The Early Bird: Top New Recorded Releases 5-14-20 – 5-20-21 Reviewed
The cancelling of Ryan Adams isn’t the biggest injustice known to mankind, but it is an injustice spearheaded by an ex-wife on one hand and an opportunist on the other, and while like anyone who was at his Apollo Theatre gig in 2017 (here) we believe he is a major dick who got what was coming to him, we are wrong. In the end, Ryan remains one of the best songwriters of the 21st century and his latest release, the title track from “Big Colors” finds himself at his classic rock best, with the sort of mood you remember from “Crossed Out Name”. The problem with Wednesday (his first-post cancel album), was it took too long to hook and the majority of the paying public were too pissed to give it the time it requires. In the end there is nothing worse right now then accusations of sexual harassment, as the New York Times made clear about our Mayoral race, where the frontrunner Scott Springer is now done for because of an accusation of sexual harassment dating back 20 years, while ten years ago the Brooklyn Borough chief Eric Adams clearly took kickbacks to throw the selection of a slot-machine operator to the company that gave money to his campaign, and it hasn’t affected him at all. The moral, and Adams should pay heed, is that you can rob a bank and do your time and be accepted back in society, but you can’t be accused of hitting on women. In the interim, a solid song (Grade: B+)
Still on albums, I reviewed Nicki Minaj’s 2009 mixtape now on streaming services earliest this morning (here), and it sounds better than ever (Grade: B+). Whenever I go to a festival and St. Vincent is performing, I make sure to see her set, live she is special and especially when she is playing guitar. On record she is too arty, and while Masseducation certainly had moments (“New York” is a great song), Daddy’s Home is maybe both a little better and a little worse. Named after her father, who was released from prison after ten years incarcerated for stock manipulation, the album is a typically over arranged hit and miss affair, co-produced by Jack Antonoff, without the sort of songs that have you coming back for more: yes, integrity, yes, good guitar, yes, gorgeous and acidic sounds, but no, the tunes aren’t there… yet, maybe they will kick in later (Grade: B). If you are a big time blues fan, The Black Keys are just too diluted even if their love of genre is undeniable on the indifferent yet heartfelt covers album Delta Kream (Grade: C), J Cole has recovered from Noname slapping him down to size last year, and returns with his best work since 2014 with The Off-Season, in which he compares the preparation to recording a rap album to the conditioning necessary for a professional athlete … which makes sense since Cole signed a deal to play with Rwanda’s Patriots BBC in the Basketball Africa League (Grade: B+). Amy Winehouse died way too early for the vaults to have that much, so we have been getting live albums and nothing better than At The BBC, 38 songs recorded for radio, and an important album and a sturdy reminder of what we have lost (Grade: A-) and David Bowie’s posthumous career feels like a mess, lots of live albums, including this one Live At The Kit Kat Club in 1999 (circa the brilliant Cabaret revival with the late Natasha Richardson’s defining performance). Intimate, sure, but if they have the Roseland gig somewhere, that’s the one to hear (Grade: B).
Back to singles, Olivia Rodriguez’s third solo single “Good 4 U” is a pleasant little rocker and change of pace but it won’t do that much business (Grade: B), Liz Phair is off her game from what I’ve heard of her upcoming album and “In There” is a modern sounding, electronic pop move that doesn’t quite work (Grade: C), “Won’t Stop” is a quirky track from the more than likely one hit wonder, tones And I, though it deserves to work the charts (Grade: B-), Pussy Riot’s second featured performance in the past two weeks and Tom Morello interrupting Pussy Riot’s riot grrrl redux “Weather Riot” is well worth it (Grade: B+)
At The BBC – Amy Winehouse – A-
At The Kit Kat Club (Live New York, 99) – David Bowie – B
The Off Season – J. Cole – B+.
In There – Liz Phair – C
Beam Me Up, Scotty – Nicki Minaj – B+
Good 4 U – Olivia Rodriguez – B
Big Colors – Ryan Adams – B+
Daddy’s Home – St. Vincent – B
Delta Kream – The Black Keys – C
weather Strike – Tom Morello, Pussy Riot – B+
Won’t Stop – Tones And I – B-