Sunday, May 28, 2006

5/30/06: Now updated with commentary!

This weekend's haul:
-The Lion in Winter DVD
-Aretha Franklin, 30 Greatest Hits 1
-Incognito, 20th Century Masters/The Millenium Collection* 2
-Ying Yang Twins, U.S.A. Still United** 3
-Guns N' Roses, Live Era '87-'93 4
-Elvis Presley, Hitstory 5
-Pet Shop Boys, Introspective/Further Listening 1988-1989 6
-The Smithereens, From Jersey It Came! The Smithereens Anthology 7
-Tears for Fears, Songs from the Big Chair - Deluxe Edition* 8

*Newly released, if not exactly current.
**See? I do too buy new music! Includes "Ms. New Booty."

1 The 1987 classic comp. Absolutely immaculate.
2 Gorgeously consistant, great both as wallpaper and as an active listening experience, akin to Sade's best-of.
3 Odds & sods, and possibly better than U.S.A.
4 Remember when they were er, gunning for the title of World's Greatest Rock'n'Roll Band? This is the proof.
5 91 tracks! 30 #1 Hits plus 2nd to None plus a third all-the-other-important-ones equals a true must-have Elvis comp.
6 Includes the demo version of "Nothing Has Been Proved," which they wrote/produced for Dusty Springfield for the film Scandal - still one of the best songs ever touched by the hands of PSB.
7 Maybe more than you need, but still superior to the single-disc comps floating around. Besides, half of Especially for You is not too much
8 WOW. I've loved this album for almost 21 (!) years, now, but never like this. The remastering job is superb, but that's only the start of it. 7 b-sides, including the much-loved-by-me-since-I-learned-'em-on-their-b-sides-comp-years-ago "Pharoahs" (British shipping forecasts!) and "When in Love with a Blind Man", another 7 7" edits (which you actually do need), and a further 5 12" mixes. This is what Deluxe Editions were meant to be. Casual fans will be fine with the remastered single-disc version, but big fans of Big Chair need this more than they know.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

If there's a full-length version of this track, it really should be Mariah's next single. Hell, it's better than "Say Somethin'," and would fit in perfectly on The Emancipation of Mimi - Ultra-Deluxe Super-Platinum "You Will All Buy This Album, Bitches!" Edition...

Meme time. This is the first blogs-I-actually-read-semi-sweeping-meme I've rather liked in a while. I mean, it's yearly lists, c'mon. (Here's Fred's, and Nate's, submissions to the discussion; feel free to point out other interesting takes in the comments.)

1967: The Velvet Underground, "Venus in Furs"
1968: Tammy Wynette, "D-I-V-O-R-C-E"
1969: Bob Dylan with Johnny Cash, "Girl from the North Country"
1970: Aretha Franklin, "Call Me"
1971: Rod Stewart with Faces, "(I Know) I'm Losing You"
1972: Eddie Kendrick, "Girl You Need A Change of Mind"
1973: The Isley Brothers, "That Lady (Part 1)"
1974: Joni Mitchell, "Help Me"
1975: Barry White, "Let the Music Play"
1976: Boz Scaggs, "Lowdown"
1977: Steely Dan, "Peg"
1978: Marvin Gaye, "When Did You Stop Loving Me, When Did I Stop Loving You"
1979: Diana Ross, "No One Gets the Prize/The Boss"
1980: George Jones, "He Stopped Loving Her Today"
1981: Daryl Hall and John Oates, "Your Imagination"
1982: Linda Ronstadt, "Easy for You to Say"
1983: Shannon, "Let the Music Play"
1984: The Smiths, "How Soon Is Now"
1985: Grace Jones, "Slave to the Rhythm"
1986: Prince, "Kiss"
1987: Janet Jackson, "The Pleasure Principle"
1988: Public Enemy, "Bring the Noise"
1989: Public Enemy, "Fight the Power"
1990: Madonna, "Vogue"
1991: Kitchens of Distinction, "Drive That Fast"
1992: Madonna, "Erotica (Masters at Work Underground Club Mix)"
1993: A Tribe Called Quest, "Jazz (We've Got)"
1994: Morrissey, "The More You Ignore Me, The Closer I Get"
1995: Donna Summer, "I Feel Love (Masters at Work Remix)"
1996: Underworld, "Born Slippy (NUXX)"
1997: Puff Daddy and the Family featuring the Notorious B.I.G., Lil' Kim and the LOX, "It's All About the Benjamins (Remix)"
1998: Stardust, "Music Sounds Better with You"
1999: New Radicals, "You Get What You Give"
2000: OutKast, "B.O.B."
2001: Daft Punk, "One More Time"
2002: Missy Elliott, "Work It"
2003: R. Kelly, "Ignition Remix"
2004: Snoop Dogg featuring Pharrell, "Drop It Like It's Hot"
2005: Three 6 Mafia featuring Young Buck & Eightball & MJG, "Stay Fly"
2006: Missy Elliott, "Teary Eyed (Maurice Club Mix)"

