Saturday, October 25, 2008


Recent Releases of Note - for titles in red, there is a review in the last section of the post.
  • Beatles - All Together Now [documentary DVD]
  • Beck - Modern Guilt
  • Johnny Cash - Christmas Specials 1976-79 [4 DVD]
  • Johnny Cash - I Walked the Line [book]*
  • Johnny Cash - At Folsom Prison [2 CD/1 DVD – 10/14]
  • Elvis Costello - Taking Liberties [digital reissue]**
  • Elvis Costello - Out of Our Idiot [digital reissue]**
  • Elvis Costello & the Impostors - Momofuku
  • CSNY - Déjà Vu Live
  • CSNY - Déjà Vu [DVD documentary]
  • Bob Dylan - Tell Tale Signs: Bootleg Series v.8
  • Stacey Earle/Mark Stuart - Town Square []
  • Genesis - 1970-1975 [7 CD/6 DVD box]
  • Mitch Hedberg - Do You Believe in Gosh?
  • John Hiatt - Same Old Man
  • Billy Joel - The Stranger [2-cd reissue]
  • Billy Joel - The Stranger [2-cd/2-dvd box]
  • Jenny Lewis - Acid Tongue
  • Nils Lofgren - Yankee Stadium []
  • Moody Blues - reissue of original 7 albums***
  • Move - Looking On [reissue w/bonus tracks]
  • Mudcrutch - Mudcrutch
  • Graham Nash - Songs for Beginners [CD/DVD reissue]
  • Willie Nelson - Stardust: 30th Anniversary Ed.
  • Willie Nelson/Wynton Marsalis - Two Men with the Blues
  • Randy Newman - Harps and Angels
  • Roy Orbison - Soul of Rock and Roll [4-cd box]
  • Amy Ray - Didn’t It Feel Kinder
  • Frank Sinatra - Nothing But the Best
  • Frank Sinatra - Sinatra at the Movies
  • Bruce Springsteen - Magic Tour Highlights [iTunes]
  • Mark Stuart - Left of Nashville
  • Loudon Wainwright III - Recovery
  • “Weird Al” Yankovic - Whatever You Like [iTunes]

Upcoming Releases
  • Beatles - Monopoly [board game – 11/20]
  • Johnny Cash - Johnny Cash’s America [CD/DVD – 10/28]
  • Stacey Earle - The Ride [TBA]
  • Indigo Girls - untitled [Feb ‘09]
  • Elton John - The Red Piano[2 CD/2 DVD–10/28]
  • Alison Krauss - A Hundred Miles or More [DVD-11/11]
  • Mudcrutch - Live EP [11/11]

On Tour in the Tri-State
  • Micky Dolenz - 11/22–Grand Victoria
  • Stacey Earle & Mark Stuart - 3/6 – Louisville; 3/7 – Lexington
  • Jim Gaffigan - 12/12 – Louisvlle; 12/13 – Clevlnd
  • Nanci Griffith - 11/15 – Kent
  • Herman’s Hermits - 10/31 – Cleveland
  • John Hiatt - 2/14 – Danville 
  • Gordon Lightfoot - 3/14 – Belterra 
  • Willie Nelson - 12/7 – Evansville
  • Amy Ray - 10/31 – Cleveland
  • Jerry Seinfeld - 11/5 – Columbus
  • Smothers Brothers - 11/15, 11/16 – Indianapolis 
  • B.J. Thomas - 1/23 – French Lick

*This is an autobiography of Johnny Cash’s first wife, Vivian, who felt herself unfairly portrayed in ‘Walk the Line’. She and daughter Roseanne thought she came off as a nutjob. I thought she was more a wife at her wit’s end with an immature husband who treated her like crap.

**Costello issued two albums of his own rarities – Taking Liberties (1980) and Out of Our Idiot (1987). They’re out of print on CD but are made available again as download-only albums. The collections were basically obsolete when all of the tracks were made available as bonus material when both Ryko and Rhino reissued the entire Costello catalog. If you didn’t get those reissues, these are worth a listen.

***The Moodies celebrated original seven albums have been reissued yet again. Not to be confused with the 1997 remastered reissues or the 2006 Europe-only 2-disc reissues from Universal. These are apparently improved remasters with bonus tracks. It’s hard to make a recommendation. On one hand, the 2-disc imports are out of sight, price-wise, but on the other, U.S. fans are getting cheated out of more bonus material.

