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New This Week

As we near the end of the year, the big guns are releasing all their wares!

In the old days, that might mean that the world's biggest recording artists are putting out their new albums just in time for holiday shoppers!

These days, though, it means that the world's biggest labels are throwing out absolutely anything with a major artist's name on it--purely so that they can afford to fill their yachts with gas while we the people lay rolling on the floor, broke, hungry, and wondering where our next meal is coming from!

Still, that 43-CD Miles Davis box set does look tempting, and I'm sure my son wouldn't notice if I sold his first-ever soccer trophy in order to buy it! Besides, food is great and all, but how long do you think all these great "deluxe versions" of classic albums will be available?

Besides, anyone can have a son!


Taylor Swift: Speak Now (Big Machine)  I don't think it's an understatement to say the entire world is waiting for the brand new Taylor Swift album! Especially when it comes to the planet Glugg--whose residents are not only charismatic as heck but frankly represent Swift's biggest market! Swift's abilities as a songwriter, finely honed now after five full decades of living, feeling, and hurting, have never been so sharp--nor her words, her lost loves, her everyday dramas, so acutely depicted as they are here, on what many will call the album of a lifetime! Additionally, because she's blonde and considered attractive by some, her works merit all the more attention! Word is there are songs on this thing!

Bryan Ferry: Olympia (Astralwerks)  As per the recent agreement that all albums released this week will feature a comely blonde bearing a come-hither look on their cover--heck, why not?--this new album by Roxy Music's Bryan Ferry follows all expectations and then some! Superbly played music, well-penned songs, still reeking of the complete coolness that has followed the singer from Day 1, Olympia is a well-sculpted, highly enjoyable piece of art that puts most of the rest of this week's releases to shame! Still, whether the world was waiting for Ferry to cover such pivotal works as Traffic's "No Face, No Name, No Number" or Tim Buckley's "Song To the Siren"--songs that were literally perfect from the get-go and needed no covering--is debatable! But so's global warming, and who cares?

Buddy Guy: Living Proof (Silvertone/Jive)  It's hard to argue with success, and Buddy Guy's remarkable career as a blues guitarist continues to grow as he's reached his 74th year! A strong album, bolstered with guest appearances by B.B. King and Carlos Santana, Living Proof is highly listenable through and through and might well be discussed purely for its cover graphic alone, which resembles that little piece of paper wrapped around a liquor bottle that sometimes you pull off because you're completely bored and, well, you just want to see if you can do it, according to reputable sources! Additional bonus: he's quite good!

Jeff Beck: Live And Exclusive From the Grammy Museum (Atco)  Speaking of incredibly cool guitarists, let's not forget Jeff Beck, whose latest album--a live set recorded in LA earlier this year--is typically impeccable, groovy, and better than any record produced by most other living humans! Featuring covers of such classics as "A Day In The Life," "Over The Rainbow" and "People Get Ready," the album is a fine showcasing of Beck's unnatural guitar skills and completely worth your purchasing! Perhaps you should buy it, look at the remainder of your music collection, and consider whether anything else you own has any value whatsoever! Then--I don't know--go see if you really can freeze vodka!

The Octopus Project: Hexadecagon (Peek-A-Boo) There's nothing like a great indie band who probably spent a lot of time listening to records by Steve Reich, Terry Riley, and Philip Glass and are completely into being repetitive just because it's possible! This latest set by the much acclaimed Octopus Project--a favorite among today's sophisticated oceanographers and marine biologists--is fine listening throughout, even when deliberately played in mono because that button is just sitting there on your receiver and you never really get to use it anymore! Incidentally, a hexadecagon is a 16-sided object! So it's twice as good as Chicago At Carnegie Hall!

Miles Davis: The Genius Of Miles Davis (Columbia/Legacy)  Hypothetically speaking, there are people who like Miles Davis and there are people who love Miles Davis! And in that second group, there are people who really, really love Miles Davis! If that describes you to a T, then I know what you want for Christmas! How about this extremely limited edition, 43-CD set consisting of the man's classic recordings for Columbia, packaged in a full-size trumpet case, including a replica of his original trumpet mouthpiece, a lithograph, a t-shirt, and--I don't know--bonus oxygen! Frankly, if I were a well-to-do music fan with limited options in terms of finding new music I liked and lots of money to spend, I'd probably buy this and never even open it! Just owning it would be enough! I'd probably also read the Wall Street Journal and sweat a lot!

John Cale & Band: Live At Rockpalast (M.I.G. Music)  John Cale made the LA papers recently for his live performance of his classic Paris 1919 album, so maybe the time is right to re-evaluate all the great work the former Velvet Underground dude has created in the last 40 years or so! Interested? If so, this 2-CD set, taken from a couple of live performances on German TV, is as good a place to start as any, as it features him performing much of his best material is an agreeable and highly compelling manner! Plus, it's good! Featuring tracks going as far back as his classic Vintage Violence set, the collection is a lengthy, comprehensive set sure to inspire humans the world over! The next necessary step? His overseeing the 5.1 surround version of Nico's Marble Index! Then perhaps a collaboration with Bret Michaels!

James Taylor: James Taylor (Apple)  You wouldn't know it now, but James Taylor was a pretty cutting-edge artist back in his early days, and this--his first album, originally issued on Apple in 1968 and now newly remastered and offered up again--may be his best album ever. Finely played, exquisitely arranged, and filled with a surprising number of songs that about as emotionally dark as you'd ever want, the album was the prelude to a career that would soon be massive but rarely again as focused on such harrowing subject matter. Very highly recommended. Plus: Dig the enthusiastic cover picture!

Ray Charles: Rare Genius: The Undiscovered Masters (Concord) He would've been 80 years old this year, but you can bet Ray Charles would have lost little of his magic. This welcome package, filled with newly discovered recordings--including a duet with Johnny Cash, no less--is an excellent set of 10 tracks extending back through the '70s, filled with the warmth and grit that made the singer such a legendary figure. There may be raw demos here, but in the case of Ray Charles, nothing ever really needed sweetening up. Check it out!

Michael Bublé: Crazy Love Hollywood Edition (Reprise) Everyone's favorite contemporary crooner just took a trip to Hollywood Boulevard, bought some fine new shoes, and checked out the cement handprints at Grauman's Chinese Theatre! Some call it post-rock, but I call it alternative!

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