A plethora of mildly interesting new releases should keep our pulses completely stable through the week!
That's right--absolutely nothing that's setting the world buzzing is being released, and the world is all the better for it!
Reliable names, tired faces, and the same-old/same-old is pretty much all that's available this week, allowing most of us to stay home, watch the season finales of our favorite television shows, and contemplate ways to say precisely the same thing in three separate sentences!
Still, it could be worse!
Leela James: My Soul (Stax) It's fitting that Ms. James, one of our better young R&B vocalists, has moved over to the distinguished Stax label--which has a proud history of expressive vocalists, precise but minimal musical accompaniment, and girls with Afros on their album covers! Sounding fully contemporary yet cognizant of the tradition of which she is clearly a part, James sings expertly, to fine musical backing, and such tracks as "Party All Night," "Supa Luva" and "Mr. Incredible-Ms. Unforgettable" can't help but bring back memories of Gwen McRae, Timmy Thomas, and other early '70s stars whose music now sounds better than ever! Check out her font! John Prine: In Person & On Stage (Oh Boy) Speaking of evoking the '70s, this lengthy live set from John Prine is a worthy reminder the singer--who rose to fame in the early '70s as the 26th of 344 "new Dylans"--has penned more than a few excellent songs, and a considerable number of them can be found here. Guests include Emmylou Harris, Iris Dement, Josh Ritter and Sara Watkins, among others, and Prine's material--including his famous "Angel From Montgomery" and "Your Flag Decal Won't Get You Into Heaven Anymore"--sounds surprisingly fresh in its reinterpretation. Yet another reminder that excellent songwriters are harder to come by than you might imagine, In Person is prime Prine! Tupac Shakur: Tupac: Live At The House Of Blues (Eagle Rock Blu-Ray DVD) While it isn't exactly an unseen performance, the Blu-Ray version of Tupac's 1996 House Of Blues show looks and sounds better than it may have been in real life! With guests including Snoop Dogg, Tha Dogg Pound, Nate Dogg, and non-Doggs K-Ci & Jojo, the disc is a worthy sociological document of this legendary rapper in his prime--and I for one now apologize for a review I wrote in 1992 suggesting that if Mr. Shakur had in fact been born one of three triplets, his name would rightly be Sixpac! Wynonna Judd: Love Heals: A Tribute To Our Wounded Soldiers (Curb) I'm sorry, but if someone could send this review back to me in the mid-'90s, when I was making up any old thing about the records I was reviewing, and I read that this album would only be available exclusively at Cracker Barrel stores, I would laugh and say, "Good lord--even the most gullible of readers would never believe such a thing could be possible!" Not that I think any of my readers are gullible, mind you, but this thing--which features new material and singles from the singer's 1992 debut album--is benefitting wounded war vets, is accompanied by other Wynonna product including hats, t-shirts and mugs, and goes great with cheese, sausage and luscious savory crackers! Buy two CDs, some pâté, and have lunch on me! Soft Machine: NDR Jazz Workshop, Germany, May 17, 1973 CD/DVD (Cuneiform) An unexpected and fascinating document showcasing one of popular music's most intriguing groups, this two-disc set features the same British band that would record Soft Machine 7 in their rarely-recorded prime. Taken from a German telecast--which shows up as the DVD part of this package, and looks wonderful--the far-reaching fusion here is bolstered by guest appearances by guitarist Gary Boyle and saxophonist Art Themen as well as Soft Machine's former bassist Hugh Hopper, whose appearance on "1983" shows up on the DVD as bonus audio material. A generous collection likely to thrill any Soft Machine fan--and yet another superb performance that the Cuneiform label has managed to unearth--this is essential stuff. Widespread Panic: Dirty Side Down (ATO) It's hard to believe that Widespread Panic has been around long enough to make 11 albums, but the fact is that these players--talented all--have been at the forefront of a live music scene that has, in 15 years or so, managed to grow stronger and stronger while the record industry itself has managed to curl up and die. Cool! Their latest album features 12 songs, well-played but not overly memorable, that still manage to impress with their musicianship, technique and overall affability, and suggest that 15 more years may not be outside the realms of possibility. How strange that no one I ask can tell me the name of one of their songs. Keith Jarrett & Charlie Haden: Jasmine (ECM) An album of love songs recorded at the home of Keith Jarrett, this recording pairs the pianist with esteemed bassist Charlie Haden, a member of Jarrett's band in the early '70s. Considering how emotive both players are, and the subject matter of the material--"For All We Know," "Body And Soul," "Don't Ever Leave Me"--it's an intimate, latenight listen, as Jarrett's liner notes attest: "Call your wife or husband or lover in late at night. These are great love songs played by players who are trying, mostly, to keep the message intact." Good stuff. Hank Williams III: Rebel Within (Curb) One has to admire an artist who makes records with songs titled "Getting' Drunk And Fallin' Down," "Drinkin' Ain't Hard To Do," "Moonshiner's Life," and "Drinkin' Over Momma"--especially since there had to be a point when he looked at this album's final track list, considered, and then said, "Yep, this is exactly how I want it!" I figure it's just like writing a blog, but less lucrative! Framing Hanley: Promise To Burn (Silent Majority) They're from Nashville! Customers who bought this album also bought Godsmack, Chevelle, Skillet, Bullet For My Valentine, Breaking Benjamin and Three Days Grace! This is exactly why no one needs record reviews!