Hear Me Out

By |2005-10-13T09:00:00-04:00October 13th, 2005|Entertainment|

Greatest Hits: The Road Less Traveled Melissa Etheridge (Island)
Seventeen years after her first self-titled album, Melissa Etheridge has her first greatest hits collection. It’s fitting that the record opens with a cover of Tom Petty’s “Refugee” and ends with “I Run For Life,” a new track written for the “Race for the Cure” initiative to raise awareness about breast cancer. Though “Refugee” is a new track, it makes narrative sense for it to precede “Similar Features” and the two other tracks from Etheridge’s 1988 pre-out of the closet debut. Now not only is Etheridge out as a lesbian, she’s out as a cancer survivor, and “I Run” appears after “This Is Not Goodbye,” a song she penned about her experience with chemotherapy, and her show-stopping rendition of “Piece of My Heart” from the 2005 Grammy Awards when she appeared bald from chemo, powerful and proud as ever. Another new track, or at least widely available for the first time, is “Christmas In America.” The rest of the album features her very best, including “You Can Sleep While I Drive,” “Ain’t It Heavy,” “Yes I Am,” “I Want To Come Over,” “Angles Would fall” and “Lucky.” There’s at least one track from each studio album with the exception of “Skin.” It’s a strong collection, all the Etheridge a casual fan needs and plenty to entice the devoted to pick it up.

Guilty Pleasures Barbra Streisand (Sony)
In 1980 both Barbra Streisand and Barry Gibb were at their peak when they teamed up for the multi-platinum album “Guilty,” which spawned the #1 hit “Woman In Love.” Back then Gibb was still the “hot” Bee Gee and Streisand was at the height of her popularity. It was a winning combination and the result is a classic record (which, by the way, has been remastered and reissued on Dual Disc). Now, 25 years later, Streisand and Gibb are back with “Guilty Pleasures” (available in Dual Disc and traditional format). Though the record was again written, produced and arranged almost entirely by Gibb, it is no “Guilty.” That’s not to say it’s a bad record, it isn’t, but it can only be hurt by the inevitable comparisons. Where “Guilty” felt fresh, much of “Guilty Pleasures” sounds rehashed, mostly due to Gibb’s sometimes dated, and muted, production. Though only two songs are officially billed as Streisand/Gibb duets (“Come Tomorrow” and “Above the Law”), his voice permeates the album on the backing tracks. This is used to the best effect on tracks like the danceable “Night of My Life” (which is steaming up the clubs thanks to a remix by Junior Vasquez) and the first single “Stranger In A Strange Land.” Songs where Gibb’s voice is absent feel less a part of the whole, like “Golden Dawn” and the Broadway-esque “Without Your Love.”

Body of Song Bob Mould (Yep Roc)
Bob Mould is back with his first full-length album since 2002’s “Modulate.” “Body of Song” combines the pop punk of Mould’s 80s outfit Husker Du, the guitar pop of Sugar, the band Mould fronted in the 90s, and Mould’s forays into electronica (like “LoudBomb,” as well as a DJ stint at a D.C. club with Richard Morel). It feels like a career retrospective, but all 12 songs are brand new. Though Mould claims he’s no longer one of the saddest bastards in rock his reputation isn’t completely overturned here; there are some brighter spots, but Mould still specializes in painfully dissecting relationships. “Emotions vaporize, they disappear before my eyes. I wish for things that sadly have come true,” he sings on “Paralyzed,” the album’s first single. But not all of the emotions are downers. One of the most surprising songs is the electro-rocker “(Shine Your) Light Love Hope,” about which Spin magazine quipped, “Close your eyes and one track could be Cher.” Electronic elements crop up in other places, too, like “I Am Vision, I Am Sound.” But Mould is at his best when the power chords dominate, like on the jangly “Best Thing,” which sounds like a B-side from Sugar’s “File Under Easy Listening,” and the upbeat “Missing You,” with its head bopping chorus.

Superbeautifulmonster Bif Naked (Bodog Music)
While a celebrity in her native Canada, American audiences haven’t heard much from Bif Naked since her hits “Lucky” and “Moment of Weakness” from 1999’s “I Bificus.” But the Bif is back and better than ever with “Superbeautifulmonster.” Alternating between bright pop and hard rock, “Superbeautiful” is poised for success, brimming with potential radio hits. On it she tackles family rejection (in “Let Down,” the first single, she bemoans living with her parents at age 27 and driving a shitty car from 1980), sexuality (“I wanna be like Pamela Lee. You go get the camera and I’ll say cheese,” she sings in “Funeral of a Good Grrl”), loss (the power ballad “Henry”) and obsessive love (“Without you I’d be unwell,” she sings on “Yeah, You”). The bright pop hooks in “That’s Life” may remind listeners of Avril Lavigne, but actually illustrate Lavigne’s own influences. The blistering guitars of “I Want” sound like new Motley Crue – that is, if new Motley Crue was any good. An album highlight is “Everyday,” a slow burner extolling the listener to live every day, “like it’s your last one.” Less successful is the static cover of Metallica’s “Nothing Else Matters.” “Superbeautiful” is a must have for fans of Evanescence, Garbage and Pink.

