Mo' Diddy: It's been five years since we last heard a batch of new material from Diddy -- even though he's been doing just about everything else in the meantime, between the clothing lines, record-label signings and humanitarian efforts. The mogul/artist/fill-in-the-blank is re-entering in style, getting big names to help with the Press Play festivities: Christina Aguilera ("Tell Me"), Nas and Cee-Lo ("Everything I Love"), Mary J. Blige ("Making It Hard"), Jamie Foxx ("Partners for Life"), Mario Winans ("Through the Pain (She Told Me)"), Brandy ("Thought You Said"), and Pussycat Doll Nicole Scherzinger. Plus, behind the boards he's got Kanye West, Will.I.Am, Big Boi, Mobb Deep's Havoc, Timbaland and the Neptunes. Now there's a guy with a few friends.
This week's second most impressive guest list belongs to Hi-Tek, who roped in Nas, Busta Rhymes, Common, Talib Kweli, Jadakiss, Papoose, Bun B and Ghostface Killah for Hi-Teknology 2: The Chip. Going above and beyond the call of duty, he tapped Snoop Dogg, Mos Def, Slim Thug and Raphael Saadiq for three tunes that appear on a special edition only available at Best Buy stores. That set also comes with a bonus DVD loaded with videos, a documentary and more.
JoJo's Mojo: Expect to see a lot of JoJo this week -- on MTV, "The Today Show" and beyond -- as she hops back from the big screen to the music world for The High Road. Her "Too Little Too Late" single is skittering up the charts, but -- shocker! -- there are other tracks on the album as well: "Let It Rain," "Good Ol' " and "Note to God," among others. Oh, and there's a bonus DVD with plenty of JoJo fruits as well.
Circling Around: Xzibit has some mighty hip-hop competition this week in the form of Diddy, but his fans should be coming around for Full Circle. Too Short ("Movin' in Your Chucks"), Kurupt ("Say It to My Face," "Movin' "), DJ Quik ("Poppin' Off") and T-Pain ("On Ball") have all hopped onto the affair, which furthers Xzibit's pattern of releasing an album every two years since he burst onto the scene in '96.
Murder Is the Case: Also in the rap mix is C-Murder, the criminally prone younger brother of Master P who is reservicing his LP The Truest Sh-- I Ever Said with five additional cuts he laid down after getting out of prison: "I Want It," "I Live in the Ghetto," "Calliope," "On My Block" (featuring Bootleg of the Dayton Family) and "Die for Mine" (featuring B.G.). There's also a bonus DVD with a 60-minute documentary hosted by B.G., plus behind-the-scenes material and videos to boot.
Studly Efforts: He's won "Idol," Grammy-nomination honors and sold more than 3 million albums, but Ruben Studdard clearly has an appetite for more. On The Return, he redoes "If Only for One Night" -- Rube's version has more in common with Luther Vandross', as opposed to original singer Brenda Russell's -- as well as three songs he co-wrote: "I'm Not Happy," "Blow Ya Mind" and "To Tha Crib." The velvet teddy bear gets some production boosts from Scott Storch, Ne-Yo, Bryan-Michael Cox and Dre & Vidal. As it turns out, Ne-Yo and Cox also lend support to Latin R&B prince Frankie J with his Priceless album, which is peppered with guests Chamillionaire, 112's Slim and Bone Thugs-N-Harmony.
Weird Stuff: This week's crop of new releases is a strange one indeed:
When it comes to being odd, no band does it better than Primus, and they don't fall short this week with their Primus Singles: They Can't All Be Zingers CD and "Blame It on the Fish" DVD releases. On the DVD is a 30-minute documentary in which leader Les Claypool, playing a 102-year-old, talks about what life has been like for Primus into the year 2065.
Badly Drawn Boy is also pretty batty, and to coincide with the release of his Born in the U.K. LP this week, he's put up a contest on his Web site that asks viewers to choose their favorite fish-and-chips restaurant in England. Or, more specifically, "the chance to vote for your favourite local 'Batterie' and gamble the fishy reputation of your regular chish 'n fip shop." The contest prize? Nothing.
It Dies Today haven't exactly made a reputation for themselves as a family-friendly band, after touring as part of Ozzfest and with Trivium, Machinehead and other brutal bands. But as it turns out, "Sacre Coeur" -- a song featured on their new release, Sirens -- is actually named after a Parisian church where singer Nick Brooks says, in a press release, "I hopefully plan on proposing to someone there someday."
