Sensual, sexy and sublime; those are just three terms of many that could sum up Goldfrapp’s third and latest release, SUPERNATURE. If you enjoyed the first two outings from Alison Goldfrapp and Will Gregory, this one will blow you away. Out of this world electronic driving beats set the stage for the opening track and leadoff single “Ooh La La” (which is already making a lot of noise at clubs) and it just keeps getting better from there. What makes this pop/electro/dance/chill album work so well is the fact that they combined all of these elements and fused them into one delicious soundtrack. When’s the last time you recall humming an electro song? The chill of “Let It Take You” is a guaranteed thrill, while you’ll feel a bit nostalgic with the new wavish sway of “Satin Chic.” “Ride A White Horse” could’ve been lifted from the best Giorgio Moroder recordings of the late 70’s, while Alison & Will never stray too far from keeping the sound fresh for 2006. Goldfrapp manages brilliantly to make this music timeless. The CD closing track is the extraordinary “Number One.” How appropriate considering that’s exactly the position this album is destined for.
Bad Boy Joe & Johnny Budz Present Ultra Dance.7 Various Artists
There’s a reason I waited until the seventh installment of the Ultra Dance compilations to make a mention. I wanted to hang around long enough until the entire CD knocked me off my feet, and then on them again, ready to take on the dance floor. This latest installment is not only the best in the series, it’s one of the best dance compilations, period! Two discs and twenty-four superbly selected and meticulously mixed tracks make this one of the most popular and best-selling CD’s of this genre to come along in years. The track listing may be familiar, but the combination of the artists and the mixes are not. Disc One kicks off with The Killers anthem “Mr. Brightside (Jacques Lu Cont’s Thin White Duke Mix)” and takes us through a numerous array of artists, such as Faith Evans’ “Mesmerized (Freemasons Full Vocal Mix),” Deborah Cox’s “House Is Not A Home (Tony Moran Mix)” and more familiar pop fare such as Destiny’s Child’s “Lose My Breath (Peter Rauhofer Reconstruction Mix),” Kelly Clarkson’s Grammy-winning “Because Of You (Jason Nevins Club Mix)” and Cascada’s “Everytime We Touch (Original Mix).” And that’s just half of Disc One. Disc Two is just as powerful, featuring rare remix tracks including Roger Sanchez Featuring GTO’s “Turn On The Music (Axwell Remix),” Goldfrapp’s “Number 1 (Superchumbo Mix),” the legendary and always fresh Depeche Mode with “Precious (Sasha’s Gargantuan Vocal Mix),” Gorillaz “Dare (Soulwax Remix),” Ferry Corsten’s “Fire (Extended Mix),” and closing out the two-disc set is Stunt with their extraordinary track “Raindrops (Extended Mix).” Besides those wonderful cuts, an additional dozen tracks are included. Take my word, but more importantly, take my ears for it, this collection will certainly captivate any dance aficionado.
R&B Dance Mix: The Real Sound Of Clubbing Various Artists
The subtitle of this 2-CD set compilation is “The Sound of Real Clubbing.” For those of you who have ventured out into a night of dancing on a regular basis, you’ll find complete truth in that account. What we get in this terrific offering are some of the most beloved R&B dance tracks of the past few years remixed for an ecstatic journey through clubland. I’ll name some of the highlights and I defy you to tell me these tracks are not your “guilty pleasures,” all the while shaking everything you’ve got on the dance floor. Do you all love Beyoncè as much as I do? If so, it’s no surprise that “Crazy In Love” has become her most successful solo outing without her “Destiny” sisters, and the Nu Soul Remix is one of the best I’ve ever heard to kick this set off. The nonstop-mix continues with Jennifer Lopez’ “Get Right (Louie Vega Club Mix),” Britney Spears’ best dance track “Toxic (Armand Vel Helden Remix),” and the heat continues to rise with John Legend’s “Used To Love U,” as well as Outkast’s out-n-out feel-good anthem “Hey Ya!” Other artists and tracks to fulfill your dance dreams are Ashanti’s “Baby Baby (Love To Infinity Classic Master Mix),” Christina Milan’s “Dip It Low (Full Intention Club),” J-Kwon’s “Tipsy,” and a couple of pop treasures, such as Justin Timberlake’s “Rock Your Body (Vasquez Club Anthem)” and Pink’s ode to disco at its best “Get The Party Started (Pink Noize Disco Mix).” There are thirty-eight tracks in all to give you a couple of hours of non-stop satisfaction while you’re entertaining friends at the pool, prepping for a night out on the town, an extended workout on the treadmill, or maybe just a good old-fashioned house cleaning. I know my vacuuming moves right along when I play this set. Hey, if it makes you smile and gets you into the groove, this compilation is doing something right, which makes it an extreme delight.
