A stunning array of new albums from a diverse range of artists both old and new mark this as the most exciting week in record release history!
Still, writing about another planet entirely--where most musicians make records consisting of handclaps and heavy nostril-breathing--may not make sense in the context of this Yahoo Music blog!
So instead, let's focus on the records released on Earth this week--where, on occasion, good records still sometimes randomly seem to appear, though no one can satisfactorily explain why!
I'm inclined to believe it's purely a function of familiarity! After all, when the week is highlighted by expected big-sellers by artists like Train, Chris Botti, and Jack Johnson, why not visit a record store or buy a download, sit down on your coach, listen to the latest by one of your old music friends, and not focus on man's inhumanity to man, the coming nuclear apocalypse, or why the heck Nicki Minaj just cancelled her Twitter account? Some things are just too harrowing to think about!
Train: California 37 (Aware) There aren't a lot of us out there who suspected that San Franciscan rockers Train would last more than a year or two--especially those of us who once, weirdly enough, perceived them to be little more than a Led Zeppelin cover band--but lo and behold: They hot! Indeed, most of us attribute that to the unprecedented success of "Hey Soul Sister," the fact that their logo is appealingly lower-case, and---not incidentally--the presence of the number 37 on this new album cover! As most of us know, "37" is hip retailer code for "all suckers must buy this" as well as "the subliminal presence of a crown on this album cover hereby dictates you take this recorded product into your home"! I've always felt slightly uneasy about artists from San Francisco--I think you know why!--and this simply seals the deal! Their best album ever? I feel compelled to say...yes!
Grateful Dead: All The Years Combine: The DVD Collection (Shout! Factory) Dave's Picks Volume 1: The Mosque, Richmond, VA 5/25/77 (Rhino limited edition) Speaking of San Franciscan bands, the Grateful Dead and their cultural impact continue to impress deep in the 21st Century: First, and most massively, comes this comprehensive 14-DVD box set from Shout! Factory, which essentially gathers a vast array of Dead footage all in once place, totaling nearly 38 hours' worth of live performances. Featuring the 1977 theatrical film The Grateful Dead Movie, the 1978 Closing Of Winterland set, 1987's never-before-on-DVD So Far, and much, much more on through the early '90s, the collection is well-packaged, features an informative booklet penned by Dead expert Blair Jackson, and is a labor of love in the same manner as, say, the recent Europe '72: The Complete Recordings set, which for its comprehensiveness alone may be the ultimate Deadhead's wet dream.
And that's not all. From Rhino comes the first in a series of new "picks" from Dead expert David Lemieux, following in the footsteps of the previous Dick's Picks collections of years past. Issued in strictly limited edition, the series aims to pick celebrated live performances and offer them up in superior mastered and packaged form. The first is a 1977 set from Richmond; the second, already announced, consists of a Hartford, Ct. 1974 performance recorded scant days after the band's acclaimed Mars Hotel set. Details of this and more can be found here.
Deadmania will also be in evidence this Thursday, when the Second Annual Grateful Dead Meet-Up At The Movies transpires: At select theatres across the country, the band's July 18, 1989 performance at Alpine Valley Music Theatre will be shown in its entirety, which is not only a nifty idea but a pretty forward-thinking approach to gathering the Dead Community together for what by all accounts will be a joyous, Dead-fueled frenzy. Details here.
Speaking of matters Dead, here's a suggestion you check out the performance that will be streaming tonight (4/17) by Lukas Nelson & Promise Of The Real, live from TRI Studios in San Rafael, which recently hosted the superb collaboration by the Dead's Bob Weir with The National, which you can catch here. We suspect you'll find it--and the scene around it--interesting indeed.
Chris Botti: Impressions (Columbia) If you like jazz, you're probably aware of trumpeter Chris Botti. He's quite good, eminently tasteful, and--get this--also apparently "the largest selling American jazz instrumental artist"! As the saying goes: Yikes! To sell that many albums, you've got to appeal to a fairly wide spread of the marketplace--and to that end, this new album features the dude with the likes of Andrea Bocelli, Vince Gill, Herbie Hancock, David Foster, and Mark Knopfler, among others! Notably absent? Lady Gaga, Boy George, trumpet legend Buddy Bolden, Hank Williams, Jay-Z, and singer Englebert Humperdinck! And where the heck is Axl Rose? Still, there's something here for everyone! Especially if you like circular-shaped discs!
