B In the Mix Britney Spears (Jive)
Remember when people used to say that Britney Spears was the next Madonna? In 2005, Madonna’s “Confessions On A Dance Floor” proved that, in fact, Madonna is the next Madonna. For those of you who think Britney Spears is going to make some kind of comeback once she loses her baby-mama weight, “B In the Mix,” a collection of remixes, says otherwise. Why a remix album now? Because there isn’t much left to offer, folks. This collection boasts 10 dance-floor prettied hits, including an ass-shaking version of Britney’s torrid tearjerker “Everytime,” and one new song, “And Then We Kiss,” also remixed. It’s a fun album – great for the gym or anywhere else where you want to move your body but not tax your brain. Interestingly, for an artist who has always plastered her image all over her records, the CD cover and booklet of “B In the Mix” contain zero pictures of Spears. Not that I expect postpartum glossies, but the lack of photos makes this feel even more like a last-ditch attempt to capitalize on whatever marketability Spears has left.
Truly Madly Completely Savage Garden (Columbia)
In 1997 Darren Hayes and Daniel Jones, a.k.a. Savage Garden, had everyone tapping their feet to a song so infectious it made people crave a ch-ch-cherry cola. You know the song whether you want to or not. But “I Want You” wasn’t their only hit. The Australian duo were also responsible for the sappy ballad “I Knew I Loved You” (“I knew I loved you before I met you. I think I dreamed you into life”), “Truly Madly Deeply” (“I want to stand with you on a mountain, I want to bathe with you in the sea, I want to lay like this forever, until the sky falls down on me”) and “Crash and Burn” (“If you need to fall apart I can mend your broken heart, if you need to crash, crash and burn you’re not alone”). The majority of the songs on “Truly Madly Completely” aren’t really hits, so much, but all of them have the same insipid, cliche-ridden lyrical content (some songs, like “I’ll Bet He Was Cool,” are about Jesus. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. They sing about Jesus just as cheesily as they sing about everything else). However, without the great production that drilled their hits into the minds of millions, they’re left with only the cherry cola syrup and no seltzer water to balance it out.
Live 8 (EMI)
On July 2, 2005 some of the biggest names in music assembled across the globe to raise awareness of hunger in Africa. The result was Live 8, and now you can relive it – or 10+ hours of it, anyway – with this four disc DVD set and fight hunger and poverty in Africa at the same time (sales of “Live 8” go to the Band Aid Trust). “Live 8” focuses on the two concerts in London and Philadelphia though it includes footage from Rome, Paris, Berlin, Toronto, Johannesburg and Moscow (die-hard fans can pick single-disc releases of the French, German, Italian and Canadian shows). Featured performers include REM, Duran Duran, Annie Lennox, Destiny’s Child, Kanye West, Madonna, Scissor Sisters, Mariah Carey, Roxy Music, Pet Shop Boys, Robbie Williams, Bjork and many more. Highlights include Paul McCartney’s duet with George Michael and Pink Floyd’s historical reunion (there’s even rehearsal footage on the bonus disc).
Deluxe Edition Saffire – The Uppity Blues Women (Alligator)
They’ve got records titled things like “Hot Flash” and “Cleaning House.” The Chicago Tribune said of the band, “These three middle-aged women look more like fugitives from a Tupperware party than a typical blues band.” They are Saffire – The Uppity Blues Women, and their specialty is sassy and classy acoustic blues with attitude in the vein of Ma Rainey and Bessie Smith. “Deluxe Edition” is a greatest hits collection spanning their 15-year history. Though they take on classic songs like “Is You Or Is You Ain’t My Baby?” they shine brightest with originals like “There’s Lightning In These Thunder Thighs” and “Middle Aged Blues Boogie.” A definite highlight is the double-entendre laden “Silver Beaver.” Check them out at www.uppityblueswomen.com.