Swinging Single: While we’re on the subject of the best new dance recordings, I could not in good conscience leave out one of the best new single discs on the market today. It’s true that the CD single is practically extinct, but there’s one artist that is still selling them today the way they sold ten years ago and the way they’ve been selling since the beginning of her career one word: Madonna. The single: “Sorry.” Lady M has been dispensing remixes going all the way back to her vinyl days with her first dance singles “Everybody” and “Burning Up.” Twenty-three years later, this icon is still at the top of her game and “Sorry” is the latest example of how this woman manages to keep her career light years ahead of the competition. There are five remixes of the song, all extraordinary, so you’ll have to choose your favorite. Today, mine happens to be the 7:22 version of The Paul Oakenfold Remix. I say today, because every few days it changes, almost as quickly as the woman reinvents herself. Last week I was in love with 8:36 version of The PSB Maxi-Mix. Chances are the 6:07 Green Velvet Mix will top my list sooner or later (no pun intended). The other two mixes include the “Man With Guitar Edit” that runs 6:04 and of course, the single edit clocking in at just under 4 minutes. A bonus on the disc is track six, which is a remix of the album cut “Let It Will Be” (Paper Faces Vocal Edit) at 5:24. Confessions On A Dance Floor is easily Madonna’s most commercial album since 2000’s Music, if not more so. We’ll surely be hearing many more singles to come. Just because her first single from the album was titled “Hung Up,” that’s hardly any indication of where this woman’s career is at. Pick up the CD single “Sorry” with this in your collection, there will be no need to be.
Donald Fagen: Morph The Cat
The latest CD from one half of the legendary duo of Steely Dan is his third solo effort in 24 years, and his first since 1993. On this latest disc, Mr. Fagen may not offer any musical surprises, but that’s a good thing. He has continued to thrill us with his complex lyrics, his ever familiar sound, and through it all, he has managed to keep the music contemporary. There’s nothing dated about Morph The Cat. Fagan describes the title cut, “A vast, ghostly cat-thing descends on New York City, bestowing on its citizens a kind of rapture.” Did ya get that? That’s exactly how a lot of the lyrics seem to go, but would you expect anything else from the man who has delivered anything but the most original and intellectual lyrics to come out of the rock era for the past four decades? The entire production is as slick as oil on granite, and you know you’re in for a treat from the first notes of the opening track until the last is played at the end of the 55-minute set. In between tracks 1-9 we get a brilliant homage to Ray Charles that plays on the title “What I Say” to Fagen’s “What I Do.” To quote Fagen, the song is “A conversation between some younger version of myself and the ghost of Ray Charles.” Not only is the music mesmerizing, the lyrics are out of this world, and exquisitely displays his deep admiration for Charles. The song that has the most fun would be “Security Joan.” It tells of an encounter of a man deeply turned on by a woman who wears a badge at New York’s LaGuardia Airport. Other highlights include “The Night Belongs To Mona,” which is about a New York woman who lives alone in her high-rise apartment after being deeply affected by the events of 9-11, yet keeps the dance floor alive 40 stories high in her “Chelsea tower.” The marriage of the music and lyrics are simply sublime. Just when “Mona” ends, “Mary Shut The Garden Door” picks up and may very well be the most infectious track on the CD. I love “Brite Nitegown,” and “H Gang,” which is about the life and death of a band, and the phenomenal “The Great Pagoda Of Funn” which portrays two lovers’ attempt to shut out the harsh realities of life. The fusion of funk, jazz and soul combine to make this set one of the best that Fagen has delivered. The Man from Dan has done it again, and he’s done it magnificently.
