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Frozen Proves to be the Shining Moment on an ‘Ice Cold’ Albums Chart


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Well, another week and another chart and guess who’s on top – yep you guessed it, the Frozen Soundtrack. While sales aren’t exactly hot across the board, the additional 133,000 copies that the unstoppable soundtrack sold are solid, particularly compared to the rest of the albums.   How sound is 133,000 copies? Well according to Billboard, Pharrell ascended back to his peak position (no. 2) this week, selling 29,000 copies. Talk about April being the month of the music sales drought!

71gh3xPpjvL._SL1500_Honestly, the news on the charts isn’t good, particularly since a holdover like G I R L outsold the new entries. MercyMe bring little inspiration where sales are concerned, dropping Welcome to the New at no. 4 and a modest 26,000 copies. Black Label Society isn’t too far off, as Catacombs of the Black Vatican lands at no. 5. SoMo, t
he third new offering in the top 10, seems to have a small ceiling given a no. 6 bow with 23,000 copies sold. Still, there is prestige in claiming a Billboard top ten album – some better known/veteran R&B artists have yet to accomplish the feat. Saddest in regards to numbers is Martina McBride, whose soul covers album Everlasting sold a scant 21K. While the no. 7 bow isn’t shabby, the numbers aren’t impressive. Ultimately, it seems the four newbies in the top 10 underwhelmed in regards to their impact. Then again, everything is underwhelming – save for Frozen.

81cg4cMMqIL._SL1500_On the Hot 100, Pharrell Williams continues to sit pretty at no. 1 with “Happy”. Keeping R&B locked up at the top, John Legend continues a remarkable run with “All of Me” at no. 2. As far as albums that should make some sort of impact next week, August Alsina (Testimony) and Jason Derülo (Talk Dirty) are among the group. Ingrid Michaelson is also in the mix with Lights Out. Still, April seems to be absent of a true blockbuster album with commercial footing.

Review: Martina McBride, ‘Everlasting’


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Martina McBride balances soul music and her country roots soundly on Everlasting

Martina McBride • Everlasting • Vinyl Recordings • US Release Date: April 8, 2014

Martina McBride-LMK-110450Veteran country superstar Martina McBride’s 12th album, Everlasting, is certainly a surprise. No, McBride doesn’t go radical and become a pop artist or anything like that, but rather than opting for new original material, she hearkens back to the past. What specifically from the past one asks does Mrs. McBride hearken back to? Soul. While a country artist singing soul music seems somewhat far-fetched given the contrasts of styles, Everlasting proves to be an enjoyable and effective album. McBride isn’t suddenly Aretha Franklin mind you – both artists possessing different vocal skill sets – but McBride does straddle R&B and her country roots well.

Do Right Woman, Do Right Man” opens the covers album excellently for a couple of reasons. Though it is soulful (and soul music primarily), the sound of the production sounds ‘country’ enough that it truly plays to McBride’s strengths. Perhaps it is a bit sleepy given its tempo, more so than not, “Do Right Woman, Do Right Man” sets the bar high for Everlasting. The quicker “Suspicious Minds” also finds McBride capably handling the renowned Elvis classic with a touch of country to accompany its bursting horns.   Sure, the bridge where things switch-up could’ve had a bit more punch – a bit more ‘oomph’ – but it’s definitely no deal breaker.

It defiMartina McBride-LMK-110448nitely takes confidence to tackle one of the greatest soul classics of all time, “If You Don’t Know Me By Now”. Many do take up the task, but few accomplish the feat. Face it – none can do it like Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, specifically one incredibly soulful Teddy Pendergrass. Martina McBride certainly doesn’t attempt to emulate Pendergrass’ passionate take, but she does seek to deliver a compelling interpretation herself. Vocally, she sounds smooth and on one of the few instances on Everlasting, she ‘frees herself’ to give a bit more vocally in terms of adlibs and nuances. “Little Bit of Rain” proceeds, finding the country veteran benefiting from a backdrop that once more successfully preserves the soul styling while playing well to the country sound. Brief but notable, “Little Bit of Rain” lays well.

Bring It on Home to Me” is another sensational fit for McBride. While McBride lacks the grit of soul artists, her gentler approach takes nothing away from the song. It doesn’t hurt that McBride receives a truly soulful assist from Gavin DeGraw, who possesses the more edgy, ‘cutting’ voice of the two. The chemistry between to two is sensational. After the slower “Bring It on Home to Me”, McBride accelerates the tempo with a sound take on “Come See About Me”. While she still fails to break a sweat, her cool take easily exemplifies the tongue-n-cheek vibe of this classic. Adding to that tongue-n-cheekiness is the backing vocals whom are like the cherry on top.

