While it may seem a tad early to start wishing everyone a happy holiday, you won't feel that way when you take a look at the new Christmas albums being issued this week!
Everyone from the likes of Bob Dylan, Neil Diamond, Sugarland, David Archuleta and even Charlie Daniels have new product in the stores--and are standing under the mistletoe awaiting the kiss that only your hard-earned dollars might bring!
So perhaps now wouldn't be the time to bring up the fact that these albums--if purchased either in the vinyl or compact disc configuration--are comprised of polyvinyl chloride and polycarbonate plastics, both toxic substances certain to outlive all of humanity on our wondrous Planet Earth, and, all things considered, probably not the wisest of holiday choices for those among us who are ecologically minded!
Perhaps a bag of walnuts might make a better gift!
Oh, well--just a thought!
Bob Dylan: Christmas In The Heart (Columbia) It's hard to quibble with Bob Dylan's generosity in donating all proceeds from this--his 47th album--to the Feeding America charity, which apparently may provide meals for more than 1.4 million people during this holiday season! That said, I'm not entirely certain the version of "Here Comes Santa Claus" I heard while growing up mentioned that Santa wore a leopard-skin pillbox hat, or that the three wise men in "The First Noel" brought gifts of fog, amphetamine and pearls! Still, the plight of the anonymous steelworker driven to crime in album closer "O' Little Town Of Bethlehem" resonates with the classic biting wit that has made Dylan a popular music icon for centuries!
Sugarland: Gold And Green (Mercury Nashville) The beloved country duo return just months after their recent retailer-exclusive live CD with their very first Christmas album, and what an album it is! Featuring classics like "Holly Jolly Christmas," "Winter Wonderland" and the exotic "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel," it's enough to make even the most hardened of cynical record reviewers point out that gold and green are in fact the colors one often sees when looking at a Christmas tree rather than a now overflowing safe deposit box! Nice cover, too!
The Flaming Lips: Embryonic (Warner Brothers) For several albums now, the wonderful Flaming Lips have been treading that fine line between musical experimentation and all-out hooky pop songs--and I'm pleased to report that they've thrown the latter completely out the window with their latest album, which opens with a track oddly reminiscent of Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd and only then gets weird! Among the many surprises are a guest appearance by Yeah Yeah Yeah's vocalist Karen O, who provides "animal sounds and noises" intriguingly in a different key then those she supplies on her own albums, and an album cover that merely looking at dooms one's soul to eternal damnation! Need I mention it's part of Warner Music's Green initiative?
Mario: D.N.A. (J Records) A quick look at Amazon's page for this album tells all! The product description? It's his "best album to date!" It features a track called "Before She Said Hi featuring Big Sean," admittedly a puzzling mouthful for her or anyone else! The album cover pretty much spells out that the singer is, in fact, Spiderman! And additional consumer opportunities include a chance to play Super Mario and links to five other great Mario games! If only those clowns did their research--they'd point out that the letters on the album cover are anagrams for "Radio Man," "Aroma Din," and the unsettling "Rod Mania"! It's all as good as it sounds!
Dead By Sunrise: Out Of Ashes (Reprise) The first album by the "side project" of Linkin Park singer Chester Bennington, featuring the man alongside members of Julien-K--hope that explains everything--is a rockin' good time, featuring upbeat tracks "Condemned," "Too Late," "Let Down," "My Suffering," and the lighthearted "End Of The World"! Fans of Linkin Park should naturally embrace this, but don't be surprised if fans of the Grateful Dead and Grand Funk Railroad give it a listen as well! At least for a few minutes!
Daryl Hall & John Oates: Do What You Want, Be Who You Are: The Music Of Daryl Hall & John Oates (RCA Legacy) A much-needed 4 CD collection of the best works of famous Philly duo Hall & Oates, this great set puts in one place the pair's best works from all the stages of their career, including their largely lesser-heard work for Atlantic Records, and it's a very convincing document! From their early hit "She's Gone" through "Sara Smile," "Rich Girl," and "Maneater," the group's consistency through the last several decades has been little short of phenomenal--and more importantly, for all the retro thrills tracks like "I Can't Go For That (No Can Do)" might provide, it, like every other track here, really doesn't sound dated in the least! With 16 previously unissued tracks, great liner notes, and several hours of music to be had, this is one of the year's best collections by definition! Check Wikipedia!
Brian Setzer Orchestra: Songs From Lonely Avenue (Surfdog) In the mood for a bunch of original, guitar-driven songs that evoke the great film noir soundtracks of the '40s and '50s--all put together by the man who rose to fame by evoking the past with the Stray Cats 30 years ago? No? Want to watch a movie? No? Want to call your mom? No? Well then, what do you want to do?
The Temper Trap: Conditions (Glassnote) An admirable debut album from an Australian group who got significant attention via "Sweet Disposition," their contribution to the (500) Days Of Summer soundtrack! Acknowledged influences by the Melbourne-based band include Prince, Massive Attack, U2 and Radiohead, but don't hold that against them--those bands have influenced me too! Successfully riding the wave of strategic song placements to growing critical international acclaim, the Temper Trap could be right up your alley! Literally!
Harper Simon: Harper Simon (Vagrant) If I were Harper Simon, I'd probably want people to hear him the way I did: I just plopped in the CD and simply liked what I heard! Quite a bit! Only later did I find out that the dude is the son of Paul Simon, that he appeared on Sesame Street when he was 4 years old singing "Bingo" with his pop, and that the offspring of Lowell George, Charlie Haden and John Lennon are also on this album! Cool! Now that you know who his dad is, you can hear a few echoes on tracks like "Wishes And Stars," true--but there's nothing here that isn't all his, and it's very good indeed! Check him out!
Bowling For Soup: Sorry For Partyin' (Jive) As always, any band that pictures themselves swimming in a toilet bowl on their album cover deserves serious critical attention! Don't forget the Smiths!