Among several promising new releases this week, cool people are most excited about Tori Amos and her American Doll Posse. I'm a sucker for this freaky preacher's kid, but you have to take her with a grain of salt. On the one hand, she wrote "Crucify" and "God" and "Spark." On the other hand, she doesn't seem to put much stock in basic pop music communication, and tends to become willfully obscure musically and lyrically to the point of disappearing up her own belly button with records that can't mean much to anyone but herself.
This album apparently is supposed to be some kind of a concept album voiced by no less than five alter egos, her doll posse. There are apparently separate MySpace pages and blogs for each character. This is just the kind of arcane foolishness that has frequently overwhelmed her great talents as an actual songwriter and musician. On the other hand, a song title like "Fat Slut" promises the more direct attack that might likely result in a fine song. I'm just saying, a good hook and a comprehensible lyrical point will do you more good than a MySpace blog for "Pip" or "Isabel."
Plus, she's got some properly disdainful liberal political commentary in tracks like the opening "Yo George." "Is this just the madness of King George/You have the whole nation on all fours." One need not hear the musical execution of a disrespectful and condescending denunciation of Chimpy McHitler such as this to see that it's obviously an Important Artistic Statement.
Joan Armatrading has written a lot of great songs over the years, though she's never sold near the records that an obvious impersonator like Tracy Chapman has. Ms Armatrading is generally considered some range of a singer-songwriter type, but the new Into the Blues is just that – featuring her electric blues guitar playing on 13 original compositions.
Warren Zevon has a new album of recently re-discovered 30 year old song demos called Preludes. About half of them appear to be solo piano performances, and half of them full band arrangements. This album sounds particularly promising on a couple of levels. For starters, there are at least a half dozen song titles here that I don't recognize.
Beyond that, Zevon's songs were not necessarily served that well in the early years by the slick Jackson Browne LA studio production sound. I've been digging on the re-mastered Stand in the Fire live album lately, and it strikes me that nearly every one of those performances is stronger than the more well known album version.
Rush has a new album called Snakes & Arrows. In theory, I want to like Rush more than I do, but after about 1981 all their albums sound alike to me. But what do I know? This album is currently #2 at Amazon.
In the way of re-issues, there are a couple of new Elvis Costello compilations on Hip-O records. The Best of Elvis Costello: The First 10 Years is a pretty good basic 22 song collection, though there's little obvious reason why an established fan would buy it. If you were looking for an intro to Elvis collection for an Elvis newbie, I'd recommend the DVD compilation The Right Spectacle.
Then there's the Rock and Roll Music album. The idea of a good Elvis Costello ROCK collection is, broadly, an outstanding idea. But the selection of songs is somewhat weak in the song quality, and on top of that not a particularly "rockin" selection. "Clean Money" or "Honey Are You Straight or Are You Blind?" are just not among his better songs. "Tiny Steps" is a good song, but not particularly a good example of "ROCK." Plus, they somehow managed NOT to pick his most classic and famous punk rockin' gesture "Radio Radio." Seems like that'd have to be Ground Zero for such a thing.
