Given total creative control by producer and friend Frank Zappa, Beefheart and his Magic Band rehearsed the material for this 1969 album for over a year, wedding minimalistic R&B, blues, and garage rock to free jazz and avant-garde experimentalism. Warner A colleague of Frank Zappa, Captain Beefheart (aka Don Van Vliet) and his Magic Band produced some of the most eccentric music of the late 1960s--or, for that matter, ever. The high water mark of Beefheart's bizarre career, this double album of freeform "Dada rock" features such daunting tracks as "Pachuco Cadaver," "Hair Pie (Bakes 1 and 2)," and "Neon Meat Dream of an Octafish," all of which actually sound as unusual as their titles. Between Beefheart's mind-bending lyrics and cavernous voice, as well as the twisted playing of guitarists Zoot Horn Rollo and Antennae Jimmy Semens, bassist Rockette Morton and drummer The Mascara Snake, this album fully explains the expression "far out." --Billy Altman
Sarah McLachlan: Fumbling Towards Ecstasy! 1993 Arista / BMG Direct Issue! Personnel: Sarah McLachlan (vocals, acoustic & electric guitar, piano); Bill Dillon (guitar, Guitorgan, piano, bass); Jane Scarpantoni (cello); Michel Dubeau (saxophone); Pierre Marchand (piano, keyboards, bass, percussion, programming); David Kershaw (Hammond B-3 organ); Brian Minato (bass); Jerry Marotta (drums, percussion); Guy Nadon, Ashwin Sood, Lou Shefano (drums). TRACKS: 1. Possession; 2. Wait; 3. Plenty; 4. Good Enough; 5. Mary; 6. Elsewhere; 7. Circle; 8. Ice; 9. Hold On; 10. Ice Cream; 11. Fear; & 12. Fumbling Towards Ecstasy. Pre-Lilith Fair, McLachlan had critical acclaim and a cult following but was otherwise just another hard-working female singer/songwriter--one who wasn't blasting down doors with overt sexuality or popping along in front of a male Svengali. Similar in their emotional urgency to her more recent work but delightfully less polished, these folk-rock songs are surprising gems. If not for McLachlan's poignant vocals, lyrics like "Your love is better than ice cream" (on "Ice Cream") would sound childishly absurd (especially alongside deeper material like "Hold On"), but here they're given just as much respect as the weightier issues she explores. A great album to accompany your moments of introspection. --Rebecca Wallwork
Mars Volta - Frances the Mute (CD) If one needed further proof of the contemporary revival/reassessment of the ambitiously overwrought sensibilities once so reviled in '70s rock, this aggressively mindbending second album by the Mars Volta offers it up in spades. Band mainstays Omar Rodriguez-Lopez and Cedric Bixler-Zavala insist that labels like "prog" don't interest them, and that this is emphatically not a "sequel" to 2003's De-Loused in the Comatorium. What it is was thematically inspired by a stranger's diary allegedly found by late bandmate Jeremy Ward, the basis for an expansive, often amorphous musical head-trip that brews psychedelia, trance, hard-rock and free-jazz into a daunting new whole. The dozen tracks here represent but five "songs" proper, though the band's disdain for conventional track banding inspire it to sound more like a stream-of-consciousness soundscape from Can--or a dark, lyrically inventive, if decidedly troubled corner of their ids. On the "Umbilical Syllables" portion of "Cygnus.." and "The Widow" Bixler-Zavala invokes the wailing, Led Zeppelin II & III spirit of Robert Plant set against a feverish, swirling melange that's anything but the blues. The vocalist coaxes "L' Via l'Viaquez" en Espanol, while his band indulges its space-mambo conceits with an evocative spirit that recalls Latin Playboys at their most mischievous. It's an album that loops back on itself in a haunting ellipse--and one whose boundless ambition makes Pink Floyd sound like three-chord bar punters by comparison. --Jerry McCulley
Unopened The Mars Volta - Frances the Mute 3xLP (picture version, NOT RED COVER) consists of three records plus an unopened 33" single with the track, "Frances the Mute" on one side and a live, acoustic version of "The Widow" on the other. Rare.
