Taking up where we left off with last week's recent and notable reissues, allow me to shed a little light on some new CDs that have been released recently that are notable. Again, I said "notable," which doesn't necessarily mean "good."
TWELVE TOO MUCH
Like I said, this isn't going to be a listing of wonderfulness. However, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention how completely disappointed I was in 12 Songs, the new Rick Rubin-produced Neil Diamond record. The first album I ever bought with my own money was Neil's Tap Root Manuscript ("And that is why our house is built on top of a hill"), and I've always known this man can write some good songs, Jazz Singer be damned. And there are, indeed, 12 very good songs on this album (14 if you picked up the limited edition). Rubin did his best to coax honest performances out of Neil, but years of hanging out with Barbra Streisand appears to have permanently affected Diamond's ability to let forth any true emotion, and these songs all suffer from being oversung and burdened with false modesty. Maybe next time.
On Sept. 17 of this year, one of many "hurricane benefit concerts" took place. This one was at Lincoln Center and featured the likes of Joe Lovano, Norah Jones, Shirley Caesar, Dianne Reeves, Wynton Marsalis and other jazzy and semi-jazzy types. Somewhat appropriate if you consider how much jazz owes New Orleans (like, you know, everything). The disc that documents that concert (Higher Ground) is simultaneously joyous and somber and worth checking out.
Far more emotional, however, is the simultaneously released Sippiana Hericane by Dr. John. Ever since wrapping my brain around Babylon, I knew Dr. John was way more multifaceted than "Right Place Wrong Time" might have people believe. Sippiana, like Babylon, is an iconoclastic disc, but is (obviously) a lot less joyous. In fact, Mr. Rebennack alternates between precisely two emotions on the disc: devastated and pissed-off. It's absolutely excellent and perhaps the most poignant half-hour of music you'll hear this year.
OH, THERE AGAIN
Some cities terrorists and riots aside aren't quite in the same need of help as New Orleans, yet here's a stack of three releases dedicated to New York, London and Paris. News flash: Those cities have vibrant nightclub scenes. Didn't know it? Well, The Other Side is made with you in mind. These DualDisc releases are produced by the folks at Time Out magazine (hey, where's Tokyo … or Bombay?) and, although I might be tired of hearing about how great those cities are, I'm even more tired of boring travel guides. The Other Side definitely tries to be different by offering an audio soundtrack and DVD tour through those cities' hipper environs. That the music and the movies are narrated by the likes of Casey Spooner (Fischerspooner) and the freaks in Black Strobe means they lean toward the urban electronicist, but if you follow their touring advice, you're sure to get a hell of a better vacation out of it.
Feel like traveling someplace a little more exotic than (yawn) New York? How about Papua New Guinea? That's where globetrotting guitarist Bob Brozman went to cut another of his genre-defying collaborations. This time it was with the string bands of the isolated Tolai people, and the result Songs of the Volcano is probably his best album yet. It comes with a DVD too, and though it's just a documentary of the recording of the album, it's far more enticing than a club-kid romp through the "back alleys" of the Paris night.
In more DVD action, Sonic Youth guitarist Lee Ranaldo and visual artist Leah Singer first began presenting their multimedia piece Drift 15 years ago. The new DVD presentation of it rounds out the dizzying visuals and sounds with a substantial 112-page book, making for what one would hope is a fairly accurate reproduction of its live impact. Speaking of impact, the new Ed Gein album (Judas Goats and Dieseleaters) is heavier and angrier than it needs to be, and that's just fine with me. Likewise, the dark pretense of Vaz's new disc (The Lie That Matches the Furniture) is just plain uncomfortable; noisy melodrama never sounded so good.
Not enough music to check out? Then here's a super-expanded make-your-own podcast:
The Shins: "Caring Is Creepy"
Drop Nineteens: "Happen"
Matching Mole: "God Song"
De La Soul: "Oodles of O's"
Slowblow: "Dark Horse"
Lyn Collins: "Think (About It)"
Ornette Coleman: "Science Fiction"
United States of America: "Hard Coming Love"
Mighty Sparrow: "Jack Palance"
The Cars: "Candy-O"
Unrest: "Champion Nines"
Jawbox: "Whitney Walks"
Paul Chambers: "Nita"
Kim Fowley: "The Trip"