It has been scientifically calculated by experts--many of whom are tall, intelligent and undoubtedly better looking than most of us--that this week, this single week, is the one week in which more people will buy record albums than any other!
Likewise, a stunning number of people will likely Google the term "record albums" to ascertain precisely what that means!
But indeed, the days immediately following Thanksgiving are those that most record companies choose to debut those releases they assume will be the biggest releases of the year!
The irony? Those few record stores that still exist all share similarly sized fixtures that can only hold one specific size of CD! And the biggest releases stay in the back of the store while record clerks make jokes about their size, play Rush albums, and make fun of the elderly ladies visiting to buy Justin Bieber albums for their grandkids!
Still, if you're like me, new releases by Nickelback, Michael Jackson and Rihanna make your pulse pound with excitement! Plus, you're probably tall and favor the indiscriminate wearing of sunglasses!
Rihanna: Talk That Talk (Island Def Jam) Clearly taking to heart the unexpected stage aside made by her friend Ne-Yo that she suffered from having a "big forehead"--and slyly covering it on her album cover, so that we wouldn't notice, let alone make mention of it in a record review--young Rihanna returns with what may be the finest album of all time! Featuring a host of guest stars, her tongue, and a bunch of songs that are undoubtedly kinky as heck were one to listen to them, Rihanna here illustrates that she's best referred to as a goddess, she's taken way too seriously by people who write about music for a living purely because she sells a lot of records, and that were she to casually mention her last name was Goldberg, her sales might take an unexpected tumble! I like her a lot, perhaps most of all because her name strikes that pleasant middle ground between sounding like an especially efficient hair conditioner and the sort of thing you'd spray in a frying pan to avoid messy, sticky dishwashing chores! Not to lavish too much praise here, but it would literally be impossible for her to ever get any better! Get my drift?
Nickelback: Here And Now (Roadrunner) A staggeringly fantastic band that due to wise management and an uncanny sense of the financial markets have now literally bought their Canadian homeland, Nickelback return here with the album that will propel them to the very top of the rock heap, an album that presses all the right buttons, employs all the appropriate clichés, and then follows you home, watches you when you get into bed, and then roams around your house, checks for windows not totally closed, then wirelessly communicates your location to heavy metal thugs who'll steal your money, spray-paint maple leaves on your front door, and maybe have a zany pillowfight before politely leaving, because they're Canadian! All the tunes here are great, but I think I most enjoy opening track "This Means War"--because it signifies the beginning of the 10 fantastic tracks that will next follow--and closer "Don't Ever Let It End," because it's the cue for me--and countless others--to start the dang thing all over again and simply dig the fabulousness of anything by Nickelback whatsoever! In short? They may be the best band of all time! I can't wait to hear this thing!
Mary J. Blige: My Life II...The Journey Continues (Act I) (Matriarch/Geffen) Not to be confused with My Life I...The Journey Continues (Act I) or My Life II...The Journey Continues (Act II) or My Life III...How In The Hell Am I Gonna Use That 'All Eyez On Me' Thing In My Album Title Before It Gets Too Old? (Act I), this new Mary J. Blige album is significant for many reasons--perhaps most notably for, as the album cover reveals, her decision to replace the letter "J" in her name with a sweet and simple headshot! I'm completely into that! Featuring a fantastic array of guests including Kanye West, Swizz Beats, the Underdogs and Jay-Z among others, this new album is, in the words of one Amazon reviewer "more than a 5 star album." In fact, it is a dandy Frisbee, a fantastic serving plate for this year's Thanksgiving dinner, and--perhaps unexpectedly--an expendable bit of entertainment that will likely be followed by My Life III...The Journey Continues (Act II) and a few other dopily titled albums that will perhaps distract us from the bothersome fact that some but not all of us will eventually lose interest in music, die, and be remembered purely as a function of our bank accounts! Still, some nice rhythms here!
Michael Jackson: Immortal (Epic) A new album by Michael Jackson is always a big deal--especially since he hasn't been around for a couple of years! Like, how does he do it? But this new thing, a special remix job, actually sounds pretty good--surprisingly so, if you ask me--maybe because it takes his best songs, messes around with them a bit, and gives them the sort of artistic twist the dude needed ever since he released Thriller and spent the rest of his life paralyzed by his perceived need to top that thing! Admittedly, my taste for Michael Jackson tapered off after the utterly fab Off The Wall, and I still remain mesmerized by the original Jacksons recording of "Blame It On The Boogie"--which theoretically, if not audibly, is included here--but this whole mess, geared to the Cirque Du Soleil production based on the singer, makes him sound infinitely more interesting than he ever was during his last decade of existence, and I kind of like it! Plus, not many people know about his side-career as Forcefield Boy, but this album cover pretty much lays all that out and more!