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Interesting article at on the 20th anniversary of Hands Across America, one of the more bizarre charity events (on a large, celeb-laden scale, at least) in U.S. history. I remember it very vividly, because along with some other from my church youth group, I took part in it myself. We didn't get any celebrities in our span of rural north-central Indiana, though; it was just some dorky kids and our Moms, and boy, was it uncool.

Soul patrol! Soul patrol!

Yes, I've fallen prey to the cult of Taylor Hicks. I am utterly, completely floored (but very happy) that a 29-year-old (29!) grey-haired Joe Cocker throwback from Alabama is more than likely to be crowned the new American Idol tonight. Here's hoping that Bonnie Raitt's up for a "Good Man, Good Woman"-type duet with him; with the right producers (Don Was?) Taylor could make a pretty great album. And as for Michael McDonald material, I wanna hear him cover "I Keep Forgettin'."

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

How can love so right turn out to be so wrong?

"While the 1970s were a fertile time for the singer-songwriters who inspired Branch - like Joni Mitchell and Cat Stevens - she said country is more open to the style today than pop.

'It's too hard for a singer-songwriter to break into pop music, especially for a new artist. You get half a second to even make an attempt,' she said."

That's taken from an AP piece on the seeming preponderance of pop and rock stars crossing over to the country charts of late; the Branch quoted is, in fact, Michelle Branch. Her kinda-new duo the Wreckers releases their debut album Stand Still, Look Pretty today, and I hope it can live up to its great first single, "Leave the Pieces" (honestly, helped by Branch not taking the lead on this one). (Full disclosure blah blah blah: I'll be reviewing it for Stylus.)

Branch makes a very accurate point about the current pop - and country - climate for singer-songwriters, however. Though I'd limit her comments to women; it seems that labels can't sign up those male singer-songwriter dorks fast enough (from Jack Johnson - ick - to Teddy Geiger - ick). Perhaps Miranda Lambert wouldn't have gotten signed by a major label were it not for the exposure she received on Nashville Star, but I'd like to think that's not the case. While I've yet to fall under her spell, she's clearly got quite a bit of talent, including her skills as a songwriter. Her road, of course (?), was paved by Gretchen Wilson, who deserves the credit for a number of the current spate of female signer-songwriters getting Nashville deals. She proved with Here For the Party that women (country radio's chief demographic is women 25-49) want to hear women singing about their own, relatable, experiences. (Perhaps not so much with All Jacked Up; I'm still a bit befuddled as to why her soph album seems to be such a commercial disappointment compared to its predecessor.)

The move Branch is making - from huge pop hits such as "Everywhere" and her Santana smash "The Game of Love" (and, to a lesser extent, "I'm Not Feeling You," interestingly credited to Santana featuring Michelle Branch and the Wreckers) to being a country rookie - is a potentially fascinating one. I'm not so crass as to think she's doing it for the cash; in country these days, you've gotta come with the goods, and a pop pedigree can more often than not be a hindrance instead of an assist. Her heart appears to be in it, though I fear her label (still Maddy's former vanity project Maverick) is gonna water down the twang on Stand Still. We shall see. But points to her for trying something different and crossing over in the opposite direction, a la Olivia Newton-John.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Here's the amazing text of Daddino's I've-no-doubt-it-was-superb EMP presentation on Muzak/elevator music. If you'd like some more, here's some thoughts on the subject from John Cougar Cunningham, me reminiscing about the greatest easy listening station ever, and the entry on "beautiful music" from Wikipedia.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

As blazin' as it gets. Cop it here.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

I've just started reading Tim Lawrence's sensational history of NYC dance music/culture in the '70s, Love Saves the Day. Of course, every time I so much as look at the title Whitney's "Love Will Save the Day" pops into my head. And even more "of course," when I merely mentioned the title to Alf, he immediately went there, too.