Martina McBride-LMK-110445What Becomes of the Brokenhearted”, much like “If You Don’t Know Me By Now” has certainly got to be one of the most covered soul charts. As to why it is so popular is easy to see – it’s exceptionally written and incredibly memorable. McBride does a solid job, though perhaps a bit more assertion on her part in addition to a slightly sharper production may have taken this performance to another level. It’s good, but there is just the yearning for a touch more ‘authenticity’ that few covers can yield.   What better way to follow up a ubiquitous classic with yet another, “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long”. Where “What Becomes of the Brokenhearted” lacked some of its own distinctness and separation from the original, “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long” benefits from its restraint. While no one will ever match the Otis Redding version, McBride is able to make this version more true to her country music roots/niche.

Wild Night” kicks the tempo back up after slowing down for the previous cut. Again never forced vocally, Martina McBride eschews over-singing. With plenty of ‘goodies’ within the production on her side, including vocal layers, McBride once more pulls off her more soulful side perspiring Martina McBride-LMK-110433little. Joined by the big-voiced Kelly Clarkson, unsurprisingly “In The Basement” ends up being a highlight. Clarkson definitely takes an antithetical approach to McBride – in other words, she likes her adlibs and pop/urban vocal runs. It’s ‘all good’ though! Everlasting ends strongly. Penultimate number “My Babe” has countrified soul written all over it, proving to be the perfect joint to piggyback “In the Basement.” “To Know Him Is to Love Him” closes soundly, showcasing McBride in particularly good voice given the relaxed tempo. Not overproduced yet also not under-produced, “To Know Him Is to Love Him” feels right.

All in all, Everlasting is a solid effort from one of country’s preeminent voices. Sure McBride’s popularity has waned in recent times (unfortunately), but she’s definitely still got the pipes. There are times when she could’ve ‘dug in’ more given the style, but for the most part, McBride delivers soul and remains true to herself and her style. It’s no reinvention, but at this point in her career, there’s no shame in dropping a covers album.

Favorites:

“Do Right Woman, Do Right Man”; “If You Don’t Know Me By Now”; “Bring It On Home to Me”; “In The Basement”

Verdict: ★★★½

5 Seconds of Summer Settle For No. 2


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5 Seconds of Summer, the new Australian teen band, has nothing to hang their heads about; debuting at no. 2 with 143,000 copies of a four-song EP (She Looks So Perfect) is definitely notable.  Settling for that no. 2 spot behind the unstoppable Frozen Soundtrack (149,000 copies sold) – well that should boost confidence even more considering no one can end Frozen’s run.  After the slim margin separating album nos. 1 and 2, there is a huge gap.  Chevelle’s La Gargola sold 45,000 copies, good for the no. 3 spot.  Former “Jar of Hearts” pop singer/songwriter Christina Perri debuts at a familiar spot (no. 4), but does so smaller numbers for sophomore album Head or Heart (40,000 copies).  Country gets its representation from Dan + Shay, who sold 29,000 copies of Where It All Began (no. 6).  Nickel Creek also get a top ten berth, selling 27,000 copies of their first album following a lengthy hiatus, Why Should the Fire Die?  Hey, they don’t call it lucky no. 7 for no reason, right?

On the songs chart, specifically the Billboard Hot 100, Pharrell Williams continues to make us all “Happy” for yet another week, according to Billboard.  What is most shocking to me is that John Legend’s “All Of Me” is so hot, though I felt the hit potential when the underappreciated Love in the Future arrived in September 2013.  For R&B and for Legend, the popularity of the rather conservative track is awesome.

Next week doesn’t seem electrifying as far as notable new releases.  Still, albums arrive from Martina McBride (Everlasting), MercyMe (Welcome To The New), James Durbin (Celebrate), and SoMo (SoMo) among others. “It is what is”.

