An insanely busy workweek has come and gone, and I am now charged with composing the longest record store report in Brandon’s Buzz history. Luckily for verbose ol’ me, I feel that I am equal to this challenge. To wit:


Those canny folks at Now! are back on the block with a pair of new singles collections, as
Now That’s What I Call Music! 34 compiles a cross-section of recent radio smashes from the likes of, among others, red-hot Lady Antebellum (the wistful “American Honey”), OneRepublic (“All the Right Moves,” so deliciously epic), The Script (“Breakeven,” a worthy breakthrough for this terrific and too-long-ignored band), and Miranda Lambert (the tremendously moving “The House That Built Me,” the most played song at country radio this week); and the crassly manipulative Now That’s What I Call the USA! pulls together a handful of so-called patriotic country tunes, some of which absolutely fit the mold (Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA,” say, or Billy Ray Cyrus’ “Some Gave All”), and others of which are, for this occasion, only marginally appropriate at best (fine though they certainly are, Eric Church’s “Guys Like Me” and Rascal Flatts’ “Fast Cars and Freedom” don’t exactly fill me with the urge to salute the nearest flag, if you know what I mean). Being, however, from the same group of people who, a few months ago, seemed to believe that The Fray’s incendiary “You Found Me” actually glorifies (as opposed to excoriates) God, I s’pose this scattershot set is right on par.

Head on down to your local Cracker Barrel — a chain of Mom-and-Pop-type stores and restaurants that has made an extraordinary commitment to stocking original, exclusive records on its shelves over the past few years, during a time when the big box behemoths at retail can’t decimate their music sections quickly enough — to grab a copy of Love Heals, the latest effort from that fabulous force of nature Wynonna. Heals is essentially a greatest hits collection, but said hits — instant classics like “She is His Only Need” and “Come Some Rainy Day” and “Is It Over Yet” numbering among them — truly are great, and a trio of bonus tracks get tossed into the mix for good measure: two radio mixes of tunes — the riveting title track, and a gorgeous take on the standard “When I Fall in Love” — that appeared on Wy’s unjustly ignored 2009 masterpiece Sing, as well as the previously unreleased track “Let Your Light Shine.” A winner all the way around.

From his astonishing work as frontman for the Spencer Davis Group — much of which was recorded when he was just a teenager — to his output as a contributing member to ’70s supergroups Traffic and Blind Faith, to his smashing, stunningly successful rebirth as a soul-drenched solo artist in the mid-’80s — when such unforgettable classics as “Higher Love” and “Roll With It” (not to mention my personal favorite, 1988’s “Valerie”) took root in the cultural consciousness — few artists have been able to build careers with the consistency and longevity of the legendary
Steve Winwood‘s, and that career is celebrated this week with the release of the new retrospective Revolutions, which arrives in two forms: as a single-disc distillation of highlights, or in a more comprehensive four-disc megaset filled with hits and hidden treasures.

Long before Jason Mraz and Jack Johnson and Matt Berninger, the scary-voiced frontman for The National, were in the picture, the sensational Sherry Ann’s devotion was reserved exclusively for one Chris Isaak, who galvanized the world’s attention with his 1990 breakthrough smash “Wicked Game” and set an entire generation of girls’ hearts, minds, and eyes aflutter. Isaak is still plugging away at his game, and he’s back this week with Live at the Fillmore, which was recorded a year and a half ago at San Francisco’s famed theater of the same name. The hits — “Game,” of course, plus “Somebody’s Crying” and “Baby Did a Bad, Bad Thing” — are all present and accounted for, and as Sherry Ann put it pitch-perfectly in a text message to me late last week with regard to this recording: “Happy freakin’ birthday to me!”

God bless that budding little guitar goddess Orianthi, who, a scant seven months after releasing her major label debut disc Believe, has reconceived the album, swapping out four of its original songs for an equal number of new titles — among them, covers of The Strange Familiar’s “Courage” and John Waite’s 1984 classic “Missing You” — and slapping upon it the desperately unoriginal title of Believe (II). (I swear I’m not making this up!)