Glad to know I'm not the only one sad to learn that the line in Panic! at the Disco's "I Write Sins Not Tragedies" is "poise and rationality" instead of "poisoned rationality." Still think it's a great single, though - they're kinda-sorta Fall Out Boy meets the Killers, dark alley blah blah Vegas connection obv. blah blah, y'know? Still wanna find out if liking the single will lend itself to liking the album. Anyone? (Since Metacritic hasn't scored it, grrr...)

What is with all the mad love for Rihanna's "S.O.S."?? It's a great loop from "Tainted Love" - with which nothing is done. The loops just sits there looping, adding nothing to the song other than making me want to hear Soft Cell. And as a singer, Rihanna's barely-there, almost makes Ashanti look like she's got personality, which takes some doing. I find it fascinating as well that the song's such a phenom with teens and younger; do they even know "Tainted Love"?

Taylor Hicks, American Idol? The mind (mine, at least) boggles. Don't misunderstand, I'm thrilled; since Mandisa's abrupt departure, he's definitely been my favorite, and I'll buy his album on its first day of release (I'm thinking a male Bonnie Raitt-type groove would be good for him), and I've even been voting for him. But I'm nonetheless floored that it's likely to actually happen. (Can't stand Kat, don't go there.)

Reading Mojo's Morrissey/Manchester special this week, I was prompted to pull out New Order's Singles again. Good God, there's still not much better than premium New Order. Now, when oh when do we get some remastered Smiths catalog?...

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Christgau on NIN's The Fragile:

"What puts me off Nine Inch Nails' double-hoohah, on the other hand, is that Trent Reznor evinces neither, unless you think musical intelligence equals human intelligence, his con for years--always with music that says things like 'dream job: emperor' and 'more fun than death by injection.'"

While I happen to like and defend The Fragile (it is too good, even if time hasn't been particularly kind to it), this is just yet another example of how fucking great the Dean's writing is, at its best. As it would happen, his best often seems to happen with his Pazz & Jop essays, all - all! - of which you can find right here. Yay, yay, yay. (Really, more crix need websites like his.) I've said it before, etc.: Robert Christgau is the #1 reason why I write record reviews. Period.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Good bloggin' tonight (or today, whatever):

"Chris was looking very 'Highway to the Danger Zone'": allmusic's weekly Amidol (love that abbreviation) roundtable still might be the best weekly column online.

There was a pair of really well-thought-out pieces on pop over at Slate, yesterday, with John Cook taking on the racial politics of your musical tastes (spun off of the rockcrit bloggerati's biggest imbroglio yet in '06, Stephin Merritt's EMP keynote; my take: SF-J wrong on this one, Hopper wrong on nearly everything) and Jody Rosen discoursing upon "poptimism" (I think I'm probably a popist...).

I got the previous links, and the next one, from Scott Woods' rockcritics daily, which has quietly become one of the best places online for rockcrit thinking. The guy is good, y'all.

Phil Dellio picked up Woods' writing-about-my-entire-record-collection thread and ran with it - so far that he ended up actually covering every record in his collection. We don't always share the same tastes, but his writing is funny and clever and remarkably clear.

Speaking of EMP, as I did above, two presentations I really wish I'd seen are, surprise surprise, Nate's and Matos's. Fortunately, we can at least read them now.

Oh, and Alf's having some blogging issues, so he's (temporarily?) moved A Grand Illusion over here.

You'd better believe I'm feeling the Stephanie Mills love of late. Here's a post on "Two Hearts" (her collosal 1981 collab with Teddy Pendergrass), and here's one on "(You're Puttin') A Rush on Me" (an R&B #1 from '87). I've decided that I'm including reissues and compilations on my Pazz & Jop ballot this year, and damned right that Mills' Gold comp is gonna be on it come December...

