Il Volo: We Are Love (Interscope) In their former lives as "Italian operatic pop teenage tenors," the charismatic trio of Piero Barone, Ignazio Boschetto and Gianluca Ginoble won hearts the world over with their rugged good looks, impeccable vocalizing, and sexy Italian heritage! Is it just me, or are Italians kind of cool? Still, once the allure of massive pop superstardom ran its course, the trio's natural desire to devote their time to music they really liked reared its head! And thus comes We Are Love, a tribute album to the late American songwriting giant Arthur Lee, which opens with a soaring "Stephanie Knows Who," breaks your heart with an airy "Between Clark And Hilldale," and closes with a tremendous, lengthy "Doggone," drum solo and exotic harmonies fully intact! Those who are shocked by the trio's bizarre career turn should be advised: follow-up album Underground Of Velvet is already in the can! And I thought PFM was hip!
Pitbull: Global Warming (RCA) Certainly one of pop music's most intriguing figures, Latin hip-hop star Pitbull continues to astound! Already making history via his 2009 double-platinum super-hit "I Know You Want Me (Calle Ocho)"--renowned for featuring the most attractive women in music video history per independent analysis by a team of highly-regarded scientific experts!--the man returns here with an even more engaging set, featuring guest stars Christina Aguilera, Chris Brown, Afrojack, Enrique Iglesias, Miami superstar Flipper, and the multi-talented Jennifer Lopez! Hot stuff? You bet! Blending rhythms with an impressive command of climate science, the new album spells out the folly of the 4.0C temperature rise, excess global emissions, and the idiotic parking policies that have made a mockery of Collins Avenue! Word is the man is thinking of changing his name to Staffordshire Terrier "unless that's taken"! He's damn cool!
Porcupine Tree: Octane Twisted (Kscope) I continue to be impressed by the steady ascension of England's Porcupine Tree into the higher reaches of contemporary music-making: Borrowing from the stylistic flourishes that made prog rock intricate and astounding when it worked (generally by the likes of King Crimson and Pink Floyd, say), mixing in hard and aggressive sounds that are fully 21st Century forward-looking, the band--led by the highly talented, freakishly productive Steven Wilson--have escaped the common prog pitfall of repeating themselves and indeed seem to get better with each year. Recorded in Chicago in 2010 when the band was touring behind their celebrated The Incident, this new set is a worthy document that will thrill fans and likely win new ones among those fortunate enough to hear it. Recommended.
Keyshia Cole: Woman To Woman (Geffen) With its surprising cover picture tribute to Peter Frampton's 1986 Premonition--boy, is that obscure, or what?--celebrated and, er, rather comely singer Keyshia Cole returns with a fourth album that will likely knock your socks off if you're looking for her fourth album! Well-known for her work on TV reality shows, especially to viewers, Cole's on a new show called Family First and continues to garner fans galore! Sadly, the new album's title might inhibit male music fans insecure about their masculinity--I mean really, it would be kind of weird to bring this up to a cash register if, like, the clerk looked like she might call her girlfriends over to watch you buy it, you know what I mean?--but those among us who have no such doubts should proudly march right up to the counter, plop our money down, and then go home and listen to it! Topped off with a coffee and Danish? It's all good, my man!
Various Artists: Man Chest Hair (Finders Keepers/B-Music) Album for album, song for song, the people finding the stuff populating the Finders Keepers and B-Music labels are doing some of the finest public-servicing in the music biz at the moment. This set, collecting 18 tracks of deliberately obscure tracks from Manchester, England's '70s rock scene, typifies the greatness--and weirdness--of their approach. Featuring an array of artists that most people have likely never heard--among them Urbane Gorilla, Slipped Disc, Savoury Duck, and Greasy Bear--and one or two (Stackwaddy) that might be vaguely familiar, this collection is loud, colorful, and, as is its intent, documents that missing '70s link between punk and metal that many never knew existed--including these artists, most likely, which is a part of its charm. Intelligent compiling and a very ear-opening listen--seek it out.
Fred Neil: Sessions (Water) A brief word here for a great, unheralded reissue by legendary folk figure Fred Neil. Originally released in 1968, the album almost scarily forecasts the artistic approach the equally legendary Tim Buckley would be employing with his own 1969 classic Happy Sad: a deep voice, a gentle instrumental looseness, superb playing, and a sense of intimacy that, when it connects, will likely connect for the remainder of your days. A largely unheard classic, and its reappearance in 2012 is kind of wonderful.
Kid Rock: Rebel Soul (Atlantic) Credited as being "the premier genre-hopping rock and roller of all time," Detroit's Kid Rock returns here with a dandy new hat, looking to his left at a new batch of genres that fell out of someone's truck in Livonia, and planning his next genre hop! Experts predict Tex-Mex, Celtic, or Dixieland are the likeliest candidates! I can't wait either!
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