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The Early Bird: Top New Releases 5-8-20 – 5-14-20 Reviewed

A strange year for Paul Weller, first there was that ambient weirdness EP, In Another Room, and then a less than earth shaking “Earth Beat” which seemed to be parsing the difference between Weller’s sound effects and soul, and now we have the flat out lovely  “Village” -a re-thinking of the concept behind “Autumn Almanac” and a warm, soulful, and heartfelt song about enjoying where you are, we could have done without the keyboard bridge but it is still one of Weller’s best since 2012 (Grade: B+).

Activity is way down on the album releases so let’s stay on the singles for now, Dion has a new album coming out filled with featured performers as befits the legend, Dion takes a song he wrote in 1986, Patti  Scialfa arranges the vocal backing and Bruce Springsteen adds guitar on the dark Americana drag “Hymn To Him” (Grade: C+).  Staying with the geezers motif, Bob Dylan wrote the liner notes to the Dion album still to see the light of day and also released the third single off his own June 17th arriving Rough And Rowdy Way, another great self-portrait on an album that hits me as probably better than Tempest (which had “Duquesne Whistle” and “Early Roman Kings” and then went downhill) on the bluesy “False Prophets” which he aint though he’s out for you (Grade: A-). Is Rivers Cuomo a geezer or a false idol? Neither on “Hero,” more nothing for the essential workers, those in New York wouldn’t listen to this sub-Foo crap if you paid em (Grade: C-) . Well, at least geezers made it to the end of the line, except when they didn’t. David Bowie is gone, though “Little Wonder – Live at Radio City Music Hall New York, 15th October, 1997”  makes you wonder why are they morphing him into Phish -I mean, improvisation certainly wasn’t Bowie’s thing  Because Parlophone are releasing three live albums from the 1990s, and it begins with this single where the electronic jam out outro makes it worthwhile (Grade: B+). Equally dead (maybe a little more) Jerry Garcia leads the Grateful Dead with “Casey Jones (Live at the Capitol Theatre, Port Chester, NY 2/21/1971)”, concurrent with either their second best album Workingman’s Dead ever being re-released for its fiftieth anniversary, no jam band here the Dead is country Americana  and send us home in four minutes (Grade: B+) .

Over at albums, following the most tedious rollout of an album known to the human race, Hayley Williams finally drops her solo Petals For Armor, the two EPs we’ve already heard plus a third, so if you think you are down for this hitless bore, be my guest (Grade: C). A great meeting of minds on the mixtape Slime And B, Chris Brown and one of my favorite rappers Young Thug (remember “The London” last year?), a man with a flow so smooth he fits in anywhere, Young Thug all smooth flow underneath and CB all r&b soul guy on top, we are all, more or less, sick of woman beater Chris but maybe not, you know (Grade: B+) . E-40, the West Coast legendary experimental rapper, drops an EP (the first of four, he promises), string features, song samples, great rapping and hooks aplenty on The Curb Commentator Channel 1 (try “Go” -now try and get it out of your mind)  (Grade: B+). Little Simz is the British rapper who compares herself to Lauryn Hill and makes it stick and then some.  The 24 year old is a great featured performer but she has been treading water as a solo performer till now, her debut EP Drop 6 is a true gem, especially opening song “might bang, might not” (Grade: A- ).

Two more, both pandemic aware tracks, I already reviewed (the earlier bird) Ariana Grande and Justin Bieber’s “Stuck With U” (here), a wonderful piece of manufactured emotionalism, making up in popskills what it’s missing in heart (Grade: B+) and Billy Bragg’s major bummer “Can’t Be There Today” with whiny strings and nonstop whining  apparently he’ll be missing mother’s day but he’s doing it for us (Grade: B-)

Stuck With U (with Justin Bieber) – Ariana Grande, Justin Bieber – B+

Can’t Be There Today – Billy Bragg – B-

False Prophet – Bob Dylan – A-

Slime & B – Chris Brown, Young Thug – B+

Little Wonder – Live at Radio City Music Hall New York, 15th October, 1997; 2020 Remaster – David Bowie -B+

Hymn To Him – Dion, Patti Scialfa, Bruce Springsteen – C+

The Curb Commentator Channel 1 – E-40 – B+

Casey Jones (Live at the Capitol Theatre, Port Chester, NY 2/21/1971) – 2020 Remaster – Grateful Dead – B+

Petals For Armor – Hayley Williams – C+

Drop 6 – Little Simz – B+

Village – Paul Weller – B+

Hero – Weezer – C-

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