Friday, April 27, 2007

WHAT'S SPINNING? Just a thumbnail regarding the 3 new discs I picked up this week. The first is the new album by Fountains of Wayne: "Traffic and Weather". Now, I've been a fan of this group since the late 90's -- LOOOONG before "Stacy's Mom". And, as a matter of fact, I didn't LIKE "Stacy's Mom" very much; that album had many much better tracks on it but I digress as usual. "Utopia Parkway" was their masterpiece but here we have the new one "Traffic and Weather" which pretty much has a travel theme throughout. The album opener (and single I hear tell) is "Someone To Love" and it's terrific; one of those songs that grows on you the more you listen to it. I also typically LOVE the way the song leads you to think that the lonely man and woman will find each other at the end of the song and then don't. You KNOW I'm all over THAT sentiment like a cheap suit. While "Traffic and Weather" doesn't eclipse "Utopia Parkway", the album has a handful of really good pop that are hooky as hell.
Secondly we have the new album by that amazing jazz chanteuse Jane Monheit. While the lady's voice is technically fantastic, many people have found her singing to be a little short on emotion. And there's some truth to this sentiment. However, Ella Fitzgerald faced the same complaints throughout HER career and look what SHE accomplished. The new album "Surrender" is different in the choice of songs; instead of the old standards Monheit usually populates her albums with, this time out she sings originals, pop covers and bossa nova songs. Monheit has always shined in the past with bossa nova (particularly her take on Jobim's "Waters of March") and she slips into the South American rhythms quite effectively. And among the pop covers we find Jane's take on Stevie Wonder's "Overjoyed" as well as Willy Wonka's "Pure Imagination". Monheit's voice is much more emotion-flecked than her past albums; it seems she's getting better with age. Hey, in a couple years she's even gonna hit 30! "Surrender" also finds Jane aided by Sergio Mendes and Toots Thieleman. This is the kind of album that BEGS for a heavily-cushioned easy chair to slide into while pouring yourself a cocktail or three. Particularly when Jane sings "So Many Stars".
Thirdly, the new album by the venerable Patti Smith. This one is rather unexpected since "Twelve" is, in fact, an album of covers. Now, Patti Smith doesn't spring to my mind immediately as someone who would do a cover album; however, she sure did the job in the past with "Gloria" and "Because the Night" so I don't know why I should be so surprised. This new album features 12 covers which alternate between songs which she seems BORN to record and complete surprises which seem to oddly work. One song she was born to cover is the Rolling Stones' "Gimme Shelter" which sounds EXACTLY like the threatening storm of the lyric's first line. Rather unexpected is her cover of Tears For Fears' "Everybody Wants To Rule the World" but it still kinda works. And here, like Jane Monheit above, we have Patti Smith covering Stevie Wonder with a rather haunting version of "Pastime Paradise". Then we have Smith's version of Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" which reworks the song into another animal entirely (while keeping the feel of the original intact). The Nirvana song under Smith's aegis creeps like a dying bullet-ridden gangster crawling from a swamp. Oh yeah, and she used BANJOS on it. The ultimate hippy psychedelic Jefferson Airplane song "White Rabbit" seems like a total mismatch coming from punk poet Patti Smith but, in fact, her cover version sounds completely "right". In her hands, "White Rabbit" loses all of it's 60's aura and becomes something else again. Think Nurse Ratchet. As cover albums go, this one's pretty substantial.
Well there we have it. 3 albums which are about as different from one another as they can be but 3 albums which I'm thoroughly enjoying at the moment. Now, all I have to do is wait for the new Rufus Wainwright album to come out; the first single from it is superb, don'tcha know.


Pax Romano said...

In the most recent Rolling Stone, Patti says that she always wanted to sing like Grace Slick, guess that's why she added "White Rabbit" to the songs added to this disc.

Sound's like a winner!

Cerpts said...

Not too bad for a Jersey girl!