So, we finally have a new president, which means we can finally get back to the important stuff: what we’ll be listening to when we realize that the cesspool of American politics will likely do to him exactly what it did to most of the rest of ’em. Lucky for us, we’ll always have magnificent music on which to fall back.


Speaking of our new president, a compilation album which was commissioned Barack Obama’s campaign (and which, heretofore, was only available with a donation to the campaign’s website) has been granted a mass release.
Yes We Can: Voices of a Grassroots Movement features previously released tracks from Sheryl Crow, John Mayer, and Stevie Wonder, among others, as well as a new track from John Legend (an impassioned cover of U2’s “Pride (In the Name of Love)”) and a new collaboration — their second — between Kanye West and Maroon 5’s lead singer Adam Levine.

Just a year after System, his funky (and chart-topping) venture into electronica, bald balladeer Seal takes a radical left turn with his next effort. Titled simply Soul, the new album finds the singer lending his inimitable dulcet tones to a collection of classic R&B covers, including Sam Cooke’s “Change is Gonna Come,” Curtis Mayfield’s “People Get Ready,” and ten others. Hardly original territory, this, but methinks there’s no voice better equipped to tackle this challenge.

Her devastating 1988 breakthrough smash “Fast Car” won Tracy Chapman a mantel full of Grammys and made her an instant legend, and her surprise 1996 hit “Give Me One Reason” propelled her to the pinnacle once more. She hit a creative peak with the first great album (and single, natch) of the millenium, 2000’s brilliant (and identically-titled) Telling Stories, and she returns this week with her eighth record (and first in three years), Our Bright Future.

Featuring recent radio hits from Pink (“So What,” the crunchy’s current most-played top 40 track), Katy Perry (“Hot and Cold,” an incalculable step up from that ridiculous gutterball “I Kissed a Girl”), Saving Abel (“Addicted,” the band’s irresistibly naughty debut single), Matt Nathanson (“Come On Get Higher,” the enchanting smash that has become his well-earned breakthrough), and sparkling import Leona Lewis (“Better in Time,” every bit the creatively thrilling equal of its triumphant predecessor “Bleeding Love”), disc number 29 in the venerable Now That’s What I Call Music series is out this week. In this age of digital downloads, these compilations are becoming increasingly irrelevant, but they continue to sell in decent numbers, which means we’re stuck them for the time being.

Speaking of the Now series, this fall marks a decade since the concept sailed across the pond and made its American debut. (The discs have been a mainstay in Great Britain since the early ’80s; installment number 71 is due later this month.) Among the selections on that very first U.S. collection: Lenny Kravitz’s comeback megahit “Fly Away,” Hanson’s debut smash “MMMBop,” and recent singles from Janet Jackson, Backstreet Boys, Marcy Playground, Fastball, and the Spice Girls. To mark the milestone being celebrated this season, the good folks behind these albums have assembled The Best of Now That’s What I Call Music — 10th Anniversary Edition, the tracklisting for which reads (and sounds, natch) much like the popular music primer of this young century.   Say what you will about the relevance of this set, but I say any disc that can wrangle “Umba-relly” and “SexyBack” and “Cable Car (Over My Head)” and “How You Remind Me” onto the same chunk of real estate is fine by me urry day of the week.

Against all odds — wholly in spite of the fact that he never managed to do anything more than annoy the piss out of me with his tinny robo-voice throughout the entirety of his stint on “American Idol” last season — “Crush,” the lead single from “Idol” runner-up David Archuleta‘s self-titled debut album actually isn’t half bad, which only gives one hope that the album itself might be decent as well. One discouraging sign: it contains a cover of Robbie Williams’ “Angels,” which, while it certainly can’t be any worse than Jessica Simpson’s, doesn’t exactly inspire a large measure of confidence. My recommendation: download “Crush” — it’s really not that bad! — and wait patiently for winner David Cook’s first album, out next week.

And speaking of annoying in the extreme, this week brings the release of Fearless, the sophomore effort from instant star Taylor Swift, who quite literally came out of nowhere a couple of years ago with a novelty ode to the music of Tim McGraw which unexpectedly became a smash. The madness should have ended right there, but for whatever reason, both country and pop radio became enchanted with this girl — despite the fact that her lyrics are typical teenage cheese and her vocal delivery rarely rises above one badly-enunciated note — and the album went on to sell over three million copies. Naturally, expectations for Fearless are sky-high; luckily for Swift (and, most probably, for us), the set’s lead single “Love Story” is easily her strongest track to date. Not that that’s saying much.

