I’m still positively reeling over CBS’ announcement today that they are yanking “Guiding Light” off the air after 72 continuous years, and I’ll have my thoughts on that news just as soon as I’ve fully gathered them. In the meantime, there’s another full slate of new releases to close out the month of March in high style, kids. Waste no time digging in:


I’m not sure whose ridiculous idea this was: that fabulous trumpeter extraordinaire Chris Botti schedules a two-night stand last fall at the world-famous Boston Symphony Hall, invites a who’s-who of his all-star pals — among them Sting, Josh Groban, and Aerosmith’s fearless leader Steven Tyler — to play along, and fails to include his gorgeous muse Paula Cole, with whom he has created so much terrific, passionately brilliant music over the past four years? (Worse yet, he invites that pitiful fourth-rate “American Idol” runner-up Katharine McPhee to take her place! Is he kidding me with this?!) I’m trying to hard not to pass judgment on Live in Boston before I’ve even heard a note of it, but what an unspeakable outrage is the setlist of this concert recording on the face of it! Color me physically offended by this blatant foolishness!


Recorded last year during an appearance on PBS’ famed music series “Soundstage,” a pair of new releases highlight the legendary Stevie Nicks‘ continued mastery of her incredible creativity and art. Both in audio form (as The Soundstage Sessions) and in video form (as Live in Chicago), Nicks fearlessly takes on a handful of her own classics, both as part of the inviolable Fleetwood Mac oeuvre (“Sara,” “Rhiannon,” and a lush, orchestral arrangement of “Landslide” which threatens to usurp The Dance‘s version of same as the definitive take on that landmark tune) as well as from her own famed solo career (“Stand Back,” “If Anyone Falls,” and the little-known heartbreaker “Beauty and the Beast”); in addition, she also dares to put her own inimitable spin on Dave Matthews Band’s biggest and best-loved smash “Crash Into Me” and Led Zeppelin’s stomping “Rock and Roll.” According to Nicks, she’s as proud of this project as anything she’s ever done in her storied career. And considering the enormous quality of her output heretofore, that’s a pretty bold proclamation.

Is he turning into Ryan Adams? It hasn’t even been a full year since he released his self-titled sophomore smash album, but Gavin DeGraw is already up with his latest effort, the radically stripped-down Free. Recorded on the fly with a simple four-piece band — as DeGraw himself told Billboard earlier this week, he wanted to make “a legitimate record, [without] overdubs and flying guitars and unicorns and shit” — Free includes a reworked version of “Young Love,” one of the highlights of DeGraw’s most recent album, as well as a cover of Chris Whitley’s “Indian Summer,” one of DeGraw’s favorite tracks. If anyone has the raw talent to forgo all the studio trickery and still emerge holding all aces, it’s this kid, who, at his very best, evokes (a far less tragic) Jeff Buckley. (That’s a compliment of the highest order!)



A massive new wave of Sony Legacy’s brilliant Playlist retrospective series rolls out this week, and while some of the setlists included therein are less than impressive — discs from Michael Bolton (which tends to favor the artist’s hideously subpar later output — “Go the Distance”? “Only a Woman Like You”? That ridiculous, unnecessary cover of “Sexual Healing”? — over his more striking early material) and Gloria Estefan (who owns way too vast a trove of inspired material to choose from — “Here We Are,” or “Coming Out of the Dark,” or “I’m Not Giving You Up,” or even a blast of pure fun like “1-2-3” — to end up with a disc this flat and uninvolving) — three in particular grabbed my attention and made me take notice. The first of them, a celebration of The Very Best of Toto, reveals nothing particularly new or noteworthy about one of the signature bands of the ’80s, but that doesn’t really matter much: seeing all the highlights of their discography — “Africa,” “Rosanna,” “I Won’t Hold You Back,” as if you can’t name them by rote! — on one shiny disc is still quite a sight. The second might be a tad confounding; seeing as he only has two studio albums and one set of baffling covers to his name, it might seem a scotch too soon to run across The Very Best of Clay Aiken at your local record store, but there you have it, and it’s a better than average reminder of his raw talent as a vocalist. (“Invisible” is included, praise Jesus, as well as his funky (and strangely haunting) reworking of Dolly Parton’s “Here You Come Again,” but, sadly, not his ferocious remake of Foreigner’s “I Want to Know What Love Is,” done as a duet with Rock Star: INXS contestant Suzie McNeil.) And last, but most definitely not least, comes the fourteen-carat gem of the bunch, The Very Best of Cyndi Lauper, which, for as much of a seemingly random grab bag of her music as it ultimately becomes, represents a stunningly strong cross-section of her incredible career. (There’s a fairly simple explanation for that: Lauper has been lucky to have recorded all but one of her albums for the same record company, which gives whomever is in charge of compiling a retrospective like this an infinitely broader palette from which to pick and choose.) And from her 1984 breakthrough smash “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” right up through her brilliant 2008 dancefloor jam “Into the Nightlife,” the entirety of Lauper’s catalog is well-represented here, and for a breathtaking budget price. You’d be an utter fool not to seek this out.

