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Jonas And The Wail!

New This Week

With the excitement of the Grammys now long gone, it's time for the music business to stand or fall purely on the quality of its new product!

In short? If all of this week's new releases are top-notch, quality stuff, then I think we can count on years and years of a healthful, thriving music business! But if, on the other hand, most of this week's albums are dreary and stale reruns of an earlier, better time, it might be appropriate for everyone in the industry to just throw in the towel, admit defeat, and perhaps individually focus on improving their own personal lots in life--and business be damned!

Well, you can take a look for yourself--but as far as I can see, any week that features a lot of great reissues, good albums by really old artists, and a new album by the Jonas Brothers is conclusive proof that music's on an upswing like never before!

Speaking purely as a rock critic, I don't think I'm alone in comparing this year's music riches to those released in the golden year of 1969--except now everything's even better produced! I predict a long and healthy life for the music industry and indeed each and every one of us!

Guess I'm just an optimist! You too?


Jonas Brothers: Music From The 3D Concert Experience (Hollywood)  I think a lot of people would be genuinely shocked to find that this new live Jonas Brothers album--the soundtrack from the movie of sort of the same name--contains some frighteningly accurate covers of Metallica, the Pretty Things, early '60s pop hit "Please Don't Talk To The Lifeguard," and a by-rote recitation of all 18 minutes and 42 seconds of Isaac Hayes's "By The Time I Get To Phoenix" amid all the marvelous contemporary pop hits! Luckily, that's not the case here, and I'd be willing to bet no one will care either way! Heck, these guys are kind of cute and they can really play their instruments!

Van Morrison: Astral Weeks Live At The Hollywood Bowl (Listen To The Lion/EMI)  A few years back I noted the irony that I managed to see Brian Wilson play Pet Sounds, Arthur Lee play Forever Changes, and the Zombies play Odessey And Oracle all within a few scattered months. If I'd only seen this great concert--which in fact I did manage to see--back then, and maybe seen the Velvet Underground reuniting to play their third album live, I could simply stop listening to music entirely, give serious consideration to getting that doctorate in psychology, and stop spending so much time thinking about myself instead of other people! Anyway, this is great live recording by a great artist covering one of the greatest albums of all time, and the cover's deliberate artistic nod to "Neil Diamond dressed as Zorro" only adds to its greatness! Buy it today!

Lamb Of God: Wrath (Epic)  This album reminds me of three things! First, the phrase Lord God, Lamb of God, Son Of The Father, You who take away the sins of the world, have mercy upon us! Secondly, the fact that Rath was a Waterloo, Indiana-based company that made great bacon before ultimately closing up shop a few years back! Finally, a band with the name Lamb Of God features a lead singer who actually has a strange patch of hair growing on his back! Between you and me, I think that second point may carry the most weight!

K'naan: Troubadour (Octone/A&M)  While the cultural impact of contemporary rap and hip-hop can't be overstated, I've often felt that something was missing--and I think that may have been the heretofore unheard rappers of Somalia and the Arctic Circle! Providing one-half of the answer is Somalian rapper K'naan, who's heard here with guests like Damien Marley, Mos Def, Chubb Rock, and hip-hop legend Adam Levine of Maroon 5, in a fabulous collection largely recorded in Kingston, Jamaica and packed to the gills with potent political points, primarily positive perceptions, and other cool stuff! Some say this may be one of the year's biggest albums, while others say you should brake first before turning right at a red light! Hey, another store just closed!

Chris Isaak: Mr. Lucky (Wicked Game/Reprise)  It's hard to say that Chris Isaak's unique, '50s-inspired ultra-cool persona was "long missed" in the seven years it's taken him to produce a brand new album--mainly because that sentence has too many modifiers! But the man himself can do no wrong, and in 2009, with guests Trisha Yearwood and Michelle Branch joining him, it's as if he never left! Evocative, moody, sexy, and, as always, strangely distant, Isaak sings in his timeless way, and when he does, an invisible hand enters your chest cavity, clutches your heart, squeezes it a little, says, "Good as new, boss," and then slams the hood down watching you as you drive off into the distance! Then it calls up your English teacher and--together--they laugh at you!

Steven Wilson: Insurgentes (K-Scope)  It's a peculiar quirk of fate when a musician with a built-in cult audience--who'll buy nearly anything with his name on it--actually happens to be remarkably good, adventurous and compelling, and that's certainly the case with Mr. Wilson, who otherwise plays with his excellent, arty Brit band Porcupine Tree. This set--officially his debut solo album--comes in multiple configurations, including a gorgeous 2CD/DVD-and-accompanying book deluxe limited edition, and is glorious listening throughout. In the same manner that, say, Radiohead, no longer need be concerned with recording a "hit single," Wilson has the leeway to make any sort of recording he wants, without any major-label commercial pressures, and as heard here, does so with startling success and energy. Plus, wearing a gas mask on your album cover is always snazzy! Buy it today!

Isaac Hayes: Black Moses (Stax)  When you get right down to it, there were few cooler people in the world of popular music than Mr. Isaac Hayes, and this double-album--originally released in 1971--features the man at the peak of his powers! The best possible example of how the man could take outside material and make it his own, this set features his "Never Can Say Goodbye" and "(They Long To Be) Close To You" and glides along soulfully in deep, deep groove. The completely fab new CD reissue features the original fold-out cover art, miniaturized, and is the sort of thing nearly everybody should have hanging in their house to prove their worth as humans! He'd probably think so, too!

J.J. Cale: Roll On (Rounder)  Speaking of impeccably cool musicians, look no further than Tulsa legend J.J. Cale, who's back with his first album since winning a Grammy with his Eric Clapton collaboration of 2006, The Road To Escondido. A little more upbeat in places that you might have come to expect with Cale's previous work, Roll On is precisely played, economically arranged, and sounds like it might've been recorded any time within the past 50 years. It probably was!

Company Of Thieves: Ordinary Riches (Wind-up)  Company Of Thieves is an interesting Chicago trio featuring a powerful lead vocalist in Genevieve Schatz--who'll either end up being loved by millions or being perceived as the contemporary equivalent of that hat-wearing chick in the 4 Non Blondes' video "What's Up," it's her call! They play melodic songs with a lot of emotional oomph and I suspect if you see them in live performance you will either like them a lot or perhaps be distracted by your date's unexpected urge to drink excessively! That stuff does happen! It's an either/or world for Company Of Thieves!

Green River Ordinance: Out Of My Hands (Virgin)  Few expected President Obama to be such a vocal fan of John Fogerty, but his recent insistence that all new bands sound like Creedence Clearwater Revival is taking some heat from unexpected quarters!  Dudes, cut him some slack!


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