Tuesday, August 30, 2011

My Amazon Reviews: Cher "The Very Best of Cher"

The Very Best Of CherWhen you turn back time, this is what you should find
 4 Out Of 5 Stars

By far the best of Cher's many hit collections, this single disc "Very Best Of" takes the bulk of her top tens (even with Sonny) from assorted labels (Warners, Geffen, MCA, Casablanca) and packs the CD to its running limit. As Cher is one of the few performers to have managed a multi-decade run of chart toppers (she's been in the Top Ten every decade since the 60's, lastly in 2002), this is a testament to her longevity. She's also the oldest woman in rock history to top the charts, when "Believe" did so in 1998.

What makes Cher such pop flypaper? It's that she's such a force of personality that she could adapt to changing trends and genres, and still sound like herself. While some may find this facile, when pop is concerned, it is pure gold. It means you can get the hippie vibe of "I Got You Babe," the pure camp of "Gypsies Tramps and Thieves," the Casablanca Disco of "Take Me Home" and one of the first of the huge Auto-Tune hits in "Believe." Behind it all is Cher's deep, resonating vibrato of a voice, plowing into each song with both her skill and the song's need. Who else could take the sweet-syrup of Diane Warren's ballads and the lit-rock of Bob Dylan and claim them as her own?

More than anything else, Cher is a great song stylist. There are 21 songs here, and I can easily think of another half dozen that could have come on board. (My best choices would have "Walking In Memphis," the Marc Cohn hit and "We All Sleep Alone," or some of the Black Rose or Gregg Allman album tracks.) However, for pure pop history and chutzpah, "The Very Best of Cher" takes the prize for Cher collections.

Burlesque - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack Keeps Gettin' Better: A Decade of Hits Femme Fatale Deluxe Definitive Collection Born This Way (Special Edition) Celebration

Monday, August 29, 2011

My Amazon Reviews: Christina Aguilera "Keeps Getting Better - A Decade of Hits"

Greatest HitsDecent Pop from a very good Voice
3 Out Of 5 Stars  

Now that she's jumped to a bigger stardom than she probably ever imagined "The Voice" would bring her, Christina Aguilera now has a full media press where her music is concerned. This compilation does her some justice, as it's about 2/3rds a decent listen. It does not include any songs from "Bionic," released after this was issues, but covers the first three albums (her debut, "Stripped" and "Back to Basics.") It also leaves off her collaborative "Lady Marmalade" from the movie "Moulin Rogue."

I'd always viewed Christina as a radio creation, and this best of does little to dispel that notion. Both "Genie In A Bottle" and "What a Girl Wants" are decent earworms, with killer hooks and Christina's rich singing. But like so many of the Disney Kid-Singer grads, she tends to really over-sing. It comes to the fore in the songs from her second album, "Stripped." "Dirrty" is an obvious attempt to break from the teen-boom image but can't be called anything but an annoyingly dated song, complete with "who let the dogs out" faux 'barking.' Fortunately, she had the song "Beautiful" up her sleeve, a stunning anthem of a ballad that, over-sung or not, offered proof that she wanted to do more than sing psuedo-soul pop singles.

That ambition was confirmed when she dropped the double disc "Back to Basics." In turns playful, forceful and ambitious, Christina jumps from the Big-Band swing of "Candyman" to the brassy "Ain't No Other Man." While the likes of Britany Spears was grabbing the headlines, Christina was proving she had some serious chops. The new "Keeps Getting Better" is the best of the two wholly new songs, a sharp bit of girl-pop that works its way under your skin like the best of the rest of her singles. However, the revamped versions of "Genie" and "Beautiful" are mere filler, an indication that she could have waited until after "Bionic" (even if it was something of a commercial dud) to get to the compilation point of her first decade.

Stripped  BIONIC - DELUXE (Explicit) Back to Basics Christina Aguilera Femme Fatale Deluxe Britney Spears: The Singles Collection

Hurricane Irene

Sunday, August 28, 2011

My Amazon Reviews: Don McLean "American Pie"

American Pie I remember how the music used to make me smile  
4 Out Of 5 Stars

To this day, all you have to do is sing "And good old boys were drinking whiskey and rye," and someone will either smile or sing the next verse. Don McLean recorded a defining moment in American songwriting history when he delivered "American Pie" to radio in 1971, which remains his magnum opus. A sprawling metaphysical poem that covered the pop-music scene through the 60's but starting at the death of Buddy Holly, the near nine minutes of "American Pie" rivals the likes of "Let It Be" or "Subterranean Homesick Blues" for epic singles.

It also kind of dwarfs Mclean's same titled album. he described it as a collections of songs about the USA and people he'd known, and the music reflects that. While mostly folk-rock in the singer-songwriter vein, McLean also visited the realm of war protesters (the poetic "The Grave"), the flirtatious ("Everybody Loves Me, Baby") and the spiritual ("Babylon," a traditional hymn McLean re-arranged for this album). This is also the album that contains McLean's second best known hit, "Vincent." Also known as "Starry Starry Night," "Vincent" was a tribute to Van Gogh and misunderstood artists everywhere, and reached number 15 on the charts after "American Pie" ended its 17 week stay at number one.
McLean had a couple more hits after this ("Dreidel" and a cover of Roy Orbison's "Crying" probably the best known), but never again reached the immaculate creation that is this album. Still, what better way to be remembered than a song that will make an entire bar full of people break into song if the jukebox brings it up? It's also worth noting that this 2003 remaster sounds fantastic.

 Best of Don McLean Don Mclean Classics Tapestry Homeless Brother Best of Don McLean

Saturday, August 27, 2011

My Amazon Reviews: Amos Lee "Supply and Demand"

Supply And DemandDemand This  
4 Out Of 5 Stars

The second album from Amos Lee shows a singer-songwriter with some road-time under his belt. His singing is more confident, the arrangements more sophisticated, and the ideas playful. The only thing missing was a bump in the songwriting department, but that would come by the time "Mission Bell" arrived in 2011. "Supply and Demand" give fans of Amos Lee's debut pretty much what you'd expect if you loved the first album; Lee shoots the gap between Blue Eyed Soul and James Taylor's folk confessionals.

Lee may be a strong performer, but he does so without bombast. He offers pop in "Shout Out Loud," hints of gospel in "Skipping Stone" and Jack Johnson charm on the ukelele faced "Sweet Pea." There's never a moment where you feel like you meed to adjust the volume, as Lee keeps it smooth and easy. That alows for the subtleties of his performances to get under your skin (like the political "freedom is seldom found by beating somebody onto the ground" lyric). These touches all make "Supply and Demand" on a par with Amos Lee's debut, and a very satisfying album.

Amos Lee  Mission Bell Last Days At the Lodge Trouble Shout out Loud Come Away With Me