Music Shopping List: What To Consider Buying April 8, 2014


91oaj2JsGOL._SL1500_Ah new release Tuesday, where dreams come true and are broken for many artists who hope their album will sell these days.  This Tuesday, April 8, 2014, the releases aren’t exactly star-studded – that would be an understatement.  That said, there are some possibilities to choose from, whether you’re looking to go vintage, be spiritually uplifted, or want to stomach an immature pop star’s life…

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1

Duets

Linda Ronstadt

Rhino

(Pop)

Ronstadt doesn’t release new music anymore, but the vocalist has released more than enough classic material to solidify her veteran musician status.  Duets is a compilation featuring some of Ronstadt’s most notable collaborations with others including “Don’t Know Much” with Aaron Neville and “Somewhere Out There” with James Ingram.

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2

Catacombs of The Black Vatican

Black Label Society

Entertainment One

(Metal)

The title should be enough to allure the potential listener – or drive them away (whichever comes first).  Catacombs of the Black Vatican is the heavy metal band Black Label Society’s fourth release for mega indie label Entertainment One and their tenth studio album overall.

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3

Welcome To The New

MercyMe

Fair Trade/ Columbia

(Christian)

Jesus freaks everywhere should be rejoicing as one of the preeminent contemporary Christian bands releases their follow-up to 2012 LP The Hurt & The Healer.  And yes, I do realize “Jesus Freak” was the title of a dc Talk album and song, not MercyMe – LOL.  

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4

Everlasting

Martina McBride

Vinyl Records

(Country/R&B)

Martina McBride’s latest album definitely isn’t your standard country album.  McBride covers soul classics including “If You Don’t Know Me By Now” and “What Becomes of the Brokenhearted”.  On a rendition of Sam Cooke’s “Bring It On Home” she brings Gavin DeGraw along for the ride while she gets the assist from Kelly Clarkson on “In the Basement”.  If there were a country artist to pull it off, McBride would certainly be the one to do it.

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5

Love & Hate

Joan Osborne

Entertainment One

(Rock)

Entertainment One adds yet another album to the April 8th release date with Joan Osborne’s latest album, Love & HateLove & Hate marks the Kentucky-born artist’s eighth studio album.  The album follows up 2012 LP Bring It On Home.

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6

Justin Bieber’s Believe

Justin Bieber

Universal Studios

(Pop/Documentary)

My advice would be to proceed with caution here…really.

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7

Celebrate

James Durbin

Wind-Up

(Rock)

The former American Idol contestant drops his sophomore album Celebrate, albeit with little fanfare.  Celebrate follows up 2011 debut, Memories of a Beautiful Disaster.

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8

SoMo

SoMo

Republic

(R&B)

After releasing My Life digitally in 2013, burgeoning R&B artist (another YouTube discovery), release his ‘official’ self-titled debut via Republic.

Review: Luke Bryan, ‘Spring Break 6…Like We Ain’t Ever’


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Luke Bryan’s Spring Break series rolls right along…for a sixth time

Luke Bryan • Spring Break 6…Like We Ain’t Ever • Capitol Nashville • US Release Date: March 11, 2014

Luke Bryan-KLO-000129Spring break is a rite of passage of sorts for many college-aged kids.  The ever youthful Luke Bryan, however, continues to place himself back in his early twenties with his never ending Spring Break series, now on Spring Break 6…Like We Ain’t Ever.  There’s nothing wrong with using the crazy antics of spring break as fuel for fire, but approaching 38 years of age, is Bryan stretching it a bit?  Regardless, not only is another spring season here, but also so is another EP.  Spring Break 6 is good enough to incite enjoyment, but never expands to being ‘great’.

She Gets Me High” uses some modern production cues that transcend country itself, which certainly catches the ear.  The premise of the track is that this girl has got Bryan ‘hot and bothered’: “She get me high / she get me low…No matter how she moving / it’s all the same thrill…watch me fly, she get me high…” Ultimately, “She Gets Me High” is nothing new from Bryan, but does play as a pleasant opener.  Similarly, “Like We Ain’t Ever” works soundly as the titular track, but definitely doesn’t break new ground.  “Like we ain’t ever / all been together”, Bryan sings on the chorus, “and try to make one night last forever / once it’s gone, you can’t get it back / so lift ‘em up, y’all, where you at.”  If it weren’t for the superb rhythmic ‘machine’ created by banjo within the production, the overall allure might be even less notable as “Like We Ain’t Ever” trends, well, generic-sounding.