Those Were The Days Dolly Parton (Sugar Hill)
While some artists do cover songs, Dolly Parton isn’t one of them. Take her 2001 rendition of Collective Soul’s “Shine.” Parton made that song her own, making Collective Soul’s original sound like a cheap imitation. On her latest, “Those Were The Days,” Parton adds her bluegrass charm to era-defining songs of the 60s and 70s and she has a slew of big name artists adding vocal and instrumental help. Though some of the songs can’t entirely shake off the 35 to 45 years of dust, the bulk of this album is as timeless and timely as ever. And it isn’t just Parton’s physical body that doesn’t seem to age; her voice is still sprightly and bright. Highlights include the trio of Parton, Norah Jones and Lee Ann Womack on “Where Have All The Flowers Gone,” the great big Grand Ole Opry chorus on the title track, and Rhonda Vincent and Judy Collins on a speedy “Both Sides Now.” Yusuf Islam, the artist formerly known as Cat Stevens, plays acoustic guitar on “Where Do All The Children Play” and original Byrd Roger McGuinn duets on “Turn, Turn, Turn.” Other guests include Alison Krauss on “The Cruel War,” Kris Kristofferson on “Me And Bobby McGee,” Nickel Creek on “Blowin’ In The Wind” and Keith Urban in a spunky version of “Twelfth Of Never.” The album closes with Lennon’s “Imagine,” backed by an orchestra and David Foster on piano.

Also released:

Dynamite Jamiroquai (Sony)
Jamiroquai (remember the guy in the big floppy hat moonwalking in 1997’s “Virtual Insanity” video?) is back with “Dynamite.” Blessed with disco grooves and funky bass lines that grab you by the ankles and force you to move, “Dynamite” may just nab Jamiroquai the same success in the States they have in Britain. Though the title track and others like “Feels Just Like It Should,” are mindless fun, “World That He Wants” is just piano and Jay Kay pining for the damaged state of the world. It’s timelier than ever.

The Politics of Dancing 2 Paul van Dyk (Mute U.S.)
Proving once again that dance music can be political, legendary DJ Paul van Dyk is back after four years with “The Politics of Dancing 2,” a two disc mix CD. Opening disc two is the first single, “The Other Side,” which is van Dyk’s response to the tsunami that killed over 150,000 people in Southeast Asia last year. “Politics 2” gets listeners to respond consciously and physically and proves a dance record doesn’t have to have a shirtless man in a Speedo on the cover to be fun.

Libra Toni Braxton (Blackground Records)
It’s been awhile since Toni Braxton had a smash hit, but with the release of “Libra” it won’t be long before she’s known for more than “Unbreak My Heart.” Thanks to the winning combination of Braxton’s sensual voice and production by Scott Storch, album opener and first single “Please” promises to put Braxton back on the map. Equally good is “Trippin’ (That’s the Way Love Works).” Though Braxton writes in the liner notes that she was nervous about this project, she proves she knows “What’s Good.”

Antigua Tom & Joy (Tommy Boy)
If you’re a fan of the subtle stylings of Bebel Gilberto or just want to chase away the impending Winter blues, French duo Tom & Joy’s “Antigua” should do the trick nicely. Tom & Joy craft multi-lingual tunes in bossa nova, afrobeat, jazz and pop flavors. Album highlights include the funky Outro Mundo and the jazzy waltz of “Sous Tes Ailes.” All you have to do is close your eyes and you’re slow dancing with your lover in Paris.

Noah’s Ark CocoRosie (Touch & Go Records)
Like specters from a paranormal music box, CocoRosie, sisters Bianca and Sierra Casady, spin child-like yarns of animals, schoolyard brawls and orphans. Think Joanna Newsom meets Cat Power. On “Noah’s Ark,” their second album, Antony adds his haunting falsetto to “Beautiful Boys” and Devendra Banhart coos in French on “The Sea Is Calm.” The animals on “Noah’s Ark” dare you to reach out and stroke their spooky-beautiful skin.

Electric Blue Andy Bell (Sanctuary Records)
Best known as half of the electro-pop pioneers Erasure, Andy Bell is flying solo with “Electric Blue.” Highlights include “If I Thought It Was You,” a duet with Jake Shears of the Scissor Sisters, and “Crazy,” the first single. Though Erasure fans should find plenty to like, “Electric” Blue” isn’t Erasure. “We only have one life, this is not a rehearsal,” Bell sings on “Love Oneself.” Does Bell need more practice? Listen at www.andybell.com.

About the Author:

D'Anne Witkowski
D'Anne Witkowski is a writer living in Michigan with her wife and son. She has been writing about LGBTQ+ politics for nearly two decades. Follow her on Twitter @MamaDWitkowski.