In a fascinating experiment, major record labels have apparently met in secret and agreed that this week--just for kicks--they'd release absolutely no albums of interest just to see if anybody noticed!
Accountants at the labels have determined that since most new releases lose money, by issuing absolutely nothing worthwhile, losses will be kept to a minimum and they'll be praised by their higher-ups for saving money!
In short: whoever loses the least money wins!
That said, the new Kate Smith reissue is quite the stunner!
The White Stripes: Under Great White Northern Lights (Third Man/WB) A live album by Detroit's acclaimed White Stripes is not a bad idea; whatever oomph they have is probably best experienced in a live, sweaty concert hall, where the aroma of smoke, beer, and sweat mixes with the primal odors of pure, unadulterated rock 'n' roll! It's just one more reason why the band's devoting this album to the decades-long marketing of Northern Bathroom Tissue is such a good idea! Filled with 16 tracks of creamy goodness, the Stripes' latest will send you scampering to the volume control, turning it up insanely loud, and screaming passionately--as head Stripe Jack White does--while slowly, surreptitiously, week by week, each hair on your scalp turns gray, your skin dries out and begins to wrinkle, and your friends stop answering your emails! In short, this rocks like a "mutha"! Drive-By Truckers: Big To-Do (ATO Records) An excellent rock 'n' roll band with a growing fan base--and this is their tenth album, mind you--the Drive-By Truckers continue to improve with age! Either that, or maybe because I'm older now, my standards have just dropped! Who cares? After backing Booker T. on his fabulous album last year, the dudes--and dudess--are primed to make a big splash with this new album both commercially and critically! Check out these song titles: "The Fourth Night Of My Drinking," "The Wig He Made Her Wear," and the compelling "This F**king Job." Does it even matter if the songs are any good? In short, if this band thinks their new album is a "big to-do," who are we to argue with them? Anagrams: Bigot Do, Obit Dog, Obit God, Bit Good and Boot Dig! The Runaways: The Mercury Albums Anthology (Hip-O Select) Always great to see a spotlight on the Runaways, one of the more interesting case studies of '70s rock 'n' roll, cynical marketing, behind-the-scenes manipulators and girls at their best! Now that the movie is here and actress Kristen Stewart is involved, it's likely a whole new generation of young people will experience the band and their music without any preconceptions whatsoever--which is not a bad thing at all. This compilation houses the music from all four of the band's Mercury albums, shifting personnel and all, and the weird thing is: It sounded pretty crummy then, but it doesn't sound bad at all today! Similarly, it may not be a bad idea to throw out all your idealistic notions of what's right and wrong, get a degree in business administration and makes as much money as possible! Then, sitting by the pool, you can express your half-hearted regrets to the masseuse rubbing your shoulders while your friends romp poolside! Flobots: Survival Story (Republic) In some ways hampered by their name and its association with Polly Holliday--the actress who played the sassy, man-hungry Flo on the delightful '70s television comedy Alice--the spectacular Flobots have nonetheless managed to rise against her indelible image and come on strong with a new album that lays it on the line, tells it like it is, and also speaks candidly! Did someone say "Rise Against"? Well, surprise--Tim McIlrath of the similarly named combo pops up as a guest on the gang's excellent "White Flag Warrior"! Produced by Mario Caldato, who's quite credible, this is Flobots--hear them roar! Disco Biscuits: Planet Anthem (Diamond Riggs) This Philadelphia-based band has been around for several years, and--to be frank--I never really followed them because I found their name appalling. Well, that's being mean: Dumb. Anyway, with this new album in hand, I examined the graphics--which had a whiff of By-Tor And The Snow Dog--and then decided that rather than render my own opinion, I would simply let the people speak for me! So I popped over to a familiar retail website and checked out the tags that consumers assigned to the band: Jam, rock, trance, jam bands, phish, jamband, Christmas, cult classic, and opus! In short: These guys must sound like Burl Ives! Next album, please! Gary Lucas/Dean Bowman: Chase The Devil (Knitting Factory) A stirring, well-played and well-sung collection of tunes by acclaimed guitarist Gary Lucas and bluesy vocalist Dean Bowman here--all united by a theme of spirituality. There's material by Blind Willie Johnson, Rev. Gary Davis, the Staple Singers, even Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, mixed with original tunes and, ever present, Lucas's stinging guitar, which shrieks upward and downward quite remarkably. Bowman's vocals are outstanding, and with a yodel here and there, one is left with the impression that had this record been released as is on the Flying Dutchman label in the late '60s, it would be considered a classic. Check it out. Gin Wigmore: Holy Smoke (Motown/Universal) There are many reasons one might want to listen to an album, and frankly, seeing an attractive woman sitting on a bed while the words "gin" and "smoke" hover over her head is as good as any! And when I saw that the first track on this great disc was called "Oh My"--well, not to offer too much information--how could I resist? Though sadly the promise of that title was a letdown--apparently someone somewhere thought that its obvious real title of "Oh My God" might be offensive in certain households--the music was rather dandy. Gin--real name Jaegermeister--comes from Auckland, New Zealand, recorded this debut album in Los Angeles with members of Ryan Adams' band the Cardinals, and sounds like a slightly sassier, blonder version of Amy Winehouse with maybe a little Duffy thrown in! Stupid genetics! The Lovin' Spoonful: Revelation: Revolution '69 (MP3 only) (Epic/Legacy) One of the great things about record companies being in desperate financial straits is that they're finally tapping into their archives---which in this case means that the very last Lovin' Spoonful album, the one without bandleader John Sebastian, is finally being reissued digitally. And while it may be the least interesting Spoonful album, it's a fascinating listen, it's got two fine songs on it--"Never Going Back" and "Me About You"--and one howler in the seven-minute audio-documentary "War Games." And how 'bout that album cover? Check out them pixels! Find out more about it here. Kate Smith: The Best Of Kate Smith (RCA Catalog) Now being manufactured on demand when ordered from Amazon, this memorable disc's re-emergence will allow Axl Rose fans worldwide to determine if in fact his major influence was the so-called "Songbird of the South" or--as most would have it--Broadway sensation Ethel Merman! I know, it's a really close call!
- Kate Smith