Thursday, January 24, 2008

In The Changer: I've Fallen Desperately Behind, H-J Edition

Well, the idea was a good one. I love music and love to write about music and I wanted to document my current music tastes. So I decided to spend some time reviewing things that I've been listening to in order to share, criticize, and maybe make some sense of a small slice of the frankly overwhelming mass of listening options that are out there. But the problem is that as I've been doing this, I've also accumulated more and more cd's or downloads. So basically, I'm going to plough through the rest of the alphabet as best as I can even though most of these albums are more than a year old and I am as frequently listening to newer stuff as this. Oh well. As I've said all along: As soon as the labels start sending me these things to review for free, I'll be more timely. Until then, you're stuck with my methodology and timelag.

Hot Hot Heat, Elevator: This album sounds like it could be the soundtrack to the greatest '80s movie never made. Judd Nelson, Andrew McCarthy, Emilio Estevez, Anthony Michael Hall, Mare Winningham, Molly Ringwald, and Allie Sheedy deal with life, love, loss and growing up in a trenchant dramedy while Hot Hot Heat, probably wearing skinny ties, produce infectious pop music, including what has to be the song for the opening credits, over which the tableau will be set, "Middle of Nowhere." I'd definitely see that movie. But at least we can buy the soundtrack. Grade: B+

Michael Jackson, The Essential Michael Jackson: Michael Jackson may be crazier than a syphilitic hobo, but there is no doubting that at one point he also was as talented a performer as ever walked the face of the earth. The crazy appears to have taken over the talented, much as Norman' Bates' mother took over Norman Bates, but this two-disc collection is a reminder of why from the heyday of the Jackson Five to the early 90s Jackson was the world's most popular entertainer. That said, this could probably be even better as one long disc that cut a little from both the earlier stuff (I'm not certain Michael Jackson as a boy singing romantic ballads to women is any less creepy than his late life shenanigans) and the later stuff (the era of the alleged shenenigans). Thirty songs, say, rather than thirty eight, and less would be more. Still pretty damned good, even if he's not the ideal babysitter. A-

Robert Johnson, King of the Delta Blues Singers: I like the blues. But I hate most blues fans. You know the ones I'm talking about. He's white. He dresses "bohemian," even though everything he's wearing is only affordable by someone comfortably ensconsed in the upper-middle class. He laughs too loud at the bluesman's jokes at a live show. Basically, he's a pretentious douche. Nonetheless, Robert Johnson is at the top of the pantheon. You can hear his influence throughout the canon of what we now call "classic rock," including the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, and Aerosmith. It's even more remarkable to listen to this compilation and consider that Johnson was dead at twenty-one years of age, poisoned, apropos of his genre, perhaps, by his girlfriend. Most of you probably know the legend of Johnson -- he allegedly sold his soul to the devil in exchange for his sublime gifts at a crossroads in Mississippi. Crank the album, avoid the dude in the Birks and socks (he's almost assuredly the one with the ponytail) and imagine what might have been had Johnson only made it to thirty. A

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