Current Album Reviews
Our take on some of the latest material from a variety of artists.
Johnny Cash - The Greatest: The Number Ones (Deluxe Edition) (Sony/Legacy) review
You don’t realize how many great songs Johnny Cash had until you see a collection like this
Continuing a year-long celebration of what would’ve been Cash’s 80th birthday, Sony/Legacy has released a series of CDs dubbed “The Greatest,” covering several aspects of his career - there are other volumes, including those covering country, duets and gospel - but The Number Ones is just that, his biggest, and best-loved songs.
Electric Prunes - The Complete Reprise Singles (Real Gone Music) review The Electric Prunes created one of the strangest songs ever to hit the charts in “I Had Too Much To Dream (Last Night),” which just missed the Top Ten in 1966. As luck would have it, the band’s career would end up being even stranger. Unbelievably, The Complete Reprise Singles marks the first time this much-maligned band has had their output properly assembled on a single disc.
Booker T & the MGs - Green Onions (reissue) (Stax / Concord Music Group) review Some of the greatest art is made out of pure accident. The liner notes that accompany this new 50th anniversary edition of Green Onions tells the unbelievable story of how this legendary band came together during a session for rockabilly almost-legend Billy Lee Riley. Depending on which story you believe (there are several different ones in the booklet), Riley either was a no-show, or in true rock n’ roll fashion, was too drunk to record the session, leaving his de facto backup band with a surplus of recording time.
Ben Folds Five - The Sound of the Life of the Mind (Ima Vee Pee / Sony) review
First new album in 12 years
Damn the concept album. The Beatles were never the same after Sgt. Pepper, Brian Wilson lost his marbles during SMiLE, and Ben Folds Five broke up after their conceptual The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner. Folds had pushed the trio as far as they were going to go, and decided instead to go it alone. Over the last 12 years, he’s established himself as a formidable solo artist, collaborating with filmmaker Nick Hornby, and even scoring the kids movie Over the Hedge. But, as good as his music has been, there’s something about the original two guys - the bordering-on-chaos drumming of Darren Jessee and the as-muscled-as-a-lead-guitar bass of Robert Sledge, that’s always pushed Folds further. At their best, Ben Folds Five were a mix of 70’s AM melodicism and punk-fueled energy, augmented by oftentimes school-boy humor. After over a decade layoff, the trio is back with The Sound of the Life of the Mind, and it was well worth the wait.
David Sanborn - Then Again - The Anthology (Warner Bros / Rhino) review For all the accolades we give saxophonists John Coltrane and Charlie Parker - in many ways, David Sanborn was (and is) even more influential. Then Again, a two-CD set, chronicles the first twenty years of his solo career.
REM - Document - 25th anniversary edition (IRS/Capitol) review
The album that changed the playing field for alternative music in the Eighties celebrates a quarter century
When REM entered the studio in 1987 to record their fifth album, they had a decision to make: continue as the darlings of the college radio underground, or reach for something bigger. They knew that their brand of Byrds-meets-Velvet Underground jangle pop was not going to take them to the next level. So instead, they teamed up with co-producer Scott Litt and every member of the band upped the ante for one of the group’s best albums. IRS/Capitol is celebrating Document with a 25th anniversary edition, featuring the original album in remastered form, an excellent concert from the tour that followed, and a booklet, featuring insightful recollections from members of the band. There’s even four postcards and a large poster of the band.
Heart - Fanatic - (Sony / Legacy) review First, a career-spanning box set, then a revealing memoir, and now, one of their finest albums of their entire career - it’s been a banner year for Heart.
Most artists mellow as they get older. The previously-vitriolic Bob Dylan now jokes with his audience, while the once-mighty Robert Plant is now singing quiet folk music. Well, apparently Heart didn’t get the memo - their new album, Fanatic, contains some of the most blistering hard rock that the band has ever laid down. Their 14th studio album caps off a flurry of activity from the group that began earlier in the year with the release of Strange Euphoria, the band’s first-ever multi-disc retrospective. Then, just a few weeks ago, Ann & Nancy Wilson collaborated on Kicking and Dreaming, a revealing memoir. Now comes Fanatic, showing that these girls aren’t slowing down one bit - in fact, they’re riding an unprecedented creative streak.
David Bowie - The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars - 40th Anniversary Edition (EMI/Virgin) review
The quintessential Bowie record is back in the spotlight again
Although David Bowie has led a long and colorful career, it just doesn’t get any better than The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars. Sure, Bowie experimented with many styles and did some incredibly pioneering work in the late Seventies with Brian Eno, and was all over MTV in the early Eighties. Yet, nothing else holds a candle to this masterpiece.
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