I don't know about you, but as far as I'm concerned this must be the most exciting week in music history!
Why? Well, because the recently televised award show by the Academy of Country Music featured an array of guests that proved to be the most enthralling ever!
Why? Because in the tradition of Hank Williams, Patsy Cline and other celebrated country greats, America was blessed with a batch of guest stars that finally put country music on the map of American popular culture!
And thus--if you'll forgive me for breaking with a layout tradition that this blog has maintained for 186 consecutive posts--I'd now like to introduce a special guest star that may make this the most widely-read blog in New This Week's history! Ready?
This week's special guest star: Rihanna!
Next week? Rather than focus on new album releases, I've decided to devote next week's post to the best carwashes in California's San Fernando Valley! And I don't want to promise anything I can't deliver...but I understand American Idol's Steven Tyler drives a car!
Robbie Robertson: How To Become Clairvoyant (Macro-Biotic/429) The fifth solo album by the legendary leader of classic rockers the Band has arrived--and it's filled with great songs, a guest list including the likes of Eric Clapton, Steve Winwood, Tom Morello, Trent Reznor and Robert Randolph, among others, and instructions that--rather incredibly--will allow those who purchase the album to become an actual mind-reader! The tracks--admittedly an unusually-named lot--include several classics-to-be, including "Eat Lots Of Carrots," "Study Those ESP Cards With Five Images Including The Wavy Lines," "Listen To A Lot Of Late-Period Incredible String Band," and the spectacularly understated "Literally Change Your Name"! Word is Robertson's planned follow-up will come with a set of x-ray glasses that will allow consumers to see through walls or--are you listening, ladies?--other things!
Hollywood Undead: American Tragedy (A&M/Octone) When it comes to great American rap-rock bands whose entire persona is based around wearing hockey masks and having great stage names like Charlie Scene, Da Kurtzz, Danny, Funny Man, J.Dog, and Johnny 3 Tears, Hollywood Undead may be among the two or three best! This great new album, featuring killer tracks like "Gangsta Sexy," "Been To Hell," and "I Don't Wanna Die"--apparently their concert classic "They Call Me Effeminate, But Then They Don't Even Read The Newspaper" will remain unreleased!--rocks so hard it will make your eyes water! Don't listen to naysayers who tell you that's purely a function of your subconscious ultimately realizing life will never again be as great as it was five years ago! After all, only dorks say "nay" instead of "no"!
Hot Tuna: Steady As She Goes (Red House) One can't say the world has been conspicuously clamoring for a brand new Hot Tuna album, yet this--the band's first studio recording in 20 years--is precisely that! A new Hot Tuna album! Featuring former Jefferson Airplane mainstays Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady, a wealth of hard-charging, bluesy rock 'n' roll and an actual tattoo--seriously, it's a freebie enclosed in the package--the album is a welcome blast of music that is excellently performed and surprisingly entertaining! Because the band's music is blues-based and by definition timeless, it's surprisingly supple, removed from all contextual cues that might render it meaningless in a few short years, and ultimately worthy enough to make me want to follow them on Twitter!
Leon Russell: The Best Of Leon Russell (Capitol/EMI) About every five years or so, I like to listen to all the acclaimed masters of rock--the Beatles, Rolling Stones, the Doors, Pink Floyd, Linkin Park--and re-evaluate their worth! And in light of Leon Russell's recent return to the spotlight--just one more thing we have Elton John to thank for!--the time has come to listen to Mr. Russell himself, who cut a legendary figure in the late '60s and early '70s then perhaps involuntarily wandered off, waiting to be re-listened to in 2011! The verdict? He's quite good! He was then, and is now! Admittedly his voice takes some getting used to--it's kind of quirky--and his whole looking-like-Jesus thing is a bit off-putting, but with classics like "This Masquerade," "A Song For You" and "Tight Rope" under his belt, he seems quite substantial and a good kind of guy to have around, especially since it's been a while since the last Chili Peppers record! I can't wait to appreciate him again in five more years!
The Kills: Blood Pressures (Domino) There's no denying that there's been a long-term buzz around the Kills, largely because their name is hip! The much-admired multi-national duo--seen on their new album cover photographed with their actual souls, a real coup!--return here with the fourth set, highlighted by opening track "Future Starts Slow," "Nail In My Coffin," and the predictably frisky "Pots And Pans," which finishes the album shortly before the trademark 20-second closing segment, as always featuring band members Jamie Hince and Alison Mosshart being brutally slain just for kicks and, of course, consistency with their well-chosen band name! I don't know why, but I'm thinking Osmonds!
Bill Evans: The Definitive Bill Evans On Riverside & Fantasy (Riverside/Concord) If you're like me and get off on impeccably played, cerebral jazz piano with a subtlety that will knock your socks off, then you could do no better than this great 2-CD compilation of the best works of pianist Bill Evans. Heard here at his absolute best--especially the late '50s Riverside recordings--Evans excels in the trio format, but can be heard alongside other greats such as Cannonball Adderley, Warne Marsh, and Kenny Burrell among others, and the level of musicianship heard throughout borders on the astonishing. The benefit of compilations like this: Low-priced and featuring 25 tracks, this is the album to start with if you've never heard the man. Highly recommended!
The Smithereens: 2011 (eOne Music) In the tradition of Beatles '65--well heck, at least in terms of album titles--this latest set by long-lived pop/rock combo the Smithereens is as well-played and good fun as your typical early '90s Mentos commercial! I'm completely giving it a knowing thumbs up! Crunchy, dandy, filled with hooks and completely devoted to a world that once seemed so filled with promise but now is inexorably moving out of our grasp with every passing second, it's like a Rihanna CD without any of her music on it and due to a factory pressing error instead filled with Smithereens tunes! Yeah, that's exactly what it's like! I suggest buying many!
Ike & Tina Turner: River Deep Mountain High (Hip-O Select) It's a sad state of affairs that while this 1966 album's title track was a huge hit in the UK, in America, Ike & Tina's collaboration with Phil Spector was largely ignored by radio--causing dweebs like me to hear it first sung by Deep Purple two years later on their Book of Taliesyn album! As a result, everything I know is inaccurately skewed! It's great! But seeing this album and its classic cover out on the racks again--well, at least available on Amazon--warms my heart and should warm yours as well! With some well-chosen material, some fabulous latter-day Spector production, and the hyper-enthused vocals of a youngish Ms. Tina Turner, this is one fine album!
Albert King: The Definitive Albert King On Stax (Stax/Concord) I didn't set out to make this week's post completely filled with reissues, but let's put it this way: When you've got a 2-CD set featuring the best work of blues guitarist Albert King in one hand, and a "re-imagining" of the greatest hits of INXS in the other, what do you expect? Featuring the guitarist's finest material, all of which now sounds profoundly timeless, the collection is marvelously assembled, boasts a stunning array of musicians, and is about as good as this sort of thing gets. And, frankly, I find his guitar kind of attractive!
Ronnie Milsap: 20-20 Vision / Night Things (Raven Australia import) Upon seeing this album cover I am reminded of the time in the early '80s when I was walking in the streets of lovely Birmingham, Michigan, and a young boy and his father came walking toward me. The boy stared up at me with wide eyes and an open mouth and then, as they passed, said, "Daddy, is that Ronnie Milsap?" At home, Stephen King smirked!