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Brief Encounters: New Albums 1-27-23 – 2-2-23 Reviewed

Diamonds & Dancefloors – Ava Max – I dismissed the Albanian-American’s album last week but on re-listening it is a stronger set of synth and electronic dance tracks and is as good as anything by her contemporaries and better than Dua Lipa – B+

Wrong Side of Paradise – Black Star Riders – Thin Lizzy guitarist Scott Gorman’s other band is a dreadful hard rock band that sounds 70sish in the worst way, that’s Joe Elliott on the only good song here, “Better Than Saturday Night” – D+

Live At Grand Central – Carly Simon – in 2015 Carly was about to embark on a rare as can be for the famously stage frightened popster tour, and she did a surprise concert in the middle of Grand Central, filmed for a Lifetime Special. Listening to it today I hadn’t realised I know so much of her material and that “We Have No Secrets” is a devastating takedown of the discreet charm of the rich and famous and young and very, very selfish – B-

One Night in Nashville – Cheat Codes – the electronic dance trio goes to Tennessee to get their country on supplemented by the likes of Lady A and Little Big Town on a horrible neither nor – MUST TO AVOID – D

The Bootleg Series Vol. 17: Fragments – The Time Out Of Mind Sessions (1996-1997) (MP3) – Bob Dylan – Considered to be one of Bob Dylan’s great works but only if your revisionism hasn’t found a minimum of works that aren’t great, in which case it is what we expect if not more, Time Out Of Mind follows two excellent cover albums and is proceeded by Love And Theft (another masterpiece); Dylan wouldn’t fall to earth till 2009. This is a remix of TOM for eleven tracks plus an additional 8 and very good outtakes as well; presumably these are the mixes his producer Daniel Lanois didn’t like. The mp3 is $35 and includes a an album of live versions from 1999 and every song is part of a larger scenario of loss and I’d age – A

The Bootleg Series Vol. 17: Fragments – The Time Out Of Mind Sessions (1996-1997) (MP3) – Bob Dylan – a remix of the original album and an album of outtakes- A-

Come Get Your Wife – Elle King – Elle is a very good singer songwriter and blues performer who has gone full country on this pleasant if unexceptional set of songs from the stock of modern country songwriters – B

Actual Life 3 Piano EP (January 1 – September 9 2022) – Fred Again… – the producer with a difference returns with instrumental variations and James Blake type moodiness – C

One day – Fucked Up – the return of Toronto’s Fucked Up -a tough to love hard rock mindfucks, with their best work since 2011, written and recorded in 24 hours (thus the name) it is hard headed classic rock – A

the mockingbird & THE CROW -HARDY – the problem is that despite all his efforts his rock and country remain on opposite sides of his spectrum and he can’t meld them correctly, the net result is that an album with songs as good as “get in the truck” and “red” can be awful iffy when he starts headbanging – B

Low-Life (Definitive) – New Order – this is the one with “Love Vigilante” and “the Perfect Kiss” plus remixes and extended cuts; not as bad as you might expect – B-

Tiddlywinks -NRBQ – one of the greatest rock bands ever, NRBQ are like Cheap Trick with their Beatles obsession in check. Two years after their last album NRBQ are back with some knockout boogie woogie and jazz and rockabilly and rock mix that sounds great: nothing missing at all – B+

Honey – Samia – so good at Gov Ball last year, this is a major bummer from the singer-songwriter top lesbian performer sadgirl, it is slow and boring and she should have known better – B-

Philip Glass: Refractions – Philip Glass – avant garde classical composers Carmel Smickersgill, Dan Samsa, felix taylor and NikNak remix (they claim re-imagine) compositions by Philip Glass – B+

Great Is He – Popcaan – ever since the dancehall great jumped on a Taylor Swift track back in 2014 attention has been paid and when he is a featured he improves every track he honors… but over an album, this album, he is all over the place AND boring -too much PARTYNEXTDOOR and nowhere near enough Drake (though Drake’s one song here is the best of the lot) – B-

The People’s Champ – Quinn XCII – cool enough for Big Sean to join the Detroit guy on one track even if his genre bending isn’t much and he should keep to soul – C+

Gloria – Sam Smith – five years after his worse album comes Sam Smith’s best album, and not just the world beating “Unholy” but that and the entire album is song after song of Sam studying sex without the moribund bad news of lost love overwhelming them. Easily their best work since if not “Latch” certainly “I’m Not The Only One” , the songs are superb and Sam imprints on them and while I’ll pass on “How To Cry” nearly everything else here is perfect and “UnholY” is other worldly and the Stargates production team from Norway are nothing if not a good add – ALBUM OF THE WEEK – A-

Dead Meat – The Tubs – nothing personal but was that the best name this fine indie rock band could come up with? Members of Joanna Gruesome and Ex-Void come together for a great set of post-punk, punk, pop, and a huge English vibe – A-

The Name Chapter: TEMPTATION – TOMORROW X TOGETHER- the K-Pop boy band of the future as adept at shoegaze as their wheelhouse, electronic disco… and hip hop. But it is undistinguished and has a manufactured vibe not uncommon to K-Pop – C+

Tyler Hubbard – Tyler Hubbard – half of Florida Georgia Line goes solo and sets his sites on the country chart with this overlong (nearly an hour) solo debut, it works alright on the country pop tracks, the rockers not so much – B

What A Groovy Day: The British Sunshine Pop Sound 1967-1972 – Various Artists – 53 tracks of late 60s early 70s baby psychedelia for the pop charts, and just about none of whom I’ve heard of before on the sampler though the box set adds familiar names like Petula Clark and Herman’s Hermits – B

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