On “Night One”, Bryan wishes he’d hooked up with his girl the first night of spring break.  Please! “Wish I had met you on night one / before the week, we’d had you and me,” he sings on the chorus, “Being drunk, tangled up, waking up…every night, another party / making out in a crowd…” Like everything else, “Night One” is simple-minded, perhaps even more pronouncedly.  “Are You Leaving With Him” is comparable to the opener “She Gets Me High”, given its more pop-oriented nature.  That said, “Are You Leaving With Him” is the least country-centric track of the EP, which personally isn’t necessarily advantageous.  Additionally, the tempo is slower, but the track isn’t a ballad.  From an analytical aspect, “Are You Leaving With Him” provides little to analyze – just saying!

Luke Bryan-KLO-000130On “Good Lookin’ Girl”, I give Luke Bryan a ‘pass’ – you’re never too old to sing about a ‘good looking’ girl! The antithesis of “Are You Leaving With Him”, “Good Lookin’ Girl” embraces a truly countrified sound, which bodes better for Bryan.   The song is corny, but given Bryan’s sappy charm, it stands out.  Lines like “That little dimple when you smile might as well be a hook in my heart” (verse one) are ultimately irresistible.  Closer “The Sand I Brought to the Beach”, co-written with Cole Swindell (and also Michael Carter), isn’t too shabby.  One must admit, the chorus is kind of funny: “I think I just lost the sand that I brought to the beach / I guess she didn’t like the Spring Break side of me…” I’d say she didn’t Luke; I’d say she didn’t.

When it’s all said and done, Luke Bryan does Luke Bryan on Spring Break 6. It should be enough to please fans as well as draw criticism from others – critics included.  As an artistic statement, Spring Break 6 does little if anything to expand Bryan’s craft.  This is an “it is what it is” affair, and perhaps that’s the best perspective of which to examine it.

Favorites:

“She Get Me High”; “Good Lookin’ Girl”

Verdict: ★★★

Playlist: Favorite Songs From March Album Releases


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March was a rich month for music releases.  After listening and reviewing multiple albums, it is always fun to pick out one big time standout.  Sometimes it is a difficult choice, while other times it’s the only choice (particularly on a sub-par album).  After looking back through my late-February and March reviews, I’ve compiled a playlist of one favorite from each album.

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Morning”

Beck

From the album Morning Phase 

Note: Morning Phase was a late February release that wasn’t reviewed until March.

becki-20140227-62Folks, Beck is the man.  Morning Phase was yet another stacked album from the hipster with numerous top-notch songs.  A personal favorite was the first full-length track, “Morning” of which I penned the following:

…Constructed with lush strings at its core, “Cycle” foreshadows the electrifying opener, “Morning”.  Sure, “Morning” lacks tempo by all means, opting for balladry, but it’s extremely beautiful and perfectly suits Beck’s unique voice.  Beck breaks enough with the ‘acoustic resolve’ here, with Roger Joseph Manning, Jr. adding some synthesizer color.  The ‘color’ element is something found throughout Morning Phase, even if it is subtle. Lyrically, the entire song is thoughtfully penned, with the chorus standing out tremendously: “This morning / I let down my defenses / this morning / it was just you and me…” Clocking in at over five minutes, “Morning” is no drag by any means.

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“The Purge”

Schoolboy Q featuring Tyler, The Creator & Kurupt

From the album Oxymoron

Note: Oxymoron was a late February release that wasn’t reviewed until March.

Schoolboy Q exhibits grittiness about him throughout the course of Oxymoron, which ultimately proves to be a solid album. It’s not the most pleasant album to listen to in regards to its content mind you, but the quality is there. “The Purge” was among my favorites:

“The Purge” is a beast, produced by and featuring Tyler, The Creator. Again, Schoolboy Q’s daughter establishes the tone: “My daddy said drown, n***a.”  The significance of the line seems to be “the purge” that Schoolboy Q references within the title and song.  “Coming in for yours / n***as got them choppers and they knocking at your door,” Tyler, the Creator spits on the hook. “The sirens getting louder when the bodies hit the floor / why you look confused? Motherf**ker this is war.” Schoolboy Q plays right into the maliciousness, referencing kilos, drug money, and guns. Q’s most notable moment comes during a bridge between verses: “Bust my gun all by myself / rock cocaine all by myself / poured propane all on myself / go so hard might harm myself.”  Oh, and did I mention Kurupt also guests on the third verse? “The Purge” goes hard. 

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“Going To The Ceremony”

Kid Cudi

From the album Satellite Flight: Journey to Mother Moon

 Note: Satellite Flight was a late February release that wasn’t reviewed until March.