Friday, May 05, 2006

Best Americ*n Id*l recap on the net - i.e., intelligent writing! - is over at Allmusic, right here. Considering the show's strike rate - meaning Kelly (Breakaway, at least), Fantasia, and Carrie - I'm utterly unashamed to be a viewer of the show, let alone a fan. Unfortunately, I'll bet that Chris wins this year, and that's an album I won't be looking forward to.

Thursday, May 04, 2006


Ghostface Killah's Fishscale is pretty undeniably the album of the year, at least so far. It's clear that Def Jam (thank you, Mr. Carter!) was willing to spend more on its production than Epic would pony up, based on the sheer volume of '70s-soul samples here. I'm particularly fond of the Freda Payne song used on "Crack Spot" (which Elliott Wilson points out here actually isn't the one Def Jam cleared) (link from Nate), and the following Raekwon-featuring "R.A.G.U." sounds like the acest Ghostface classic. "Kilo"'s highly-touted edumacational math lesson is brilliant as well, but don't sleep on Ghost's biggest (solo) single ever, though - the Ne-Yo-hooked "Back Like That" (laced with a bangin' Willie Hutch loop) is a did-me-wrong ugly-side-of-love song like only Ghost could flip it; I'm stunned that R&B stations are giving it love (#21 on this week's Billboard R&B chart!). Fishscale's already certified gold - let's go for platinum. Buy 2 copies. (I didn't even mention that Ghostface is the flyest rhyme-spitter on a major label right now, but you shoulda already known that. His lines are clean like the purest, well, you know.)

For those of you inclined to purchase maxi-singles, I highly recommend Missy Elliott's "Teary Eyed" remixes. (Yes, I know we've already moved on to her great "We Run This" single from the inevitably noxious film Stick It, but bear with me.) The Tiefschwarz mixes are nicely squelchy-glitchy, reminding me of the days of the 1,000 "Get Ur Freak On" bootlegs. AFTC goes peak-hour, with nicely weird results (this ain't no disco, or trance party neither). I've never heard of Sugardip before, but they turn in a pair of solid, albeit super-commercial, takes. Really, though, you buy this for one easy reason: Maurice Joshua does what only he (okay, and MAW and one or two others) can, reshaping Missy's so-so sorta-ballad into a creamy dreamy deep house anthem, complete with a deeper-than-the-holler bassline. The campaign for Joshua's 2007 Grammy (for Best Remixed Recording) starts here.

I've already reviewed Biggie's Duets: The Final Chapter, but it keeps growing on me. "Nasty Girl" is a great single, and "Spit Your Game" is, too. About a further half of the album would be as well. I'd give it a B now, verging on (but not quite) a B+.

Track down the Australian single for Kelly Clarkson's "Walk Away" for a good live version of "Since U Been Gone" and a splendiferous Ralphi Rosario remix of "Walk Away." Avoid the Chris Cox remix of same song at all costs. Rosario's work here is just as fine as his brilliant rub of PCD's "Don't Cha" last year, which should've won him a Grammy - so maybe he deserves it more than Joshua next year...

Great year for Britrock: Art Brut's finally come out in the U.S. (a full year after its U.K. release!), and Editors and Arctic Monkeys are worthy of their hype. I'm quite eager to hear if the Monkeys can keep it up; I've no doubts that Editors, a real honest-to-goodness find (who've clearly been listening to their Bunnymen records, and that's a fucking compliment), can and will.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

If this was 1982, Sheryl Crow and Sting's "Always On Your Side" would spend 6 weeks at #1. Think "Open Arms." Think a less-bombastic "Can't Fight This Feeling." If you need a duet analogue, think a rootsier (but not by that much) flipped-lyrics version of "Separate Lives" (complete with equally-clich├ęd lyrics like "Butterflies are free to fly"). Frankly, it's quality glossy adult pop of the kind not made much these days ("quality" means "Go to hell, Blunt/Powter/"). But damned if my favorite glossy singles these days don't all seem to be by Carrie Underwood...

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