Not to be outdone by Wal-Mart (which has enjoyed monster success this year with The Eagles, Journey, and AC/DC) and Best Buy (whose upcoming Guns ‘n Roses comeback disc may just be the musical event of the season, assuming all the cards lay right), Target is tossing its fedora into the retail exclusive ring with Christina Aguilera, whose first best-of collection Keeps Gettin’ Better: A Decade of Hits arrives this week. Minus the 2001 diva-fest cover of “Lady Marmalade,” Better contains all the radio triumphs, as well a pair of new tracks, and a pair of old classics — “Genie in a Bottle” (Aguilera’s fierce debut single) and “Beautiful” (the Grammy-winning smash that made her a superstar) — which receive so-called “updates.” (Whether or not that was a wise choice — seeing as how they were pretty great songs in their original form — remains to be seen.)

Disregard the fact that she released a hits collection — 2006’s Most Wanted — just a couple of years back. Or that she only has three studio albums to her credit. All you need to focus on here is that she has once more seen fit to compile her strongest songs on one disc, throw in a couple of new tracks for good measure, and re-release it. And even though I own everything on it worth owning — like, for instance, 2003’s miraculously brilliant “So Yesterday” and last year’s smash “With Love” — I love this spectacularly gifted young woman with such all-consuming ferocity that I’ll almost certainly let myself be suckered into The Best of Hilary Duff all over again. (Just like that great sage Janie Fricke once sang, it ain’t easy bein’ easy, y’know.)

If you’ve never seen the Sundance Channel’s brilliant music series Live from Abbey Road, you’re in for a treat this week, as a two-DVD collection of highlights from the program’s terrific first season arrives in stores. Featuring interviews with and performances from Ray LaMontagne, Gnarls Barkley, Natasha Bedingfield, Goo Goo Dolls, Damien Rice and Lisa Hannigan (whose chilling, unplugged take on “9 Crimes” is a hundred times stronger and more involving than anything they’ve laid down on record), and countless other musicians, all of whom make the pilgrimage to the famed London studio from which the show’s title springs, all to see if they’ve got the chops to stand up to the ghosts of the Beatles, Pink Floyd, Oasis, Radiohead, and all the other artists who have created masterpieces inside those walls.

Also noteworthy this week:


  • Jack Johnson’s mellow take on “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”
    and a gorgeous new carol from indie heroes Rogue Wave highlight
    This Warm December: A Brushfire Holiday, Vol. 1.

  • Celine Dion, Annie Lennox, Sting, and Elton John are among those collaborating with famed tenor Luciano Pavarotti on The Duets.

  • A legendary pop music producer is feted by his cabal of hitmakers, including Celine Dion, Josh Groban, Michael Buble, and Brian McKnight, in the new CD/DVD combo Hit Man: David Foster and Friends.

  • New Age goddess Enya is back with her first-ever Christmas album,
    And Winter Came.

  • Fresh off of her dynamite tribute to Dinah Washington with last year’s Destination Moon, the eternally underrated Deborah Cox returns to her own stomping ground with her latest effort, The Promise.

  • Ed Kowalczyk and his ever-grandstanding band Live are up with their first-ever concert album Live at the Paradiso Amsterdam.

  • A stirring glimpse into the heart of an artist at the very peak of her vocal prowess, Patti LuPone at Les Mouches chronicles the fallout from the magnificent actress’ draining Broadway run in Evita in the early ’80s.

  • A year after collecting his Spanish-language smashes, Latin
    superstar Enrique Iglesias does the same for his American singles on Greatest Hits. His brilliant collaboration with a pre-apeshit Whitney Houston (“Could I Have This Kiss Forever?”) is included, but strangely, his hit Bruce Springsteen cover (“Sad Eyes”) is not. Go figya.


1 response to “you can even be blunt, just do it with love
(or: november 11 — a thumbnail sketch)”

  1. the buzz from A.:

    As The Buzz and I found out last week, Pavarotti: The Duets is an extraordinarily strange (or, as The Buzz is likely to put it, “bizarre”) and wonderful CD! As a highly infrequent buyer of CDs, I am happy to report that this album represents the best $11 I have spent in quite some time!

    With few exceptions, each track is weirder than the previous one. Perhaps the only duet one would expect is “Notte ‘e Piscatore” with Andrea Bocelli, but as great as it is, it’s underwhelming compared to what else is on this CD: Pavarotti joining Celine Dion, Eric Clapton, and Lionel Ritchie in popular songs in English; Sheryl Crow and Sting joining Pavorotti in Italian pieces (a duet from Don Giovanni and a hymn of St. Thomas Aquinas); and a mish-mash of English and Italian with Jon Bon Jovi, Elton John, and the Eurythmics! An extremely interesting duet (though not my favorite) is Pavarotti’s best-known aria “O Sole Mio,” sung here with Bryan Adams. The two artists give such different tones to this Puccini classic.

    If you have any doubts about the wonderful sound that an opera artist and a popular artist can achieve together, in almost any context, this CD will surely put these doubts to rest.