A mishmash of "Whatever Happened To ... ?" musicians -- including members of Jellyfish, the Candy Butchers, Self, Semisonic and Papas Fritas -- have joined forces for L.E.O. It isn't exactly a cover band but tries its best to channel prog-rock legends ELO all the same with Alpacas Orgling. It's doubtful that when those guys headed to the studio they limited themselves to ingesting only bread, water, eggs, coffee and whiskey, but that's exactly what Denison Witmer did for Safe Away, which is being reissued this week with a bonus EP.
To close out a 30-year career that has seen way too much hair and too many half-hearted reunions, Twisted Sister are regrouping one last time for ... a Christmas album? Yes, it's true: With singer Dee Snider leading the pack, the band bizarrely runs through "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus," "Heavy Metal Christmas (The Twelve Days of Christmas)" and other selections that will lead fans to say, "Uh ... OK." Can you take it?
Toronto quartet the Sadies have crafted the soundtrack to "Tales of the Rat Fink," a film that lives up to its odd mantle: It revolves around cartoonist/custom-car designer Ed "Big Daddy" Roth and his anti-Mickey Mouse character, Rat Fink. The soundtrack is heavy on instrumental surf music, while the film features vocal contributions from "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, the Smothers Brothers, John Goodman, ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons and other people you wouldn't expect.
Also getting back together -- a whopping 27 years after issuing their last studio LP -- are all-women punks the Slits, with frontwoman Ari Up leading the pack. Equally surprising is that they've only come up with enough new material for an EP, Revenge of the Killer Slits, although it does feature appearances from such question-mark contributors as Sex Pistols drummer Paul Cook and Adam and the Ants axeman Marco Pirroni. Oh, three daughters also help out: Cook's child Holly, Mike Jones' daughter Lauren, and Phoebe, who calls Slits guitarist Tessa Pollitt mom. Even if it's just an EP the Slits are putting out, it'll give them a good excuse to tour with Dmonstrations next month. That San Diego band has a CD of its own coming out this week -- Night Trrors. Shock! Songs include "Hair Pretzel," "Polyp" and "Coelcanth Shower" and, according to the press release, lyrics revolve around "food, sexual politics and international playgirls."
On the subject of unusual lyrical subject matter, Houston trio the Scattered Pages invoke children's authors Lewis Carroll and J.M. Barrie on Lazy Are the Skeletons, which features "Alice to Wonderland" and the less whimsical "Annie Get Yer Gun" and "You Were Depressing Me." And Sharam -- one-half of Grammy-winning electronic duo Deep Dish -- spends his double-disc Sharam GU29 - Dubai focusing on a country that usually comes up in a conversation about port security, not dance music. Paul van Dyk, Felix Da Housecat and Armin van Buuren lend him a hand. And Doleful Lions obsess over pro wrestler Terry Gordy on "Oriental Spike," featured on their album Song Cyclops Volume Two, which also features Beach Boys and Misfits covers.
Other strange highlights: KT Tunstall's Acoustic Extravaganza finds the singer/songwriter covering Beck's "Golden Age," of all things; Jack White has called neoclassical musician Dexter Romweber a major influence, and Romweber's 13-track Piano was produced by Le Tigre collaborator Chris Stamey; clothing designer Todd Oldham is really into the Changes, who drop their debut LP, Today Is Tonight, this week; and Anticon one-man-band Dosh -- who courted Andrew Bird and members of Tapes 'N Tapes for his LP The Lost Take -- was raised by a onetime priest and mother who almost became a nun. And last but not least there's the imitable Glenn Danzig, whose Black Aria II is a classical operatic piece based on the mythological first wife of Adam. Why bother being normal?
Song Title of the Week:
"Gutrot Hogfrenzy" from Regurgitate's Sickening Bliss
Bert Jansch's The Black Swan: The towering British folk musician has made the surprising leap to Chicago indie label Drag City for his first album in four years. But a cadre of luminaries are helping brighten the set all the same, including Beth Orton and Devendra Banhart. Tracks include "Maddalina's Dance," "Texas Cowboy Blues" and "Bring Your Religion."
Jeremy Enigk's World Waits: Rumors of another Sunny Day Real Estate reunion are floating around again, but in the meantime, fans will have to be satisfied with the second solo effort by the angel-voiced frontman. "Been Here Before," "Wayward Love" and "Dare a Smile" bulk up the disc, although some were written more than 10 years ago, shortly after the release of his solo debut.
Elanors' Movements: Chicago spouses Noah and Adriel Harris have been doing the orchestral-pop thing for a couple of years now, but for this outing, they convinced Judah Johnson drummer Daniel Johnson and bassist Rodrigo Palma to join the fun. Using pre-1960s music as their guide, this political-protest LP features "Counsel of Bodies," "Thieving Kings" and "Drifters."
Notable Reissues and Archival Material: