Robin Thicke: Paula (Star Trak/Interscope) Yes, it’s something of a head-scratcher that the always agreeable, upbeat and friendly falsetto-prone Robin Thicke: 1) Has had more than the usual quick-blip-then-it’s-over career—the dude has methodically milked it and then hit the enormo-bigtime with 2013’s Blurred Lines 2) Could give America cause for concern when onstage with Miley Cyrus during the 2013 VMAs and examining her report card, and 3) Could not only publicly share so much personal information about the marriage issues that ensued but name this actual new album after his estranged wife Paula Patton. I mean, he’s fine, he’s an OK singer, and, as always, this album has a nice groove to it, but really and truly, aside from the soap opera stuff, where’s the beef? And while the last thing a guy who just got sued for liking a Marvin Gaye track too much needs to hear is that his new track “Whatever I Want” sounds a tad like Cream’s “Sunshine Of Your Love,” why not mention it? It had to sound like something!
Bon Jovi: New Jersey (Deluxe Edition) (Island/Ume) It personally saddens me to disagree with Amazon customer James N. Simpson’s pronouncement that “This is the greatest album ever made by probably the greatest band in the world.” I’m thinking it might be, like, the third greatest album ever made by probably the greatest band in the world or probably the greatest album ever made by the fifth greatest band in the world or something like that. Maybe even a little worse. But this 1988 rock album sold by the boatload, had a record number of Top 10 singles, and helped establish Bon Jovi as the sort of band that has spent the remainder of their days talking about their achievements—every single one of them—in terms of records sold, concert tickets purchased, new attendance records set, and virtually everything having to do with commerce and very little to do with art or a memorable song catalog. As it happens, this disc has loads of hits—“Bad Medicine,” “Lay Your Hands On Me,” “Born To Be My Baby,” “Living In Sin” and “I’ll Be There For You”—but for the life of me, I can’t remember any of them, probably because that was the year I spent a lot of time washing my hair in the shower so I could look like these guys. Bon Jovi fans likely will remember these tracks, of course--and between the remastered original album and the bonus disc of original demos included here, they’ll probably like this loads. I am happy for them and their joy and wish them the best!
MAGIC!: Don’t Kill The Magic (Latium) There’s a lot to say about rockers MAGIC! First of all, they favor the total capitalization of their name—a complete no-no in my book, likely to set off arguments among journalists who militantly refuse to do that to rockers Kiss, who have historically asked for the same treatment. Secondly, they have ended their name with an exclamation mark! Hey, I work at Yahoo! Catch my drift? Thirdly, as a result, you can’t ask a single question ending with their name! “Have you heard the band MAGIC!?” Er, like, calm down, man! Fourth, by telling you right off they “huge” fans the Police, it’s kind of hard to criticize them for saying they sound like the Police! Yeah, they know! Since they’re originally from Toronto, let’s just say they sound like their countrymen, ‘80s giants Platinum Blonde, give them credit for releasing a great new pop hit, avoid the temptation to refer to them as “blond reggae rockers,” and make sure they spend the latter days of their career writing Broadway musicals! That’s the way it’s done, dudes!
[Related: MAGIC! perform at Yahoo!]
The The: Soul Mining: 30th Anniversary Deluxe Edition (vinyl) (Epic/Legacy) OK, so now this is where it starts to get interesting. Soul Mining is a really great album originally released in 1983 on vinyl in the UK, bolstered by an additional 12” single, also on cassette, and later reissued on CD—for that is what they did back then. Now, to commemorate its 30th anniversary, it is reissued yet again in a lush package including two vinyl discs, lots of well-done, creatively packaged notes by band mainman Matt Johnson, and--get this--a download code and the annotation: “The remastered audio of Soul Mining has also been dubbed from an original pressing recorded from Matt Johnson’s Thorens TD-147 gramophone player, using patent Dubbed-From-Disc technology.” So: Is there a 30th Anniversary CD? Is there a purely digital 30th Anniversary download available? Are the only downloads to be had those sourced from Matt Johnson’s very own Thorens turntable? Was his record warped? Scratched? Great questions all. An interesting approach for a very special record that deserves a very focused re-hearing: Recommended.
Trey Songz: Trigga (Atlantic) You can learn a lot about an artist by reading his bio, especially when it comes to guys like Trey Songz. For starters, that’s not his real name. It’s really Tremaine Aldon Neverson. Secondly, the distinguished founder of Atlantic Records Ahmet Ertegun once referred to Trey Songz as “among the most promising R&B artists we have had on Atlantic since we started the company 60 years ago.” Thirdly, Trey has noted, “I’ve had three album before this, but only one was really a hit. This album will show that I’m not going anywhere.” Wait, what? Perhaps if we all buy his new album, we’ll prove Trey wrong and boost his self-esteem! It’s worth a shot!
[Related: 5 Fun Facts About Trey Songz]
Magma: Zuhn Wol Unsai: Live 1974 (MIG) Occasions to review new releases by France’s spectacular Magma are rare—and it just so happens this new double CD, a radio session recorded in Germany in 1974, captures the legendary band at its absolute peak. Recorded just after the release of its stunning Mëkanïk Dëstruktïẁ Kömmandöh album, it's “symphonic rock” that borrowed heavily from the likes of John Coltrane and Carl Orff for inspiration and featured lyrics in its own “extraterrestrial” language of Kobaïan, all devised by bandleader and drummer Christian Vander. It’s all heavy, powerful stuff, wonderfully played and extremely expressive. You really need to hear it. Following this session the equally memorable Köhntarkösz album would follow—and though they continue even now, Magma were never as magnificent as they are here, during this brief period. Lots more great info here.
Elton John: The Million Dollar Piano [Blu-Ray] (Eagle Rock) It’s very difficult to have anything but complete respect for Elton John because of his talent, his musicality, his well-documented taste for over-the-top onstage excess, his vast love of pop music—the guy made millions and spent tons of money on records, no less!—and for simply how long he’s been around, slogging it out and making respectable new music. And while he was always a prime candidate for going the Las Vegas route--stay in one place and let your fans come to you—there’s never been a sense of sell-out involved. The man has been bedecked in feathers and glitter since the ‘70s, and first hit Vegas a decade ago for his The Red Piano show. This disc features Elton’s current Million Dollar Piano show, is shot at the Colosseum at Caesars Palace, covers a huge array of the man’s hit material, and includes both solo and band performances. It’s good, energetic stuff, and Elton just can’t help himself. Which really is part of his appeal, no?
Eno * Hyde: High Life (Warp) Have nothing but good things to report about High Life, the second collaboration between Brian Eno and Karl Hyde, which follows the first, Someday World, released just last month or so. Would be very easy to get tech-heavy and start raving about the various doo-dads (a New Interactive Augmented Reality App for iOS, etc.) or terminology (“Reichkuti” = Steve Reich + Fela Kuti) but such discussion would deflate the very real excitement and engagement to be had on both of these new records. They’re excellent, each of them, and in some ways Eno’s most commercial ventures under his own name in many years. Good for him. Follow me on Twitter.