It's a strong week of new releases--indicating that however ailing the record industry may be, there are still artists who command respect, command adoration, and command that you buy their brand new records today!
We've got icons from the '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s--and Michael Bolton!
We've got hip bands from the new millennium, striving to maintain their momentum and remain as relevant as their press releases say they are!
And we've got a date with destiny!
Court Yard Hounds: Court Yard Hounds (Columbia) This week's biggest news may be the release of the new album by the Court Yard Hounds--that is, Emily Robison and Martie Maguire, known in some quarters as two-thirds of the Dixie Chicks! And while it's a thoroughly excellent record, I'd be remiss in not mentioning the very large question its release brings up: Were they both not in school they day everyone learned "courtyard" was one word and not two? All told, this is a tasteful, credible set which will set the stage for a later solo album by the absent Natalie Maines, an even later "reunion" album and tour, still more solo albums, a farewell tour, and finally, a happy and self-satisfied retirement in the Cayman Islands! Yep, it's that good!
Carole King & James Taylor: Live At The Troubadour (Hear Music/Concord) The joint appearance of this iconic '70s pair at LA's Troubadour club was a big deal in these parts when it happened--largely because of the many car crashes resulting when drugged-up drivers saw the pair's name on the marquee and thought they'd only imagined the past 40 years! Sure enough, this joyous reunion features a veritable truckload of fond memories for the boomer set, including "It's Too Late," "Fire And Rain," "I Feel The Earth Move," and of course the inevitable "You've Got A Friend"! It's all well-performed, filled with good vibes, and enough to make fans at least temporarily forget that their kids are all grown up now and off to college, they've got a lot of time on their hands, and they could easily have another scotch or two before driving home without getting in trouble!
Godsmack: The Oracle (Universal Republic) I've always had some degree of respect for Godsmack--in the same manner you might respect the really big, quiet guy in your homeroom who tells the football players to get out his face when they ask him to try out for the team! That said, I never really ever wanted to hang out with that guy either! But these long-lived rockers deserve kudos for lots of things, most recently for this album's first single, "Cryin' Like A Bitch"--which, astoundingly, is apparently "blowing the doors off rock radio," no small feat for a radio format which is, after all, only conceptual and thus has no windows or doors whatsoever! Any band with a lead singer named Sully Erna has my vote!
Michael Bolton: One World One Love (Universal) & Live At Royal Albert Hall DVD (Eagle Rock Entertainment) A long time ago when I was a credible music journalist, I was shipped out to Pittsburgh to not only interview Michael Bolton but--to provide "color" for the piece--was given the opportunity to accompany him as a "guard" when he wandered into the audience mid-set! My role--along with several other tall-ish thugs--was to encircle him and protect him from the oodles of middle-aged female fans who wanted to touch, fondle or otherwise accost him! In short, it was the peak experience of my life! From that point forward, I've always admired the man and felt that he'd been short-shrifted, critically speaking, for both his abilities and his musical contributions! Hopefully this pair of new releases--a CD featuring contributions from Ne-Yo and Lady Gaga and an exemplary DVD showcasing the singer at London's Royal Albert Hall--will change that score! A dandy Mother's Day gift? You bet!
Deftones: Diamond Eyes (Reprise) It's been a while since we last heard from the Deftones, and admittedly much has happened since then! So is there still a place for loud, abrasive and emotional bands who sing songs with titles like "You've Seen The Butcher," "Sextape" "976-EVIL" and "This Place Is Death"? Absolutely! The place is a small series of caves between Columbus and Delaware, Ohio called Olentangy Indian Caverns! It's really dark, there's lots of reverb, and they can always drive a few miles north to Ohio Wesleyan University and grab a beer or two at a nearby bar! And if they make it home in time, the Lifetime Channel is showing reruns of Medium!
John Grant: Queen Of Denmark (Bella Union) After listening to the advance of this album for about three months, I sort of want to slap myself in the face for only getting around to reviewing it now--it came out a few weeks ago--so forgive me: It may be my favorite album of the year. Grant, former lead singer of the Czars, is a massive unsung talent both as a vocalist and a songwriter, and this set--recorded with Texas crit faves Midlake--borders on the astounding. An unforgettable mixture of wit, bitterness, irony and dada, the songs mix pop culture figures ("Sigourney Weaver"), self-loathing ("Silver Platter Club") and righteous anger ("Jesus Hates Faggots") together in an eye-opening, thought-provoking manner I've really never heard before. Massively great!
Justin Currie: The Great War (Ryko) Feels good to hear something new from Justin Currie, the former lead singer with Scotland's Del Amitri, who was a worthy talent in the '80s and '90s and remains one even more so now! His melodic sensibilities are still sharp, and his song lyrics--mostly about relationships--boast a maturity and assuredness that all the intervening years couldn't help but provide! That said, I personally don't think war is so great, but it would be impolite to quibble with a guy who's been doing this so long!
Frank Sinatra & Antonio Carlos Jobim: Sinatra/Jobim: The Complete Reprise Recordings (Concord) The historic '60s collaborations between two musical icons--Frank Sinatra and Brazil's legendary Jobim--are lovingly gathered here together in one set, and 40 years later they still sound remarkable. Sinatra's interpretations of Jobim's many classics--"The Girl From Ipanema," "How Insensitive," and "One Note Samba" among the most prominent--helped introduce the works to a mainstream US audience, and the songs have since become worldwide standards. Featuring three bonus tracks, this is about as close to indispensable as Sinatra albums get.
The Art of the LP: Classic Album Covers 1955-1995 (Sterling) I'm as sentimental as the next guy, so forgive me if I pour myself a drink, thumb through this colorful and well-assembled study of classic album covers, and remember the old days when men were men, horses were horses, whisky was cheap, and album covers were 12" X 12"! Organized around such themes as Death, Drugs, Ego, Sex, etc., this collection pairs album covers in a creative (albeit unexpected) manner, includes informative discourse about the showcased works, and then abruptly cuts off after 1995, since it is generally agreed that everything since then has been no good! Perfect for those enlightened few among us who now review albums by saying it "looks great"!
The Fall: Your Future Our Clutter (Domino) Longtime fans of this unique band will be pleased to hear it sounds like "classic" Fall! Heck, so does October in the Upper Peninsula, dudes!