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Streisand, Kiss Battle It Out In New Release Frenzy!

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Ellie Goulding: Halcyon (Cherrytree/Interscope) In years gone by, record labels would stick with an artist for one, two, maybe three albums before giving up on them if they didn't click. But no more. So kudos to Interscope Records here, who stuck with Brit singer Gouldingówho, to be fair, was quite successful in Britain and even sang at the Royal Weddingóuntil she finally made her mark over here. Pity about the label's mandatory head-shaving rule, but commerce is commerce! Still, the talented, visually appealing, personable singer now seems perfectly situated to break into the big-time US-style, is ready to cross all genres with the stylistic mish-mash here, and may be the biggest singer ever to title her album after a well-known sleeping pill! As always, UK residents have spelling issues!

John Cale: Shifty Adventures In Nookie Wood (Double Six/Domino) One never knows what to expect from John Cale, but this new effort from the former Velvet Underground mainstay displays the same adventurousness – melodically, lyrically, and arrangement-wise – that has colored his very best work and is an engaging, highly-textured listen. Appearances by Danger Mouse and an actual vocoder (or whatever) unexpectedly pop up--but never to the point of overuse, or to convey the dreaded sense of a major artist floundering. It's good stuff, a nice addendum to his repertoire, and aside from a 5.1 remix of Nico's The Marble Index, to which he was integral – which would be absolute godhead--about as good as any longtime fan could ever hope for in 2012. Recommended!

Gary Lewis & The Playboys: The Complete Liberty Singles (Real Gone Music) Issued briefly and the swiftly deleted, this 2-CD collection of '60s hitmakers Gary Lewis & company is tuneful, memorable, and surprisingly substantial. Looked upon now as the breeding ground for other talents – first hit "This Diamond Ring" was co-penned by Al Kooper, Leon Russell & crew played much of the great music, etc. – the band was enormously successful in the States, though never particularly a critical fave, and their actual albums – of which there were many – had a heavy supply of merely OK covers. But as for the hits themselves, all of which are included here, the group had an enormously successful run and deserve a critical reappraisal. Hits include "Count Me In," "Save Your Heart For Me," Everybody Loves A Clown," "She's Just My Style," "Sure Gonna Miss Her" and many, many more. To several people out there, it will serve as a reminder of what '60s pop radio – at least in the States – was all about. Get it while you can!

Django Django: Django Django (Ribbon Records) Like Duran Duran, Medium Medium, Guru Guru and Talk Talk before them, Django Django are an intriguing musical combo with – aww, let's just say it – a stuttering problem! Still, who can deny the musical merit of this superb debut set, one of the UK's better imports that has been critically lauded in its homeland and is being similarly critically lauded in this very review! Melodic, subtly textured and, in a stunning twist, including a song with a redundant title – that would be you, "Zumm Zumm" – Django Django is not just a great new band, but precisely the sort of group writers who get paid by the word should cozy up to!

The Supremes: I Hear A Symphony (Motown/Hip-O Select) Have to hand it to the people at Hip-O Select, who continue to do remarkable work with the Universal Music catalog, and here – via another top-notch classic Motown reissue – provide two discs showcasing this classic pop album in mono and stereo versions and, as is their comparatively new tradition, give them the contextual treatment they deserve as true pieces of vital pop culture. Aside from the title track, this includes "My World Is Empty Without You" and a previously unreleased show recorded at Detroit's Roostertail club, and is good stuff through and through.

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Song Stories

“Madame George”

Van Morrison | 1968

One of the first stream-of-consciousness epics to make it onto a Van Morrison record, his drawn-out farewell to the eccentric "Madame George" lasted nearly 10 minutes, combining ingredients from folk, jazz and classical music. The character that gave the song its title provoked speculation that it was about a drag queen, though Morrison denied this in Rolling Stone. "If you see it as a male or a female or whatever, it's your trip," he remarked. "I see it as a ... a Swiss cheese sandwich. Something like that."

More Song Stories entries »
 
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