(P.S. Also receiving their own discs in the Playlist series this week are
Etta James and Brad Paisley. That’s a pair to draw to if I ever saw one!)

Also noteworthy this week:


  • Husky-voiced chanteuse Diana Krall returns with her latest album, Quiet Nights.

  • Acclaimed Swedish trio Peter Bjorn & John try to follow up their 2007 breakthrough smash “Young Folks” with their latest album, Living Thing.

  • Country megastar Keith Urban is up with his fifth studio album,
    Defying Gravity.

  • One of the all-time great underappreciated singer/songwriters
    A.J. Croce (yeah, Jim’s son!) is back with Cage of Muses, his seventh record.

  • “Grey’s Anatomy” fave Maria Taylor is up with her latest, LadyLuck.

  • Finally following up their earth-shattering 1996 collaboration
    Dance Hall at Louse Point, PJ Harvey & John Parish come together anew on A Woman A Man Walked By.

  • Their still-brilliant 1999 smash “Take a Picture” heads up
    The Very Best Things (1995-2008), the first career retrospective
    from rock band Filter.

  • It’s a fair bet that nothing on it will be as magnificent as their
    ravishing 2002 breakthrough single “Maps,” but Karen O and
    Yeah Yeah Yeahs are giving it a shot anyway with It’s Blitz!

  • Prince teams with Target for a triple-disc exclusive set, LotusFlow3r, which includes the debut recording from his latest protege, Bria Valente.

  • And finally, a pair of DVD sets that may or may not be of interest to you: seasons one and two of that underrated Saturday morning NBC classic “California Dreams” — imagine, if you can, a low-budget “Fame” — finally make their long-awaited home video premiere, as does season one of Kelly Ripa’s goofy sitcom “Hope and Faith,” whose uneven first run was saved by a hilarious two-part finale which featured cameos by some fifteen or so real soap stars (among others, Finola Hughes, Cameron Mathison, Rebecca Budig, and Susans Flannery and Lucci) sending themselves brilliantly up in one of the most spot-on soap-related spoofs ever seen on television.


16 responses to “sweet you rock, and sweet you roll
(or: march 31 — a thumbnail sketch)”

  1. the buzz from sami:

    Hey, thanks for giving a shout-out to Clay’s delicious covers of HERE YOU COME AGAIN & I WANT TO KNOW WHAT LOVE IS! Even though he was forced into that love song album by the Crypt-Keeper (aka Clive Davis), & was maligned by critics who probably didn’t even listen to a single track, it does contain some gems. I also like his new-agey take on BROKEN WINGS & the way his voice dances around the lyrics of EVERYTIME YOU GO AWAY. He actually has 4 albums out – you forgot the Christmas one – which is represented on the Playlist by a simply beautiful MARY DID YOU KNOW.

  2. the buzz from OneGoal:

    So you adore American Idol second place finisher Clay Aiken but you dismiss American Idol second place finisher Katharine McPhee as “pitiful fourth-rate”?

    All I can say is: YOU SUCK COCK!

  3. the buzz from Sachiko:

    It is hard to pick best song of Clay Aiken. THE REAL ME is makes me cry.

  4. the buzz from nicole:

    Maybe RCA wants to continue to cash in on Clay Aiken’s enormous talent before he signs on to another label. Everyone is writing he was dropped but I have it on good authority that he didn’t get the contract he wanted and he is moving on after being forced to record 2 CDs he never really wanted. Clay is free to negotiate and he will always land on his feet because he has that great voice.