The Little Willies
Many have called this CD the new Norah Jones project, and with good reason. Jones’ instantly recognizable vocals are all over this CD, and in my opinion, are why it works so well. Don’t get me wrong, the band that also consists of Lee Alexander, Jim Campilongo, Dan Rieser and Richard Julian (who also shares some of the vocals) remain faithful to a wonderful set of covers that were written by Willie Nelson, hence the title of the band, plus Kris Kristofferson and Hank Williams, just to name three. The album’s tight production and the band’s superb gifts generously do these songs justice, and would have been a hit without the fabulous presence of Jones, but it’s my opinion that her vocals are what make this small album a big event. The album’s first track, “Roly Poly,” kicks off the set, and I mean kicks, with Jones on lead vocals, and the ever present fusion of funk, folk and soul gives this western swing track a whole new life of its own. “Love Me” may be best remembered as an Elvis Presley ballad, but Jones once again manages to make this song her own without losing the original fervor of its message. “It’s Not You It’s Me” had my head rappin’ and my foot tappin’ and strangely enough, the rhythm reminded me of an up-tempo Billie Holiday tune with a twist. Put that in your corncob pipe and smoke it! “Easy As The Rain” is a bluesy ballad that is warm and cozy and “Roll On” ranks as one of the best on the set. The thirteen-track set ends with an original song written by Jones, Alexander & Julien titled “Lou Reed” with its off-beat lyrics and the tipsy atmosphere of the delivery, it sounds as if they knocked back a couple of shots before recording this number that carries a 4AM feel to it. There’s nothing typical about this album, and that’s a significant part of its charm.
Billy Elliot The Musical: Original Cast Recording
Even though this musical doesn’t make its debut on Broadway until next year, it’s already winning over audiences in London’s famed West End. Hailed as “The greatest British musical” by The London Telegraph and “The first musical since ‘Rent’ to exert such a complete emotional hold on its audience” by The New York Times, Billy Elliot is likely to become Elton John’s greatest hit! If the musical’s dialog is nearly as brilliant as this score, this play is destined to become the toast of Broadway and an instant classic come 2007. The music alone already is. The story is taken from the beautiful 2001 film and John’s music compliments as it swells and takes us on a journey that you hope never ends. Of course, the beauty of this is that when it does end, just push “play” and repeat the experience all over again. The production of this CD is flawless and the Collector’s Edition comes with a bonus CD that boasts Sir Elton on three of the best tracks, “The Letter,” “Merry Christmas Maggie Thatcher” and “Electricity.” The title of that final track is most appropriate for this musical record that is absolutely radiant and sure to capture your heart instantly. Elton John’s talents are endless and this latest installment of his work is extraordinary.
Blondie Greatest Hits: Sound & Vision
If you’re already asking yourself, ‘Do I really need another Blondie compilation?’ then I must tell you that the answer is most definitely “Yes!” This is the most comprehensive collection the band has delivered in their thirty-year history. No, it’s not a box set of rarities, it’s a two-disc set with one disc of “sound” that contains their greatest hits of the past three decades and one DVD disc of “vision” that provides solid proof of why this amazing New York-based band, fronted by Debbie Harry, was recently inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame. Of course, the obvious hits are here, beginning with the song that put them on the worldwide map - the #1 smash “Heart Of Glass.” Other #1 smash records that follow are the Deborah Harry/Giorgio Moroder penned “Call Me,” the reggae-tinged “The Tide Is High” and “Rapture,” which made them the first new wave turned mainstream band to have a #1 rap song, not to mention by a female lead. The widely exposed “One Way Or Another” is here along with the 1979 classic “Dreaming” and the 1999 rocker “Maria.” In between those obvious inclusions are tracks that have become Blondie staples ranging from their 1976 debut single “Rip Her To Shreds,” through 2003’s “Good Boys” with a new mix added in 2005. Other masterpieces include “Atomic,” which topped the charts in the UK in 1979, “Sunday Girl,” a new remix of “In The Flesh,” “Denis,” “Picture This,” “Fade Away And Radiate,” “Hanging On The Telephone,” “Union City Blue,” “Island Of Lost Souls” “End To End” and a new single that’s burning up the clubs as I write this, “Rapture Riders,” billed as Blondie VS. The Doors, with the classic 1981 track mixed with the phenomenal Doors’ 1971 epic “Riders On The Storm.” Everything old is brand new again and sounding fresher than ever. The DVD of their performance videos include most of what’s on the CD with the inclusion of “Detroit 442,” and a personal favorite “The Hardest Part.” The Bonus DVD track is a UK version of the Blondie VS. The Doors’ “Rapture Riders.” It’s inevitable that Blondie will one day deliver a box set of hits and rarities in one package, but until they do, pick up this “Sound & Vision” set, and hear and see why Blondie was, and is, one of the most important rock and roll bands of all-time.
k.d. lang: Reintarnation
How many times did you hear Jed Clampett exclaim “What in tarnation is that?” Or for that matter, how many times did you hear that word outside a country setting? If you have, you’re one step ahead of me. k.d. lang has released an album with the title Reintarnation because it features her first decade of recording which consists of her well-known groundbreaking material of country fare. This collection contains some of her best tracks as well as rare singles from 1983 through 1989. As a bonus, there’s one previously unreleased song, “Changed My Mind,” that she and longtime collaborator Ben Mink wrote over twenty years ago and finally completed just in time for this release. In this collection, there are rarities such as the first single lang released, titled “Friday Dance Promenade,” which was sold exclusively at her concerts when she had only a cult following. Her first album, A Truly Western Experience, arrived in 1984, and from that collection we receive two splendid tracks, “Pine And Stew” and “Hanky Panky.” Later tracks from the 80’s include “Diet of Strange Places” as well as “Turn Me Around.” In 1988, lang recorded the album, Shadowland, and lifted the superb track “Don’t Let The Stars Get In Your Eyes” for this set. 1989 was the year that would bring lang international attention and fame with her stunning album, Absolute Torch And Twang. The album also brought k.d. her first Grammy for Best Female Country Vocalist, and was so good that she decided to include seven of its tracks on this latest collection, including “Trail Of Broken Hearts,” “Pullin’ Back The Reins,” and Big Big Love.” The Gus Van Sant film Even Cowgirls Get The Blues hasn’t been ignored - three of the soundtrack’s songs made the cut; “Curious Soul Astray,” Don’t Be A Lemming Polka,” and “Cowgirl Pride.” All in all, there are twenty tracks that will easily explain to younger fans why k.d. lang mattered so much from the beginning of her career, as well as remind longtime fans of the love for this gal who “Got The Bull By The Horns” and never let go.
Erasure: Union Street
The dynamic duo of Vince Clark and Andy Bell return with Union Street a disc that is a departure from anything they’ve ever recorded. To look at the track listing, you’d think this was a repackaged album of previously released material. That is until you take a listen to the first track, “Boy,” and realize that this might be the same song they recorded back in 1997 from their Cowboy album, but this “Boy” is not that “Boy” at all. Get the picture? This disc is filled with album tracks that date back as far as the eighties, and they’ve all had a country-acoustic facelift. When Andy was confronted about this familiar material with a country twist, he joked, “We’re going to be the first band ever to cross over from pop to country.” He even kidded that they would like to play The Grand Old Opry. To tell you the truth, I don’t think he was joking. Judging from the fantastic fresh sound on this album, with carefully selected backtracks such as “Piano Song,” “Home,” “Love Affair,” “Rock Me Gently” and seven more, it makes me feel that Andy took in more than a few screenings of Brokeback Mountain. If the popular TV show, Extreme Makeover had a slot for music, this album would certainly take top honors. Andy explains, “We wanted to show the songs in a different light, and to show that they could work on any instrument, synthesizer or guitar.” Vince chimed in “We just felt there were songs on our albums that had been missed as songs.” I agree. With most people downloading the “popular” songs to their ipods and ringtones for their cell phones, this was a brilliant concept album to represent the songs that deserve attention that may have been lost on past “hits” collections. And what better way than presenting them in a completely new setting? It will be interesting to see how Union Street is accepted by the public, especially for longtime fans of the pop-electro sound that put Erasure on the map. If anything, this album should not only please those longtime fans, but probably add a few new ones. This is one minimalist album that deserves major attention!
