What looks to be the last slow Tuesday of the year for a long while in terms of new releases sees a medley of music-makers hitting stores: a sugary U.K. veteran pop squad; likely the only pianist who has collaborated with Snoop Dogg, Fort Minor and Tony Bennett; a synth-pop dude who spells his name "Stephin" instead of "Stephen"; the least-appreciated member of the four Beatles; a soulful crooner signed to Jive by none other than DJ Jazzy Jeff; and the frontman for a SoCal alterna-rock crew. We assume you'll be able to guess which is which ...
Spice Rack: Shouts of "Girl power!" were heard throughout Victoria's Secret stores in mid-November when the Spice Girls issued their Greatest Hits collection there, but now Mel B, Geri Halliwell and the rest of the gang are breaking out the previously exclusive set in retail stores nationwide. As promised, they're now rolling out two additional versions of the release, the standard edition of which has two newly recorded songs ("Headlines [Friendship Never Ends]" and "Voodoo"). The deluxe edition has a DVD with all the Girls' promo videos, while the gift-box version also contains a karaoke disc and friendship bracelet.
Return of the Piano Man: In case you didn't see John Legend on his recent Show Me Tour, there's a new CD immortalizing one of the gigs. The exclusive Target release has 19 songs by the singer/songwriter, including his covers of Beatles and Sly & the Family Stone covers, as well as newer cuts "Slow Dance" and "Where's the Love," which features a duet with Corinne Bailey Rae. The deluxe edition comes with a 30-minute DVD featuring more live-performance material, an interview and videos for "Show Me" and "Another Again."
Fields' Recordings: Magnetic Fields fans will want to gravitate to stores this week — the group's first new album in four years is dropping, even though it's been more or less on the down low. Stephin Merritt and company have come up with a new gimmick for Distortion, their eighth album: Per its title, every instrument, save the drums, was designed to blurt out feedback. "I don't know if anyone has done feedback piano before," Merritt said in a statement. The typically quiet act aimed for a noisier approach, á la Jesus and Mary Chain, on songs like "Zombie Boy," "The Nun's Litany" and "Too Drunk to Dream." Fans might also recognize a voice they heard on the Fields' 1999 classic, 69 Love Songs — Merritt's friend Shirley Simms is contributing background vocals again. Initial pressings of Distortion come with a bonus single: "The Man of a Million Faces," which Merritt wrote for NPR.
Slipping Out From The Archives: In case you didn't know already, the European eel uses the Earth's magnetic field for direction, which is cool if for no other reason than it allows us to shamelessly segue between Merritt's release and two from Mark Oliver Everett, another lo-fi singer/songwriter legend. Eels, Everett's project, are taking a look back with a two-pronged comp attack: Meet the Eels: Essential Eels Vol. 1, 1996-2006, a CD-plus-DVD set; and the equally self-explanatory Eels Useless Trinkets: B-Sides, Soundtracks, Rarities and Unreleased - 1996-2006, which comes in the form of two CDs and one DVD. The videos are actually reaching the DVD format for the first time ever, and fans will also drool over Everett's notes, which he scribed for every song.
Starr Power: In case you happened to be in Liverpool, England, on Saturday, you likely heard about hometown legend Ringo Starr performing to help kick off the city's Capital of Culture extravaganza. Well, he was also using that gig to fittingly launch Liverpool 8, his new studio album and first involving old buddy Dave Stewart of the Eurythmics. Starr co-wrote all 12 of the album's tracks with Stewart, who also lent his production skills. Songs include "Love Is," "It It's Love That You Want" and "Think About You," all of which could have passed for the titles of Beatles songs, if you ask us.
The Raheem DeVaughn Experience: Speaking of love, DeVaughn may be one of the more underrated R&B crooners out there, but he has two things working in his favor: He recently earned a Grammy nomination for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance for his song "Woman"; and his last album had a notable debut, at #46 on the Billboard albums chart. Now DeVaughn is chasing his first LP, 2005's The Love Experience, with Love Behind the Melody. Don't miss "Friday (Shut the Club Down)," "Four Letter Word" and "Marathon," which spots a guest spot by Floetry.
This week's top hitters may not be all that heavy, but some big names helped out with some of the other titles lurking in the ranks:
· Nelly Furtado's collaborations with Justin Timberlake and Timbaland have earned her Grammy nominations — and a win — over the past two years, and now someone else is looking to horn in on the action: none other than ... adult-contemporary legend Anne Murray! Shelby Lynne, Martina McBride and others also populate Murray's Duets: Friends & Legends album.