Kid Cudi-AES-083737Kid Cudi is an oddball – as left field as they come. This nonconformity is what makes him shine, yet also hurts his overall accessibility to many Earth dwellers. A surprise fourth album in Satellite Flight proves to be as confounding as it is interesting.  Still, “Going To The Ceremony” was a moment where the Kid was at his best/true to himself:

The real heat comes with “Going To The Ceremony”, the first vocal track of Satellite Flight. Opening uniquely itself with spoken word intro (“Now certainly we all recognize the extremely, extremely low probability / of life existing on the moon”), the track dives right into the rock-rap, left-of-center approach that Kid Cudi as well as WZRD has come to be known for.  This includes the typical humming, the repetitive lyrics (“But I don’t know where I’m going / where I’m going, it’s all happening / I’m going, it’s all happening”), as well as the driving, minimalism. “Going To The Moon” is familiar fare for the artist.

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“Digital Witness”

St. Vincent

From the album St. Vincent

Note: St. Vincent was a late February release that wasn’t reviewed until March.

St Vincent-PKE-000036From one oddball to another, it should be noted that St. Vincent once guested on a Kid Cudi album – Man on the Moon II: The Legend of Mr. Rager to be precise.  On her own self-titled album, St. Vincent awes with her incredible songwriting abilities, with none usurping the brilliant “Digital Witness”:

“Digital Witness” is a definitely standout, with its soulful, groove-laden production work. St. Vincent definitely criticizes social media/networking, and how it’s affected traditional social relationships. “People turn the TV on, it looks like a window.” Basically, St. Vincent seems to suggest that real-life interaction has been supplanted with any number apps and social networking avenues. “Digital witnesses / what’s the point of even sleeping,” St. Vincent sings on the chorus. “If I can’t show it if you can’t see me / what’s the point of doing anything?” Does she overreact to the power of social media? Perhaps or perhaps not, but she makes one awesome song in the process.

Read More…

Review: Johnny Cash, ‘Out Among the Stars’


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Among the Stars doesn’t supplant Cash’s best, but serves reminder of his legendary status

Johnny Cash • Out Among the Stars • Columbia Nashville Legacy • US Release Date: March 25, 2014

Johnny Cash4-20140214-96Usually, the words ‘lost albums’ signal nothing short of a personal sentiment of ‘don’t waste your time’. However, when a legend posthumously releases a lost LP, the tune changes.  Johnny Cash has released multiple posthumous albums, most of which that showcases the singer’s gruff vocals in his final years.  While these releases have magic (particularly a cover of Nine Inch Nails’Hurt” from American IV: The Man Comes Around, which was released while Cash was still alive), they don’t represent the exceptional artist at his strongest. The 2014 release of Out Among the Stars, a lost album from 1981, gives country music enthusiasts the opportunity to hear the true beauty, and commanding nature of Cash’s baritone. Sure it’s a compilation and certainly lacks a “Ring of Fire” caliber hit (most albums do), but Out Among the Stars does a fine job of showcasing Cash’s legacy.

Out Among the Stars” sets the tone of the album from the onset.  That tone is one of soundness, and even more notably, one where Cash’s vocals are clearer and more youthful.  Hearing Cash without any diminished pipes is a highlight in itself, not to mention how well paced and performed the title track is.  “Baby Ride Easy” doesn’t disappoint, bringing June Carter Cash into the mix.  The pace is spryer than the opener, instantly drawing the listener in.  The chemistry between husband and wife is indescribable, while the mix of string instruments further incites excellence.  Not missing a beat, the darker “She Used to Love Me A Lot” may lack the enthusiasm of the previous duo, but Cash remains on ‘autopilot’.  Among the best musical features of “She Used to Love Me A Lot” is the key change; too few artists employ this impactful compositional intensifier.

After All” is a warmer cut, with Cash continuing to flex his vocal muscles in that brilliant, booming lower register. Pacing again plays a impactful role, with more instrumentation entering the mix upon the second verse; the combination of guitar, acoustic and electric pianos is “simply beautiful”, as Al Green would put it. Throw in another legend with Waylon Jennings guesting on “I’m Movin’ On” and things continue to be impressive for Cash.  The vintage country sound, the vocals harmonies (between the two), and excellent guitar solo are among notable characteristics.  As good as “I’m Movin’ On” is, “If I Told You Who It Was” is even better, which Cash taking a spoken word approach to the verses of the Bobby Braddock/Curly Putnam penned tune. Among personal favorite lines is “I told her I got all your record ma’am / she smiled and said well I be damned / she said you’re kind of cute feller, wanna mess around?” While the word likely wasn’t in effect in the 80s, Cash definitely has “swag”.