Daughtry: Break The Spell (19 Recordings) Like most of us, I spend a significant amount of my spare time reminding myself that "Daughtry" is a theoretically a rock singer in the same manner as, say, the Who's Roger Daltrey, but his name isn't quite right! Next, I often pinch myself, or wear a rubber band around my wrist and snap it, to disabuse myself of the bothersome association of this shaven-headed dude with the more charismatic Pillsbury Doughboy--though in my heart of hearts, I suspect both would giggle effusively were I to poke them in their tummies! Finally, I hear this stuff and often silently wonder whatever happened to singer Paul Rodgers between his stint in Free and Bad Company that made him so sadly ordinary, yet still so influential among contemporary rock singers who wonder what contemporary rock singers are supposed to sound like! Then I shave my head, make jokes about leaving my pants in the back of my car, and spend way too much time admiring band logos! Opening track "Renegade" is a frickin' masterpiece!
Lady Gaga: Born This Way: The Remix (Steamline) The only thing better than a "deluxe" version of an album you already have is a "remix" version of an album you already have! And when it comes to Lady Gaga--and doesn't it always come to Lady Gaga?--why not mess with her music, make it sound all new all over again, like you've never heard it before, and put an album cover on it that silently implies that if she isn't allowed to play, then she's going to take her football back and go home? Between you and me, I'll take anything by Lady Gaga, whether I like it or not, and tell people I like it purely because I worry about fitting in! Is that so wrong? "This album will make you want to move your body," notes one especially astute Amazon reviewer, and he's right! It was on my foot, so I moved it! Ironically, word is getting out that that Gaga's notion of being born "this way" is wholly concerned with right- and left-handedness, but that's not enough to put me off! What about you? I'm into chance-takin' dames!
Kate Bush: 50 Words For Snow (Anti-) Disturbingly creating a collection of fine and intelligent music in an era when the very need for that is questionable, Ms. Kate Bush--one of Britain's finest and most distinguished artists--returns here with a marvelous album that is artful, well-played and arranged, and filled with a few surprises, including an appearance by Elton John and actor Stephen Fry. It is quite good, very subtle, and assumes that potential listeners have, at the very least, three-digit IQs. And hey, eskimos would flip out if they found out CDs could assume anything!
King Crimson: Starless & Bible Black: 40th Anniversary Edition & Discipline: 40th Anniversary Series (both Discipline US) One of the unsung stories of pure musical adventurousness remains the incredible work Steven Wilson of Porcupine Tree has done as a producer/remixer of classic albums by artists like Jethro Tull and, most notably, King Crimson. He returns here with two exceptional versions of King Crimson classics--Starless & Bible Black and Discipline--and has made two superb albums even more extraordinary: The sonics in these deluxe reissues, both in CD and DVD-audio format, are exemplary, bringing out textures that were inevitably hidden in the albums' original versions, and in both cases, producing 5.1 surround mixes that essentially make each album an entirely new listening experience. Wilson's own recordings are themselves extraordinary, but what he's bringing to these Crimson reissues in particular is absolutely astounding. How ironic that while today's biggest albums seem to be mixed for hearing on computer speakers, Wilson's work with Crimson albums like these--Starless originally came out in 1974--makes them sound even more modern, up to date, and crucial. All of them--available here--could not be more highly recommended.
Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band:
Ultimate Hits: Rock And Roll Never Forgets (Capitol) As a human who spent a considerable amount of my life in the glorious state of Michigan, I confess a certain amount of allegiance purely to the concept of Bob Seger! He is among the best that the Motor City has ever had to offer, yet in some ways, at this late date, despite massive record sales, he has been frightfully overlooked for what he is: A solid, since, rock 'n' roll journeyman who stuck to his guns, made consistently great records, and still stands proudly! Plus, he's not bad! This 2-disc collection gathers up all of his major label hits--though his early career could still stand some celebrating--puts them in one place, and makes the case that the man has amassed a repertoire that few popular American artists have yet to equal. An exhaustively complete box set--and this isn't it--is all he needs to make the case! Let 'er rip, Robert!
Javier Colón: Come Through For You (Universal Republic) As the winner of NBC's hit television show The Voice, Javier Colón needs no introduction! But a couple of good songs might help! Where can I get a hat like that?