Loudon Wainwright III: Older Than My Old Man Now (2nd Story Sound) Now 65 years old, Loudon Wainwright III has spent his entire career singing songs that somehow wrap warmth, intelligence, humor and deep sadness into one appealing whole--and this, his latest, represents one of his finer efforts. Examining the sort of things one examines when is getting on in years--death, ghosts, sexual interest and/or the lack of it, family--the set is musically rich, filled with a diverse crop of tunes humorous or otherwise, and a prime example of one of pop music's best artists aging quite gracefully. Highly recommended.
Spiritualized: Sweet Heart Sweet Light (Fat Possum) In my earlier life as a carefree music writer, I used to work at a magazine that would always get many duplicate copies of vinyl LPs, often to the point of excess! It was great! And I must confess, it being the early '80s or so, we used to derive significant joy from pulling the records out of the jackets of albums by artists like, say, Deniece Williams, cutting out the life-sized faces of the artists, inserting rubber bands on each side, and proudly wearing them for extended periods! I have not thought about that in years...but this new Spiritualized album...and maybe a headband...
Janis Joplin: The Pearl Sessions (Columbia/Legacy) Now more than 40 years old, the late Janis Joplin's Pearl may be her best-known recording. Featuring the hit "Me And Bobby McGee" and issued after her death, the set was well-produced by Paul Rothchild and featured her more "polished" Full Tilt Boogie Band--a group many admired but who, all things considered, simply weren't as exciting as her original group, Big Brother & the Holding Company. This deluxe set features the full album, mono versions of its singles, and a number of outtakes, many of which feature the singer chattering away in the studio, which is 2012 is revealing and endearing simultaneously. Respectful treatment for an album many have come to regard as a classic: This is a very good thing.
SWV: I Missed Us (eOne Music) The first album on years from '90s hitmakers SWV is something to be relished--by music fans, who enjoyed the trio's platinum albums of the '90s, by superhero fans, who undoubtedly thought Coko, Lelee and Taj were the best secret identities ever assumed by wondrous beings from another planet, and by acronym fans, who quite frankly, have been having a field day for years with these babes! And to be honest, as album titles go, there are few that can top this! Between you and me, I think maybe the record industry should wind down a little now! You know what I mean?
Lightships: Electric Cable (Domino) Awkwardly releasing a good album that merits careful critical examination rather than the sort of caffeinated brush-off one might receive from a guy who just admitted to wearing a two-dimensional mask of Deniece Williams, Gerard Love--of fab Scottish group Teenage Fanclub--has assembled a fine, melodic, appealing pop album with the help of many of his buddies (from Teenage Fanclub, the Pastels, Belle & Sebastian) that I recommend highly! Literally! There was a time about 15 years ago when I did nothing but drive around Los Angeles listening to Teenage Fanclub and the Pooh Sticks, but, like most of us, I eventually ran out of gas! For Gerard? Not a problem!
Little Richard: Here's Little Richard (Concord) There are very few albums that I would recommend one pick up for its cover art alone, but this--the 1957 debut album by the legendary, phenomenal, and absolutely coolest of the cool Little Richard--may rank the very highest. Newly reissued and crammed with classics like "Tutti Frutti," "Long Tall Sally," "Rip It Up" and "Jenny, Jenny," the album is a near perfect example of American popular culture and sounds as timeless now as it must have more than 50 years ago. Absolutely nutty, absolutely frantic.
Neon Trees: Picture Show (Mercury) Sometimes I try to write a review but can't top what someone else says: "Like their name, Neon Trees are a combination of slick pop hooks and sturdy organic rock, both melodic and hard-hitting, their anthems of adolescent angst, longing, love lost and found, delivered with the kind of heart-on-the-sleeve passion that only comes from hard work and commitment." Hey, wait a minute! I don't like their name!