Perhaps you've heard the expression, "When it rains, it pours!"
If you're like me, it's the sort of the phrase that's bothered you since you were a youngster forced to remain at the dinner table well after you'd finished eating--all for the sake of that silly "family" thing everyone's always talking about!
And while you sat there, seething but too young to realize why, your eyes fixated on that big fat, blue cylindrical object at the center of the dinner table, bearing a blue label and a puzzling illustration of a young girl holding an umbrella, standing in the rain like an idiot, with the legend "When it rains, it pours" next to her!
Again like me, that was probably the precise moment you realized that if you had any sort of future whatsoever, it would lie in writing thought-provoking music reviews, perhaps years in the future, in which you would incorporate virtually every thought that had ever crossed your mind in order to personally fulfill your word quota!
"One day," you perhaps reasoned, "I'll use that expression to convey the joy of an album release week bubbling over with fantastic new product! It will be really artful, and people will admire the analogy!"
Sadly, however, you big brother will then remind your parents that you've once again come to the dinner table without your pants! That too will scar you!
But as you stare at them all...you'll remember!
Various Artists: Chimes Of Freedom: The Songs Of Bob Dylan (Amnesty International) Certainly one of the week's most ambitious releases is this massive, 4-CD collection of Bob Dylan covers, assembled to honor Amnesty International's 50th anniversary, and featuring some of the biggest stars in contemporary pop music. While Dylan cover songs are nothing new, the impact of this many classic tunes sung by this diverse a group of people--from Miley Cyrus to Patti Smith, Bad Religion to Dave Matthews, Bryan Ferry to Carly Simon, Marianne Faithfull to Eric Burdon--drives home, first of all, the innate quality of Dylan's raw ability as a songwriter, and, perhaps more importantly, his unprecedented cultural impact. As well performed as, say Sting's version of "Girl From The North Country" may be, I'm more impressed that fans of Miley Cyrus and Ke$ha may want to check out their respective versions of "You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go" and "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right" and perhaps, almost accidentally, absorb the impact of Dylan's less personal, more politically inspired material. And perhaps they--or the artists themselves--would then like to discuss it personally! Heh!
Celtic Woman: Believe (Special Edition + Tote Bag) (Manhattan) One of this decade's more compelling phenomenons is the so-called "Celtic Woman" vocal group, an intriguing bunch who have never actually been visually represented on their many album covers--but in fact have all been morphed into one non-existent, but hey, pretty hot fictional woman who smiles coyly from their album covers! Cool! Like Rihanna, but taller! Here, the babes have been captured singing onstage at Atlanta's Fox Theatre, running through the likes of "Bridge Over Troubled Water," "Ave Maria," and traditional favorite "A Spaceman Came Travelling," and can be had not only in regular CD editions, but in DVD and--as pictured here--a lovely CD and tote bag combination, which, all things considered, may be the only way to go! As a carrying case and attractive headgear, the tote bag is a marvelous fashion accessory and the sort of thing that makes today's pop music scene more exciting that ever! Incidentally, some of my best friends are totes!
The Doors: L.A. Woman: 40th Anniversary Edition (Rhino) Mr. Mojo Risin': The Story Of L.A. Woman (DVD) (Eagle Rock) That 40 years have passed since the release of the Doors' classic final album with Jim Morrison is jarring for anyone who actually picked it up the day it was released; that it still sounds quite good, quite contemporary, and quite focused on a singer who sounds like he should've probably cleared his throat once or twice before singing, is part of its undeniable appeal. Between Rhino's excellent reissue--filled with remastered tracks and a multitude of previously unheard tracks, including the celebrated "She Smells So Nice" --which, between you and me, sounds about as complimentary a sentiment as "She's Not That Fat"--and Eagle Rock's excellent new documentary DVD, the story of this very fascinating album has been well-told, the band well-represented, and the music spiffed up as never before thought possible. The Doors remain one of my all-time favorite groups and these projects serve their distinguished legacy well indeed. Both highly recommended.
