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The Early Bird: Top New Releases 10-12-18 – 10-18-18 Reviewed

Christmas in October? Surely a little early for seasonal releases but here we are. If Happy Xmas proves to be Eric Clapton’s swan song it might put us in mind that Eric was never much of an album artist (live was his hang). Eric has said, “I had in my head that these holiday songs could be done with a slight blues tinge, and I started to figure out how to play the blues lines in between the vocals,” this is a mix of perennials, lesser knowns and  a newbie, perhaps needless to add: it is horrendous (Grade: D+). Michael McDonald’s  Season of Peace: The Christmas Collection compiles McDonald’s most beloved Christmas recordings and he can keep them. Both Eric and Michael have album covers of original paintings by the artist, so they can insult you twice for the price of one (Grade: D+). Finally, The Monkees Christmas Party features “newly recorded versions of classic Christmas songs including “Silver Bells,” “The Christmas Song,” and “Wonderful Christmastime” along with new songs written for the band by Peter Buck and Scott McCaughey, Rivers Cuomo, Andy Partridge and album producer Adam Schlesinger.” So the same turkey’s who brought you the 2016 reunion album but much better this time around . The highlight is hearing the from archives Davy Jones on demos with new instrumentals overlayed and a gorgeous vocal on “Silver Bells,” plus the purely pleasurable “Mele Kalikimaka” will make you smile.  Michael Nesmith  had a heart attack, Peter Tork has been handling his health and Micky Dolenz does the heavy lifting here, Tork gets one song, Nesmith two songs, Davy two songs and Micky gets eight… still I quite like it (Grade: B).

At this point in time either you buy Elvis Costello as the super sophisticated arranger of symphonic pop or you don’t. His Look Now is just so carefully and disconcertingly written and arranged none of it clings, it’s like he learnt everything about the purity of song construction but lost his every skill as a writer of pop songs, it is incredibly pompous and every song from his still awaiting the light of day A Face In The Crowd musical is superior  and an immense disappointment… who would have thought National Ranson would be missed? (Grade: C-).  Loving The Alien (1983 – 1988) is the  third David Bowie Box set, we have gone from 1969 – 1982, and now for the dog days of David – so  it is  ‘LET’S DANCE’, ‘TONIGHT’, ‘NEVER LET ME DOWN (ORIGINAL and 2018 VERSIONS)’, the live album GLASS SPIDER (Live Montreal ’87), the previously unreleased ‘SERIOUS MOONLIGHT’ live album, a collection of original remixes entitled ‘DANCE’ and the non-album/alternate version/b-sides and soundtrack music compilation RE:CALL 4. Of the album albums two are his two worst ever and Loving The Alien fails to make its case… except since Bowie is dead, and since we can now see his entire career under a different light, they do work better; they become a part of a larger story and it is one of popular music’s greatest story (Grade: A).

On to the modern world… Migos Quavo makes his case as the Big Boi of the trio with the fine QUAVO HUNCHO. A virtual who’s who  are featured and a highlight being sister-in-law Cardi B joining Quavo and Madonna on “CHAMPAGNE ROSÉ” but, much to Quavo’s credit, it is no banger. 21 Savage steals the show , and, at 66 minutes it is way too long not to drag and is still state of pop (if not trap) 2018 (Grade: B-). London’s honey voiced Ella Mai’s eponymous debut has a lot to prove, I mean at the very least that she isn’t a one hit wonder though if you was “Boo’d Up” is the one hit to have. There is nothing as boo’d up as the hit but there isn’t much filler on this chill r&b songs , Ella and H.E.R.’s duet is a highlight (Grade: B+). Much better than his 2016 release, Usher lets DJ Zaytoven do the heavy lifting on “A”, a  neo  r&b low key banger album, it clocks in at under half an hour so you can actually get a handle on it (Grade: B).

Over at the singles, Bad Bunny’s Drake featured “MIA” is the dinger he’s been aiming for all  year long, a perfect Latin Trap crossover move (Grade: B+) . I was thrilled to notice Kodak Black is part of the Tidal X lineup, so I guess his time as a warehoused black man is over and his new single “ZEZE”  featuring Offset and Travis Scott is slurp meets slam and the outro goes for it (Grade: B+). I haven’t liked anything Weezer have done in around ten years but I like disco Weezer’s “Can’t Knock The Hustle” a whole lot (Grade: B+). Talking about negative reviews, you might be sick of  Michael Bublé Great American Songbook singer, you can’t be tired of  Michael Bublé songwriter of sweet and gooey new pop standards and you can add “Love You Anymore” to his repertoire (Grade: B+). Finally, recovered from his Frank Sinatra debacle, Willie Nelson offers a great piece of advise on the excellent call to arms “Vote “Em Out” (Grade: B)

MIA – Bad Bunny, Drake – B+

Loving The Alien (1983 – 1988) – David Bowie – A

Ella Mae – Ella Mae – B+

Look Now – Elvis Costello And The Imposters – C-

Happy Xmas – Eric Clapton – D+

ZEZE (feat. Travis Scott & Offset) – Kodak Black, Offset, Travis Scott – B+

Love You Anymore – Michael Bublé – B+

Season of Peace: The Christmas Collection – Michael McDonald – D+

QUAVO HUNCHO – Quavo – B-

Christmas Party – The Monkees – B

“A” – Usher, Zaytoven – B

Can’t Knock The Hustle – Weezer – B+

Vote Em Out – Willie Nelson – B

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