Naysayers who insist that today's music scene is stagnant, offering few if any noteworthy new albums, would do well to look at this week's hot new releases!
Among the highlights are steaming hot product from Richie Havens, Rick Springfield, Alice Cooper, and exciting new duo Steve Cropper and Felix Cavaliere!
And on the DVD front, this is the week that Martin Scorsese's heralded punk documentary Shine A Light--featuring the at-times off-color Rolling Stones--hits the shops!
One thing's for sure--it wasn't like this when I was a kid! Heck, those guys' records were all out of print back then!
Scars On Broadway: Scars On Broadway (Interscope) Easily this week's hottest new CD--I left it on my front seat this afternoon at Ralphs!--this searing debut project from Daron Malakian and John Dolmayan, both of System Of A Down, is loud, intense, punkish, and circular! Highlights include the upbeat "Stoner-Hate," "Insane," "Kill Each Other/Live Forever," and my personal favorite, "Chemicals." With a lyrical tenderness at times recalling Slipknot, the guys alternately coo "I smacked your face you fell in love" and, enticingly, "Come eat some chemicals with me/ Come eat some chemicals"! I for one have fallen head over heels for them--and only wish they'd have played my prom!
Rick Springfield: Venus In Overdrive (New Door/UME) This business is all about expectations! I can't say I anticipated a masterwork when I first put on this CD, but with its first few seconds recalling the opening riffs of "Jesse's Girl," and the overall upbeat vibe on display, I'll happily give this guy's new album a complete thumbs up! Despite the conspicuous absence of a bull terrier on its cover--ah, what the heck, I guess Rick's still a good lookin' dude--the album's titular reference to the Velvet Underground, Randy Bachman and Frankie Avalon ensures Mr. Springfield gets to keep his hip credentials among the widest generation spread ever! And what does Kim Carnes have to say about it all?
Soulfly: Conquer (CD + DVD) (Roadrunner) "Grab your war paint and prepare for the onslaught" is the product description accompanying this double slab of white-hot intensity--or as those less imaginative might say, CD and DVD combo! Featuring Max Cavalera of Brazil's legendary Sepultura, the group have assembled a sixth album that numerically speaking goes their fifth one better! As always, the guys' feel-good sound is both catchy and addictive! My fave tracks of the moment are "Blood Fire War Hate" and the deeply felt "For Those About To Rot"--and the band's logo couldn't be cooler! Check this clip out and tell me if you don't agree! Soulfly: More shrimply delicious than ever!
Richie Havens: Nobody Left To Crown (Verve Forecast) Once in the '80s I was walking around New York City and went into the Lone Star Café to see Joe Ely! Sitting at the bar all by himself and waiting to watch Joe was Leonard Cohen, and I was impressed, so I went over to say hello! Then I went upstairs and sat at a booth by myself and then Richie Havens sat next to me! A few minutes later, '70s rocker Elliot Murphy sat on the other side of me! Everyone made small talk! This is all true! Significantly, with all those various levels of celebrities on display, not a single artist suggested that in 25 years, '60s folkie Havens would eventually return to the same Verve Forecast label that made him famous! Nor did they mention his Clio award-winning McDonald's commercials that would come in the interim! After all, we were in a bar, the music was loud, and it was a long time ago!
Alice Cooper: Along Came A Spider (Steamhammer/SPV) Unlike most rock critics, I tend to think that Alice Cooper peaked circa his third album, Love It To Death, and then became less and less interesting with every album until he magically vanished into the air and we all forgot about him! Also unlike most rock critics, I am tall and historically shied away from English Literature classes! Meanwhile, the world's gotten less and less interesting, what was once mundane is now singularly great, and I personally would like to give this man his due for--against all odds--being the guy who finally wrote a song with the title "I'm Hungry"! The New Candor: let all rockers embrace it!
Johnny Flynn: A Larum (Lost Highway) Mucking up this week's releases by actually being a great album by a new artist--frickin' troublemaker!--A Larum is the noteworthy debut CD by British singer-songwriter Johnny Flynn, and it resonates with sound waves when you hit it with small metallic objects! According to informed internet sources, Flynn cites W.B. Yeats and Shakespeare among his influences, so I guess there's no point in describing how he sounds! I like this album very much, and were I the sort of writer who was overly reliant on cliché, I would now make some comment about how "nobody is in like Flynn"! Instead, I will go back and watch this Youtube clip again!
Steve Cropper & Felix Cavaliere: Nudge It Up A Notch (Stax/Concord) When it comes to high-cred rock musicians, you can't get much higher in the food chain than guitarist Steve Cropper--Stax Records legend, member of Booker T. & The MG's, and the guy to whom John Belushi once made the request "Play it, Steve!"-- and Young Rascals singer and organist Felix Cavaliere, whose work has remained top-notch since the mid-'60s! Here they are with 12 original tunes, putting their art up for sale, and surely worthy of the support of you and yours! Most impressive of all? That fancy iPod on the CD cover!
Neil Halstead: Oh! Mighty Engine (Brushfire) A superb second album by Halstead--a member of the crit-lauded Mojave 3 and once-trendy Slowdive--that strangely makes contextual sense emerging from Jack Johnson's record label. Warm and substantial, this disc merits many repeated plays, though its actually bearing fruit is a physical impossibility due to its inanimate nature! I can think of few things more pleasant than listening to this, drinking fine scotch, and watching attractive waitresses stuff 20-dollar bills into my shirt pocket!
Colours: Love Heals: The Complete Recordings (Now Sounds) Here's a pretty stunning reissue--the two albums by '60s L.A. band Colours, obscure then and known now (if at all) for featuring songwriters Jack Dalton and Gary Montgomery as well as future Derek & The Dominos bassist Carl Radle. You might say whoop-ti-doo--especially if, like Johnny Flynn, you're into Yeats and Shakespeare--but you've got to hear this thing, especially the tracks from the band's first album, which like similar L.A. band (and Colours' buddies) the Moon, are great, catchy, arty pop songs that would have been hits if they'd been played on the radio but weren't, for kicks! Kids: Buy this now and prove your parents were morons!
Roy Hargrove Quintet: Earfood (Emarcy) I don't review too many jazz albums, but anything about cannibalism attracts my attention!
- Rick Springfield
- Richie Havens
- Steve Cropper