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The Early Bird: Top New Releases 12-27-19 – 1-2-20

Christmas week is as slow as it gets all year, so thankfully Jem Records forwarded the new Weeklings album, 3, due to drop on January 17th, 2020, and it is a great album, just want we want: Beatley Brit Explosion power pop by masters of the form, featuring a ton of Glen Burtnik compositions and two great covers, the overplayed “Friday On My Mind” though saved by the inclusion of a lead vocal by one Peter Noone, and one of Lennon’s most acerbic and absurdist put downs (of Brian Epstein), “Baby, You’re A Rich Man”. Kudos to the clever, gritty garage rocker title track. I’ll write more as I get closer to the release date but the first great album of 2020 for sure (Grade: A-).

The top release is also one that may force me to return to my best of the decade to include Sunday Service Choir’s Executive Produced by Kanye West, the 84 minute Jesus Is Born: a masterpiece of vocal arrangements of hymns and re-purposed Kanye songs. Here is JIB for dummies, listen to the middle of the album, the all woman “Weak,” the all men “That’s How The Good Lord Works” and the entire choir on “Sunshine”. Add to that, three entirely magical arrangements of  West originals, “Ultralight Beam,” “Father Stretch,” and “Follow Me – Faith” (which includes “Fade”), also done as an early run of songs, that should get you in (Grade: A).

A quiet week true, but not completely gone. with two live albums worth your attention. We reviewed Ariana Grande’s nothing special live one last week, Black Uhuru took a fifteen year hiatus from recording and last year released a strong one. This year we we have The Barn, Maple Hill Farm, Sep 23, 2018 (Live)  featuring “I Love King Selassie” and “Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner”,  the live performance are first rate and anyway as long as Duckie Simpson is leading their reggae rock, they are bound to be very good (Grade: B+).

On the singles side, a strong year for the return of African pop is headlined by Burna Boy… if you want to understand more about 2019 continental sounds try Apple Music’s excellent “Africa Now” playlist -a major excursion and a smackdown to Spotify to boot. Anyway, Burna Boy’s African Giant is major, and if you missed it catch up, and a brand new single is the percolated, oddly dubby “Money Play” (Grade” B+).

Back to albums (there are only 17 singles I could find!), try the Travis Scott Jackboys with the likes of Quavo, Offset and Young Thug, artists onScott’s Cactus Jack label, as well as a remix of “Highest In The Room” featuring two of the year’s biggest breakout stars, Rosalia and Lil Baby,  only seven songs but all goodies (Grade: B+).

PS: expect the same slim pickings for the next three weeks!

The Barn, Maple Hill Farm, Sep 23, 2018 (Live) – Black Uhuru – B+

Money Play – Burna Boy – B+

JACKBOYS – JACKBOYS, Travis Scott – B+

Jesus Is Born – Sunday Service Choir – A

3 – The Weeklings – A-

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