If you're a regular reader of this blog--and who isn't?--you may have noticed a few readers persistently comment that I "don't even listen to the albums" and "just look at the covers" before writing my reviews!
You'd be correct if you were to assume that I find such comments deeply offensive!
So to set the record straight--and I'll only mention this once, then never bring it up again--such statements are patently untrue!
I only sometimes look at the covers!
Marilyn Manson: The High End Of Low (Interscope) One of the most compelling and profound artists of all time--a master at self-expression with his finger on the pulse of all that really matters in this world, a guy whose impact on post-millennial culture has yet to be accurately calibrated--would probably see this album in a record store and laugh! "Wow," he'd say, "is Marilyn Manson still around?" Later he'd joke with his friends that there was a song on it called "Arma-godd**m-motherf***in-geddon" and they'd all chortle in disbelief! Then maybe they'd see a movie!
Grizzly Bear: Veckatimest (Warp) Certainly at critical mass at this point--with tours with Radiohead and Feist and a performance with the L.A. Philharmonic behind them--Grizzly Bear have emerged with an excellent new album that will sell more copies than many expect and perhaps set them on their way to superstardom! Not least because according to Wikipedia the album was "released on May 26th to widespread critical acclaim" and today is May 26th! Like, how does it know? Did you know that this album was named after an island in Massachusetts? And that 3 out of 4 humans with attention deficit disorder will look at this album cover and think it's a new Beck album? Yep! Marketing's getting cooler!
Mandy Moore: Amanda Leigh (Storefront) Rather than devote the next three sentences to a review claiming that singer Amanda Leigh is liable to face stern legal action for titling her new album Mandy Moore--I mean, like, that would be pointless!--I'd like to mention that this new album is surprisingly good, extremely tuneful, and clearly pop-inspired, perhaps due to the contribution of producer Mike Viola of the Candy Butchers! Or maybe Mandy has simply come into her own! Check it out and you'll see--good stuff! Wonder if Marilyn Manson's a fan?
I Could Break Your Heart Any Day Of The Week-Mandy Moore
Julian Marley: Awake (Tuff Gong) A pretty dandy record from Julian Marley--son of Bob, brother of Stephen and Damian--this is his third and very likely not his last! As the title and album cover indicate, Julian was apparently out wandering on the beach and inexplicably fell asleep for quite some time! So imagine his chagrin when he opens his eyes and sees all that beautiful beachfront property now obliterated by the skyscrapers on the album cover! The poor guy! With guest appearances by brother Stephen on "A Little Too Late" and brother Damian on "Violence In The Streets," Awake is all you've ever expected from a Julian Marley album and more! Buy it today!
Electrik Red: How To Be A Lady, Volume 1 (Def Jam) People are already asking whether Electrik Red is "the new Danity Kane"--at least they are on the internet, where nothing more interesting ever happens--and I'm here to tell you: 1) The production by The Dream and Tricky Stewart is pretty appealing, especially on first single "Drink In My Cup," 2) These four women not only sing but can look attractive on command!, 3) Back in the old days when I was a sadistic record store clerk, I'd make any guy looking for this album tell me the actual name of it for kicks, and 4) I am categorically behind any singing quartet featuring someone named Binkie! Combined, these four points make this record better than almost everything!
Drink In My Cup (Album Version (Edited))-Electrik Red
Dave Brubeck Quartet: Time Out: Legacy Edition; Miles Davis: Sketches Of Spain: Legacy Edition; Charles Mingus: Mingus Ah Um: Legacy Edition (all Columbia/Legacy) It's hard to believe that these three albums--jazz classics all--have now been out for 50 years, but that appears to be the case! So wear the bottom of your trousers rolled! And if you don't have any of them, I'd suggest you purchase each and enjoy them all for the remainder of your life. The Brubeck album contains his best-known tunes--including "Blue Rondo à la Turk" and "Take Five"--the Davis album is the trumpeter's legendary collaboration with arranger Gil Evans, and the Mingus album, any way you look at it, is absolutely classic. Buy 'em all, put 'em on a shelf, buy a beret and watch things change!
Song Of Our Country-Miles Davis
Stratovarius: Polaris (Eagle) Who am I kidding? Every once in a while, just like you, I enjoy playing highly polished technically proficient Finnish metal! And when it comes to highly polished technically proficient Finnish metal, you can't get much better than Stratovarius! Longtime fans of the band already know that their guitarist Timo Tolkki departed last year; his replacement, Matias Kupianen, has ample chops, as they say, and an equally novel name! For fun I like to play this for people in my car and ask them what year they think it was recorded! When they try to guess, I simply look them in the eye and say nothing! It's, like, really fun!
King Of Nothing-Stratovarius
Gary Lewis & the Playboys: The Complete Liberty Singles (Collector's Choice) Anyone who lived through the '60s heard Gary Lewis & the Playboys cranking out hit after hit on the radio for years, and as the liner notes to this superb 2-CD collection point out, those hits often raced the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and the Beach Boys to the top of the charts. Why does that seem so hard to believe now? Maybe because they've effectively been written out of rock history by rock critic goons who deemed them uncool in retrospect! Darn those goons! But if you want to hear a fantastic compilation of top-notch songs played by some of the best musicians in the business--not the actual Playboys, but the completely fabulous session men on every track--you've got to pick this up! Among the hits: "This Diamond Ring," "Count Me In," Save Your Heart For Me," "Everybody Loves A Clown" and many, many more. Forty-five tracks in all, including "Doin' The Flake," and a welcome look back at Rock's Secret History! Taste the magnificence!
This Diamond Ring-Gary Lewis & The Playboys
Procol Harum: In Concert With The Danish National Concert Orchestra & Choir DVD (Eagle) Speaking of time travel, you may enjoy this live performance set from England's Procol Harum, which captures the band in 2006--when they were effectively longtime singer Gary Brooker plus backing band--as well as the "bonus" footage of an earlier version of the band performing six tracks on Danish TV in 1974. It's a fine array of songs--extending back to "A Whiter Shade Of Pale," of course--and Brooker is in fine voice during both segments. Once had lunch with him and his songwriting pal Keith Reid in the '80s and--not to tell tales out of school--find the performance of "Sympathy For The Hard Of Hearing" especially appropriate! Could you repeat that, please?
A Whiter Shade Of Pale-Procol Harum
Black Moth Super Rainbow: Eating Us (Graveface) Produced by David Fridmann, who produces nearly every band who's any good, the Black Moth Super Rainbow's new album is deliciously psychedelic and something you should buy at your earliest opportunity! You've got to "hand" it to 'em!
Twin Of Myself-Black Moth Super Rainbow