Tuesday , April 16 2024
New versions of classics like "Billie Jean" featuring todays stars don't excite me much. But there's no doubt that Thriller warrants the treatment.

New Album Releases 02/12/08: Michael Jackson Celebrates Thriller’s 25th, Plus: Women Rockers Cover Neil Young, Widespread Panic, Dan Baird, Guru, Monster Magnet, Free Form Funky Freqs, Robert Pollard

The big news this week is of course the 25th anniversary edition of Michael Jackson's landmark album Thriller. While many of us today think of Jackson as the baby-tossing human mannequin, and all-around, one-man freak show he's admittedly become, it's still just a little too easy to forget the incredible achievement that Thriller actually was.

At the time Thriller was first released in 1982, pretty much everybody involved with it expected it to be huge. But no one could have predicted the monstrous phenomenon it eventually became. Thriller was one of those once-in-a-lifetime events that completely rewrote the rulebook for everything about the way music was recorded, produced, and marketed at the time.

Thriller systematically kicked down all of the remaining racially polarized barriers that existed in music even a few months before its release. Everything from the British New Wave syntho-pop of the time, to the post-disco R&B of artists like Prince and Rick James was affected by it. Radio playlists and even MTV — who up to that time wouldn't play black artists, claiming they didn't fit the video channel's "rock" format — were forced to adjust their playlists accordingly. Nothing was ever the same after that.

Blogcritic Donald Gibson has a particularly poignant article about just how profoundly this album affected him in his youth. There are doubtless millions of similar stories about Thriller out there as well.

I'm not sure how jazzed I can really get about all of the extras included on this new 25th Anniversary Edition — new versions of classics like "Billie Jean" featuring today's stars like will.i.am and Fergie just don't excite me that much. But there is no doubt that Thriller warrants the treatment. The album remains the biggest seller of all time even now.

Being a Neil Young fan, one album that does excite me this week though is Cinnamon Girl: Women Artists Cover Neil Young for Charity, which is pretty much exactly what the title describes. Tanya Donnelly's take on "Heart Of Gold" oughtta be worth the price tag all by itself.

Some of this week's other highlights include Free Somehow, the latest from jam band extraordinaire Widespread Panic. There is also a compilation "best of" package from Guru's Jazzmatazz series, where the hip-hop producer and sometime Gang Starr member gives classic jazz tracks by people like Ramsey Lewis and Donald Byrd a hip-hop makeover.

One of the greatest stoner-rock bands of all time — think Blue Cheer crossed with Motorhead on acid — is also back as Monster Magnet delivers its latest opus, 4-Way Diablo. The onetime Georgia Satellites frontman Dan Baird — who had a very fine, but sadly overlooked solo album in the nineties with Songs For The Hearing Impaired now has another new solo release called Out of Mothballs.

Saleski's Choice: Free Form Funky Freqs – Urban Mythology, Vol. 1

This is a certified jazz/funk/power trio bomb. With Vernon Reid on guitar, Jamaaladeen Tecuma on bass, and G. Calvin Weston on drums, there is not a flabby moment on this record. Many people know Reid from his fire-spitting days with Living Colour. If you weren't paying attention though, you might be lead to believe that Reid was only capable of those tangled rock solos. Not true. The man has soul. Tons of it. Mountains of it! Tecuma and Weston (great names in their own right) have joined forces with Reid to produce this spectacular funk assault.

Tom Johnson's Pick Of The Week: Robert Pollard – Superman Was A Rocker

Since Guided By Voices split on New Year's Eve, 2004 (and even long before that) some fans have pined for the old days – back when Robert Pollard and company crudely recorded in a basement on cassettes into a boombox, throwing caution to the wind and making lo-fi masterpieces that confounded standard song-writing practices. Pollard's become something of an off-kilter, oddball-pop genius over the years, but he hasn't forgotten those days, and with his latest album, as always just the first of several this year, he returns to those old techniques to see what turns up. 20 years of old tapes+new vocals and other goodies=a good time for willing ears.

