I just had the most psychedelic listening experience of my life!
It involved hearing Barbara Eden--star of TV's I Dream Of Jeannie--covering Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich's "Bend It" on her one and only 1967 solo album!
Now admittedly, unless you travel in the same circles I do--a group of debonair young sophisticates who cluster around the stereo, mixed drinks in hand, watching obscure Japanese art films and making donations to questionable charities just because we can--this may mean little to you!
Still, in a world where one of the week's best new albums features a member of Def Leppard covering old Mott The Hoople songs, can you begrudge me my smallest pleasures?
M.I.A.: /\/\/\Y/\ (N.E.E.T./Interscope) It struck me a few years ago that the innate talent young teens had with sending text messages--instinctively grasping which key needed to be pressed once, twice or three times in order to call up a specific letter of the alphabet--was remarkable but somehow sad, in that that dated technology would soon be rendered useless--as it already has--and the portion of their brain that controlled that motor skill might've been better utilized learning French, Bulgarian, or playing Scrabble! And so it is that rabidly political Sri Lankan goddess M.I.A. has created an album that in years to come will be pronounced as often as that old English band who recorded the semi-hit "Doot Doot," whose name was originally an odd graphic squiggle and later changed to the more phonetically pleasing Freuer, long after anyone would care! That said, I'd be the first to admit that war is bad, peace is good, killing is wrong, and loving is right, and that M.I.A.--who as a very pregnant onstage dancer is hard to beat--is one hep, right-on babe! Plus, I hear she's loaded! Crowded House: Intriguer (Fantasy/Concord) I was commenting just last week, after reading an interesting magazine piece--an intriguer, you might say--to my good friend Steve, who shares just enough of his private life with me to keep me guessing--an intriguer, you might say--that I knew just the album he needed to hear that would completely make his week...but I couldn't yet tell him its name! An intriguer, you might say! Was it this brand new Crowded House album, the follow-up the much-loved band's 2007 reunion Time On Earth? Was it the brand new Korn album? Or was it fact no album at all? Had the time on Earth when he could literally enjoy an album as opposed to dwelling on his mortality shrunk to near-nothingness, and was I merely humoring him? Nope! It was the new Fat Joe album, but that's not due for a couple of weeks! Anyway, this isn't bad, either! Danger Mouse & Sparklehorse: Dark Night Of The Soul (Capitol) Like Casper and Nightmare, Little Dot and Little Lotta, and Huey, Dewey and Louie, Danger Mouse & Sparklehorse are heroic figures whose artistic endeavors please many--especially those young and impressionable--and whose names roll off the tongue significantly smoother than might, say, Louie Sleagle and Noodles Fagen or, more to the point, Brian Burton and Mark Linkous! And while this new album--the last by the late Linkous--features an impressive batch of costars, including the Flaming Lips, Iggy Pop, Suzanne Vega and members of the Strokes, Pixies and Grandaddy, and is arty to the max for sure, I'm still not 100 percent convinced it's not a modern-day version of Jeff Wayne's 1978 concept album The War Of The Worlds! Of course, in my heart of hearts, I never thought Wayne would be the sort of artist who'd stick in a small paper note warning album buyers that unless they told all their friends to also buy the album, that big hand on the album cover would crush that poor little sheep to pulp merely because it could! Back then people were a lot more mellow! R.E.M.: Fables Of The Reconstruction: 25th Anniversary Edition (Capitol/IRS) One could make a case that this was the last great R.E.M. album, if one were generous and not the sort to note that somewhere between sounding like a mumbly Beau Brummels on their first few albums and sounding as dynamic onstage as the Gang Of Four during their prime, R.E.M. hooked up with producer Joe Boyd here on their third album and somehow sounded a lot less...unfocused. Which might sound good on paper, but not so much in practice, frankly! And while later they'd sign to major label Warner Brothers for 100 trillion dollars and be accused of selling out--God knows why, because they really didn't--their material simply became less and less interesting, their lyrics more and more decipherable, and all the things which made them seem unique, quaint, out of the ordinary and enlightened seemed to vanish in thin air! If only they'd spelled out whether the album title actually was Fables Of The Reconstruction or Reconstruction Of The Fables! It would all be different! See? It all comes back to that! Jerrod Niemann: Judge Jerrod & The Hung Jury (Arista Nashville) Making his major label debut is Kansan Jerrod Niemann, a songwriter and performer who's already made waves via his co-writing of Garth Brooks' hit "Good Ride Cowboy" and whose new single "Lover, Lover" is storming up the country charts in unprecedented style! Blessed with a superb album title--would it be inappropriate here to mention that if I were to currently start a band I would call it the Striking Meat Packers?--Judge Jerrod is classy, substantial, filled with brief interludes such as "A Friendly Request," "Intermission" and "Deep Thoughts," and certain to tickle the fancy of country music fans--and music fans in general--in short order! Additionally, that's a fine hat he's wearing! Frank Zappa: Greasy Love Songs (Zappa) Extremely welcome here is this brand new edition of Frank Zappa's brilliant 1968 Cruising With Ruben & The Jets album--which aside from a slew of fabulous bonus tracks offers up the original stereo mix of Zappa's '50s-inspired masterwork, long unavailable when the man decided to rework both this and We're Only In It For The Money for the Rykodisc '80s reissues via re-recorded backing tracks. Now sounding as brilliant as it did upon its initial release, the album is like nothing else in the Zappa catalog and absolutely essential listening. Check out http://zappa.com/flash/greasylovesongs/index.html for more details! Joe Elliott: My Regeneration (Mailboat) A classy tribute to the songs of Mott The Hoople and its respective offshoots, My Regeneration is an unexpected surprise, coming as it does from the lead singer of Def Leppard, backed by the (London) Quireboys--and substantially rocking throughout! Dubbed Joe Elliott's Down 'N' Outz, and tangible enough a unit to have opened for Mott during their 2009 reformation gigs in London, the band shows true dedication in the obscurity of their song selections--I mean, "Shouting And Pointing"? Really?--and the warmth of their obvious Mott fandom! Who needs a multi-million dollar producer hovering nearby? Good stuff! Hernán Cattáneo: Parallel (Renaissance UK import) Though I'm by no means a clubmeister supreme, I recognize outstanding music when I hear it--and this new compilation by House DJ Hernán Cattáneo is two discs of pure pleasure: electronic chillout music, slow, throbbing, hypnotic and remarkably substantial. Two discs--one slow, one less slow--and all of it subtle beyond belief. Check it out here. Tommy Keene: You Hear Me: A Retrospective 1983-2009 (Second Motion) Anyone who felt deep twinges with the passing of Alex Chilton might be well-served to check out some of his "power-poppin'" contemporaries, like Tommys Hoehn or--in this case--Keene, whose best work is generously available here on a 2-CD set, and whose love for both melodic rock and the early work of Lou Reed balances out in a manner not unlike that of Chilton: Big Star covered "Candy Says" and "The Bed," Keen covered "Kill Your Sons," but in both cases, these were tributes by artists with quite a lot to say on their own. Keene's never been less than very good--and this wealth of his material, all in one place, couldn't make the point any clearer. School Of Seven Bells: Disconnect From Desire (Vagrant) It's nearly impossible to review a record this good when you're listening to Spyro Gyra's Collection (GRP Records, 1991)!