The L Word: Season 3 Soundtrack (Silver Label)
Fans of “The L Word” will be tickled pink (pun intended) with the generous helping of music from the show included on the Season 3 soundtrack. Two discs and 24 songs long, the collection features the studio version of songs performed live on the show (including Tegan and Sara’s “Love Type Thing” and Tracy Bonham’s “Whether You Fall”) as well as three exclusive tracks: Frazey Ford’s “In My Time of Dying,” “Lady Love Me” by Maggie Moore and Yvette Narlock, and “Jesus” by “L Word” favorites Betty. Though heavily dominated by female artists, the soundtrack does boast D’Angelo’s smokin’ hot “Feel Like Making Love,” which loyal viewers will recall was played during a certain strip tease. Other highlights include Shivaree’s “I Will Go Quietly,” “I Drive Alone” by Esthero and “Porchlight” by Neko Case & Her Boyfriends.
Dropmore Scarlet Dropmore Scarlet
Those planning to pick up the “The L Word: Season 3” soundtrack, would do well to check out Milwaukee foursome Dropmore Scarlet. These ladies have cut their musical chops in various bands since the 80s, finally coming together as Dropmore Scarlet in 2001. Their self-titled debut has been out since 2004 and they’re peddling it themselves. Though singer Kari Bloom’s voice is at times a little limited, Dropmore Scarlet’s musicality is varied and jumps from new wave pop to rock and roll to jazzy Latin-flavored jams. Comparisons can be made to Canada’s The Organ, Betty and Letters to Cleo. For more info visit www.dropmorescarlet.com.
Future Retro Various artists (Rhino/Wea)
“Future Retro,” a collection of great 80s pop classics remixed by today’s A-List producers and DJs, is more a tribute record than a remix CD. The remixers don’t attempt to make the songs better or more relevant than the originals (though I prefer the Sparks remix of Morrissey’s “Suedehead” to the mopey original). They just take songs they love and dress them in today’s drag. Highlights include The Crystal Method’s remix of New Order’s “Bizarre Love Triangle” and the Electrospect remix of Erasure’s “A Little Respect.”
Reba #1’s Reba McEntire (MCA Nashville)
It’s hardly a stretch to say that the name Reba McEntire is synonymous with country music. If you need proof, pick up a copy of the Grammy Award-winning singer’s latest offering, “Reba #1’s,” a two-disc, 35 song collection of chart-topping hits, from 1982’s “Can’t Even Get the Blues” to 1992’s “The Greatest Man I Never Knew” to 2003’s “Somebody.” And with two new songs, “Love Needs A Holiday” and “You’re Gonna Be,” the CD’s first single, Reba is poised to climb the country charts yet again.
Transamerica Soundtrack (Nettwerk)
Felicity Huffman wasn’t the only lady noticed by The Golden Globes. Dolly Parton received a Globe nomination for her song “Travelin’ Thru,” which she wrote exclusively for the film “Transamerica.” Though she was beat out for Best Song by a tune from “Brokeback Mountain,” “Travelin'” is as fine a Parton song as any. It rounds out a soundtrack heavy on bluegrass and country, but with touches of pop, rock and world music. The CD is sprinkled with snippets of Huffman dialog and includes cuts from The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Duncan Sheik, Old Crow Medicine Show, Lucinda Williams and more.
The Color Purple Original Broadway Cast Recording (Angel)
“The Color Purple,” based on Alice Walker’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, was adapted to film by Steven Spielberg in 1985. In 2005, thanks to big name producers like Oprah Winfrey and Quincy Jones, “The Color Purple” debuted on Broadway on Dec. 1. The show features a libretto by Pulitzer Prize-winner Marsha Norman and music and lyrics by Grammy nominated and Grammy-winning composers and lyricists Brenda Russell, Allee Willis and Stephen Bray. Those familiar with the story know that it’s emotional stuff. How does it transfer to stage? According to a Dec. 2, 2005 review in USA Today, “‘Purple’ can be sappy stuff. But it’s the kind of sap that seems to come from a pure heart instead of a cynical desire to exploit audiences’ emotions with a lot of sentimental bells and whistles.” Though I’ve never seen the show, this description suits the soundtrack, which is brimming with soul, jazz, gospel, blues and pop, well.