An astounding array of world-class records, all released precisely the same week, would be a dream come true for almost any music fan!
A nice collection of some inoffensive albums, all released the same week, while not quite as exciting, might similarly please those of less discerning tastes!
A couple of non-stinkers, all released the same week, might give a desperate few at least some grounds for hope that all was not lost and that, on occasion, a few good things might be heard here and there before the inevitable coming apocalypse!
And absolutely nothing released of any merit, all during the same week, might be the straw that breaks the camel's back, that turns the entire recorded music industry into a distant memory and one-time music enthusiasts into book-reading, TV-watching slobs!
That said, buying a brand new shirt can make everybody feel tip-top!
Zac Brown Band: You Get What You Give (Atlantic) Certainly one of the biggest music success story of the past few years is that of the Zac Brown Band--a group of skilled players whose impeccable musicianship and ability to cross genres while losing no one in the process makes them stand out in a field growing increasingly more dismal! The Atlanta-based combo features names like Alan Jackson and Jimmy Buffett on this set--their first since winning the Best New Artist Grammy earlier this year--and have come up with a solid, variety-filled winner certain to grow their fan base even further! Still, the album's title does drive home the importance of washing one's hands after using the restroom!
Maroon 5: Hands All Over (A&M) Speaking of hands, one does have to "hand" it to Maroon 5, not least for prominently featuring a picture of a beautiful but tragically misshapen model on their brand new album cover! The disc's thematic storyline--a dude meets an attractive gal wearing an overcoat in a neighborhood bar, brings her home, and eventually discovers the coat is hiding an extra set of arms--is expertly spun via such pieces as "Misery," "Stutter," "Hands All Over," "How," "Runaway," and the climactic, uplifting "Never Gonna Leave This Bed"! All told, the melody and upbeat charm that has made Maroon 5 household favorites nationwide has never been more melodic, upbeat or charming! Produced by "Mutt" Lange, the man whose previous work with Def Leppard, Foreigner, and AC/DC has made him immensely wealthy and, one suspects, immensely happy, Hands All Over is the record all of us have been waiting for! Admittedly for various reasons!
Santana: Guitar Heaven: The Greatest Guitar Classics Of All Time (Arista) A concept album that is heavy on concept, Guitar Heaven features one of rock's all-time great guitarists reinterpreting some of the most familiar songs you've ever heard on the radio--by Cream, Led Zeppelin, Van Halen, the Beatles, Rolling Stones, the Doors, Jimi Hendrix--and sung by a cast of familiar faces including Rob Thomas, Chris Daughtry, Scott Weiland, Chris Cornell, and just about anybody else you've ever heard singing hard rock in the past decade! If you like Santana's guitar-playing, you'll find his take on these classics fascinating; if you like the original songs, you may wonder why anyone ever felt they needed to be performed yet again; if you like guitars enough to wonder if they can in fact die and then go to heaven, then you're essentially a pagan and have no business using the Internet! Why not go have a sandwich?
John Legend & The Roots: Wake Up! (Columbia) Put two highly skilled artists in the same room--in this case John Legend and the entire Roots band--give them a batch of classy songs to perform by the likes of Donny Hathaway and Baby Huey, throw in a few contributors like Melanie Fiona and Common, make them perform repeatedly until it's very late in the evening, give them cab fare home, watch them stumble into their respective dwellings and eventually go to sleep, wake up and eat breakfast, and you've basically stopped reading a record review and started seriously violating their privacy! And what's worse--you kind of like it!
Selena Gomez & The Scene: A Year Without Rain (Hollywood) "What do you do," asks Selena Gomez's new bio, "after striking gold with your first solo album, wrapping your third season starring in a hit series and earning raves for your movie debut?" How about crafting tiny animals out of Play-Doh in your bedroom while your parents stand outside, glancing inward fretfully, wondering if the flies you're swatting actually are imaginary? How about discovering a cure for cancer, writing it down, then losing it on the way to Starbucks? Or how about crafting an entire album dedicated to life in the Dust Bowl during the 1930s? Entirely plausible, true--but eerily, inappropriate in this instance!
James Brown: The Singles, Vol. 9 1973-1975 (Hip-O Select) James Brown's recorded legacy is pretty staggering, but this batch of singles--the ninth in a fascinating, methodical series by the Hip-O label--borders on the extraordinary, as it contains some of his very best work, much of which escaped the general public's attention but seriously resonated within the music community. Featuring "The Payback," "Papa Don't Take No Mess," "Sex Machine," "Funky President (People It's Bad)" and "Rock Me Again & Again & Again & Again & Again & Again (6 Times)," the collection captures the man in his prime, with a fantastic band, singing songs that can only be described as uniformly classic. In the previous sentence!
Michael Franti & Spearhead: The Sound Of Sunshine (Capitol) An unexpected success story at this phase of his career, Franti has returned to his original label after leaving 13 years ago, with a radio hit to his credit, an excellent Sly & Robbie-produced album, and a growing audience that likes his deliberately diverse approach to music! Coming on the heels of a burst appendix that was reportedly life-threatening, The Sound Of Sunshine is a sometimes mellow, sometimes upbeat collection, highlighted by "Shake It" featuring dancehall star Lady Saw, as well as opening track and hit "The Sound Of Sunshine," which could not be more accurately named! Especially if you're into photons!
Billy Currington: Enjoy Yourself (Mercury Nashville) Continuing his rise in popularity--and with country hits like his current "Pretty Good At Drinkin' Beer," the sort of inward-looking material I think we can all relate to, it's justifiable--Georgia's Billy Currington is back with album No. 4, wet, wild and wearing his hat backward, singing enviable tunes like "Bad Day Of Fishin'" and feelin' free! I suggest we all take him at his word, enjoy ourselves, overlook the horrific brevity of life that haunts us all, and--who knows?--maybe buy a boat!
Jefferson Airplane: Live 4 CD Pack (Collectors Choice Live) It's sort of a cheat to list this as one item, since it's a retail package grouping four new live albums together--but they're all excellent, historically relevant sets, and each deserves to be heard. Featuring the adventurous San Franciscan band performing live at the Fillmore in 1966 and the Matrix in 1968, the discs document the last show with original Airplane vocalist Signe Anderson, the first with her famous replacement Grace Slick, and a whole lot of the band's very best material. Fascinating stuff that sounds fresher than you'd think 40 years later.
Torche: Songs For Singles (+1 Records) Stoner metal, metal, stoner rock, Marc Almond, doom metal, alternative metal, rock, Johnny Storm's new band, sludge, Vic Damone, epic metal, albums with covers likely to confuse Zac Brown Band fans, post metal, awesomeness