Alicia Keys Fires It Up!

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Various Artists: Nuggets: Original Artyfacts From The First Psychedelic Era (Rhino) A celebrated compilation now enjoying its 40th anniversary -- in itself deceptive, since it was an oldies album by design -- Nuggets was all a certain generation had to go by, back before there were Spotify playlists, when classic singles were issued and then sunk without a trace, unavailable, and when "the album" was what a generation bought and singles seemed a distant, childish memory. But the choices were good, in their way setting the stage for what would later be the punk rock of the '70s, and the mix of innocence and gleeful exploitation offered by the Electric Prunes, Standells, Cryan' Shames and Count Five and more was priceless and, to those who liked those bands in their prime, heartwarming and reaffirming. It's a wonderful package, and it spawned three billion imitations, and were you to see something like it offered on TV late at night by Time-Life, you might consider sending in three payments of $17.99, especially if a bonus disc of "yacht rock" was also offered! But, as always, you'd wake up the next morning feeling ashamed, slightly used, and mildly hungover! So what else is new?

Great Big Sea: XX (Great Big Sea) I try my hardest to be hip and stay in touch with the goings-on of all my fave new bands, but can I be honest? Between mortgage payments, issues with my DVR recording all 60 minutes of the television drama I intend to record, and persistent email from Twitter telling me they have found "some people I might know" including Barack Obama, I sometimes lose track! And how the heck England's wonderful The XX turned into these three guys -- who don't even sound English -- I'll never know! An unexpected throwback to the delightful sounds of fellow Britband's 1980 classic Black Sea, this collection is a 3-CD set featuring 40 songs, a wonderful calendar, posters, stickers, and just about everything it takes these days for an alternative rock band to make their mark! That said, geneticists still find this band name unnerving!

Josef K: Sorry For Laughing (LTM) Realize this may be hard as hell to pick up at the moment, but the vinyl release of what constitutes the intended first album by Scottish band Josef K, recorded for the highly regarded Postcard Records label in 1980 but never officially issued, is no small historic event. With Orange Juice, Aztec Camera, and briefly the Go-Betweens, the low-budget label's roster featured some of the best and most highly influential music of the era -- though much of it went unheard. Officially Josef K's debut would be 1981's The Only Fun In Town -- itself quite groovy -- but this unreleased set was always much-discussed among those who cared. Includes a bonus CD and a general rewriting of rock history! Buy it today!

Nektar: A Spoonful Of Time (Cleopatra) Back in the early '70s, there was a small mini-movement of interesting bands, many of whom surfaced here or in the UK on the United Artists label, including Can, Amon Duul II, Man, Help Yourself, Hawkwind, Brinsley Schwarz and however vaguely it now seems, Nektar--a British combo who somehow found a German audience and had no qualms about releasing side-long album tracks that evoked psychedelia, lots of pills, and pretty colors! It was great! So why the heck they decided to release a new album in 2012 featuring a host of prog rock types (Steve Howe, Edgar Froese, Simon House, David Cross, Rod Argent, Geoff Downes, Rick Wakeman, etc.) playing covers of Rush, 10cc, Blind Faith, the Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, the Doors and Toto is beyond me! I'm betting it's Kanye's fault!

I01 Essential Rock Records by Jeff Gold (Gingko Press Inc.) If you're into lists of the best albums ever -- and you are, of course -- then you will naturally be compelled to pick up this fab tome by Jeff Gold, who with the help of a distinguished cast of co-writers including David Bowie, Iggy Pop, Peter Buck, Jac Holzman, Johnny Marr and Robyn Hitchcock, narrows down the field winningly to an acceptable 101. And if you are into records -- the way they look, feel, were originally issued, their accompanying artwork and the stories behind each of them -- you'll immediately feel at one with the approach Gold has taken. A month before Christmas, if you are looking for a book that could proudly sit on the coffee table, be picked up and admired by visitors who have come over for a quick drink and a chat, or simply argue with what constitutes "essential" or what doesn't, this is the book for you. Recommended.

Judy Collins: Judy Collins Live At The Metropolitan Museum Of Art At The Temple Of Dendur (Wildflower) I find it mildly disturbing that with an artist as distinguished as Judy Collins -- a pioneer in folk music, popular music, and basically music in general -- that all these years after the fact, after her run of classic '60s Elektra albums and much, much more -- I am inclined to remember her less for her masterful singing and overall classiness than I am for watching her sing "Hard Times For Lovers" on Saturday Night Live on the night of February 17, 1979 and thinking -- admittedly more than a little inebriated -- my god, is it the booze or is this the weirdest, most out-of-tune performance ever to be shown on national TV? It gets a little hazy after that, but this album? Anything that ends with "Send In The Clowns" works for me!

Junkie XL: Synthesized (Nettwerk) Two of my favorite music fantasies involve over-the-hill rappers going into bars in 2025 and telling people their stage names ("Yeah, I'm Kool Kyle!") and artists sitting in airplanes next to little old ladies who ask what they do for a living! "I make records," they'll say! "Oh really? My granddaughter buys records! What's your name?" There'll be a pregnant pause, the artist looks sheepish and finally says something like, "Oh, she wouldn't know me. I'm . . . Junkie XL." The older woman stares at him for a minute, says nothing, and then turns her head and looks out the window! Yeah, it could happen just like that!

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Song Stories

“Hungry Like the Wolf”

Duran Duran | 1982

This indulgent New Romantic group generated their first U.S. hit with the help of what was at the time new technology. "Simon [Le Bon] and I, I think, had been out the night before and had this terrible hangover," said keyboardist Nick Rhodes. "For some reason we were feeling guilty about it and decided to go and do some work." Rhodes started playing with his Jupiter-8 synth, and then "Simon had an idea for a lyric, and by lunchtime when everyone else turned up, we pretty much had the song." The Simmons drumbeat was equally important to the sound of "Hungry Like the Wolf," as Duran Duran drummer Roger Taylor stated it "kind of defined the drum sound for the Eighties."

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