I don't think I've ever been as invigorated about a week's new album releases as I am right now!
Just think: A new album by the highly charismatic Chris Brown! He's quite famous! The return of Flo Rida! Gosh, all that success even with that horrid stage name! And the return of Asia! Frickin' Asia!
Plus a bunch of great reissued albums that probably came out before you were born!
In the words of one very famous writer, it's the best of times and the worst of times!
Sadly, that writer is long dead! But we're not!
Chris Brown: Fortune (RCA) I think Chris Brown's been on the receiving end of a bad rap! Sure, he's done some wacky stuff in the past, but clearly he's a changed man! Look at those glasses! Glasses just...I don't know...make the person wearing them look smart or something! And weak! And mild-mannered! He'd never hurt anyone! He probably was too nice to say he didn't like his new album cover, even though it says "octogenarian" in Slavic! It must just be an accident that his new songs like "Don't Judge Me" and "Stuck On Stupid" have titles that the ignorant among us might apply to his personal life when in fact they're just songs! And not bad songs, either! Much like Brown's pioneering past albums Time, Life, Sports Illustrated and Entertainment Weekly, Fortune is available electronically or soon will be! Will anyone care? Heck, I don't know!
Asia: XXX (Frontiers) With an admirable grasp of 21st century commerce via its title--hey, only a dummy wouldn't realize that Asian porn reaps big bucks, searchwise--the pioneering '80s art-rock band that commercialized prog rock is back in a big way! The new album, featuring progsters John Wetton, Steve Howe, Carl Palmer and Geoff Downes, is slick, sleek, hook-filled, commercial, and bearing a cover just like all the 81 other Asia albums out in the marketplace...but green! Ironically, the color of money! It's actually a pretty nifty album: Hooks galore, nice singing, nice playing, entirely credible, etc. My plan is to rip it, listen to it a few more times, put the cover art up on my garage wall, and wonder if my old college roommate still plays Dungeons And Dragons and likes sticking all those whipped cream cans in warm water!
Flo Rida: Wild Ones (IMG) Like Asia but, of course, less than one-fiftieth its size, Flo Rida is a huge presence on the charts! His clever name--also a state, if you simply put both words together!--is just a part of his appeal: The dude has a way with words, with rhythms, with album guest stars (try Jennifer Lopez, Sia and the legendary Redfoo of LMFAO for size!), and most importantly, wearing sunglasses and looking "tuff" on his album covers! With its wonderful new cover logo--dedicated to all of his home state's alligators, deer, doves, hogs, quail, small game and waterfowl--Wild Ones is an exceptional work, offering up audible songs, memorable cover graphics, rhythms, lyrics and, for those who purchase this in CD format, a shiny piece of plastic with a hole it its middle! His best yet? Maybe!
Small Faces: Ogden's Nut Gone Flake (Snapper) I'm completely into buying new versions of my favorite albums, especially when they're the best versions yet! This latest 3-CD deluxe version of the Small Faces classic 1968 set Ogden's Nut Gone Flake, initially renowned for being issued in a round album sleeve--oh yeah, it was also kind of good--has been given a limited run of 5,000 copies, but you know what? You should probably buy it! Featuring the fab Brit band--just admitted to the Rock 'N' Roll Hall of Fame, so they must be good!--precisely when they made the shift from R&B to colorfully, lovably dopey psychedelia, Ogden's is a highly listenable, ambitious example of artists looking to expand their musical vistas in an adventurous, highly compelling manner, largely because their fervent audience was too doped up to care one way or another! It--like life itself--is great!
Momus: Bibliotek (American Patchwork) It would not be a blog penned by me were I not to make note of the latest release by Momus, the smartest, wisest, deepest, most melodically capable singer-songwriter of the era, who continues to deliberately go his own way, blissfully non-caring about the commercial prospects of his work, but simply following his own very special muse, which is unlike any other human's, consistently leaving excellent recordings like this behind him as evidence of his marvelous talent. And sometimes they're kind of catchy! One has to admire any artist who decides to conclude his album with a Prefab Sprout cover! By law!
The Searchers: Hearts In Their Eyes (Sanctuary) If every music writer has a band that stands as their personal sentimental favorite, for me it would be the Searchers--who, because I'm old enough to have sought their records out when they were initially released, were actually the group I preferred to the Beatles back when both groups were still around and that claim didn't seem so outlandish. This new collection, celebrating their 50th anniversary, is loaded with all the expected hits ("Don't Throw Your Love Away," "Needles And Pins," "Someday We're Gonna Love Again") and some in retrospect staggering classics ("Goodbye My Love," "Each Time"), and essentially lays the groundwork for what would become the celebrated genre "folk-rock" and much more. Four CDs in all, and I can't think of a better overall investment for any thinking music fan.
Ulver: Childhood's End (Kscope) Yikes! The best covers album ever? From a Norwegian Black Metal band? My jaw dropped first when I saw the songs covered here--by the Pretty Things, Left Banke, Gandalf, Chocolate Watch Band, Curt Boettcher, the Beau Brummels--and even more when I heard what they did with these classic, sometimes stunningly obscure tracks. A complete labor of love, this 16-track set is superbly recorded, wonderfully arranged, and features some of the tastiest versions of songs that for the most part have slipped under pop culture's musical radar. Peppered with a few familiar tracks--the Byrds' "Everybody's Been Burned," the Jefferson Airplane's "Today," and the Electric Prunes' "I Had Too Much To Dream Last Night"--Childhood's End is a fantastic collection displaying a level of taste likely to impress any sophisticated music fan. Highly recommended!
The Electric Prunes: The Complete Reprise Singles (Real Gone) Speaking of the Electric Prunes, leave it to the completely fabulous Real Gone label to offer up the goods in the best possible configuration: Here are all the singles this comparatively undersung band released in their prime: "I Had Too Much To Dream (Last Night)," "Get Me To The World On Time," and a whole batch of tunes like "The Great Banana Hoax," that, whether fab or unfab, certainly were timely in the late '60s! The band's fascinating story--their shifting personnel, their acclaimed work with David Axelrod--is well-told by liner-note writer Richie Unterberger, though I could've used a bit more info on their latter days, which from an album perspective were at least as interesting as their earliest. Still, the love and devotion behind the Real Gone releases is remarkable in 2012--and this release displays the label at their best. More, please.
Timi Yuro: The Complete Liberty Singles (Real Gone) OK, here's more from Real Gone. And what a collection it is: A legendary singer from the early '60s, Yuro--a young, short Italian-American with a striking voice--is heard here completely in her prime, via her much-admired Liberty Records singles, "Hurt," "What's A Matter Baby (Is It Hurting You)," and many more. Difficult to find in their original versions--and heard here mostly in their original single mixes--the tracks are more often than not awe-inspiring, and from a consumer's standpoint, highly welcome. Not to sound like a name-dropping mofo, but I remember being impressed by Morrissey, back with the Smiths during their Meat Is Murder tour, who during an interview mentioned that Yuro and Gladys Horton of the Marvelettes were two of his all-time favorite singers. This album lets you know why.
Moebius + Tietchens: Moebius + Tietchens (Bureau B) An unexpected gem from Dieter Moebius--from pioneering German minimalists Kluster/Cluster and Harmonia--and the similarly inclined Asmus Tietchens, this new collaboration is highly listenable, quite mellow, as this minimalist stuff typically is, and proudly bearing a cover that, if bought in bulk, would make one heck of a linoleum design! I don't think we could ask for more!