Boy, am I bummed out!
Like most of us, I've been breathlessly anticipating watching the Olympics this year! I'm completely into athletics, I like uniforms, and sometimes cool music is featured! And this year, what with the Olympics being in London and all, word was that the opening ceremonies would include the finest musical tribute of all time!
But unfortunately, as you may have heard, NBC—the television network that's broadcasting the event here this year—decided that rather than boring the USA with dopey music far beyond our ken, they'd replace it all with some idiotic Ryan Seacrest interview and hope we wouldn't notice the difference!
So a word to the wise: If you want to hear the semi-reunited Clash sing "We Represent The Lollipop Guild," Coldplay jamming on Herman's Hermits' "No Milk Today" and Adele dropping jaws worldwide with her unexpected Curved Air medley, check out YouTube for the random BBC feeds kindly posted by sympathetic foreigners who completely feel our pain!
Still, I do think Ryan's hair looked nice!
Joss Stone: The Soul Sessions (Vol. 2) (S-Curve) There's no denying that sexy Brit songstress Joss Stone has the pipes, the wrenches, the valves and the work permits to crank out the finest blue-eyed soul tuneage the world has ever known! Plus, her recent professional affiliation with Mick Jagger and Dave Stewart in supergroup Super Heavy proves her hipster quotient—not to mention commercial appeal—is at an all-time high! This new set, a timely sequel to her 2003 debut The Soul Sessions, features a batch of classic soul covers, some highly proficient and artful yelping, and a forceful message that not only is the best not yet to come, it arrived several years ago when many of us were watching television! Well-sung? You bet! Incidentally, this review is a sequel to one I penned in 1978 about Peter C. Johnson's A&M debut album! Expect the third part of my trilogy in 2019!
Rick Ross: God Forgives, I Don't (Maybach Music Group) Rick Ross remains one of the most puzzling, yet charismatic, characters in all of hip-hop! A man whose illustrious history began with a humiliating experience in junior high—apparently some older, bully-types tied his shoelaces together mere seconds before he strutted over to Mary Etta Watkins to ask her to the Junior Prom but, sadly, tripped and fell flat on his face in front of the entire ninth Grade during assembly!—he still simply can't let it go! Such tracks as "Ashamed," "Hold Me Back," and "So Sophisticated" are the core of this marvelous collection of laidback, mellow, meditative pieces on man's inhumanity to man, and the stinging emotionalism of every track will strike deep into the very heart of the most sensitive among us! The fabulous cover pic, in which Ross replays the joyous days of playing cat's cradle with his favorite female cousins, is only the tip of the emotional iceberg awaiting those who take the time to listen! A surefire winner!
Elvis Presley: I Am An Elvis Fan (Sony Legacy) Admittedly Elvis Presley has been dead for a few years now, so new albums by him are hard to come by! Plus, record companies are struggling to make money these days, what with Spotify and all that stuff! So it's probably morally OK—if you know what I mean—for records like this to exist, featuring as they do fine pictures of the Artist Himself looking pensive and thoughtful, perhaps wondering why in the world anyone might buy a record featuring what sounds like a 50ish man with a hacking cough and a Southern accent speaking into an apparent microphone and sharing his innermost thoughts and day-to-day activities with the entire world! "Now ah'm gonna stop at the liquor store," he tells us on Track One. "Ah like Kessler best!" Track Three's audio drive down Main Street offers some colorful commentary—"Shee-ah! Lookit the cakes on that one!"—before the album's protagonist arrives home, turns on the TV, and watches the end of some college football game! Tracks Nine and Ten offer up some sound effects that include water running, what sounds like retching and a toilet flushing, and a sad one-way phone call in which only a half-hearted message, punctuated by what might be sobbing, is left. "Too-morrow is the start of a brand new day," we hear on the last track, before what sounds like a light switch turns off and fitful snoring finally occurs. As albums go? Pretty cool!
Sparkle: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (RCA) Featuring the final recorded performances by Whitney Houston, a whole bunch of Jordin Sparks, welcome appearances by Cee Lo Green and Goapele, this soundtrack is—all things considered—not too shabby a final showing for Houston, a nice gesture as far as actual movie remakes go, and about as good as you can expect when a committee of 250 people is involved in the creation of a multimedia event! It sounds great when I stream it at work, except when my phone rings every three minutes and I forget what I'm listening to! Next thing you know, they'll remake The Wizard Of Oz!
Gloriana: A Thousand Miles Left Behind (Emblem) A talented country trio who according to their bio "have always known that good things take time"—this only one sentence away from describing their early days together "surviving on Ramen Noodles"—dudes, get a microwave!—Gloriana are back! The Award-winning combo return with their second album, filled with fine tunes penned by expert songwriters, memorable harmonies, and a logo that bespeaks classic Americana, upstanding moral values, and something easily readable from a distance! Only the very bored among us would note that their name is an anagram for Goal Iran, Organ Ail, and A La Groin! Then we'd go get our hair cut or something!
Neil Diamond: Hot August Night (40th Anniversary Deluxe Edition) (Geffen) Few artists have defied convention for so long—and in such a fascinating manner—as has pop icon Neil Diamond! This historic set, documenting the singer's appearance at LA's Greek Theatre so many years ago, is one of music's most memorable discs: From its bold cover picture, depicting the precise moment Diamond's stomach growled so loudly it was heard over the PA—apparently the stuffed grape leaves backstage were problematic—to its now-expanded format, featuring three previously unreleased tracks and heretofore unheard stage banter, the album is an unexpectedly forward-looking example of audio verité! Though the album's title itself might seem to offer excuses for the singer's odd behavior onstage, nothing can prepare the listener for Diamond's extended version of "I Am…I Said," in which he spends close to five minutes detailing the plush upholstery of the fabled chair that—as the song has it—unexpectedly disappears mid-song! Like most of us, I just thought it was an innocent pop record! Here's hoping the still-unreleased Depressing Wednesday Afternoon finally hits the streets!
John Abercrombie: Within A Song (ECM) John Abercrombie's stellar guitar playing has been well-documented by ECM since the label's early days, and here—in the company of a group including saxophonist Joe Lovano and rhythm section Joey Baron and Drew Gress—the instrumentalist is heard playing material that inspired him years before the label's late-'60s emergence. Among the compositions heard are those made famous by Bill Evans and Sonny Rollins (both with the help of legendary guitarist Jim Hall), Ornette Coleman and Miles Davis, and all are superbly played, as tasteful as Abercrombie fans have come to expect, and exemplary 21st Century readings of true jazz classics. A beautiful set.
The Shh: Burning Love EP (Village Again Japanese import) Though it's been out for a few months, I tripped onto this via the Internet and was highly gratified: It's the latest work of Alison Galea & Ian Schranz, of absolutely fab Malta-based band the Beangrowers, whose albums are hard to come by Stateside—Minty Fresh issued their last—but are, every single one of them, startlingly good. This EP is available as a Japanese import or also via their bandcamp page, the latter of which allows one the opportunity to stream the tracks, which I highly recommend. Very compelling, underheard stuff that defies easy comparison: Check them out.
Clover: Clover/Fourty Niner (Real Gone Music) In retrospect, most people perceive the Fantasy Records label to be little more than the home of Creedence Clearwater Revival and such jazzbos as Vince Guaraldi, Dave Brubeck and Cal Tjader in their early days—but when it came to rock in the late '60s, things often got interesting. Two such titles are collected here—the debut sets by San Francisco's Clover, a skilled band featuring Alex Call, John McFee, John Ciambotti and Mitch Howie in the early days and, later, as part of the UK's pub rock scene, Huey Lewis. Their lineage is fascinating, their contributions unquestionable—they are in fact the band that backed Elvis Costello on his debut My Aim Is True—and their music quite good, considering the era. Kudos to Real Gone Music for putting this stuff out on the streets again.
Slipknot: (sic)nesses (Blu-Ray) (Eagle Rock) Filmed in 2009 during the Download Festival—heck, I didn't even know they were at my house!—and originally released by Roadrunner as a double DVD, this illustrious set is now available on a single Blu-Ray disc and is a viewing experience beyond compare! In the words of prescient Amazon reviewer Craig Sulser, "This is easily one of the best Live DVD's that you will ever see." Amazon doesn't care if its reviewers randomly punctuate, and I love them for that!