Johnny Cash2-20140214-93Call Your Mother,” continues Cash’s consistency, highlighted by lyrical centerpiece “When you get a chance would you please call your mother…” Besides the quality of the song itself, structurally, it is fantastic how the composition uses instrumental interludes (space) between the verses. The practice may be old school, but it certainly has some redeeming qualities.  “I Drove Her Out of My Mind” may not be the effort’s standouts per se, but continues to show an overall soundness.  Cash delivers lyrics like “Cause I wrote a note that called it suicide / but my epitaph will say ‘he killed his pain yesterday / when he finally drove that woman off his mind’” memorably on this Gary Gentry/ Hillman Hall number. “Tennessee” is right in there as well, and though it has its element of predictability, the addition of choral vocals towards the end definitely keeps things fresh and the listener engaged.

Rock and Roll Shoes” successfully combines country and rock cues, sporting that vintage sound.  Cash remains on top, with little to nitpick or criticize. A second collaboration with wife June Carter Cash is a bigger Johnny Cash-20140214-94draw as “Don’t You Think It’s Come Our Time” is nothing short of brilliant. The rhythmic machine of the string arrangement further incites a truly inseparable vocal chemistry, even more than the first duet.  “I Came To Believe” has a tough act to follow, but the southern-gospel tinged country cut stands tall with its slower tempo and six-eight groove.  “And I came to believe in a power much higher than I”, Cash sings on the refrain. “I came to believe that I needed help to get by.” Amen, amen, amen! “She Used to Love Me a Lot (JC/EC Version)” is quite an interesting mix compared to the previous version.  The best way to describe the closer is as unique.

Ultimately, Out Among the Stars will never be considered to be the ‘cream of the crop’ of an illustrious discography for Cash.  The compilation does, however, cement Cash’s status as one of the greatest artists of all-time, regardless of genre.   Additionally, it is a reminder of country’s heyday and how much the sound has changed overall. It won’t light up country and certainly not pop radio – that’s not the aim – but it is a must-have for the music collector with an appreciation for veteran artists/classic music.

Favorites:

“Out Among the Stars”; “After All”; “If I Told You Who It Was”; “Don’t You Think It’s Come Our Time”; “I Came to Believe”

Verdict: ★★★★

Can’t Just “Let It Go”: Frozen Soundtrack Is No. 1 Once More


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After six non-consecutive weeks atop the Billboard 200 Albums Charts, the Frozen Soundtrack makes it a seventh week at the penthouse. This week, Frozen rallies to sell a gargantuan 202,000 copies. I guess folks just can’t “Let It Go” – bad joke, I know.  I’d say that the release of the album to DVD/Blu-ray/Digital likely had a role in elevating those sales. After Frozen, things get a bit hairier.

61RmtewJi0L._SL500_AA280_YG debuts at no. 2 with album My Krazy Life, which sold 61,000 copies.  61,000 copies isn’t a bad number, but don’t call it sexy either.  Foster The People land at no. 3, moving 54,000 copies of Supermodel, their second album.   Skrillex follows at no. 4 with Recess, which sold 47,000 copies.  Apparently there were physical copies of Recess, though when I visited the CD section, I was unable to find it – it obviously got its sales totals from digital sales.  Rock band The Pretty Reckless bow at no. 5, with 35,000 copies sold of Going to Hell (charming title, right?).  Enrique Iglesias’ Sex and Love enters in at no. 8 with a tepid 24,000 copies while Taking Back Sunday land at no. 10 with 22,000 copies sold of Happiness Is. Iglesias and Taking Back Sunday have both had better days where sales are concerned.

Happy” continues to be the story on the Billboard Hot 100 as Pharrell Williams’ infectious throwback R&B single is a big-time hit. Perhaps more surprising is the success of John Legend’s “All of Me”, which according to billboard.com has risen to no. 2 this week!  Two R&B tracks sit in the top two of the Billboard Hot 100 – shocking!

Several new releases landed in the top 10 this week, even though the numbers were so-so for some.  Next week, new albums arrive courtesy of Shakira (Shakira), Karmin (Pulses), Johnny Cash (Out Among the Stars), Erica Campbell (HELP), and My Chemical Romance (May Death Never Stop You: Greatest Hits 2001 – 2013) among others. All should definitely have no trouble charting and making some noise.

