A pair of deluxe re-releases — one of them absolutely deserved, and the other nothing more than a desperate attempt to boost a waning album’s relevance — highlight the latest report from the front lines. So without further ado, I give you this week’s music roster:

Said to be his strongest, most sonically satisfying effort since Odelay, the 1997 Grammy-winning classic that ensured he would be remembered as much more than a flukish one-hit wonder, Beck returns this week with Modern Guilt, a sleek, tight ten track collaboration with Danger Mouse (otherwise known as the crazy (-ier?) half of Gnarls Barkley). The advance reviews on Guilt have been downright orgasmic; only time will tell if they have any basis in reality.

A is literally counting the minutes until July 18, opening day for Mamma Mia!, the long-awaited film adaptation of the ABBA-centric musical which has become a much-beloved worldwide sensation in the near-decade since making its debut in London’s West End. (A loves the show, and I’m tellin’ you right now: you haven’t lived until you’ve seen him prancing ’round the house — in various degrees of dress, mind you — belting “Waterloo” at the top of his lungs. It’s a sight, honey.) Save for the fact that it includes my favorite-ever ABBA tune (1979’s “Chiquitita,” the song Brian and Justin danced to in the street at the climax of one of the best episodes “Queer as Folk” ever produced), I, on the other hand, know absolutely nothing about the musical and, with the obvious exception of “Dancing Queen” — which even infants can sing on command! — and the aforementioned tracks, neither am I terribly well-versed on ABBA music in general. (My Swedish pop group of choice has always been the divine Roxette. Sue me.) Regardless, I predict I’ll be dragged to see this film — the soundtrack for which hits stores this week — at some point, so praise Jesus, it at least has a heady cast — headlined by Colin Firth, Pierce Brosnan, Christine Baranski, and the peerless Meryl Streep — that any cynic can get behind.

I’m very dubious about the idea of third-rate “American Idol” castoffs tackling a pair of Disney classics — maybe it’s just me, but I’m fairly certain I could live my whole life without hearing either the asinine Bucky Covington trying his hand at Tarzan‘s “You’ll Be in My Heart” or (and just gearing up to type this makes me wanna retch!) Phil Stacey (yeah, the bald Navy sailor from season six!) attempting Elton John’s Lion King touchstone “Can You Feel the Love Tonight?” — but you’ll get that and more on the new collection Country Sings Disney. (Luckily for everyone involved, there are some worthy names attached to this project; the invaluable Trisha Yearwood, Martina McBride, Bonnie Raitt, and Tim McGraw number among them.)

Being as it wasn’t that great an album to begin with, I’m not sure how necessary is its new “deluxe edition” (and as my loyal readers know, I’m ferociously opposed to this maddening, greed-driven trend of throwing a few nondescript bonus tracks onto a practically new record and re-releasing it to an unsuspecting public). I’m especially opposed to this re-release because, with the exception of its new single — the original album track “If I Never See Your Face Again,” now refashioned as a slightly kinky duet with red-hot Rihanna — every last one of its “new” songs have been available since last December as an iTunes-exclusive EP called “The B-Sides Collection.” Nonetheless, this week brings us a tricked out version of It Won’t Be Soon Before Long, the middling sophomore effort from Grammy winners Maroon 5 that is just over a year old. This new edition comes packaged with a DVD containing concert footage from the band’s most recent tour, as well as the music videos for Before Long‘s four singles. Is all of this enough to make me buy this album a second time? Rub a lamp, Adam!