· Switchfoot allowed frontman Jon Foreman to take a break and drop the second in his seasonal EPs this week: Winter, which is coming out digitally as a standalone release. In retail stores, though, it's available as a two-disc set, along with Foreman's November EP, Fall.
· Members of Lamb of God, In Flames, Arch Enemy, Trivium, the Haunted and Children of Bodom help Annihilator bring the Metal on their latest disc.
· Animal Collective's Paw Tracks imprint is dishing up Black Habit, the new disc by New York's First Nation ... er Rings. The trio changed their name after one member left and Abby Portner, sister of Animal Collective member Dave Portner, took up the role.
· Band of Horses had guitarist Tyler Ramsey on tour with them late last year, but that still left time for him to slap together a solo disc. The plucker's A Long Dream About Swimming Across the Sea was produced by My Morning Jacket collaborator Danny Kadar.
· Velvet Revolver and Slayer collaborator Josh Abraham originally recorded Egypt Central's self-titled debut two years ago, but now the effort from the Memphis heavy-rockers is finally hitting stores after undergoing a bit of an overhaul.
· Brooklyn, New York, shoegazers Dirty on Purpose chalk up a cover of Real Life's "Send Me an Angel" from the 1986 movie "Rad" for their new EP, "Like Bees." Doesn't get any gnarlier than that.
Song Title of the Week:
"If You Can't Be Good, Be Gone" from The SteelDrivers
Album Cover of the Week:
Charlie Nothing's 40 Years of the Ding: A Charlie Nothing Anthology
In 2003, Minneapolis label De Stijl partnered with Sub Pop for the excavation of the Michael Yonkers Band's Microminiature Love, which was recorded 35 years earlier. Now, after teaming for a handful of additional releases, the labels have assembled this collection, which culls the psychedelic musician's long-lost recordings for Takoma, a label run by steel-string pioneer John Fahey, plus songs he made for private release — and some he even recorded while in jail.
Mike Ladd's Nostalgialator
The Afro-punk experimentalist is rubbing elbows with El-P, Aesop Rock, Cage and other underground hip-hop luminaries on Definitive Jux, the label that is re-releasing this 2004 effort, which was originally made available internationally on K7. The Boston native — who now calls Paris home — hooked up with New York producer Scotty Hard (Wu-Tang Clan, De La Soul) for the genre-busting release.
Paleo's "The Song Diary"
This is about as DIY as you can get: Unsigned songwriter David Strackany spent a year touring the country, living out of his van, and writing and posting a song every day on his Web site. Now he's put together a DVD encompassing all 365 tunes, with a list of the dates and cities in which he recorded them, as well as a limited-edition 470-page book of lyrics. Fittingly, there are only 365, hand-numbered copies of the latter.
· 46bliss - Wish Me Away (Pistachio)
· Annihilator - Metal (SPV)
· Bob Bruzman - Post-Industrial Blues (Ruf)
· Steve Bug - Fabric 37 (Fabric)
· Peter Daily - Who Is Peter Daily? (EP; Sideshow Media Group)
· Raheem DeVaughn - Love Behind the Melody (Jive)
· Dirty on Purpose - Like Bees (EP; North Street) [Buy Now]
· Egypt Central - Egypt Central (Fat Lady/ Independent Label Group)
· Eliane Elias - Something for You: Eliane Elias Sings and Plays Bill Evans (Blue Note)
· Dan Ferrari - Don't Let It Fall (available at CDBaby.com and other indie outlets; AtoZ)
· Jon Foreman - Fall/Winter (EPs; two CDs; lowercase people/ Credential)
· Gamma Ray - Land of the Free II (SPV)
· Marianne Keith - Beautiful Distraction (Unison)
· John Legend - Live From Philadelphia (with DVD; available exclusively at Target; G.O.O.D./Columbia) [Buy Now]
