The problem with writing a wrap-up of each week's new releases means that sometimes things fall through the cracks!
Even though like many in my profession I receive 2,000-3,000 free CDs a week and diligently listen to each and every one of them--sometimes I don't get the ones I want most!
Yes, horrible as it sounds, I am on occasion forced to...buy them!
This week, in the midst of many of your likely favorites, I will insert two such albums-- which means that at least for this week, this title of this highly lauded blog might best be amended to NEW THIS WEEK...FOR ME!
Spot them and win big!
Michael Jackson: The Music That Inspired The Movie Michael Jackson's This Is It (Sony Music) Those seeking to buy the only new tracks on this collection--a grand total of two, including "This Is It" and the stunning contrast that is "This Is It (Orchestra Version)"--won't be able to purchase them without buying this entire collection of repackaged hits! But that's cool! Now's your chance to finally hear those "Thriller" and "Billie Jean" songs everyone's always been talking about! Luckily, for the budget conscious, retailer iTunes offers a "mini-version" of this album with just six tracks ("This Is It" twice and four "previously unreleased" demos), but beware: You have to buy that whole thing too! You can't just pick up the two new tracks by themselves! So let's just make this simple: Everybody already has the Michael Jackson songs they want, and both versions of the new song sound like kaka! And the only "music" that inspired this movie is a song called "We're In the Money"! In short: a total winner!
Creed: Full Circle (Wind-up) Aside from world peace and an end to world hunger, a Creed reunion is probably the coolest thing that could ever happen! First of all, as the saying goes, you don't know what you've got 'til it's gone--and in the case of rockers Creed, one of the best logos in the business was sorely lacking for too many years! Additionally, if every picture tells a story, the cover picture's depiction of a shackle--as in despite our every intention of striking off on our own and never getting together in the same room ever again, we are "shackled" by our past success--rocks, too! Plus, you'll notice that not a single expensive car key can be seen here, indicating that the guys have had it rough for the past few non-reunited years! Oh well--since the real story is always in the grooves, how is this thing? Oops, no room!
Rod Stewart: Soulbook (J Records) This highly listenable collection of classic soul covers arrives on the heels of Rhino's groovy The Rod Stewart Sessions 1971-1998 box set and, heard in that light--and considering the man's earliest days involved singing soul and blues covers--means that it's officially OK to like Rod Stewart again! He didn't change, we did! And right around now, hearing someone who sounds like Sam Cooke and Arthur Conley run through the Motown catalog makes me feel warm all over! It's true: Singers are like mathematical functions that expect to be paid!
Atreyu: Congregation Of The Damned (Hollywood) "Sure, we came from the OC hardcore scene," says one of the Atreyu dudes! "But we never wanted to just be that. Musical ambiguity has always been our goal." Now successful beyond their wildest dreams, the fun-loving combo has devoted this next phase of their career to praising (to the point of absurdity!) the complete works of UK punk pioneers the Damned, most notably colorful members Dave Vanian and Captain Sensible! Additionally, new heights of subtlety and ambiguity leap out of opening track "Stop! Before It's Too Late And We've Destroyed It All," which appears to be a heartfelt plea to keep the Republican Party in full power just like the old days! I might be off here somewhat--as mentioned, the band delights in ambiguity--but, whatever! This stuff cooks!
Dolly Parton: Dolly (RCA Nashville/Legacy) One of the year's best box sets, this 4-CD collection showcases the iconic country music star's biggest hits and influential tracks--and that's no small thing! Going back as far as her 1959 single "Puppy Love," the box evenly examines her best work to come with Porter Wagoner, her classics "Jolene," "Coat Of Many Colors," and the later-Whitneyfied "I Will Always Love You," and even later pop hits like "9 To 5" and "Islands In The Stream"! It all sounds great--a merging of art and pop and great songwriting and singing, methodically and skillfully presented and annotated--and treats the singer with the love and respect she has long merited! Plus, cool pics!
Devendra Banhart: What Will We Be (Reprise) If, like me, you rarely refer to this guy out loud because you're not sure how to pronounce his name and confuse him with Sufjan Stevens and have always liked the Incredible String Band and think that the deluxe packaging of his new major label album recalls nothing so much as a repackaging of Donovan's A Gift From A Flower To A Garden 42 years after the fact and are inclined to speed-reading and thus assume this album's subtitle is Que Sara, Sara, you have to hear this!
Prefab Sprout: Let's Change The World With Music (Kitchenware/Sony BMG UK import) Out for several weeks in the UK, this spectacular package--one of the year's best--is a stunning refurbishing of previously unreleased Prefab Sprout demos intended for album release in the early '90s, and songwise fits in the hallowed band's catalog between 1990's superb Jordan: The Comeback and 1997's not-so-superb Andromeda Heights. Bandleader Paddy McAloon--and this is really his record, not the band of the same name's--has penned some wonderfully candid liner notes here detailing the music and its origins; despite its relative age, the songs and production sound fresh and contemporary and the album is, like Prefab Sprout's best work, hook-filled beyond belief! That's why no American record label has released it!
Wolfmother: Cosmic Egg (Modular) There's something heartwarming about Wolfmother and their blend of the contemporary and the respectfully retro! And this new album, the band's second, is a major step upward! Newly reconstituted around original member/vocalist/guitarist Andrew Stockdale, the band's look and feel--their haircuts, say, and even this album cover, which might've been issued on Vertigo Records in 1971--is so unutterably charming ("unutterably"?), it begs to be bought, brought home, played and loved by millions! Buy this if only to create a trend in which crummy emo bands confide to one another, "Guess we'll have to be like Wolfmother now if we want to be big!" Let's change the world with peer pressure!
At Swim Two Birds: Before You Left (Vespertine & Son UK import) Another absolutely fabulous album by one half of England's Montgolfier Brothers, in this case the "side project" by Roger Quigley, who in his quiet and compelling way recalls an odd merging of a sedated Morrissey being backed by the Durutti Column! Check out this page for most of the story and some sound clips; this is marvelous, intimate stuff that, if it connects with you, really connects! Even more than the new Train album!
Danny Kalb: I'm Gonna Live The Life I Sing About (Sojourn) Fans of the one-time guitarist of the Blues Project will be thrilled that this new album even exists! It's quite good! Unfortunately, by promising to live the life he's singing about, Kalb has unwittingly unleashed a feedback loop in which he now appears to sing about living the life he sings about living the life he sings about! Heck, I'd have left the business, too!