Here's the complete list of this week's major new album releases, courtesy AMG:
Michael Buble Call Me Irresponsible 143/Reprise
Vocal Jazz, Adult Contemporary, Traditional Pop
Dinosaur Jr. Beyond Play It Again Sam
Feist The Reminder Cherry Tree/Interscope
Indie Rock, Indie Pop, Alternative Pop/Rock
Miranda Lambert Crazy Ex-Girlfriend Sony
Contemporary Country, Country-Pop, Traditional Country
A Plus My Last Good Deed Hieroglyphics Imperium
Alternative Rap, West Coast Rap, Underground Rap
ALO Roses & Clover Brushfire
Dave Alvin Live from Austin TX New West
Heartland Rock, Americana, Roots Rock, Singer/Songwriter
Tori Amos American Doll Posse Epic
Adult Alternative Pop/Rock
Joan Armatrading Into the Blues 429
Folk-Rock, Singer/Songwriter, Folk-Pop, Adult Alternative Pop/Rock, Contemporary Singer/Songwriter
Attractive and Popular Money Equals Magic Gold Standard Legends
Shelley Berman Live at the Improv Varese Sarabande
Leonard Bernstein Gershwin: Rhapsody in Blue; An American in Paris Sony
Modern Orchestral Music
B.R.M.C. Baby 81 RCA
Noise Pop, Indie Rock
Corbin Bleu Another Side Hollywood
Teen Pop, Dance-Pop, Urban
Elvis Costello Rock and Roll Music Hip-O
College Rock, British Punk, Pub Rock, New Wave, Punk, Adult Alternative Pop/Rock, Pop/Rock
Tadd Dameron with John Coltrane Mating Call Prestige/OJC
Booker Ervin Freedom Book Prestige/OJC
Hard Bop, Post-Bop
The Fall of Troy Manipulator Equal Vision
Post-Hardcore, Progressive Metal
Frog Eyes Tears of the Valedictorian Absolutely Kosher
Indie Rock, Post-Punk, Post-Rock/Experimental
Robbie Fulks Revenge Yep Roc
Alternative Country, Singer/Songwriter, Neo-Traditionalist Country, Neo-Traditional Folk, Roots Rock, Adult Alternative Pop/Rock
Glenn Gould Bach: Italian Concerto; Partitas Nos. 1 & 2; etc. Sony
Baroque Keyboard Music
Randall Hall Neither Proud Nor Ashamed: New Music for Saxophone Innova
Contemporary Music for Saxophone
Harumi Harumi Fall Out
Psychedelic Pop, Psychedelic
Ari Hest The Break-In Columbia/Red Ink
Adult Alternative Pop/Rock, Contemporary Singer/Songwriter
Angelique Kidjo Djin Djin Razor & Tie
Contemporary Reggae, Afro-Pop, Afro-Beat, Worldbeat, Club/Dance, World Fusion
Kimberley Locke Based on a True Story Curb
Adult Contemporary, Pop/Rock
Ne-Yo Because of You Def Jam
Andres Segovia The Best of Andres Segovia Hip-O
Baroque, Post-Romantic and Modern Music for Guitar
US Army Chorus Songs of the Soldier: 26 Time Honored Classics Altissimo
Military Music for Chorus and Band
Original Soundtrack Dirty Dancing [20th Anniversary Edition] RCA/Legacy
Soundtracks, Brill Building Pop, Girl Group, Pop/Rock, Doo Wop, Soft Rock, Pop, Adult Contemporary, Rock & Roll, R&B, Soul
Original Soundtrack Spider-Man 3: Music from and Inspired By Warner Bros.
Emo, Adult Alternative Pop/Rock, Soundtracks, Alternative Pop/Rock
Pentangle The Time Has Come Castle
British Folk-Rock, British Folk, Folk-Rock
Puppini Sisters Betcha Bottom Dollar Verve
Harmony Vocal Group, Vocal Pop, Alternative Pop/Rock
Rush Snakes & Arrows Atlantic
Album Rock, Prog-Rock/Art Rock, Hard Rock, Arena Rock
Blake Shelton Pure BS Warner Bros.
Contemporary Country, Country-Rock
Larry Sparks The Last Suit You Wear McCoury
Contemporary Bluegrass, Traditional Bluegrass
Various Artists High School Musical: The Concert Walt Disney
Teen Pop, Television Music, Soundtracks
Various Artists World Circuit Presents [Nonesuch] Nonesuch/World Circuit
Pan-Global, Aboriginal Folk, Cha-Cha, Afro-Brazilian, African Folk, Son, Bolero, Afro-Cuban Jazz, Rhumba, Afro-Cuban, Mambo, Afro-Pop, Mbira, Salsa, Ethnic Fusion
Patrick Wolf The Magic Position Low Altitude
Warren Zevon Preludes New West
Singer/Songwriter, Album Rock, Pop/Rock, Hard Rock