MITCH HEDBERG – DO YOU BELIEVE IN GOSH? – A few years ago, I went to a local comedy club to see my then-favorite comedian, Mitch Hedberg. The sign on the door said the show had been cancelled. It would have been my only chance to see him, as he died of a drug overdose not long after. Until now, all we had left were some late night appearances on YouTube and two comedy albums. This posthumous release is a welcome listen, though it falls short of the other two in terms of laughs. Hedberg’s best bits here are interactions with the crowd, calling himself out on jokes that don’t work and flights of fancy (“What if a drummer accidentally picked up two magic wands instead of drum sticks?”). Someday someone smart at Worldwide Pants will put his ten Letterman appearances on DVD.

RANDY NEWMAN – HARPS AND ANGELS – Newman caused a minor stir last year when he released “A Few Words in Defense of Our Country”, a downloadable single that was excerpted by the New York Times. I found it odious, with it’s comparison of George W. Bush to Hitler and Stalin, as well as it’s insulting of Clarence Thomas and, by extension, conservative blacks. It’s included here in this otherwise enjoyable set of ten songs, in which Newman satirizes immigration, class warfare and his own aging and mortality. The only song where he hits the satirical mark spot on is “Korean Parents”, in which he *gasp* blames parents for poor performing children and suggests they hire Korean parents to make their children study hard. Newman also finally gets around to recording “Feels Like Home”. It was written for his 1993 musical, ‘Faust’, where it was performed by Bonnie Raitt (it was also my first dance with my wife at our wedding reception). Newman has said his non-satirical love songs, like this one, will probably be the ones that endure the passage of time.

BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN – MAGIC TOUR HIGHLIGHTS – I’ve seen the Boss in concert, so I know this mixed bag of four tracks couldn’t have been the highlights of his latest tour, particularly the one supporting ‘Magic’, the best album of 2007. Rather, the first three tracks have Bruce inviting a surprise guest onstage. “Always a Friend” with Alejandro Escovedo is the best of these, with Bruce and the E-Street Band basically backing Escovedo on his own song (from 2008’s ‘Real Animal’). Rage Against the Machine’s Tom Morello guests on “The Ghost of Tom Joad”, which begs for spare treatment and flounders under Morello’s squealing guitar and cue card vocals. There's also a cover of "Turn! Turn! Turn!" with Roger McGuinn himself which I initially judged to harshly as 'unlistenable'. Now I'll just categorize it as 'would've been better 20 years ago'. The only real keeper is the version of ‘Sandy’ that prominently features E-Streeter Danny Federici on accordion. Federici died from cancer the next month after this show.

JENNY LEWIS - ACID TONGUE (by guest reviewer Jim Bates of A Scale Canadian) In 2006 Jenny Lewis broke free from the reins of Rilo Kiley and released 'Rabbit Fur Coat', not only one of the best albums of 2007, but also one of the best solo debuts of all time. 'Rabbit Fur Coat' was a flowing masterpiece of county rock/folk singer-songwriter tunes with great lyrics and nice harmonies provided by the Watson Twins. After the success of 'Rabbit Fur Coat', Jenny returned to Rilo Kiley for an attempted pop cash-in with 'Under the Blacklight'…a highly uneven effort with both some great songs ("15" and "Smoke Detector") and some bad (the woeful "Dejalo") Now, Jenny returns with her next solo album, 'Acid Tongue'. It doesn’t have the flow of her debut and at times comes across as a disjointed set of songs.

Jenny opens up the album with her little girl voice on the pretty "Black Sand". "Pretty Bird" could be a Neil Young and Crazy Horse song…but without the guitar freak-outs…and…well, with a girl singer. Next up is the slinky and shape changing "The Next Messiah". Here, Jenny drops the little girl voice and starts to rock out. The song is eight minutes and forty seconds of Bo Diddley beat rock and male/female sing-alongs. If Jenny wanted to be less generous it almost could have been broken up into two or three songs. Other highlights include the “interesting family dynamic” tempo-shifting rocker "Jack Killed Mom", and the energetic country-rock pop of "See Fernando"…no not the ABBA tune. "Carpetbaggers" starts out strong and only stalls when Elvis Costello starts mumbling his way through the second verse. Jenny recovers, but she really should just have excised Elvis from the song. Also, don’t miss the stunning title track with Chris Robinson on backing vocals. Here Jenny strips down to just acoustic guitar and vocals and comes out with an amazing song about a hole in her shoe, liars, acid, and love. A few of the lesser songs echo 70s pop/rock/country/jazz with a few chamber music touches…nothing bad, they just aren’t that memorable.

This is a good album and it is growing on me, I just don’t think Jenny has equaled Rabbit Fur Coat…yet.

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