Like most people, I have a hard time figuring out who's better: the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, or Christina Aguilera!
And here it is, scant weeks before the holidays, and they all have new albums!
So let's get methodical about it! The Beatles have just released a massive box set containing all their albums—in vinyl, no less! The Rolling Stones have also released a new collection, with loads of hits and a sexy gorilla on its cover! And Christina Aguilera—perhaps you've seen her on TV?—brings us Lotus, a brand new collection of great songs, featuring distinguished guests CeeLo Green, Blake Shelton, and a picture of her naked on its cover!
Shall we cut to the chase?
Beatles songs: Old. Rolling Stones songs: Old. Christina Aguilera songs: New!
Beatles: Old guys. Rolling Stones: Old guys. Christina Aguilera: Naked! Blonde!
Next week: Optometrists vs. Ophthalmologists! Who's sexier?
Susan Boyle: Standing Ovation: The Greatest Songs From The Stage (Syco/Columbia) As always, I like to start this blog off with the album I consider to be the week's best—and when it comes to the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and Susan Boyle, who on earth could argue? The sensational Boyle, seen here on her album cover, wittily mocks her competition this week with an artfully chosen version of "Send In The Clowns"—vaguely reminiscent of that odd Stones outtake from Black And Blue, arrangement-wise—then goes in for the kill with not one but two songs featuring former pop idol Donny Osmond, himself no stranger to the vagaries of the pop music game! Boyle's startling grasp of the latest in psycho-acoustic audio technology reaches its peak here with "You'll Never Walk Alone"--which within its scant three minutes and 24 seconds contains a series of sub-sonic frequencies which will methodically cause 1) gastrointestinal discomfort, 2) involuntary sexual arousal, and 3) an urge to drive to Dunkin Donuts for a Chocolate Iced Bismark! Only bummer? Still no Rush covers!
Green Day: ¡Dos! (Reprise) Funny that after all this time, few people really seem to get Green Day! This new album, coming on the tail of some other one or something, may be the first that shows the much-loved trio for what they really are: tech nerds! Entirely devoted to the DOS operating system—for indeed, in their early days, the guys spent a lot of time with their Atari 2600s, arguing about the merits of Apple's ProDOS and asking their parents to buy them that ultra-hot new Coleco Adam—this album rocks and rocks hard! Best track may be the offensively titled "F*** Time"—God, are these guys punks or what?—in which charismatic Billy Joe Armstrong curses the laws of relativity for not allowing him to go back in time and buy that IBM Peanut he so desperately wanted but couldn't afford! The music sounds like the same old Who/Kinks/Jam/Buzzcocks mishmash, but heck—these guys have way better hair! Plus I like their name!
One Direction: Take Me Home (Syco) In some ways the best band that ever existed, in others just a bunch of dorks put together for some British reality show, One Direction are nothing if not a fun-loving group of air-breathers! Their latest set, potentially their best ever, shows the Brit chaps to be uninhibited about their weaknesses, musically or otherwise! Instructed to go into a phone booth and make a phone call for their new album cover shot, the poor guys simply can't figure out how to get into the booth and, as the photo illustrates, are deeply concerned their growing fan base might think them dunderheads! Word has it that their cruel art director intends to make the "direction" for their next album's cover involve them both patting their heads and rubbing their tummies at the same time! The album includes some songs!
The Beatles: Stereo Vinyl Box Set (Capitol) Some packages are almost laughable in terms of actually being reviewed, and this staggering set—a collection of 14 Beatle albums, pressed on 180-gram, audiophile vinyl—may rank at the very top of the heap. A beautiful box notable not just for the marvelous, historic sounds contained within, but for the look and texture of the collection itself, it's about all the Beatles any sane human would ever need. But picking up the albums, pulling the vinyl discs out of their respective jackets, perhaps thumbing through the deluxe hardcover book also included here, ranks right up there with actually hearing the music in terms of sensory experiences: It's pure history, marvelously packaged and setting the bar for top-notch, catalog vinyl reissues. Americans of a certain age may find it mildly unsettling to find the band's earliest recordings in a different sequence than Capitol Records provided us, just as UK listeners may wonder how Magical Mystery Tour became an entire album rather than a groovy EP, but a methodical listening of all the discs within evokes nothing but absolute joy no matter what your country of origin. All things considered: about as good as it gets.
