Reviewing the week’s new releases is always tough the day after the Grammy Awards have taken place!
After spending last night spellbound by the raw talents assembled onstage—by definition the prior year’s very finest—how can any new release hope to measure up?
It’s easy! I’ve taken all 10 of the albums below, dressed them in the finest contemporary gowns, given them colorful and creative manicures, and played each and every one of them after re-watching my DVR’d version of the Goddess Rihanna singing her marvelous torch ballad “Stay”!
The result? Ten absolute masterpieces by comparison! And they’re not bad looking either!
In restaurant lingo, this is known as “cleansing your palate”!
Bullet For My Valentine: Temper Temper (RCA) It’s hard not to fall big-time over this great new Bullet For My Valentine album, if only for its zesty cover—heh! It almost looks like blood that guy’s got on his hands!—and the understated “V” it offers up! With its upbeat message—typified by this set’s power tracks “Pow,” “Leech,” and the kooky “Dead To The World”—its bold-esque merger of metal and pop, and a surprising nod to early Philly popsters Frankie Avalon, Bobby Rydell and Fabian, Temper Temper rewrites the book on hard rock, slams it shut, digitizes it, uploads it to Amazon and sells it to Kindle Fire owners, and makes Susan Phillips—ironically, the literal valentine of each and every one of this band’s members—more nervous than ever! Why oh why did she drink so much that night? But it’s cool!
The Virginmarys: King Of Conflict (Wind-Up) Who? A great new Brit trio who aren’t afraid to have words like “grunge” and “punk” pop up in their bio, nor ask their next door neighbor Ellie to come over for an album cover shoot, get her loaded on tequila, then paint a great big “V” on her back with shoe polish for kicks! V is like so much this week’s hot letter! Actually not bad at all—there’s something about a good, loud trio that just feels right—and drawing a huge following these days in Fatima, Guadalupe, Lourdes, Akita, Garabandal and other hip places! Sure, they’ll eventually burn in hell—but not enjoy them now while we can?
The Bryan Ferry Orchestra: The Jazz Age (BMG) An instrumental album wholly devoted to playing Bryan Ferry & Roxy Music tunes in 1920s “hot jazz” style? Including “Do The Strand,” “Love Is The Drug” and “Slave To Love”? Sure, why not? It worked for Moby Grape! An interesting experiment—it does take a minute to realize what song you’re actually hearing—that depending on your age and the likelihood that your earliest days were spent in utter boredom watching unending reruns of the Little Rascals, could well evoke memories of Carl “Alfalfa” Switzer singing “I’m Through With Love” as a rooster crows behind him! Next up: A reunion with Eno, a re-release of this entire set played backward, and accolades galore! The man is to be envied!
Veronica Falls: Waiting For Something To Happen (Slumberland) On occasion a very good record plops down out of nowhere, demanding play after play, and this—the second from this quite good Brit band—is exactly that sort of record. With a fine female vocalist in Roxanne Clifford and a melodic, finely plucked electric guitar that evokes that whole Go-Betweens-ish, early ‘80s sound without sounding unpleasantly retro, the band here presents 13 fab songs, well-played and well-sung, and have produced one of this year’s very finest albums. Were I to be a callous fool, I might note that this is precisely the antidote one might need after watching a bunch of colorless, flailing morons act like imbeciles on this year’s Grammy Awards program!
Foals: Holy Fire (Warner Bros.) Speaking of British bands who are getting better by the minute, a word here for the Foals, whose third album is energetic, creative, loaded with catchy songs mildly gone awry, and the sort of thing that seems to be produced by bands who prefer music to a pipe-dreamed future career as wealthy superstars. Also a word for their bio, which casually mentions the band’s “long-time enthusiasm for weed”! Hah—guys, over here, that’s slang for an illicit drug! They are quite good, fully deserving of your attention, and named after “an equine—particularly a horse, that is one year old or younger”! As you may suspect, one band member’s name is Ed!
Wanda Jackson: The Best Of The Classic Capitol Singles (Omnivore) There are very few artists whose early works can evoke as strong a reaction as those of Wanda Jackson. A stellar, awe-inspiring belter whose merger of country music, flat-out rock ’n’ roll, and those interesting regions in between is historically unparalleled--and she's heard here at her absolute best, recording for Capitol Records in 1956 and several years thereafter. The songs are all over the place—hot, sexy, rocking and much, much more—and the titles alone (“Hot Dog! That Made Him Mad,” “Fujiyama Mama,” “You Bug Me Bad”) are enough to raise a cold sweat. Drawn from great-sounding mono masters, this Omnivore collection is the best possible introduction to Jackson’s singular talent and could not be more highly recommended.
Matt Costa: Matt Costa (Brushfire) An artful change of pace for California-based singer-songwriter Matt Costa, this latest set was largely recorded in Scotland with producer Tony Doogan--whose work with such artists as Teenage Fanclub and Super Furry Animals has already established him as a sympathetic ear to creatively arranged melodic pop—and merits many listenings. With a distinguished musical cast, some seriously stepped-up songwork, and melodies galore, the self-titled album is Costa’s best and a great step forward.
Various Artists: Magic City (Original TV Soundtrack - Songs and Score from the Series) (Silva America) Have only recently caught the Magic City TV series on Starz and have been immensely captivated by it—largely because it is set in in Miami during the late ‘50s and scripted by Mitch Glazer, who grew up there, as I did, and is precisely my age. The combination of the scenery and the wonderful soundtrack—an artful selection of tunes by the Diamonds, Albert King, Johnny Otis and Lee Morgan, among others—strikes deep, and the album, also featuring Daniele Luppi’s lush score, is as evocative as the series itself. Marvelous stuff that will resonate with a sliver of our population—my sliver—greatly. Can’t wait for the second season.
Sam Samudio: Hard And Heavy (Real Gone) Continuing in their quest to reissue absolute masterworks that you never in a million years thought would see the light of day again, here Real Gone have reissued the post-Sam The Sham & The Pharaohs solo album by band frontman Sam Samudio—a 1971 disc featuring a boatload of big talent (Tom Dowd, Jerry Wexler, Duane Allman, the Memphis Horns, the Sweet Inspirations, Jim Dickinson), some memorable tunes, and one of the finest album covers you’d ever want to see. Great playing, a bonus single track, weird vibes and one of the most enviable album titles out there.
Daryl Hall & John Oates: Threads + Grooves (Sony Legacy) Featuring a 7” vinyl single of “You Make My Dreams” b/w “Gotta Lotta Nerve” and a spectacular X-Large cotton T-shirt, all packed in a custom box, this could be the perfect gift! Yeah, it really, really could!