Lamb Of God: Resolution (Epic) There are those who contend that Lamb Of God are one of the industry's biggest stories: They don't play by the rules, they don't kowtow to music business trends, and they don't do much of anything else but play loud, aggressive metal-based rock and roll! And they're quite good! Still, to base an entire album on their collective New Year's resolution to watch "a lot less TV, get a lot more exercise, to eat healthily and to do our best to be square and obey the Law of the Pack" seems a bit jarring to those who look to today's metal heroes for that little bit of decadence we all find lacking in our own lives! Maybe after gigs they get double-espressos and make prank phone calls!
Seal: Soul 2 (Warner Bros.) There's a part of me that simply wants to accept art as pure art, without digging in and making real-life associations that may affect my enjoyment of it. Translation: Hearing that fabulous Brit singer Seal has split with his celebrity wife Heidi Klum, announced the same week this album emerges, adds a certain irony to the songs selected for this highly listenable collection of revamped R&B hits, as the titles alone of "Let's Stay Together," "The Backstabbers," "Love Don't Live Here Anymore" and "I'll Be Around" make amply evident. Superb production, silky-smooth singing, for which Seal is well-known, and excellent song choice makes this a memorable outing for the man and for anyone whose personal life is currently going down the toilet! High praise? You bet!
U2: From The Sky Down (Blu-Ray DVD) (Island) Fans of U2--and word is there are more than a few--should enjoy this assemblage of footage put together by director Davis Guggenheim to celebrate the band's recently re-issued Achtung Baby album. Guggenheim--the man responsible for An Inconvenient Truth and It Might Get Loud--displays the band via fascinating archival footage, contemporary interviews, performance clips, and his intent--to show the men behind the music--is skillfully realized throughout. Throw in some bonus performances and Bono and the Edge yapping at the film's premiere at the Toronto Film Festival and you've got a classy document of a band that focuses less on mythology than you might expect--and is an altogether enjoyable experience.
Michael Gibbs And The NDR Bigband: Back In The Days (Cuneiform) Due out next week, the disc continues the tradition that the Cuneiform label has already established, via recent releases by John Surman and Soft Machine, of releasing top-notch material recorded for German radio by distinguished British jazz artists. Heard here is composer Gibbs (actually born in Rhodesia, but a later student at Berklee and a UK resident) is relatively recent mode--the recordings are from 1995-2003--performing a wealth of original compositions and a few classics ("'Round Midnight," "Here's That Rainy Day") with a highly skilled orchestra and several commanding solo instrumentalists. Very high quality stuff, and it's thrilling to see Cuneiform actively releasing it. More, please.
Cardinal: Hymns (Fire) Count me as one of many who fully appreciated the early '90s debut of Cardinal, an out-of-time collaboration by songwriters Eric Matthews and Richard Davies, whose memorable debut at the time of the Rise Of Grunge evoked entirely unfashionable comparisons to the early Bee Gees, the Left Banke, and all sorts of melodic, skilled-arranging types and soon resulted in the suspect description of "orchestral pop." Hey, I never used it! Eighteen years later, here's another collaboration, not quite so intricately arranged, and it's credible, not nearly so contextually out of place, and a good, solid listen by a pair of gentlemen with their hearts in the right place: Behind their ribs, sort of near their stomachs!
First Aid Kit: The Lion's Roar (Wichita) This second album from an interesting pair of Swedish sisters--Klara and Johanna Soderberg--is produced by Bright Eyes producer-type Mike Mogis and boast clever arrangements, memorable harmonies--it's that whole genetic thing--and has an overall lyrical tone that at times belies the apparent sweetness of the melodies. It is good, it is artful, it does not seem overly hampered by commercial considerations, and it is the sort of album that will likely sound equally as substantial in 20 years time. Kind of like Ke$ha, if they ever released that Unplugged thing! Buy it!
Foxy Shazam: The Church Of Rock And Roll (I.R.S.) Completely into excess for its own sake, willing to evoke the past and the future simultaneously, and capable of cutting through a stick of butter like a heated knife if they were melted down into molten steel, Foxy Shazam have devoted their very lives to immortalizing the sex appeal of Jim Nabors! Have you? Just asking!