, with sliding guitars and the sort of music you sometimes hear in psychedelic '60s movies before everybody's acid kicked in! It's great! Younger Beach House fans will like this; older Beach House fans won't realize there's a band with the same name! Music journalist hint: If you ever interview her, bring lots of questions!
Paramore: Brand New Eyes (Fueled By Ramen) A long-awaited new album by rock's latest new superstars, produced by Green Day/My Chemical Romance/Kid Rock producer Rob Cavallo? Featuring a visually appealing lead singer and a sound just oozing with commerciality? Heck, buy a pair or more!