Big names are back! It's true!
After weeks of mildly interesting record releases by mildly interesting artists, today's batch of new albums could not be by more fascinating yet familiar artists!
Just take a look at these names: Neil Young! Billy Ray Cyrus! Rascal Flatts! Ramblin' Jack Elliott! Bob Mould! And, uh, Jadakiss!
It's as if the record industry as a whole suddenly woke up and realized they had no idea whose albums they were releasing--they simply weren't paying attention! So they called in the old guard! The tried-and-true!
And the so-called "troubles" the music industry has been facing? Declining sales? Decreasing market share? Hah!
It was all a dream!
Neil Young: Fork In The Road (Reprise) Just one of the many reasons Neil Young is such a rockin' dude is the fact that someone showed him a bunch of possible cover photos for his brand new album and he selected this one! A pulse-pounding, noisy venture that with such tracks as "Cough Up The Bucks" recalls Young's lyrical glory days--and here I'm referring to his most memorable couplet ever, "Got mashed potatoes/ Ain't got no T-bone"--Fork is apparently about Young's 1959 Lincoln Continental, which he and some dudes rigged up to work on alternative energy! I'd suggest you buy it on vinyl if I weren't concerned about our diminishing global petroleum supply!
Rascal Flatts: Unstoppable (Lyric Street) There's no denying that Rascal Flatts are one of the biggest names in the world of country music--well, except maybe by some other names in country music--but you can't knock their professionalism, their dedication, and the fact that they've got their collective finger on the pulse of the American heartland! Their latest and greatest effort--this one right here--is produced by the band and Dan Huff and features a wide array of songs, from heart-rending tales of lost love to upbeat tracks like "Summer Nights," which has been described as "a romp through a world of coolers and bikinis guaranteed to be a concert favorite"! And no, it's not a Morrissey cover! I love these guys!
Jadakiss: The Last Kiss (Ruff Ryders) "In many ways, I've based my entire career on the works of Wayne Cochran and J. Frank Wilson & the Cavaliers as well as Pearl Jam," explained Louis Sleagle, who I ran into recently at the Santa Monica Promenade! I suspect he's never heard a Jadakiss record in his life! But I'd be willing to bet that Mary J. Blige, Styles P, Faith Evans, Ne-Yo, Lil' Wayne, legendary opera hater Boo Rossini and Young Jeezy have! That's because they're on this record--and each in their own way would therefore like you to buy it! Crammed to the gills with streetwise plural nouns, this fab disc includes thoughtful tracks like "Pain & Torture," "Smoking Gun" and "Death Wish" and also serves as a mere prelude to Jada's other activities--including, most notably, "working on a sneaker lifestyle website"! And here we all sit, thinking shoes inanimate objects!
Billy Ray Cyrus: Back To Tennessee (Lyric Street) If Billy Ray Cyrus didn't have a certain haircut at one point in his life, if he didn't have a massive, "Macarena"-level pop culture smash with "Achy Breaky Heart," and if he didn't have a daughter who at this moment was one of the most famous entertainers on the planet, he's have no baggage whatsoever--and thus be able to be judged by music critics without any prejudice whatsoever! So let's pretend that's the case! [significant pause] Hey, he looks just like Sawyer from Lost! [slightly shorter pause] Nah, just yanking your chain, Billy Ray! Great record!
Doves: Kingdom Of Rust (Astralwerks) It's been four years since the last Doves album, but that's OK, because nothing's changed since then anyway! Still a trio--comprised of brothers Jez and Andy Williams and some guy named Jimi--Doves have made a strong fourth album here, and one worthy of your purchase. Oddly, both are the same record! It's just the sort of music you'd love to listen to while driving around Los Angeles late at night trying to find your house after a party or something! Wait, is someone following you?
MIMS: Guilt (Capitol) Like many, I consider rapper MIMS an important figure for two reasons: His name is both easily spelled and punctuated, and his famous hit "This Is Why I'm Hot" had a deeply felt impact on American culture! You'd think he'd have learned his lesson after all that, but no--there he is on his new album wearing what looks like a flannel shirt or jacket! He's going to be hot again! Oh well! I'm especially taken with this album's first single, "Move (If You Wanna)"--I like how it's more of a suggestion than an actual command-- and think you will be, too! Like Dire Straits, but hip-hop!
Bob Mould: Life And Times (Anti-) As the founder of Husker Du--a rock 'n' roll band who came into prominence the same time the term "alternative" began modifying "rock"--Bob Mould inspired an entire generation of young people to pick up their guitars and play mildly interesting songs very loudly! It was great! Then he formed Sugar and, uh, covered the Who's "Armenia, City In The Sky"! Then he went solo! Then he continued playing and became a legendary figure! Then he finally figured that all his career really, really needed after all this time was an album cover featuring nothing but a piece of "moulding"! And so that's it! He did it! He's peaked! God love him! Next week: Rethinking the Minutemen!
Lady Sovereign: Jigsaw (Midget/EMI) A cute little bundle of British joy, Lady Sovereign--who, incidentally, is not actually part of any royal family, nor is she a supreme lawmaking authority--made some noise a few years ago with her single "Love Me Or Hate Me," which confused many music fans not used to being offered that option! Will her new album carry her off to greater levels of fame as part of that whole "wacky British chick" thing, or will it come to be regarded as the last gasp of what might have been a great career given the appropriate level of promotion and actual circumstance? Heck--I can't make that choice!
Ramblin' Jack Elliott: A Stranger Here (Anti-) A legendary figure in American folk music, Elliott is given extraordinarily sympathetic production here by producer Joe Henry, and in the course of 10 traditional folk and blues songs ("Death Don't Have No Mercy," "How Long Blues") is given one of the best vocal showcasings of his long career. Highly recommended if you like this stuff!
Bat For Lashes: Two Suns (Astralwerks) It's hard to quibble with this second album from trendy Brit babe Natasha Khan--especially since it features Scott Walker and sounds like Steeleye Span if the person who sits next to you plays it while you're on the phone! Additionally, records rarely argue!