The Early Bird: Top New Releases Reviewed 4-6-18 – 4-12-18
The weather might not show it but the new releases sure do prove that Spring has sprung. Let’s start with five various artists albums. Johnny Cash: Forever Words has various artists adding voice and music to Johnny’s words that never made it to record. The only one that ever worked for me was the first Woody Guthrie, this ain’t much but kudos to Alison Krauss for “You Never Knew My Mind” and boos and hisses to Kris and Willie for part spoken word “Forever/I Still Miss Someone” – Grade: C+. Two Elton John albums, first the country Restoration, It has moments, Little Big Town’s harmonies on “Rocket Man,” the rolling piano from Dierks Bentley on “Sad Songs (Say So More)” Willie’s “Border Song” is glorious and while the album isn’t great, it plays fair by Elton and Bernie by remaining true to the melodies(Grade: B-). Which is more than can be said for Revamp, where Elton gets modern popsters to reinterpret a catalog so melodic and well arranged they don’t lend themselves to rethought. What works is when they don’t mess with it, Florence + The Machine’s “Tiny Dancer,” Ed Sheeran’s “Candle In The Wind,” even Queens Of The Stone Age’s “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” but any attempt to delve deeper, whether Mary J. Blige or Q-Tip flops. Grade: C+. The original Television cast of ABC’s live on stage Jesus Christ Superstar is severely hurt by the lack of visuals. However, the second Aaron Burr in Hamilton, Brandon Victor Dixon, as Judas gives a star making turn. Grade: C+. Universal Love – Weddings Reimagined is an LGBTQ benefit album which features major pop stars change songs genders to project same sex love. St. Vincent should have taken “And Then She Kissed Me” slower but who cares when you get to hear Bob Dylan’s sublime “He’s Funny That Way”? Grade: A-
Singles and yes, Azealia Banks fooled me again and no album but “Anna Wintour” is house music meets rap like we don’t get nearly often enough (Grade: A-), “Into My Arms” by Band Of Horses is a terrific cover of Nick Cave’s beautiful love song (Grade: B+), Johnny Marr’s Stonesy (we know where he got those whoo hoos) “The Tracers” is first rate guitar rock (Grade: B+), Poo Bears “Hard 2 Face Reality” includes a gorgeous verse via Justin Bieber, who has been quiet all year (Grade: B), Spliff TV’s “Thinkin” has Bad Bunny on his first English language track (Grade: B).
Someone in Vulture recommended Migos invite Cardi B to join the band, her debut album is better than Culture 2. From Chance The Rappers best work since Coloring Book toBbad Bunny on a terrific sample of Pete Rodriguez masterful “I Like It Like That,” and all points in between including the hits you already know, there isn’t a mistake on the entire album, She is a great rapper, a great rapper, she has more personality than we know what to do with, and Invasion Of Privacy (Grade: A) is the best album of the year so far. You’ll have to wait for the rest but the Rick Ross EP is some of his better work in years.
Azealia Banks – Anna Wintour – A-
Band Of Horses – Into My Arms – B+
Cardi B – Invasion Of Privacy – A
Johnny Marr – The Tracers – B+
Original Television Cast – Jesus Christ Superstar – C+
Poo Bear – Hard 2 Face Reality – B
Spliff TV – Thinkin – B
Various Artists – Johnny Cash: Forever Words – C+
Various Artists – Restoration: The Songs Of Elton John And Bernie Taubin – B-
Various Artists – Revamp: The Songs Of Elton John And Bernie Taubin – B-
Various Artists – Universal Love – Wedding Songs re-Imagined – A-