He made an instant name for himself in 1973 with his brilliant first single “Piano Man,” but it wasn’t until four years later, with 1977’s The Stranger, that Billy Joel really hit the big time. Stranger was Joel’s fifth album — his first to land in the top ten — and of its nine tracks, five of them — “She’s Always a Woman,” “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant,” “Just the Way You Are” (the first of Joel’s twenty-two top 20 singles, and still among his best-known works), “Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song)” (which would later serve as both the title and the theme of Twyla Tharp’s Mamma Mia!-esque musical bulit around Joel’s music), and “Only the Good Die Young” — are now universally regarded as Joel classics. In what’s being billed as a 30th anniversary commemorative edition, The Stranger is being reissued in a bang-up four disc set (take heed, Adam: this is the way to assemble a deluxe re-release!), which includes the original record plus two live CDs (one of them a recording of Joel’s famous ’77 show at Carnegie Hall) and a DVD containing videos and Joel’s little-seen 1978 appearance on the BBC’s “The Old Grey Whistle Test” in support of the album. It’s a fitting tribute, both to a man whose talent and voice are much missed in today’s scene — who the hell knew he was actually serious when he announced he was stepping away from pop music eleven years ago?! — and to one of his seminal works of art.

4 responses to “it all depends upon your appetite
(or: july 8 — a thumbnail sketch)”

  1. the buzz from A.:

    Brandon’s admission that he is not “terribly well-versed on ABBA music” presents a marvelous opportunity to reverse roles and educate him about one of the top rock groups of all time and to say, with much glee, have you been living under a rock?! (According to Wikipedia, ABBA has sold almost 400 million records world-wide.)

    Here is the list of my top 5 ABBA songs (in no particular oder):

    1. Waterloo
    2. Thank You for the Music
    3. The Winner Takes It All
    4. Fernando
    5. Money, Money, Money

    Here is the set of the next 5 (also in no particular order):

    6. Dancing Queen
    7. Chiquitita
    8. I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do I Do
    9. Voulez Vous
    10. Knowing Me, Knowing You

    Your thoughts?

  2. the buzz from Sherry Ann:

    Finally something that we all agree on, our love of Swedes. A I love ABBA!! Chiquitita is also my favorite ABBA song. I believe that I actually wept as Brian asked Justin to dance as the ABBA began to play. I also have a soft spot for Fernando. Brandon I believe that this is the time for a public apology. Remember the night that I tried to get you to listen to “Scenes From an Italian Restaurant”? You literally took my Billy Joel cd out of the cd player and handed it back to me with a “What are you joking with this?”. If you can tell the world about my 180 on Billie Ray Martin and Tori Amos, I think that it is time to tell the world that sometimes even you spurn brilliance the first time around.

  3. the buzz from brandon:

    You speak the truth, my darling. I was very slow to come around on Billy Joel and his innumerable charms (although, to be completely fair, the only huge post-1984 (the year I started really paying attention) hits he had were 1989’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire” and 1993’s “The River of Dreams,” and while those are perfectly serviceable songs, they’re hardly anybody’s idea of tentpole smashes). In fact, it wasn’t until his fascinating 2001 appearance on “Inside the Actors’ Studio,” where James Lipton asked him to peel back the curtain and completely deconstruct his songwriting process, that it hit me what a thorough genius Joel really is. It was a riveting two hours of television which I still occasionally look at (and, indeed, a truncated version of which appears on my iPod). Anyway, the big winner that night was “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant” — a song I TOTALLY didn’t get when Sherry Ann first played it for me. Watching him break that song down into individual pieces, and then describe exactly how those pieces came to exist, was nothing short of pure untethered magic, so strong and right that even an old stoic cynic like me was powerless to fight against it washing over me like a baptism.

    What’s that old saying? “Genius has limits, but stupidity has none?” I guess that means there’s hope yet for you coming around on “Losing My Religion.” (Speaking of which, where’s that R.E.M. playlist? Pins and needles, babe, no foolin’!)

  4. the buzz from brandon:

    A, sweetheart, you didn’t tell me WHY I need to like these songs, or why you like these songs. (Oh, and also why the breathtaking “Chiquitita” lands all the way down at #7, which is genuinely outrageous!) Half the fun of submitting a playlist is making the reader feel like you’re prepared to defend it to the death, yeah?