Here are all of this week's new album releases courtesy of All Music Guide:

Opus Mixtum
Carrot Top
Alternative Pop/Rock, Heavy Metal

British Sea Power
Do You Like Rock Music?
Rough Trade
Indie Rock

Michael Jackson
Thriller [25th Anniversary Edition]
Pop/Rock, Urban, Funk, Dance-Pop, Club/Dance

Widespread Panic
Free Somehow
Jam Bands, American Trad Rock, Rock & Roll

Alarm Will Sound
Michael Gordon: Van Gogh
Contemporary Chamber Music

Dan Baird
Out of Mothballs
Rock & Roll

Joe Beck & John Abercrombie
Whaling City

Marco Benevento
Invisible Baby
Avant-Garde Jazz, Noise Pop, Experimental Rock, Post-Rock/Experimental, Modern Free, Urban Folk, Instrumental Rock

Blue Highway
Through the Window of a Train
Progressive Bluegrass, Contemporary Bluegrass

Jack Bruce/Robin Trower
Seven Moons
Hard Rock, Blues-Rock

The Buckinghams
The Greatest Hits and More
Fuel 2000
Sunshine Pop, Pop/Rock

Deaf Pedestrians
And Other Distractions
Hard Rock, Alternative Metal

Flo & Eddie
The Phlorescent Leech & Eddie/Flo & Eddie
Pop/Rock, Power Pop, Satire

Front Line Assembly
Tactical Neural Implant/Millennium
Electro-Industrial, Industrial Dance, Industrial

The Best of Guru's Jazzmatazz
Underground Rap, Jazz-Rap, Hip-Hop

Gladys Hardy
I Love Jesus But I Drink a Little
Warner Bros.
Prank Calls, Country Comedy

Buddy Holly & the Crickets
Not Fade Away: Buddy Holly 1957 Complete Recordings
El Toro
Pop, Rockabilly, Rock & Roll

Idiot Pilot
Indie Rock, Indie Electronic

Wendy James
Racine, Vol. 2
Jungle UK
Alternative Pop/Rock

Simone Kermes
Amor Profana: Vivaldi Arias
Archiv Produktion
Baroque Opera Arias

The Kingston Trio
Once Upon a Time
Collectors' Choice Music

The Kingston Trio
Twice Upon a Time
Collectors' Choice Music
Folk Revival, Folk-Pop, Traditional Folk

Dave Koz
At The Movies – Double Feature [Bonus DVD]
Blue Note
Smooth Jazz, Standards, Instrumental Pop, Crossover Jazz, Contemporary Jazz

Jenny Lin
Bloch: Concerto symphonique; Concerto grosso; Scherzo fantasque
Haenssler Classic
Modern Orchestral Music

Demonstrating My Style/Look My Way
Hardcore Punk, Thrash

Karita Mattila
Light Music for Voice & Orchestra

Monster Magnet
4-Way Diablo
Stoner Metal, Alternative Metal, Hard Rock, Heavy Metal

Carrie Newcomer
The Geography of Light
Contemporary Folk, Country-Folk, Roots Rock, Rock & Roll

Tonus Peregrinus
Anthony Pitts: Alpha and Omega
Contemporary Choral Music

Robert Pollard
Superman Was a Rocker
Happy Jack
Indie Pop, Indie Rock, Lo-Fi, Alternative Pop/Rock

The Puppini Sisters
The Rise & Fall of Ruby Woo
Universal Jazz
Harmony Vocal Group, Vocal Pop, Alternative Pop/Rock

The Rumble Strips
Girls and Weather
Indie Rock

Tom Scott
Cannon Re-Loaded: An All-Star Celebration of Cannonball Adderley
Contemporary Jazz

Alternative Metal, Heavy Metal, Death Metal/Black Metal, Thrash, Speed Metal, Progressive Metal

Simple Plan
Simple Plan
Punk-Pop, Punk Revival

Supreme Beings of Leisure
Downtempo, Downbeat

Sworn Enemy
Century Media
Punk Metal, Hardcore Punk

7707 tm: 30th Anniversary Box
Experimental Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, New Wave

Vapour Trails
Experimental Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, New Wave

Type O Negative
Dead Again [CD/DVD]
Goth Metal, Alternative Metal, Heavy Metal

Various Artists
Bippp: French Synth Wave 1979-85
Post-Punk, New Wave

Various Artists
Cinnamon Girl: Women Artists Cover Neil Young for Charity
American Laundromat
Adult Alternative Pop/Rock, Alternative Country-Rock, Roots Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Folk-Pop, Country-Rock

Various Artists
The Complete Motown Singles, Vol. 9: 1969
Hip-O Select
R&B, Pop-Soul, Motown, Soul

Various Artists
Droppin' Science: Greatest Samples from the Blue Note Lab
Blue Note
Soul-Jazz, Jazz-Funk

Million Dollar Mouthpiece
West Coast Rap, Hardcore Rap, Gangsta Rap

About Glen Boyd

Glen Boyd is the author of Neil Young FAQ, released in May 2012 by Backbeat Books/Hal Leonard Publishing. He is a former BC Music Editor and current contributor, whose work has also appeared in SPIN, Ultimate Classic Rock, The Rocket, The Source and other publications. You can read more of Glen's work at the official Neil Young FAQ site. Follow Glen on Twitter and on Facebook.

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