With most, if not all eyes on the new Madonna album hitting stores this week, it'd be easy to overlook the "other stuff" out there — but it would also be a mistake.
There are plenty of interesting choices for just about every taste imaginable in this week's new release offerings. These range from the long awaited return of veterans like Steve Winwood, to a "debut album" that has been in the works for at least three or so decades now.
I haven't actually heard anything from Madonna's Hard Candy yet. What I do know is that the set is being ballyhooed as the "Material Girl's" return to her roots as a dancefloor diva, and that she has enlisted folks like Justin Timberlake and Timbaland for a more modern sounding disco makeover. I also noticed that the cover features a seductive shot of Madge all decked out in S&M gear. Which begs the question "how old is too old" to be pimping the whole sex-kitten thing?
Hard Candy comes in both a standard, and a deluxe "candy-box" edition.
Unlike Madonna, I have heard Steve Winwood's new Nine Lives, and it sounds quite tasty to these ears.
There's nothing here that is going to be a radio staple, at least not in the same way that something as out and out catchy as "Roll With It" was. But working with a small band of crack musicians, Winwood's voice — which sounds better than ever here — is matched with songs that have almost an early Santana sort of feel to them. There are heavy sounding keyboards, and congas aplenty here. Eric Clapton also turns in a guitar solo that is simply filthy sounding on the appropriately titled "Dirty City".
Perhaps the most curious new release of the week is the debut from Mudcrutch, which those in the know will recognize as Tom Petty's pre-Heartbreakers band. It's anybody's guess why Petty chose to revive this project at this particular time some three decades (at least!) after the fact. But revive it he has, and from what we hear there is a very decent sounding alt-americana vibe to this belated "debut album."
Other noteworthy releases this week include the politically themed hip hop of Rising Down from the Roots, and Def Leppard's arena-ready Songs from the Sparkle Lounge. Tom Johnson will also be along shortly to talk about why Portishead's Third may be an early album of the year contender.