· Magnetic Fields - Distortion (Nonesuch) [Buy Now]
· Mars Arizona - Hello Cruel World (Big Barn)
· Anne Murray - Duets: Friends & Legends (Manhattan/EMI)
· Fernando Otero - Pagina de Buenos Aires (Nonesuch)
· Peech - Peech (Unison)
· Tyler Ramsey - A Long Dream About Swimming Across the Sea (Echo Mountain)
· Rings - Black Habit (Paw Tracks)
· Ringo Starr - Liverpool 8 (Capitol/EMI) [Buy Now]
· Roomful of Blues - Raisin' a Ruckus (Alligator)
· Duane Stephenson - From August Town (VP)
· The SteelDrivers - The SteelDrivers (Rounder)
· Noah Sugarman - Art of Starting of Fire (Unison)
· Matthew West - Something to Say (Sparrow)
· Winger - Winger Live (two CDs; Shrapnel)
Notable Reissues and Archival Material:
· Buju Banton - Inna Heights: 10th Anniversary Edition (with DVD; VP)
· Tommy Bolin - The Ultimate: Redux (three-CD box set; Friday)
· Billy C and the Sunshine - The Lost 70's Tapes (two CDs; Blue Label)
· Charlie Nothing - 40 Years of the Ding: A Charlie Nothing Anthology (De Stijl/ Sub Pop)
· Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen - The Early Years 1967-1970 (two CDs; Blue Label)
· Miles Davis - Beautiful Ballads & Love Songs (Columbia/Legacy)
· Eels - Meet the Eels: Essential Eels Vol. 1, 1996-2006 (CD and DVD; Dreamworks/Geffen/UMe); and Eels Useless Trinkets: B-Sides, Soundtracks, Rarities and Unreleased - 1996-2006 (two CDs and one DVD; Dreamworks/Geffen/UMe) [Buy Now]
· Aretha Franklin - Beautiful Ballads & Love Songs (Columbia/Legacy)
· Nnenna Freelon - Better Than Anything: The Quintessential Nnenna Freelon (Concord)
· Marvin Gaye - Here, My Dear (two CDs; Hip-O Select)
· Billie Holiday - Beautiful Ballads & Love Songs (Columbia/Legacy)
· Jean Michel Jarre - Oxygene (with DVD; Caroline)
· Kottonmouth Kings - Greatest Highs (two CDs; Capitol/EMI) [Buy Now]
· Mike Ladd - Nostalgialator (Definitive Jux)
· Barry Manilow - Beautiful Ballads & Love Songs (Columbia/Legacy)
· Ricky Nelson - Greatest Love Songs (Capitol/EMI)
· Olivia Newton-John - Olivia's Live Hits (Capitol/EMI)
· Nurse With Wound - Gyllenskold, Geijerstam and I at Rydberg's (Durtro Jnana)
· Kenny Rogers - A Love Song Collection (Capitol Nashville/ EMI)
· Frank Sinatra - Beautiful Ballads & Love Songs (Columbia/Legacy)
· Spice Girls - Greatest Hits (enhanced; two discs; Virgin) [Buy Now]
· Trisha Yearwood - Love Songs (MCA Nashville)
· Zucchero - All the Best (Verve)
· Various artists - Slow Jams: The Definitive Collection (Capitol)
· Various artists - Disco Not Disco: Post Punk, Electro & Leftfield Disco Classics - 1974-1986 (Strut)
· Various artists - Doo Wop Love Songs (four-CD box set; Shout! Factory)
· Various artists - Monterey Jazz Festival: 50th Anniversary All-Stars (Concord)
· Various artists - Sides of Blue: The Jazz Greats Who Played on Kind of Blue (Fantasy)
· Various artists - "The Jewish Americans" soundtrack (Rounder)
· Olivia Newton-John - "Olivia Newton-John and the Sydney Symphony: Live at the Sydney Opera House" (Capitol/EMI)
· Marilyn Manson - "Lord of Darkness: The Early Years" DVD (Candlelight)
· Paleo - "The Song Diary" (self-released)
· Winger - "Winger Live" (Shrapnel)
· Jon Foreman - Fall/Winter (EP; lowercase people/ Credential)
· Natasha Bedingfield - Pocketful of Sunshine (Epic)
· Cat Power - Jukebox (deluxe edition with bonus CD due same day; Matador)
· Matt Costa - Unfamiliar Faces (Brushfire)
· Beck - Odelay - Deluxe Edition (two CDs; Geffen/UMe)
· The Mars Volta - The Bedlam in Goliath (Universal)
· Vampire Weekend - Vampire Weekend (XL)
· Christina Aguilera - "Back to Basics: Live and Down Under" (two DVDs; RCA)
· Jack Johnson - Sleep Through the Static (Brushfire)
· Lenny Kravitz - It Is Time For A Revolution (Virgin)