Patti LuPone: The Lady With The Torch
For those living under a rock and not familiar with the splendiferous talents of Patti LuPone, one might think The Lady With A Torch is songs about the Statue of Liberty. For those who are familiar with Ms. LuPone’s vocals and repertoire, you probably have surmised by now that this album is filled with songs that every man and woman can identify with. In other words, torch songs, victim songs, whatever you choose to label them, they are exquisite songs songs written in an era before Eminem and Three 6 Mafia were taking home Academy Awards for Best Song. The superb 14-song set that Ms. LuPone carefully selected for this album were all songs she performed on her recent tour, including her sold-out engagement at New York’s famed Carnegie Hall. Songs included are Gershwin’s “The Man I Love,” Cole Porter’s “So In Love,” Jule Styne and Sammy Cahn’s masterpiece “Guess I’ll Hang My Tears Out To Dry” and the stunning album closer “Don’t Like Goodbyes” written by the legendary Harold Arlen and Truman Capote. Yes, I know, you’ve heard these songs before, but classics like these never, ever go out of style, especially when they’re expressed so deeply and emotionally for vocalists who understand the sentiment behind the lyric like Patti does. You’ve heard these songs sung by everyone from Ella to Sinatra and swear they own them, but when you lend them to a songstress such as Patti LuPone, she certainly makes you realize that these songs are not on loan, but she has also earned the right to own them herself.
Linda Ronstadt: The Best Of Linda Ronstadt The Capitol Years
Fans of Linda Ronstadt Unite! This 2-CD set contains Linda’s first four solo albums recorded for Capitol, beginning with 1969’s Hand Sown…Home Grown and the 1970 set Silk Purse. Disc Two covers her 1972 self-titled album and caps off with her 1974 masterpiece, Heart Like A Wheel. If you’re a fan of Ronstadt’s and already own these original albums, you may want to think again before passing on this collection. Not only are the four original albums brilliantly remastered, this collection also contains five bonus tracks that include “It Won’t Be Easy,” “He Darked The Sun (Nashville Version),” “Can It Be True,” and two songs performed live at Los Angeles’ famed Troubadour, “Kate” and the Grammy-nominated “Long, Long Time.” Ronstadt started out as a country artist and her producer at the time, Chip Douglas, was much more pop-oriented. Looking back on Linda’s career, you can see how the combination of the two genres served her extremely well. On the country-folk-pop selections, we’re treated to Linda’s earliest recordings that include Bob Dylan’s “Baby, You’ve Been On My Mind,” to Patsy Cline’s “I Fall To Pieces,” to Carole King’s “Will You Love Me Tomorrow?” More familiar selections include “Silver Threads And Golden Needles,” and the #1 smash hits, “You’re No Good,” and “When Will I Be Loved.” Other composers that Ronstadt covered on these early recordings include songs from James Taylor, Randy Newman, Jackson Browne, Neil Young, Johnny Cash, and Paul Anka. After looking back on Ronstadt’s career, it’s clear she didn’t have to do much to prove herself all she needed was that voice. This collection is a fresh reminder why Ronstadt is still a strong and powerful voice in the music industry after nearly 40 years. Would she have made it without these recordings? Absolutely, but we all have to start somewhere. I suggest you start with The Best Of Linda Ronstadt The Capitol Years. It’s absolutely breathtaking!
© 2006 Steven M. Housman. All Rights Reserved.