  5. the buzz from Kieran:

    Apparently, Clay chose the songs on this “best of” & executive produced it. Which begs the question, why is his best recorded song ever, “Lover All Alone”, which he wrote, not on it???!!!

  6. the buzz from Sherry Ann:

    Why are you all talking about Clay Aiken? Did you see the people that had new releases this week? Hello! There is a STEVIE NICKS cd in there, not to mention Gavin DeGraw and Chris Botti. Puh-leeze! Can we talk about real musicians instead of American Idol rejects?

  7. the buzz from jean:

    Sherry Ann- I hate to break it to you but–Clay is NOT an AI ‘reject’. He is one of the most successful to come out of that show. He is third on most sold cds. He really did WIN AI2. Most people with GOOD common sense knows what happened that night and that Ruben was just ‘handed’ the title even though there was NO competition that year at all. Two producers admitted Clay received 80-that’s EIGHTY- percent of the vote ‘EVERY SINGLE WEEK HE WAS ON’. One measly phone line and just two hours of voting time was NOT enough to handle the millions of votes – millions MORE THAN RUBEN- that Clay was receiving that night. The producers didn’t want that to happen again so the very next year, and each year since, each finalist had(s) TWO phone lines and FOUR hours of voting time. I don’t think someone who has done EIGHT SOLO tours, one shared tour (with Kelly Clarkson but even Kelly admitted that ’90 percent of the concert-goers were there for Clay’), Emceed the AI2 Xmas Special–NOT RUBEN, narrated AI2 Rewind- NOT RUBEN, put out 4 cds plus an EP and several singles, appeared on TV and in the media more than all the other contestants combined, heads his OWN very successful charity (The Bubel/Aiken Foundation), has toured several countries as a current Ambassador for UNICEF, was a TOYS FOR TOTS Ambassador and lead their most successful toy drive in TFT HISTORY, did TWO 4-month runs on Broadway and garnered rave reviews and the biggest send-off of any Broadway performer in history, could be called a ‘reject’. What can you relate that Ruben has done that has come close to anything that Clay has done????

  8. the buzz from sam:

    wow so many good cd’s coming out!!

    Really am interested in the Stevie live CD and Cyndi Lauper. Love both of them.

  9. the buzz from beryl:

    Kerian, “Lover All Alone” was written by David Foster. Clay explained somewhere why it wasn’t included but it maybe in another album.
    jean, great defense! Good job. Congrats!

  10. the buzz from Sherry Ann:

    I think that we have either found Clay’s biggest fan or his publicist. I hope after that tirade that you are getting paid and not just doing this for the love of Clay. I think that you should stop drinking the kool-aid and reread the Record Store Report! In the entire post there are two maybe three sentences about Clay Aiken. Did you see the PARAGRAPHS about the other artists I mentioned? No one cares if Clay beat Ruben or Ruben beat Clay! It has been six years, let it go and go buy the new Stevie Nicks album. She has sold over 120 million albums and she didn’t have to win a lame-ass tv show to do it!!

  11. the buzz from Connie:

    I kinda like the Sony Legacy samplers . I will definitely pick up the one by Cyndi . She is amazing . Clay Aiken has a superb voice . I’ll add him to my shopping list although judging from your comments he has all the support he needs . Lol .

    I’ve heard clips from Croce’s new Cage of Muses . My Amazon order is on the way . Can’t wait . He soothes me .

    That will just about use up my music budget .

  12. the buzz from A.:

    People! Have you read the entire post? Clay Aiken may be a wonder of the world (according to y’all, anyway), but there’s so much more in this RSR. There are some really awesome singers you should check out (e.g., Cyndi Lauper, Stevie Nicks) and expand your horizons!

  13. the buzz from Chip:

    Just popping in to laugh and laugh and laugh. And laugh some more. OK, carry on.

  14. the buzz from Colevan:

    I feel dirty. It’s as though I have walked into a room and discovered Jean and Clay Aiken in a compromising position. So now, I’m turning to leave. A quick glance back over my shoulder… yes, I really did see what I thought I saw. Just one thing, Jean, before I go. Be careful. Sherry Ann will smack Clay Aiken right out of your mouth.

  15. the buzz from Sachiko:

    Why americas so bad him

  16. the buzz from terri:

    beryl, David Foster wrote the music to Lover All Alone, Clay wrote the lyrics.