Review: Jerrod Niemann, ‘High Noon’


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High Noon has a few notable moments and many forgettable ones

Jerrod Niemann • High Noon • Sea Gayle / Arista Nashville • US Release Date: March 25, 2014

JerrodNieman-020411-0002After giving country music “the cold shoulder” throughout the first quarter of 2014, I – the Brent Faulkner – finally decided to give country ‘a chance’. Sure in the process, I successfully passed on offerings by Eric Church (The Outsiders) and yet another Spring Break effort from Luke Bryan, but I suppose singer/songwriter Jerrod Niemann was the motivation.  Actually, I’m not incredibly familiar with his music and I wanted to ‘get to know him’ musically. A couple of years back, upon promoting his previous album Free The Music, Niemann was on CBS This Morning, discussing his use of horns in country music – a rarity these days.  So with interest sparked, Niemann received the distinction of being my first… too bad the results weren’t exactly what my ears desired.  To clarify, too much of High Noon is too generic, repetitive, and uninspired.

Space” opens High Noon solidly, but don’t call the mid-tempo cut the ‘second coming’. What is unique about “Space” is that it’s the type of song you prejudge because of its simplistic, broad title.  Ultimately, “Space” ends up being a song about needing “space” and “room to breathe”. The typical countrified sound is employed here, but “Space” also doesn’t completely fall into the box of country characterizations, something that bodes well in its favor. As for its follow-up “Buzz Back Girl” – well, it’s country to the bone if for nothing more than its alcoholic references (“Feels like I’ve been drinking, since early in the morning…”).  Ultimately, the track is about Niemann’s girl causing him to experience the same sensations as beer has on him… It is what it is.  “Buzz Back Girl” definitely fits the country mode, given a co-songwriting credit from country colleague Lee Brice. It isn’t bad, but nor is it great.  It’s tried and true, but not captivatingly so.

If “Buzz Back Girl” was a letdown where booze consumption was concerned, “Drink To That All Night” fills the gap. The lyrics on the verse are sung in a rhythmic, quick-paced undertone.  By the refrain, Niemann essentially has his glass raised and fists in the air: “I can drink to that all night / that’s the stuff I like / that’s the kind of party makes you throw your hands up high…” “Drink To That All Night” isn’t original conceptually, but it is a standout contextually – it’s the country-pop song of sorts.  “I Can’t Give in Anymore” slows the tempo down, attempting to give High Noon a more serious, mid-tempo ballad.  “I Can’t Give in Anymore” has its moments, particularly its emotional chorus (“…I’m tired of the hell that we’re living in / fighting for one, it takes two to win / this time I’m gonna to walk away if things ain’t like they were before / cause I can’t give in anymore”), but it’s not quite a breakthrough or a clear-cut home run. The pieces are in place, if nothing more.

Predictably, “We Know How to Rock” is up-tempo, contrasting the “I Can’t Give in Anymore”.  Like most of High Noon, “We Know How to Rock” receives nothing more than a passing grade, failing to transcend beyond such.  Yes, the production is pleasing to every country listener’s ears, but the song itself is forgettable and not dissimilar from a million of similar country anthems. “Come On, Come On” lacks intellectual spirit, once more clinging to simple things.  In other words, it’s pretty dumb. Sure, Niemann isn’t singing about dumb things, but the song lacks depth and is centered more on its chill vibe and repetitive lyrics.   “Come On, Come On” won’t be winning its songwriters many, if any awards.

Lucky #7” is ‘coincidentally’ track number seven – imagine the thought that went behind that decision.  Unfortunately for “Lucky #7”, it still leaves this listener desiring more.  I mean lines like “How did a seven wind up with an 11” doesn’t incite head nodding, but rather head shaking and rolling of the eyes.  Oh and BTW, Niemann isn’t lying when he sings, “I don’t deserve you baby.” He really doesn’t with those lyrics. Things only get worse on “Donkey”, a ridiculous, tongue-in-cheek number that features Niemann clumsily busting a rhyme. The rap might be forgivable if the chorus were better – and it’s certainly not!  My advices to JN…don’t rap, like ever again. “Day Drinkin’” definitely isn’t a bounce-back track, once more lacking imagination and again relying on repetition.   The stretch from “We Know How To Rock” to “Day Drinkin’” is pretty blasé or pretty rough – depends on how you read into it.

