Plenty of great shit to get excited about this week: new Wilco and Jarvis Cocker, tons of Rolling Stones reissues, a double-disc Jonas Brothers DVD spectacular, and the long-awaited 31st edition of the venerable Now That's What I Call Music! series. But if you happen to have a few bucks left over . . .
PLAYLIST: THE VERY BEST OF SIR MIX-A-LOT | Sony Legacy | A perfect collection for those who already own the best of Sir Mix-A-Lot but yearn for a slightly more discriminating compilation, one that boils away the excess and distills the tracklist to its very best. Says the description: "We've fished through hundreds of tracks to cherry-pick the perfect playlists. Not just the hits, but . . . the life-changing songs. The out-of-print tracks. The fan favorites everyone loves." So, we get not only the stone-cold classics, like "Baby Got Back" and "Put 'Em on the Glass," but also the lesser-known Mix-A-Lot triumphs, like "Buttermilk Biscuits (Keep On Square Dancin')" and two different mixes of "Posse on Broadway." Shit, maybe I shouldn't be putting this in the "Optional" category after all.
MOONSHINE BANDITS | DIVEBARS AND TRUCKSTOPS | Jake Records | These guys might not be the biggest names in the burgeoning country-rap industry, but with their raunchy lyrics, hard-partying jams, and unabashed redneck pride, you can be sure of one thing: I want to shoot myself in my goddamn face. I guess this is what you stoop to if you find Kid Rock too classy and Cowboy Troy too intellectual, or if you're 14 years old and you're enticed by the gratuitous underboob on the cover. (Just added "underboob" to my Microsoft Word spellcheck dictionary, so I'm hoping to get a lot more mileage out of it soon.)
BOB MARLEY | B IS FOR BOB | Tuff Gong/Island | What a sweet idea: Ziggy Marley has produced a compilation of his father's most beloved music, specially remixed and reimagined just for kids! Eight tracks — among them "Three Little Birds," "Jamming," and "Redemption Song" — have been mysteriously re-engineered to be more appealing to children. According to the press release, Ziggy's idea is to "remove certain instruments while adding other sounds" to create "a feeling of hearing these songs for the first time." I dunno about that — it seems there's a good chance that kids would be hearing these for the first time anyway, but I'm glad Ziggy has taken care to remove all the offensive adult instruments.
ROB THOMAS | CRADLESONG | Atlantic | I've managed to cultivate a prejudice against Rob Thomas for all his years of pushing me around and taking me for granted, but even if I look upon this thing with eyes as innocent as a newborn babe's, the dude gives me a fresh bundle of reasons to hate him before I even press PLAY. The cover features a miscalculated stab at an intense stare, with Thomas goggling half-lit in soft sepiatone and looking for all the world like a dimwit locked in an eternal staring contest with a taxidermy owl. It's a laughable enough image in its raw state, but the hamfisted Photoshop texturing and 1998 Verve Pipe typeface drag the record into æsthetic hell before a single note rings out. What a mismatch with the title, too — are we to imagine Rob staring daggers into a baby? What an underboob.
And that name — Cradlesong! Lo, the penetrating squareness of the thing! It's like a title you'd invent to parody John Tesh, though truth be told, Teshie gets much spicier with his titles (Sax All Night, ooh-la-la!). What's most irritating, though, is the album's promo boilerplate, which opens by calling Rob "arguably the most accomplished singer/songwriter of his generation." Yow! If not for the word "arguably," I'd say it's probably not even legal to print something so outrageous. Of course, any competent critic would give this a serious listen and judge it purely on the merits of the music. I harbor no envy of competent critics.
David Thorpe |firstname.lastname@example.org