Ryan Adams & the Cardinals – Follow the Lights: While reports are that Adams appears to be slipping back into the bad behavior that has marred his live performances before going into rehab, he at least turned out a fantastic album earlier this year with Easy Tiger. Follow the Lights follows that up as a seven song EP with two brand new songs (which will be featured in the ABC television show October Road,) the rest being live-in-studio alternate versions of previously recorded songs, aside from his cover of Alice In Chains' "Down In A Hole," which has been a concert staple on this recent tour – and it's a must-hear. Essential? Probably not, but it's $5-6, and Adams appears to be on a roll- and you really do need to hear "Down In A Hole" if you like Adams. So it's close to essential.
Robert Fripp and Brian Eno – Beyond Even (1992-2006): 2004's Equatorial Stars seemed like a reunion after 12 years apart for these two ambient giants. After all, the last we'd heard from them was on Eno's 1992 album Nerve Net, but little did we know that they'd been working together the entire time. This album pulls together the strongest bits of those sessions and, if you were a DGM Live follower, you may have seen this on the site a year ago under the name Cotswold Gnomes. It's been edited a bit to flow better, from what I read, and early buyers get the album in a two-disc edition where one disc features tracks that segue and the other has individual tracks, which makes it so much easier to add your favorites to a mix for your next party.
This one's going to be easier to get directly from Fripp's label, DGM.
Tony Levin – Stick Man: Bassist Levin has made an incredible career for himself backing some of the finest musicians in the world, but his most notable contributions have been with Peter Gabriel and the '80s and '90s incarnations of King Crimson (he has also recently returned to the band after Trey Gunn departed for his own solo career.) In between, Levin has turned out a few impressive, if a bit geeky prog-oriented solo albums, and from all I see, this one is no different – but luckily quite a bit different than his last album, Resonator, which features vocals on the majority of the album, which was just not a good idea. Here, he sings on only three, letting his strong melodic sense guide his bass and Chapman Stick playing ("Stick" Man – get it?) which has been the driving force behind his other, more successfully satisfying albums.
This one had a release date sometime this month, but finding it is more than a bit difficult – just order it from the man himself until it finds its way into regular stores.
Robert Plant and Alison Krauss – Raising Sand: This is one of those pairings that could go either way. Plant was inarguably one of rock's absolute vocal gods is paired with Krauss, who I hear is one of bluegrass/country's strongest vocalists. Here he takes a step out into her territory – not that bluegrass-tinged flavors are any stranger to the Led Zeppelin vet since the band often dipped into the genre. The odd thing here is that while Plant's legendary voice has changed and thinned through the years, it actually seems suited to the needs of this project even more. Expectations are running high for this one, but early reviews are saying that it actually meets them.
Ween – La Cucaracha: It's been four long years since Ween graced us with a new album of weirdness. In that time, they did slip out the fantastic Shinola Vol. 1, a collection of odds and ends that includes their Pizza Hut jingle that apparently didn't go over so well with the company ("Where'd the Cheese Go?") and a few months back released a five-song EP as a teaser for the new album. Questions remained, however – where would Ween be going with this new album? Their previous couple of albums, Quebec and White Pepper, had headed into slightly more serious territory (and this is relative, remember,) so there were some fears that perhaps Ween might have lost their edge.
Worry not – Ween is as Ween-y as ever and, in fact, it appears that La Cucaracha hearkens back to Chocolate and Cheese and Pure Guava at least in terms of spirit, if not sound. The band is as eclectic as ever – there's a gay anthem in "Friends" (found in an alternate version on the aforementioned EP,) metal ("My Own Bare Hands,") jazzy Latin-rock in "Fiesta," and a complete surprise is in store for pretty much everyone in "Your Party" when David Sanborn, of all people, shows up to add sax – he's a big fan of the band, believe it or not.
Why? Because they're awesome – they are weird and goofy but do so in entirely musical ways. Nothing ever feels like a joke – they're serious about making everything they do fun.