As we approach the last shopping week of the year, what better time to focus on those artists who are masters of their craft? Those artists who have spent years and years confined in the studio, purposefully tweaking every gorgeous note of their masterworks--with no regard to commercial pressures--until, record companies be damned, their work is at last ready for public airing?
Yeah, what a great idea to focus on those kinds of artists!
And I think we all know that when it comes to those sort of artists--the ones who make music not for you or me but for the very eons themselves--we are most definitely talking about Chingy!
Oddly, a very bland rapper shares the same name!
Chingy: Hate It Or Love It (Disturbing Tha Peace/Def Jam) Better known to his elite posse as Chingington Butterworth III, young Mr. Chingy is featured here in all his glory, accompanied by Ludacris, Anthony Hamilton, Amerie, Bobby Valentino and others of similar repute, telling it like it is on such tracks as first single "Fly Like Me" on an album boldly titled Hate It Or Love It! If today's best music carries with it a brazen set of images, it may interest you to know that when I hear it, I am oddly reminded of an elderly woman offering me a bowl of cranberries during a holiday dinner; when I refuse them, the woman then catches the eyes of others around the table and sagely notes, "Cranberries--some people love 'em, and others hate 'em!" Ironically, turkey figures prominently here as well!
Mary J. Blige: Growing Pains (Matriarch/Geffen) I don't think there's any denying that Ms. Blige is the absolute tops when it comes to R&B singing in the 21st century, and this album--with its catchy single "Just Fine"--is a great showing for all concerned! I am inclined to doff my cap at any performer who has acquired a reputation for greatness purely on the basis of his or her ability, and Ms. Blige is among the most able humans currently performing on the planet! I would like to take her to dinner, buy her flowers, catch a movie together, and maybe even discuss my wayward political views with her, but that would be inappropriate!
KISS: KISSology: The Ultimate KISS Collection DVD Vol. 3 (1992-2000) (VH1 Classics) When it comes to all-time classic bands, there's the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and--I don't know--maybe the Beach Boys! On the other hand, this band KISS just seems to hang around way too long! Ever notice that? This four DVD set features the band playing live in 1992 and even way back in 1973--which I guess is interesting in some ways--but for the most part, I'm disappointed that it lacks the juicy meetings with accountants and record label executives that have been the lifeblood of this very colorful band! Further, I'd like to know more about their bold marketing maneuvers--like those KISS coffins for instance--and wouldn't mind some in-depth interviews with doctors about each band member's personal health! Band member Paul Stanley has compared the Kissology series to Martin Scorsese's Dylan film No Direction Home. Since both feature sound and moving pictures and are in English, I would have to completely agree!
Miles Davis: The Complete On The Corner Sessions (Sony Legacy) Though this has been out for a while, it's, uh, taken me a few months to figure out how to open its deluxe heavy metal packaging. Yeah, that's it! Anyone who followed the late trumpeter's recorded outings in real time will find this a very welcome document, as it collates mid-'70s recordings that eventually appeared on On The Corner, Get Up With It, and Big Fun, and lays them out in an artful, thoroughly enjoyable context that for six full discs sounds like one extended--and heavenly--document. Featuring a host of pioneering jazz and funk musicians and the simply stellar "He Loved Him Madly," this collection is the first of these amazing Davis boxes that seems less like an all-you-can-eat historical platter and more like a great big box of new sounds. Conspicuously absent? Chingy!
Jaheim: The Makings Of A Man (Atlantic) Must confess I haven't heard the new Jaheim CD, but like you I'm puzzled by reports that he's devoted every track on the disc to some sort of anatomy lesson; "pituitary gland" and "neocortex" aren't the sort of lyrical concerns you'd expect to preoccupy a highly regarded R&B singer! Hopefully Dario Argento won't be directing his videos!
The Pearlfishers: Up With The Larks (Marina German Import) Finally caught up with the latest album by one of my all-time favorite bands, Scotland's Pearlfishers, whose latest effort is a gorgeous collection of melodic pop in the Todd Rundgren/Brian Wilson/Carole King mode and is better than most everything I've heard in the last few months. Unfortunately, the album title and the music's evocations of the '60s makes me think of those "show us your Lark pack" TV commercials I was forced to witness as an easily influenced youth! Perhaps that's just me, though! Buy this and change music history!
Marvin Gaye: Here, My Dear: Expanded Edition (Hip-O Select) Yikes! Here it is, the absolute finest Marvin Gaye album ever, all beefed up, newly remastered, and worthy of the entire world's refocused attention. Not exactly a big seller upon its initial release, it's loaded with fabulous tunes and fantastic harmonies--and lyrically, it contains some of the most intense psychodrama ever put on vinyl, tape, or CD! Not enough room to go into the story of its creation, but let's just say this album rates a 10 on a scale of 1-10 and is one of the finest albums ever made by any living human on this planet! Even Trapt couldn't top it!
Bram Tchaikovsky: Strange Man, Changed Man (Hip-O Select) Speaking of unexpected reissues, who among us expected someone to put this out again? Containing apparent radio hit "Girl Of My Dreams," this UK dude left the (tremendously cool) Motors, released this debut solo album in 1979, and for a few minutes was the cat's meow, in a manner of speaking! Rock magazines told us his real name was Peter Bramall and that his hit single featured Mike Oldfield's actual tubular bells! Then they folded! Get my drift?
Lupe Fiasco: The Cool (1st & 15th/Atlantic) Bound to be a big seller--due to contractual commitment--this is the record everyone's going to be talking about! Is it because of the daring and conceptual narrative structure in which Mr. Fiasco assumes the personae of characters named Michael Young History, the Game and the Streets? Perhaps! Is it because of the guest appearances by Snoop Dogg and Fall Out Boy's Patrick Stump? Maybe! But I'm betting it's going to be because of the incredible track "Gotta Eat," which--according to a published reports-- "is apparently written from the perspective of a cheeseburger"! Hey, so is this!
Three 6 Mafia: Adventures In Hollywood DVD (Columbia) Hitchhiking to the movie capital of the world after their old jalopy breaks down, these unexpected hip-hoppers-turned-Oscar winners meet a mysterious stranger dressed as Charlie Chaplin--who takes them to a haunted house, a mysterious community of munchkins living underneath the Hollywood sign, and to the Disney studios, where they meet Mickey, Goofy and lovable Unca Scrooge! The unexpected cameos by Huntz Hall (isn't he dead?) and Gary Coleman are only part of the fun in store for viewers here! Make sure to turn your TV on!