The Real Thing” is best described in basketball terminology – After being ‘one and done’ at trying to score the ball (unable to attain a rebound), finally you bank a shot in.  “The Real Thing” is sort of like a two-point jumper that you aren’t sure if it’s going in, but it gets the friendly bounce.  Whether or not  “The Real JerrodNieman-020411-0001Thing” is memorable in a sea of 2014 country songs, only time will tell. Contextually, it keeps High Noon from totally falling on its butt. After the seriousness though, “Beach Baby” is a reversion of sorts, reminiscent of the chilled-out “Come On, Come On” lacking any semblance of depth.  Perhaps it will appeal to some, but it’s an “I’ll pass” from me.  As for the remainder ofthe trying High Noon, there’s “Refill” (been there, done that) and “She’s Fine” featuring Colt Ford – oh lawd! Enough said… don’t pass go and please don’t collect $2,000!

The verdict for High Noon – forgettable! Even with the more notable cuts selected, High Noon as a whole offers very little incentive to listen for a second time, heaven forbid more than that.  For a country album – specifically the first country album this dude listened to in 2014 (don’t judge me) – High Noon was a bit of a letdown. As with all artists, you win some, you lose some.  This one goes in the loss column…

Favorites:

“Space”; “Drink To That All Night”; “I Can’t Give In Anymore”; “The Real Thing”

Verdict: ★★½

Music Shopping List: 8 Albums To Consider on March 25, 2014


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As March is nearing its completion, the final release week of the month has numerous album possibilities to add to one’s collection.  A posthumous release from a country legend, one cool pop-duo (with some other styles involved), and a powerhouse, inspirational half of a contemporary gospel-duo. Phew – what a mouthful! Check out the following list containing 8 albums to consider on New Music Tuesday, March 25, 2014.  

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1

Johnny Cash

Out Among The Stars

(Country)

Out Among The Stars is a legit lost album from the legendary Johnny Cash.  Since his death in 2003, numerous posthumously released efforts have been issued.  It is safe to say, Mr. Cash was quite prolific.

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2

Shakira

Shakira.

(Latin, Pop)

“The Hips Don’t Lie” chanteuse returns with her first new album since 2010 effort Sale el Sol, which launched at no. 7 on the Billboard 200 Albums Chart.  Shakira is led by single “Can’t Remember to Forget You”, which features Rihanna.

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3

Karmin

Pulses

(Pop) 

Pulses gives the engaged pop duo their first official full-length debut.  Karmin previous issue an EP entitled Hello, which was led by popular single “Brokenhearted”.  Pulses is led by single “I Want It All”.  A music video was recently issued for the title track (“Pulses”) while “Acapella” was issued as a single back in 2013.  

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4

Barry Manilow

Night Songs

(Easy Listening) 

Barry Manilow original albums are hard to come by these days at this point in the singer’s career.  Continuing on the covers path much like his contemporary Rod Stewart, Manilow releases yet another covers album with Night Songs.  Likely, this album should appeal to the older, more traditional crowd.  

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5

My Chemical Romance

May Death Never Stop You (Greatest Hits 2001 – 2013)

(Rock)

MCR are no more, but that doesn’t prevent a greatest hits compilation from rightfully materializing.  After all, My Chemical Romance did four studio albums: I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love (2002), Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge (2004), The Black Parade (2006), and Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys (2010).  Three Cheers… and The Black Parade are MCR’s bestselling albums.

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6

Jerrod Niemann

High Noon

(Country) 

The country singer releases his fourth album, High Noon.  Although he has released four albums, his most recent three are the most notable from an availability and relevance standpoint (Long Hard Road was an independent effort).  High Noon arrives two years after Free The Music (2012), which bowed at a disappointing no. 62 on the Billboard 200 Albums Chart.  Previous album Judge Jerrod & The Hung Jury (2010) landed at no. 7.  

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7

Erica Campbell

Help

(Gospel) 

Erica Campbell is most recognizable with her sister Tina by her side as gospel duo Mary Mary.  This go-round, Erica goes solo delivering and enjoyable dose of contemporary gospel led by single “A Little More Jesus”.  Having reviewed this album ahead of its release (review available on blackgospel.com), it receives my blessing… no pun intended.

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8

The Hold Steady

Teeth Dreams

(Alternative)

The indie-rock band returns with their first album in 4 years (Heaven Is Whenever, 2010).  Heaven gave The Hold Steady their highest peaking album at no. 26 on the Billboard 200.

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