The economic news gets bleaker and bleaker, but lucky for us, the names get bigger and better in the music world, as a handful of the year’s most anticipated releases make their arrival in record stores across the land this week. I’m telling you, if this slate doesn’t jumpstart the holiday shopping season, nothing will.


Two compact discs and one digital video disc would seem to be adequate acreage in which to assemble The Definitive Rod Stewart, and, indeed, things go swimmingly on the audio side of this project: evenly split between his hedonistic years (the mid-to-late seventies, which yielded such classics as “Hot Legs,” “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy,” and “Tonight’s the Night”) and his more grown-up ones (late eighties, early nineties, which gave us a string of triumphs capped by the monumentally staggering cover of Tom Waits’ “Downtown Train”), the two CDs very effectively cover a wide swath of Stewart’s legendary career. (For good measure, the good folks at Rhino Records who oversaw this collection even threw in Stewart’s shattering (and super-rare) cover of “Tom Traubert’s Blues (Waltzing Matilda)” — another Waits classic, that — which, heretofore, has only been available in America as a b-side.

The visual side of this project is where Definitive totally loses its rudder. As could be expected, the classic music videos for the aforementioned ’70s tracks are included, as is the clip for Stewart’s tender signature “You’re in My Heart.” But, strangely, none — and I mean not a single one! — of the videos that Stewart made between 1983’s “Baby Jane” and 1996’s “If We Fall in Love Tonight” — not “Infatuation,” not “People Get Ready,” not “Broken Arrow,” and, in a boneheaded and hideously ill-informed decision that boggles the mind, not even “Downtown Train” (one of the finest music videos I’ve ever, ever seen — and I don’t just say that because that’s one of my five favorite songs ever; it truly is beyond brilliant) — can be found here. None. It’s a half-assed, slapped together, big ol’ steaming patty of outrageously offensive horseshit, and from a company — Rhino Records, which specializes (!) in these kinds of retrospectives, and which has done itself brilliantly proud in the past; witness, if you will, the spectacular box set they put together for Tori Amos two years ago — that absolutely knows better, no less, it’s completely unacceptable.


I suppose I should just be grateful for what we do get — “Downtown Train” and “Tom Traubert’s Blues” on the same CD, kids! — but forgive me for believing that a project which purports to call itself The Definitive Rod Stewart ought to live up to its ambitious title.

In the grand tradition of musical alter egos both successful (David Bowie morphing into Ziggy Stardust, for instance) and, umm, not so much (Garth Brooks becoming Chris Gaines, say) comes the impossibly irritating Beyonce, who, with her third solo disc, announces to the world:
“I Am… Sasha Fierce.” This is one heifer who irks me like few others even know how to, even though I’m man enough to admit that this album’s leadoff single, the comparatively stark “If I Were a Boy,” is pretty darn, umm, fierce. We’ll see.

The monster first single “Gotta Be Somebody” — produced and co-written by Shania’s ex-hubby Robert “Mutt” Lange (who, it’s fair to note, led rock icons Def Leppard down this very same road two decades ago) — is as slickly overproduced as all of their other songs, but that hasn’t stopped it from becoming an instant smash and it’s not likely to stop Dark Horse, the fifth major-label release from Canadian rockers Nickelback, from ruling the album charts the way most of their previous output has. (Horse‘s immediate predecessor, 2005’s All the Right Reasons, spent over two years on the Billboard 200 and eventually moved in the neighborhood of seven million copies.) Say what you will about this band’s music — I’ve said plenty over the years, and little of it positive — but its lead singer Chad Kroeger, in spite of having the most horrifying permed blond mane this side of Tony Geary’s heyday, owns one hell of a powerful voice. This one’s gonna be a mainstay. Deal.

The record only came out four short months ago (and, deservedly, was a major hit upon its release), but Miley Cyrus has already seen fit to re-release her brilliant Breakout in an expanded two-disc set. (Not too hard to divine the motivation behind this move: with the holiday shopping season shifting into fourth gear directly, what better way to drum up a few more album sales?) The project’s newly-christened Platinum Edition includes a pair of bonus tracks (one of which features her brother Trace, one of the members of red-hot Metro Station), plus a DVD loaded with videos, live performances, and a Miley featurette. Even though it meanders a bit in the back half, Breakout is uniformly terrific, so if you missed it the first time around, you should feel utterly no shame in investigating this new extended version. (And with its second single, the uber-catchy “Fly On the Wall,” poised to make a huge splash at radio, you’ll even still respect yourself come dawn.)

Miles is not the only one for whom the deluxe edition monster has prematurely reared its ugly head this week: thanks to the spectacular showing made by his career-saving summer smash “I’m Yours,” Jason Mraz is back in bidness commercially, and to celebrate that success, he is re-releasing the album on which “Yours” appears — We Sing, We Dance, We Steal Things, which is all of six months old — in a two-CD/one-DVD set, which includes all three of the alternate mix EPs which preceded the original album’s spring release, as well as a documentary and a concert recorded earlier this year in New York City. (The terrific Sherry Ann is the world’s biggest Mraz fan (truly!), so if there’s anything further the folks need to know about this new version, kindly spill all in the comments section, my darling.)

Archie’s off to a strong start (early estimates put first week sales figgers at roughly a quarter-million copies, thanks largely to that infectious radio smash “Crush”), and now it’s Jughead’s turn: “American Idol’s” seventh season winner David Cook unveils his self-titled debut album this week, and with production by rock maestro Rob Cavallo and high profile co-writes from head Goo Goo Doll Johnny Rzeznik and Chris Cornell (who penned the grungy first single, “Light On”), Cook couldn’t be in safer hands. With new material from AC/DC, Guns n’ Roses, and Nickelback in the pipeline, rock radio will almost certainly avoid this like the plague, but Daughtry managed to ride measly ol’ top 40 to massive success, and there’s urry reason to believe Cook’ll employ the exact same blueprint.

So, the leaden lead single “Don’t Believe in Love” is an unlistenable bore — and that’s particularly devastating, given that the opening salvos from her first two albums (No Angel‘s entrancing “Here With Me” and (especially) Life for Rent‘s magnificently twisted “White Flag”) were immediate classics — but I’m still very much looking forward to hearing the rest of Safe Trip Home, the long-awaited third record from British chanteuse Dido Armstrong. As an artist, she’s just too freakin’ good for “Love’s” vastly inferior quality to be anything more than a ridiculous fluke. Welcome back, baby. Please don’t make us wait another five years for your next visit.

Also noteworthy this week:


  • Slow and steady country star Blake Shelton is up with his fifth album, Startin’ Fires.

  • Performing typically ludicrous covers of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” and ABBA’s “The Winner Takes It All,” Simon Cowell’s “popera” group
    Il Divo returns with their fourth studio effort, The Promise.


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