Apologies for being a day late in posting this blog, but I have a valid excuse!
Last night, at about 9:30, I was just about to start writing it, but first decided to think about what I might be writing. Then, like you, I simply fell asleep!
But I'm wide awake now, 24 hours later, and newly enthused by a touching reader's comment on last week's post!
"This really is a confusing blog," said young reader Alicia. "I'm going to try to forget that I even read it."
Trust me, Alicia--I don't even remember who wrote it!
Jimi Hendrix: Valleys Of Neptune, Are You Experienced, Axis: Bold As Love, Electric Ladyland, First Rays Of The New Rising Sun (all on Experience Hendrix/Legacy) I remember when I was back working at Billboard a millennium ago and wrote a piece pointing out that even back then I owned maybe five different versions of Hendrix's classic Electric Ladyland, all of which theoretically sounded better than the last, and I wondered how many more would come before they got it right. Dream on, dunderhead! This must be my fourth or fifth new version since then (1988 or so), and they keep on coming! This new Hendrix reissue series does indeed sound superb, and yes, does feature the hand of original engineer Eddie Kramer, and likewise features some interesting video content on the bonus DVDs accompanying all the reissues. Otherwise, not much to say that hasn't been said about the certified classics here--mainly the three released during the late guitarist's lifetime (Are You Experienced, Axis: Bold As Love, Electric Ladyland)--except that aside from hits like "Purple Haze" and "Foxey Lady," nothing here really seems to have dated at all. I've always preferred Axis, personally, maybe because it's the first one I actually bought. Otherwise, the real hubbub is over the never-before-officially-released material on Valleys Of Neptune, a nice, solid collection of studio work purporting to document that period when Hendrix was moving away from his Experience band and deliberately getting a bit "artier." Recording quality is excellent, the playing at times slightly sloppy, but the variety of material is interesting, and the "focused" quality of the project--with a million bootleg sessions floating out there, there was a real effort to make an album out of this stuff--makes it fairly significant. Frankly, you should buy them all and renounce all music recorded after 1970!
Gorillaz: Plastic Beach (Virgin) Would be nice if I could share in all the enthusiasm about this new Gorillaz album, but that would mean I'd have to like it first! And it sounds like a great big mess! Rich boys in the studio! Invite everybody possible to the session! Lou Reed, Mark E Smith, Mos Def, Bobby Womack, Mick Jones & Paul Simonon, De La Soul! Others! Just like the "band" itself, this is a bunch of cartoon music that when it's good--and it is, occasionally--simply has to be an accident! That being said, I should probably point out that of all those big Britpop bands of a decade ago, I was never particularly fond of Blur--the lead singer of which, of course is Head Gorilla Damon Albarn. Did I miss the boat then and am I missing it even now? (Thinks deeply, opens can of soda, takes a sip) Umm...Nope!
Ludacris: Battle Of The Sexes (Disturbing Tha Peace) Every once in a while, when someone asks me to name a rapper I like, I mention Ludacris and they look at me, consider, nod as if to signify that's a valid choice, and then I ruin it all! I tell them my absolute favorite rapper is Soulja Boy Tellum! He is a giant, I maintain! Then they walk away! It's great! Meanwhile, good ol' Ludacris is back, with an excellent disc loaded with fabulous tracks entitled--and this is why I like him--"My Chick Bad," "Everybody Drunk," "I Do It All Night," "Sex Room," and the tense but uplifting "I Know You Got A Man"! Guests? We've got 'em--including personal fave Nicki Minaj, Ne-Yo, Lil' Kim, and Ciara, among others! Despite rumors, there's absolutely no male and female wrestling on this disc, nor do Luda and his female guests compete to see who can bake the finest casserole--you just know Nicki Minaj would be all over that!--but there's enough excitement to last at least a complete hour! And if you can last an hour, clearly you're a winner!
Broken Bells: Broken Bells (Columbia) An unexpected collaboration by James Mercer of the Shins and Brian Burton--better known to his mom as Dangermouse--this set is surprisingly good, filled with catchy, well-arranged songs of substance, and is intelligent without being ironic! Huh? Clearly, it was released by mistake! Let's deliberately not buy it and wait for next year's deluxe edition!
Josh Rouse: El Turista (Yep Roc) Poor Josh Rouse! His friends invited him on their sailboat for a picnic and ditched him when he wasn't looking! Luckily, in the interim, he recorded this excellent new album! What's it all about? Check his bio! "'I know it's kind of funny, this Midwestern guy doing Brazilian songs in Spanish,' says Josh Rouse about his new studio album, El Turista. 'I don't know if it fits, but I like the way it feels.'" Hey it sounds great, dude--great playing, great song selection, great record to drop on the turntable when that "special someone" is over and looking for someone with intelligence and depth! Tell her you don't know anyone like that, but meanwhile how about a couple of drinks and some Michael Franks? Usually works like a charm!
The Chieftains featuring Ry Cooder: San Patricio (Fantasy/Concord) When I think of Mexican music, how can I not think of the Chieftains? Yep, this pioneering band has done it again, crafting a surprisingly sturdy project apparently on the Irish Battalion that joined the Mexican army in the Mexican-American War of the 19th century! (If you say so, dudes, they didn't teach us this stuff in history class!) Cooder, mostly here in the role as co-producer, shows up playing on three or four tracks and brings Linda Ronstadt and Van Dyke Parks along for the ride; it all sounds groovy, and not incidentally, strangely hyperactive! In short: Great soundtrack for thirsty listeners on St. Patrick's Day!
Serj Tankian: Elect The Dead Symphony (Serjical Strike/Reprise) God knows what I was expecting when I first got this CD in my hand, but I have to say--I am impressed! Incredibly, System Of A Down mainman Tankian went down to New Zealand and performed his Elect The Dead album with a full orchestra, and the thing is--his "unique" voice is perfectly suited to the mock-operatics needed to front the extra-large band! I actually think he could bring in a significant number of new fans who, sadly, might be intimidated by the howling roar of his former band! Rock on orchestrally, dude!
Selena: La Leyenda (Capitol Latin/EMI) People too young to have experienced the vivid loss of Tejano singer Selena--who in 1995 was murdered in hometown of Corpus Christi, Texas--can get much of the story here, with this excellent anthology of her hits. Available in a 2-CD, single disc and 4-CD configurations, the collection spotlights both a voice and energy that are illuminating and very obviously captivating--her fan base, vocal and attentive, continues to grow 15 years later. A tragic loss any way you look at it.
The Morning Benders: Big Echo (Rough Trade) I find myself playing this album quite a bit; the songs are good, the instrumentation varied, subtleties are everywhere, and the dudes--from Berkeley, California--are produced here by Billboard Chart superstars Grizzly Bear to great effect! Highly recommended for the heck of it!
Liars: Sisterworld (Mute) People either seem to love or hate the Liars! It's great! If they've actually heard them, no one actually has no opinion about them! I envy them! This new album is equal parts dense, throbbing and ambitious, and ultimately worth more than a few listens, especially played loudly! "We're interested in the alternate spaces people create in order to maintain identity in a city like LA," say the Liars. Dudes, I'm writing this in an enclosed garage that used to be a carport!
Titus Andronicus: The Monitor (XL Recordings) A disturbing rock opera in which a group of teenagers get together, form a band with a really cool name, find a monitor in the woods that allows them to listen to conversations that took place in the past, and ultimately discover that "Andronicus" means "Ass" in Latin! The heartbreaking finale? What "Titus" means!