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The Early Bird:Top New Recorded Releases 5-29-20 – 6-4-20 Reviewed

After three albums of spectacularly crafted disco dance, Lady Gaga took the pop out of art pop and got heavily self satisfied on country pop  and faux Americana, not to mention the Great American Songbird. A mish mash and overrated for half her career, but Lady Gaga’s latest release, Chromatica, is a sleek dance machine with smart lyric, smart beats, strong features (Ariana Grande, Elton John, K-Pop girl band BlackPink), good enough to have Madonna shouting plagiarism. It isn’t life changing the way The Fame was, and it isn’t zeitgeist smashing the way Born This Way was, its ambitions are all right back onto the dancefloor. Chromatica‘s sound is modern pop, pop the way Charli XCX is considered pop, but with a mainstream vibe that will appeal to the Grandkids on Tik Tok as much as Mom’s entire wine drinking club. It will make this weekend (Grade: B+).

The other big release of the week was actually released in 2016, an instrumental last act from the late legend Bernie Worrell. Retrospectives has finally arrived on streaming services. An instrumental look back produced by Bill Laswell, Bernie keeps to his Parliament-Funkadelic material from a gorgeous instrumental “Grooveallegiance” to a psychedelic legend “Sir Nose D Voidoffunk (Pay Attention B3m)” and we do miss the three blind mice of the title but not that much. I wrote this about Bernie for a live review in 2014 (here): “Bernie joins the band and if the mood takes him there is no better piano man than Bernie, and if it doesn’t he isn’t the best. Tonight, Bernie reminds us where the keyboard can be the lead instrument in a funk band; after the intermission he would perform a solo on, wait for it, “Let It Snow” and by the end of the evening is everywhere at once, including the only man playing melody!”. Nothing has changed (Grade: A).

Over at singles, Rosalia is well on her way to being the female Bad Bunny, she just towers above genre on song after song, and she does it here with, gasp, Travis Scott second feature with her on “TKN,” a terrific Latin pop banger (Grade: A-), Dolly Parton has a pandemic blue birds over the white cliffs “When Life Is Good Again” -a bathetic MOR ballad (Grade :C), Chrissie should have already released  Hate For Sale, and “Didn’t Want to Be This Lonely” is her second great and fourth good out of five songs off the Pretenders album,  a Bo Diddley rockabilly rave up of intense greatness (Grade: A-). Cat Stevens is prepping a new mix of Tea For The Tillerman in celebration of its fiftieth anniversary and here is the first single, “Where Do The Children Play” slowed down and with pointless backing vocals, and additional guitars that give it a metallic veneer till he pounces on the second verse (Grade: B), from one side of remixing to the other, where PJ Harvey has dropped the demo of her first single, 1992’s  “Sheela-Na-Gig” . You might remember her Rid Of Me demos, 1993’s 4 Track Demo, and now she is prepping a similar concept for Dry (Grade: A). The best of the posthumous singles “Tell Me U Luv Me” is pure Juice WRLD, his use of autotune never interferes with melody or emotion and Trippie, who can be the most irritating rapper alive, is on his case with a fine verse (Grade: B+), 6lack has only had features for the past two years so “ATL Freestyle” (it sure doesn’t sound freestyle) is an eagerly awaited return and he is still as chill as r&b gets (Grade: B+).

Back at albums, the bastard child of the 21st century,  Jimmy Buffett knows how to construct an album and if you are a Parrothead Life On the Flip Side is undeniable, easy going life is a beach with a margarita timeless Jimmy Buffett: it might not be anything special or anything we haven’t heard before but if it is five o’clock somewhere then this is the album to put on and if it was fifteen minutes shorter I would consider it major (Grade: B). I wonder if there is any plan as to what to do with the Prince archives?Right now they are mostly doing what they are doing with David Bowie: changing him into the Grateful Dead and releasing live albums. If that’s the plan, 1985 was one of Prince’s greatest years and Prince and the Revolution: Live in Syracuse back then is spectacular and useless (Grade: B). Speaking of live, made for Spotify with an EP and documentary (directed by Jim Jarmusch) the Raconteur’s  Live At Electric Lady album doesn’t play to their only importance -that of a power pop band, plus the “Blank Generation” cover ain’t much and Jack White is, Jim’s assertion notwithstanding, far from very nice people (Grade: C+).

I didn’t get to the new Freddie Gibbs, one I really did want to reach before next week, a coupla others I am really looking forward to as well…  Lil Yachty… but I will…

ATL Freestyle – 6LACK – B+

Retrospectives – Bernie Worrell – A

When Life Is Good Again – Dolly Parton – C

Life On the Flip Side – Jimmy Buffett – B

Tell Me U Luv Me (with Trippie Redd) – Juice WRLD, Trippie Redd – B+

Chromatica – Lady Gaga – B+

Prince and the Revolution: Live – Prince – B

TKN (feat. Travis Scott) – ROSALÍA, Travis Scott – A-

Sheela-Na-Gig – Demo – PJ Harvey – A

Didn’t Want to Be This Lonely – Pretenders – A-

Live at Electric Lady – The Raconteurs – C+

Where Do The Children Play? – Yusuf / Cat Stevens – B

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