Is it time to commence worrying about the commercial future and fate of formerly invincible uber-diva Christina Aguilera? Once upon a time, our li’l Chrissie was both the belle of the ball and the beautiful badass raising hell out in the back alley, but for a new generation gone positively GaGa, Aguilera’s once-thrilling theatrics seem now to come off as wobbly and warmed over, and the question she faces — the question to which her new album Bionic had better damn well provide a doubtless, definitive answer — is simply this: when is this heifer going to realize that her strongest asset has always, always been that brash, brilliant, ball-busting voice?

Inevitably, people chuckle at me when I confess that Hanson are one of my all-time favorite bands, because, inevitably, those very people haven’t bothered to check out the rest of these guys’ sterling, staggering discography, choosing instead to MMMBop their way through their immense ignorance. And it’s their immense loss: these ferociously talented young men have been on quite a roll for the past decade, having crafted three straight stunning efforts — 2000’s This Time Around, 2004’s Underneath, and 2007’s The Walk, the latter pair of which they produced, recorded, and released completely on their own, long before it was en vogue for artists to take control of their product in just this fashion — and they look to keep that streak alive with this week’s arrival of their fifth studio album, Shout It Out.

After a decade-long hiatus, that estrogen-fueled musical revolution known as Lilith Fair — a touring festival whose debut in 1997 signaled an unprecedented sea change for women at top forty radio, and whose existence is largely credited for helping artists like Shawn Colvin, Paula Cole, and Patty Griffin break into the mainstream — is rolling out across the country once more this summer, and to help mark the fest’s renaissance, superstar Sarah McLachlan — the fearless woman who watched record executives openly guffaw when she explained her concept of a Lollapalooza-type tour created by women and for women (and, to be fair, for lovers of sincere, spectacular music), only to get the last laugh when the end product became a massive, masterfully executed success — returns with The Laws of Illusion, her first studio album since 2003’s muted, moody Afterglow. Because McLachlan is so stingy with her output — not counting 2006’s holiday effort Wintersong and a pair of remix projects, Illusion is only Sarah’s fifth album since Touch, her 1988 debut —- each new album is an event, and if you’re like me, you’re dying to pop this one into the player. (As for the aforementioned Fair, a new 16-track compilation entitled Lilith 2010, containing previously released tracks from Brandi Carlile, Corinne Bailey Rae, Chantal Kreviazuk, Norah Jones, and McLachlan herself, also hits stores this week.)

One of my favorite performers on the planet is the remarkable Kathy Troccoli, who first broke through with mainstream audiences with her 1992 smash “Everything Changes,” who cemented her place in my own heart with her peerless 1995 touchstone “If I’m Not in Love,” and whom I’ll be bringing to Brandon’s Buzz Radio in the near future to discuss a riveting career still in full swing. Troccoli hurtles to and fro between pop and contemporary Christian music with relative ease, and this week, she’s back on secular sand with her latest album, a collection of covers of classic ballads entitled Heartsongs, on which she lends her golden, glorious pipes to such signatures as Stevie Wonder’s “Overjoyed,” Jim Croce’s “I’ll Have to Say I Love You in a Song,” and Stephen Bishop’s “It Might Be You.”

Also noteworthy this week:


  • Fox’s freshman smash Glee closes out its first season with
    Journey to Regionals, an EP of tunes performed in the finale

  • Tom Petty has reunited with his band, The Heartbreakers, for Mojo, their first studio effort in eight years.

  • New compositions from Muse, Florence + the Machine, and Beck highlight the original motion picture soundtrack for Eclipse,
    the latest entry in the Twilight saga.

  • Dierks Bentley steps away from the commercial country path for his latest project, a deeply personal bluegrass-inflected affair entitled
    Up on the Ridge, which includes contributions from Jamey Johnson, Miranda Lambert, and the legendary Kris Kristofferson.

