I'm the last guy in the world to sit around sobbing that all the best music was made years ago. After all, 20 years ago, there was no Nickelback or 3 Doors Down! Plus, Soulja Boy was probably not even around then!
Still, when I look at this week's fabulous new releases, I'm chagrined to report that almost half of this week's best albums were originally recorded before Edison invented the CD!
Not only that, but there's a new Donny Osmond album!
So I think it's time we all agreed that the best music in the world has already been made--and we're just marking time until we inexorably wind our way to our inevitable deaths!
Nah, just kidding! But it sure would be interesting reading if I meant it!
Bittersweet World (Geffen) Every decade an album is released that, in the years that follow, is viewed as a record that has changed life as we know it! My personal vote is going to go to this harrowing disc by aging blues singer Simpson--whose Bittersweet World includes the participation of Timbaland, will.i.am and Pharell Williams, and recounts in grisly detail the collective amnesia mysteriously undergone by the people of Earth in the last three years! Now effectively erased from public memory, Simpson's distinguished earlier career has been replaced by "fake" collective perceptions of her being nothing but a pretty teen idol making a buck any way she knows how! It's unjust, it's unfair, it's unbelievable, and it's...yes, bittersweet. Sing it, Ashlee!
The Replacements: Sorry Ma, Forgot To Take Out the Trash / Stink / Hootenanny / Let It Be (Rhino) The heroes of an entire generation--well, if you consider people in their early-to-late-40s a generation--the Replacements were a great band that had a masterful songwriter in Paul Westerberg and--most significantly--lacked all the pretensions that made so many of their peers icky. Back again via deluxe reissues of these, their first four albums, the band simply sounds superior to most better known "alternative rock bands" like R.E.M. and Nirvana and show none of that self-important junk that marred the latter two bands' careers, however abbreviated they might've been. Did I just say the same thing twice? Sadly, their refusal to embrace art rock denied them the superstardom they were clearly owed!
Mercy (Dancing For The Death Of An Imaginary Enemy) (American) First record in quite some time from Jimmy Gnecco, who joins The The and Live in giving his band a name that stumps search engines for kicks! Enormously talented, Gnecco's put together a dense, arty album that is surprisingly substantial and just one radio hit away from bringing him the worldwide fame he probably deserves. While it isn't 100 percent my cup of tea--I'm into shuffleboard!--this record sounds the equal of anything that, say, U2 has produced in the last decade or so, with only half the bombast and even fewer calories! Make Ours yours!
Otis Blue/Otis Redding Sings Soul: Collector's Edition (Rhino) If there's one Otis Redding album every person should own--aside from the one that will grant them immortality should they wisely choose it--it would have to be this one! Reissued by Rhino in generous 2-disc form, this 1966 set contains a stereo mix, a mono mix, bonus material, and several of the songs that have made Redding a legendary R&B figure--including "Respect," "I've Been Loving You Too Long," and "Shake," among others. Less a collection of singles than an outright album--as others have often noted--this set is impeccably sung and played, and simply priceless. Incidentally, did you know he was a blonde?
The Gossip: Live In Liverpool (Columbia/Red Ink) Making big noise overseas these days is Olympia, Washington's Gossip, a colorful trio who are memorably fronted by Ms. Beth Ditto--a charismatic singer of some heft whose fervent vocal and stage stylings are not the sort of thing one might witness at a show by the Pussycat Dolls! Their energetic originals, their cover of Aaliyah's "Are You That Somebody," and their outright vivaciousness--best witnessed via the accompanying DVD--are a far cry from the works of both Enya and Reba McEntire, but quite naturally they would be! Do you really think her first name is Beth?
Forever Changes: Collector's Edition (Rhino) Every once in a while I pay attention to the wonderful reader comments attached to this much-loved blog, and among some of the better ones--such as Flower's recent "Keep up Mariah!! You do good song the fan love it" and Leona Lewis fan Jonathan C. Garza's omimous "her CD is literally the best thing I have ever listened to"--are scattered questions such as, "OK, smart guy, what music do YOU like?" Well, here you go: this is my favorite album ever. Originally issued in 1968, and now back as a deluxe 2-CD set, this includes a disc worth's of alternate mixes and just about anything else that would convince morons like me to buy the dang thing for maybe the seventh time in my life! Hopefully such a testimonial will encourage readers such as last week's lieslmaggiemay to pick up this great set instead of cruelly posting venomous comments like "sgjesfbgsfuogjbfsjgre'guihrneghte'tgklbdg'aenhkte'ayneoghepa'
Atmosphere: When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint That S**t Gold (Rhymesayers) Certainly popular among the sort who don't care for asterisks, "underground hip-hop sensations" Atmosphere have returned not only with a great slogan but a new album! Reportedly featuring an appearance by Tom Waits and a guy from TV On The Radio, this record has many moods--including nocturnal, reflective, self-conscious, searching, literate, confident, provocative, fun, energetic, street-smart, freewheeling and intense, according to a database of some repute! So it isn't really plagiarism, honest! It's "painting it gold!"
Tapestry: Legacy Edition (Epic/Ode/Legacy) Basically, every human of my generation was forced to purchase this disc in order to be admitted to college--which was not a bad deal, in retrospect, especially in English-speaking countries. Featuring such well-known tracks as "So Far Away," "You've Got A Friend," "I Feel The Earth Move," and "Dudes: Play This Loudly If You Live In A Co-Ed Dorm," Tapestry is indeed a classic, and the bonus disc for once offers intriguing value: an "unplugged" version of the same song sequence, culled from various King solo piano performances from 1973 and 1976. Kids: Buy this for your mom and she'll be out of it for a good two hours!
From Donny...With Love (Decca) Not to impress you with my worldliness, but I remember meeting this guy once maybe 15 years ago and thinking he was a rocking dude! He's kind of OK! So let me celebrate his continued presence in our wonderful culture by mentioning this fab collection of "love" themed songs--including "Puppy Love," "How Deep Is Your Love," "When I Fall In Love" and all of our favorites! While I typically look askance at "marketing lingo," I would like to draw your attention to this enticing passage from one vendor: "This collection of love songs is perfect for fans, old and new, and perfect for that special someone in your life. If you find it hard to express how you feel, then let Donny sing them for you!" Hey, I'm into emo, too!
Elvis Costello & The Imposters: Momofuku (Lost Highway) Released only on vinyl and via digital download--though a CD is apparently coming--this great set could be perceived as a harsh putdown of UK singer Momus by careless speed-readers! Slow down, you frickin' snobs!
- Donny Osmond