Songs in the Key of Life (1976) was the highest high point of Stevie Wonder's career. More sprawling than Innervisions and Talking Book, this two-LP-plus-EP was also less of a consistent stunner than either of those masterworks. That Songs retains an enormous amount of visionary relevance, though, is demonstrated not only in Coolio's borrowing of "Pastime Paradise" as a template for "Gangsta's Paradise," but in the cold-as-ice synthesized string quartet of "Village Ghetto Land." This is Stevie, so naturally that cut's anger is balanced by the ultra-buoyant "I Wish," "Sir Duke," and "Another Star." The 2000 reissue boasts radically improved remastered sound. --Rickey Wright
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Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats practically explodes with deep, primal and ecstatic soulfulness. This stunning work isn't just soul stirring, it's also soul baring, and the combination is absolutely devastating to behold. You don't just listen to this record you experience it. So it's entirely fitting that the self-titled album will bear the iconic logo of Stax Records, because at certain moments Rateliff seems to be channeling soul greats like Otis Redding and Sam & Dave. But as this gifted multi-instrumentalist honors the legacy of the legendary Memphis label, he's also setting out into audacious new territory.
Manufacturer: Sony Legacy
Brand: Matthews, Dave Band
Dave Matthews Band's first studio album since 2002's Busted Stuff is helmed by producer Mark Batson (Eminem/Maroon 5). Stand Up's first single is 'American Baby'. RCA. 2005 Don't let the headless CGI dancer on the cover fool you. While Stand Up has a more organic feel than 2001's radio-ready Everyday, it is hardly an invocation for carefree days spent twirling on the grass. Instead it is a call to arms that carries over much of the insurrectionary spirit the Dave Matthews Band brought to 2004's Vote For Change Tour. Matthews, sounding rawer than ever, swerves between optimism ("To change the world you only start with one step," he sings on "You Might Die Trying") and angst ("See the man with the bomb in his hand/ Everybody wake up," goes "Everybody Wake Up [Our Finest Hour Arrives]"), while producer Mark Baston, best known for his small-time work with big-name pop acts like Beyonce and 50 Cent, responds by putting the marching band rhythms of Carter Beauford in the front and galvanizing the music with a crisp...
Nothing fancy about it, just a great deal-30 hits on a single CD! And here they are: California Girls; I Get Around; Surfin' Safari; Surfin' U.S.A.; Fun, Fun, Fun; Surfer Girl; Don't Worry Baby; Little Deuce Coupe; Shut Down; Help Me, Rhonda; Be True to Your School; When I Grow Up (to Be a Man); In My Room; God Only Knows; Sloop John B; Wouldn't It Be Nice; Getcha Back; Come Go with Me; Rock and Roll Music; Dance, Dance, Dance; Barbara Ann; Do You Wanna Dance?; Heroes and Villains; Good Timin'; Kokomo; Do It Again; Wild Honey; Darlin'; I Can Hear Music , and, of course, Good Vibrations . The cynic may question just how many Beach Boys greatest hits albums are enough. Everyone else, however, will appreciate what makes Sounds of Summer unique. This is the first single-disc collection to feature such a large cross section of hits from the group's entire career, spanning 1962's "Surfin' Safari" through 1988's "Kokomo." All 30 tracks, spanning several label changes, were Billboard Top 40 hits and are probably now ...
Manufacturer: Geffen Records
BECK SEA CHANGE Beck is bummed. Really bummed. And if song titles such as "Lost Cause," "Lonesome Tears," "Already Dead," and "Nothing I Haven't Seen" don't make the point, his achingly sad lyrics and Sea Change's unerringly downcast sound do. While 1998's Mutations--arguably the singer-songwriter's masterwork and Sea Change's spiritual cousin--was filled with unflinching self-examination, moments of levity were found in songs like "Tropicalia." Not so on Sea Change. Beck's woozy, almost narcoleptic delivery seems to amplify the set's sense of ennui. But sad isn't necessarily bad, and despite the somber tone, there's much to praise, not the least of which is the return of producer Nigel Goderich (Mutations, Radiohead), who wraps Beck's gloom in a dreamy, warm blanket of soft strings and floating bleeps and gurgles. Like Daniel Lanois, Goderich is all about vibe, and even Beck's most bare-bones songs benefit from billowy atmospherics. That's especially true of "Paper Tiger," a restless, slowly ...
In the Aeroplane over the Sea Led by Jeff Magnum, In the Aeroplane over the Sea finds the Neutral Milk Hotel assemblage loosely performing a series of narratives backed by folksy acoustic guitar. But from that springboard, a quiver of instruments (horns, organs, accordions, saws, banjo, zanzithophone, etc.) are layered into a sometimes rootsy, sometimes lo-fi, and often psychedelic mix. Contrary to most pop experimentalists, NMH songs stretch way past the two-minute mark: "Two Headed Boy" transforms from a Guided by Voices-ish romp into a New Orleans big band funeral march, "The Fool" is as catchy as anything Poi Dog Pondering ever produced, and "Holland" builds up to a crescendo of saw, Uillean pipes, a chorus of voices, and fuzzed-out guitar. Simply irresistible. --Jason Verlinde
Manufacturer: Big Machine
Brand: Taylor Swift
2010 release, the third album from the Country/Pop superstar. Speak Now is the follow-up to her multi-million-selling 2008 album, Fearless. The 21-year-old singer/songwriter wrote the entire album on her own and co-produced with longtime collaborator Nathan Chapman, who worked with her on Fearless and her 2006 self-titled debut. Features the single 'Mine'.