Like many, I've always assumed that contemporary popular music peaked with the fantastic recordings of the New Kids On The Block made in the late '80s and early '90s. The popular combo was attractive, in a squeaky clean sort of way, yet also just daring enough to captivate its youngish teen audience with such albums titles as the unforgettable Hangin' Tough. Plus, they had nice hair!
So could it be any less than divine coincidence that the same week that we see a brand new, terrific New Kids compilation we're also greeted with A Little Bit Longer, the much-anticipated new album from this millennium's latest teen sensations, the Jonas Brothers?
I guess I wouldn't be alone in noting the parallels between both acts! Consider this: They're both male, human, English-speaking, preferred largely by a young female audience, fantastic entertainers, and equally enjoyable in their upbeat video romps! Similarly, were they both to be mysteriously teleported into deep space, they would--as air-breathers--instantly suffocate!
I think it's safe to say we're all in agreement here!
The Jonas Brothers: A Little Bit Longer (Hollywood) Few could deny that this long-awaited project--the trio's third album--will sell like pancakes, and I for one am rooting for them! Youngish musical dudes who can actually play their instruments and are following their oft-stated urge to rock, the guys have declared that this new platter will show the influences of Elvis Costello, the Animals, the Rascals and even the Beatles! Good for them! I only hope my review of their next album shows the influences of William Faulkner, Ernest Hemingway and--uh, I dunno--Knute Rockne! Maybe we can all even have lunch together!
Clique Girlz: Not Too Young (Interscope) Wow! Here's where it gets interesting! A titanic teen trio named Paris, Destinee and Ariel, produced by none other than John Fields--the same guy who produced the new Jonas Brothers album--issuing their own hot CD! (Sorry, no cover art--their recent EP is pictured!) And while the Jonases dubbed their new one A Little Bit Longer, the Clique Girls are boldly opting for Not Too Young! What are they really saying here? That the Jonases are babies? That they, as girls, are naturally more mature? Dudes, are you gonna stand for that? Anyway, this record's great and Not Too Old would've been depressing!
Bo Diddley: Road Runner: The Chess Masters 1959-60 (Chess) When it comes to classic recordings, you can't go wrong with Mr. Bo Diddley, and this 52-track set captures the late legend fully in his prime. Filled with great tracks--including 23 that are previously unreleased--the collection is an ultrarhythmic, self-mythologizing great big burning ball of fun! And those who say Diddley borrowed too much from Bow Wow Wow and Adam & The Ants are just flat-out wrong! He was quite good!
Yung Berg: Look What You Made Me (Epic) On the rise and on nearly everyone's album, this hip-hoppin' dude here features guests like Twista, Trey Songz, Lloyd, Ray J, Amerie, and Eve, so it's got to be good! They're popular! Sadly, however, his unfortunate selection of a professional name now puts him in the same category as lovable Fat Joe! As Joe must stay fat, Berg must stay yung! Brief meetings with a career counselor would have spared them both so much heartache down the line!
Extreme: Saudades De Rock (Open E/Fontana) An Extreme reunion has certainly been long in coming! This, their first studio album in 13 years, features most of the same crew that recorded the 1991 smash "More Than Words," and is bound to please fans of guitarist Nuno Bettencourt as well as one-time Van Halen singer Gary Cherone! In fact, I ran into both fans at the dry cleaner yesterday, and they told me they couldn't wait to buy this thing, let alone learn how to pronounce its title! Their clothes looked fairly expensive, so here's hoping Extreme's got a winner here!
New Kids On The Block: Greatest Hits (Columbia Legacy) I was playing this in the office the other day and a co-worker walked by and heard me listening to "Didn't I (Blow Your Mind This Time)" and thought I was playing the original hit! I said, "No, that was by the Chi-Lites!" We laughed. Then he walked away and I thought about it for a minute, and checked it out. Oops! I found him a minute later and said, "No, wait, actually it was by the Delfonics!" Walking back to my desk I laughed a little about how your memory dims as time passes. When I couldn't find my desk, I went outside and stared at my feet for a few minutes! I've simply got to buy this record!
Leon Ware: Moon Ride (Stax/Concord) A welcome return from multi-talented writer/producer/singer Ware, the man behind much of Marvin Gaye's classic I Want You album among other fine material. Those who enjoy the smooth, sexy contours of Gaye's work during that era would do well to check out this, as well as the recent reissue of Ware's 1976 gem Musical Massage. Record collectors: File this under Ware!
Sick Of Sarah: Sick Of Sarah (Adamant) A great Minneapolis quartet--all females and not cannibals, despite their name!--Sick Of Sarah rock hard and melodically, display groovy influences, and have people who don't know how to spell John Fogerty's last name writing on their label's website! All told, I'm always sold whenever I read that an artist's lyrics "speak maturely and sometimes humorously of love, loss, and often nothing at all!" That makes two of us!
Irma Thomas: Simply Grand (Rounder) A New Orleans fixture, Irma Thomas has been and remains a wonderful, emotive singer with a loyal following of music fans and professionals. Among the professionals guesting on her new album are Norah Jones, Randy Newman and Dr. John, and the music is warm and heartfelt throughout. Though she is often referred to as the Soul Queen of New Orleans, that is not technically true: America is not yet a monarchy, and enthusiastic critics often veer toward hyperbole!
Tittsworth: Twelve Steps (Plant Music) It has been said that most people remember exactly what they were doing when they first heard that John F. Kennedy or John Lennon died. Similarly, I suspect I will always remember the warm summer night when--quite innocently--I typed this artist and album title and wondered exactly what to write!