  • ’90s country king Clay Walker returns with She Won’t Be Lonely Long, which includes a terrific duet with Alabama’s Randy Owen on a crackling cover of the latter’s classic smash “Feels So Right.”

  • My absolute favorite Alaskan yodeler Jewel continues on her
    country kick with her latest album, Sweet and Wild.

  • They broke through two years ago with the crossover smash “Addicted”; rock band Saving Abel is ready now to follow it up with their sophomore effort, Miss America.

  • Erasure frontman Andy Bell steps up with his second solo album, Non-Stop, which features a compelling duet with Jane’s Addiction’s Perry Farrell.

  • Also on the dancefloor front: globally renowned DJ Tiesto compiles two discs of his biggest hits and favorite tracks into one Magikal Journey; and Island Def Jam teams up with Ultra Records for Just Dance 3, a new collection of remixes from the likes of Mariah Carey, Rihanna, and Mr. Hudson, whose current smash collaboration with Jay-Z
    (“Young Forever”) is justly drawing attention back toward his heretofore-ignored solo work.

  • Indie cult heroes Nada Surf are back with a collection of obscure covers entitled If I Had a Hi-Fi.

  • Li’l Wayne, Birdman, and Jay Sean stop by to help out Kevin Rudolf on his sophomore disc, To the Sky.

  • If you loved her 2003 pop hit “Dumb Girls” as much as I did, you may find it difficult to process that the dynamite Lucy Woodward is now an acclaimed jazz performer, but check out her considerable chops on her third album, Hooked.

  • Rightfully so, she has drawn comparisons to a young Bonnie Raitt and Linda Ronstadt and Patty Griffin. If that’s not enough to impel you to give the self-titled third album from the terrific Grace Potter and the Nocturnals a fair spin, I don’t know what will.

  • What if, two times running, a band put out a greatest hits set and failed to include their very best song, wholly in spite of the fact that said song actually was great and actually was a hit? Four years ago, those British brawlers Oasis released Stop the Clocks, a collection of tunes which inexplicably excluded “Don’t Go Away,” the Gallagher brothers’ transcendent, utterly shattering smash from the fall of 1997. This week, they’re back with Time Flies… 1994-2009, and “Away” has again been banished. Is it all just a conspiracy to drive me batshit nuts? You decide.

  • Heartland rocker John Mellencamp digs into his vault for
    On the Rural Route 7609, a four-disc boxed set of early demos,
    personal favorites, and previously unreleased rarities.

  • Disintegration, the 1989 global breakthrough album from British icons The Cure, returns in a sparkling new three-disc deluxe edition reissue which includes a handful of rough demos and live performances.

  • Offering up a terrific melange of punk of straight-up southern rock,
    The Gaslight Anthem are back with American Slang, a worthy follow-up to their smashing major-label debut.

  • Former Throwing Muses heroine Kristin Hersh is up
    with a new live album, Cats and Mice.

  • The brilliant Margo Timmins returns to the spotlight with her band Cowboy Junkies and their latest album, Renmin Park.

  • A new wave of Sony Legacy’s triple-disc Essential 3.0 best-of sets hits stores, with collections from The Charlie Daniels Band, Santana,
    The Isley Brothers, Johnny Mathis, and Aretha Franklin.

  • And finally, from the TV-on-DVD front: it’s a full-scale Urkel alert, as season one of the classic TGIF sitcom Family Matters debuts in a new three-disc set; and season three of the classic WB drama series Everwood arrives in a deluxe six-disc collection.

1 response to “i’m the same boy i used to be
(or: june 8 and 15 — a thumbnail sketch)”

  1. the buzz from A.:

    Wow, that’s quite a report! Now That’s What I Call the USA! includes what is probably my least favorite patriotic song ever: “God Bless the U.S.A.” (or, as it is known in my circle, “I Am Proud to be an American”). In fact, I disliked it the first time I heard (in Northern California, of all places!), and more than ten years later, the feeling hasn’t changed one bit. Perhaps the Buzz can start a Independence Day poll for the best and worst patriotic song of all time.