Christina Aguilera: Lotus (RCA) A wonderfully expressive singer who apparently is on TV a lot these days, Christina Aguilera once made headlines for being the supposed rival of pop goddess Britney Spears, herself also a TV star, but seeming somehow…how to say this politely?...kinkier! While Aguilera's fortunes have risen and fallen with the times—and who among us can't relate to that?—most agree that her infamous encounter a few years back with a rich and reclusive botanist changed her game entirely! Now reduced in size to a mere six inches, the singer these days emerges regularly as a lotus flower stamen in various gardens on the East Coast and in Japan, spends a few hours talking about the inherent flaws of Botticelli's The Birth Of Venus, trash-talks her earliest work on The New Mickey Mouse Club, and spends way too much time talking about the shape of Ceelo Green's head! Sometimes she makes albums, and this is one of them! I think it may be a masterpiece!
Brian Eno: LUX (Warp) An entirely dandy Brian Eno ambient affair that recalls his earlier instrumental works—think Music For Airports, Music For Films, Discreet Music—but, for all its 76 minutes, contains a little more motion than those earlier works, and is officially (though inaudibly) divided into 12 separate sections, all apparently derived from an art installation currently based somewhere in Italy. Smooth, dreamy, the perfect music to listen to while writing a blog that must somehow contain wordage about the Beatles, Susan Boyle and Christina Aguilera yet still seem rational, the album's greatest success may be its ability to be purely enjoyed without reading about the context of its composition—a boogeyman that has haunted some of Eno's earlier highbrow work. That said, anybody who wants to pony up 25 bucks for a version of this on vinyl—and the inherent clicks that format, over time, can't help but provide—is a funny bunny!
Lana Del Ray: Paradise (Interscope) Since I never saw Ms. Del Ray on TV, and have only heard that her performance seemed silly—and this from a cluster of humans whose judgment itself might seem questionable—I was entirely willing to listen to this fab new EP and take it purely at face value. And I kind of liked what I heard! There is subtlety, there is sensuality, there is a memorable cover logo, there is an oozing orchestra that appears to want to emulate that whole Angelo Badalamenti thing, there are songs with titles like "American," "Cola," and "Bel Air," and there is a red-headed singer that I would probably cast as Lana Lang if I was doing that new Superman remake! If it was May, I might even ask her to the prom! Still, devoting an entire album to one Meat Loaf song does seem a little iffy!
The Rolling Stones: GRRR! (ABKCO) Some might scoff at a 3-CD set of Rolling Stones hits that feature a mere two new songs unavailable elsewhere, but those songs—"Doom And Gloom" and "One More Shot"—are not bad at all, and more importantly, fit in quite well as the wrap-up to relatively unique collection: These dudes have been making records since Hector was a pup! Hector Jones, my neighbor! But you know what? If you can sit still long enough to listen to three consecutive CDs of Rolling Stones material—extending as far back as 1492's "Come On," their first single, powering through the good stuff like "Satisfaction," and even making stuff like 1986's "Harlem Shuffle" sound palatable—those last two tracks make a great finale to a wonderful listening experience! My plan is to listen to them repeatedly when I refinance my house so I can buy tickets to their upcoming concerts! Record store clerks: make sure you insist customers ask for this album by name!
Marvin Gaye: Trouble Man: 40th Anniversary Expanded Edition (Motown/Hip-O Select) All these years later I would maintain that my favorite Tamla/Motown recordings of all time are those albums recorded by Marvin Gaye between 1971's What's Going On and 1981's In Our Lifetime—and with this, all of those discs have now been reissued in deluxe, expanded form, and the world is a loving, rational place. Mostly instrumental, featuring the well-known title track and now a batch of alternate takes and (no small thing) the actual film score, Trouble Man is an underrated gem in Gaye's distinguished catalog: it is sophisticated, extra-musical, and precisely the sort of thing you'd want to hear if it's getting late, you feel like driving around a little, but first you want to try on a few hats while looking in the mirror! I mean, like, hypothetically!
Deftones: Koi No Yokan (Reprise) A long-lived band with a fiercely devoted following, Deftones return with a new album! As always, each album title is an anagram specifically spelling out each album's theme—and this time out, it's Okay In Nook! I guess when you get older, you think about sex a lot!