Here Lies Love
David Byrne is no stranger to writing songs about strange subjects, but even longtime fans might be scratching their heads at the former Talking Heads front man's attempts to write a musical narrative about the rise and fall of Imelda Marcos.
Originally envisioned by Byrne to be a stage musical set in a disco, lack of investors (at least for now) reduced him to releasing the music on a two-CD set. I predict that after fans hear these 22 songs, which brilliantly trace the life of the wife of the late Philippines dictator Ferdinand Marcos, the stage version will become a reality soon enough.
Many of the songs are performed as disco tracks, mimicking the sounds of the nightclubs and dance venues that the young Imelda loved in the 1970s.
Byrne enlisted the help of dance music icon Fatboy Slim, and has a dizzying lineup of guest vocalists on the double album. Singers Tori Amos, Natalie Merchant, Cyndi Lauper, Steve Earle, St. Vincent, Santigold and Kate Pierson represent Marcos and various figures from throughout her life.
Byrne's compositions, which include quotes from Marcos herself, coupled with Fatboy Slim's arrangements, prove to be the perfect combination. It isn't for everyone, but I can't wait to see it on stage.
Key Tracks: "Every Drop of Rain," "American Troglodyte," "Order 1081."
I Learned The Hard Way
There has been plenty of talk about the rebirth of the classic R&B sound, inevitably one name comes up; Amy Winehouse.
True, Winehouse's 2007 release, "Back To Black," sounded great and definitely brought back the classic R&B sound of the 1960s, complete with a blazing horn section. While Winehouse and other Brits such as Duffy are adjusting their voices to fit the style, there is a firecracker of a vocalist from right here in the United States that blows the rest of those wannabes away.
Brooklyn singer Sharon Jones has been collaborating with The Dap-Kings, the house band for the small label Daptone, releasing albums that could easily be put beside those by Tina Turner, Mavis Staples and Aretha Franklin.
As a matter of fact, The Dap-Kings played on several of the tracks on that aforementioned Winehouse CD. On "I Learned the Hard Way," the fourth album by the group, the sound is as good as ever.
The superb musicianship of The Dap-Kings, coupled with Jones' self-assured vocals enters your ears and goes straight to your soul. If the group's last release, "100 Days 100 Nights," put it on the map, then "I Learned the Hard Way," should be the album that keeps it there.
Key Tracks: "The Game Gets Old," "Money," "She Ain't a Child No More."
What do you get when a Brit-pop band leader and a comic book artist put their creative heads together?
In the case of Blur singer Damon Albarn and "Tank Girl" co-creator Jamie Hewlett, you get Gorillaz, one of the more unique music collaborations to come down the pike.
Composed of four virtual "musicians," the group has released two well-received albums and enjoyed radio hits with songs such as "Clint Eastwood" and "Feel Good Inc.
On "Plastic Beach," the latest release from Gorillaz, the "band" is still laying down catchy tracks with the help of guest artists (another Gorillaz staple), such as De La Soul, Lou Reed and Snoop Dogg, but the overall feeling is a bit less cohesive than the previous releases. Sure, there are some great moments, such as "Superfast Jellyfish," "Broken" and "Rhinestone Eyes."
The album's first single, "Stylo," is catchy enough, but not the best track. The whole album has a bit of a rushed feeling, although to be fair to Gorillaz, the band's mediocre songs are far more original and experimental than 90 percent of the rest of the music out there.
Key Tracks: "Superfast Jellyfish," "Broken," "Rhinestone Eyes."
Sticky & Sweet Tour
When Madonna launches a concert tour, one never quite knows what the Material Girl will do to top her previous effort.
Starting with the Blonde Ambition Tour in 1990, Madonna was hailed for pushing the envelope that addressed what a pop music concert was. Her productions have always been a combination of musical performance, Las Vegas revue, performance art and Broadway musical.
Madonna's latest outing, the Sticky & Sweet Tour, found the artist as popular as ever. Even at the age of 51, she can still run circles around performers half her age, and her latest live production is more spectacular than ever, employing a small army of dancers, huge video screens, and more stage trickery than a magic show.
Filmed in Buenos Aires, Argentina, the DVD concert spans two hours and features a good amount of recent Madonna material supplemented with re-imagined versions of classic songs. Madonna even gets an audience member to lead a crowd sing-along of "Like a Virgin."
The DVD includes an entertaining behind the scenes documentary about the tour, and the set includes a 13-track audio CD from the tour almost as an afterthought.
Key Moment: Madonna dancing with a virtual Justin Timberlake on "4 Minutes."