Sing-A-Longs & Lullabies for the Film Curious George
Manufacturer: Universal/Brushfire Records
Jack Johnson is the voice of Curious George (through his music). The songs are prominently featured within the film and are an integral part of the story. Soundtrack features 9 new Jack songs, including 3 duets with Ben Harper, G. Love and Matt Costa. Also includes a cover of The White Stripes 'We Are Going To Be Friends' which Jack has performed live on tour over the past few years. Universal. 2006. Admit it: If you had to pick an artist to give voice to the wackadoo thinkings of a monkey beloved by most of the American populace over age 3, you could do a lot worse than Jack Johnson. Black Eyed Peas? Too hyper. Death Cab for Cutie? Too ironic. They Might Be Giants? Too eggheaded. Johnson, though the object of much rightful jealousy--here, after all, is a guy who only stumbled into music and vaulted himself up the charts after a successful career as a pro surfer--turns out to have the goods to do H.A. Rey, Curious George's creator, proud. Fans familiar with Johnson's earlier discs will recognize a certain laconic sprawl and easy fascination in his songs that suits the theme of perpetual puzzlement perfectly (here, let's not forget, is a guy who racked up fans with songs called "Bubble Toes" and "Banana Pancakes"). That the music takes a childish turn barely registers--songs like opener "Upside Down" are classic Johnson, all wonderment and groove, and the collaborations with friends Ben Harper, G. Love, and Matt Costa warm up, wink, and scamper off before packing on the weight of excess meaning. "We're Going to Be Friends," track seven, seals the deal--when you can make the White Stripes sound compatible with the Man with the Yellow Hat, you know you've got a multi-generational winner. --Tammy La Gorce
Manufacturer: Disney Sound
Brand: TUNE A FISH RECORDS LLC
GRAMMY winners They Might Be Giants are back with a whole new creative way to look at science. HERE COMES SCIENCE follows up their successful past two childrens albums HERE COME THE ABCS and HERE COME THE 123S. with songs like "Electric Car," "Photosynthesis" and "Solid Liquid Gas" among others, kids will learn about science while having fun.
Noted English screenwriter Richard Curtis makes his directorial bow with this romantic comedy that follows the dizzying foibles of no less than a dozen couples, featuring a cast that includes Hugh Grant as a bachelor British PM and Billy Bob Thornton as a disturbing hybrid of the worst of Clinton and Bush. Seemingly taking its lead from Bridget Jones's Diary and its sequel (both of which Curtis also wrote), Love's rich, eclectic collection of pop songs becomes something more than mere movie-soundtrack wallpaper. Indeed, tracks as disparate as Joni Mitchell's hauntingly autumnal remake of "Both Sides Now" and the Pointer Sisters' effusive '80s hit "Jump" function somewhere between supporting player and narrative Greek chorus. It's a mature, often introspective collection that mixes the expected chestnuts (the Beach Boys' evergreen "God Only Knows") and covers (Eva Cassidy's stately version of Christine McVie's "Songbird," an R&B-infused take of "All You Need Is Love" by Lynden David Hall) with standout work from Norah Jones (a torched-up "Turn Me On"), Texas (the Dusty Springfield-esque dramatics of "I'll See It Through"), and Wyclef Jean's joyous "Take Me As I Am." Underscoring the film's Christmas subtext are three holiday-themed bonus cuts by Otis Redding, Billy Mack (the film's resident rock star burnout, played by Bill Nighy), and Olivia Olson. Noted English screenwriter Richard Curtis makes his directorial bow with this romantic comedy that follows the dizzying foibles of no less than a dozen couples, featuring a cast that includes Hugh Grant as a bachelor British PM and Billy Bob Thornton as a disturbing hybrid of the worst of Clinton and Bush. Seemingly taking its lead from Bridget Jones's Diary and its sequel (both of which Curtis also wrote), Love's rich, eclectic collection of pop songs becomes something more than mere movie-soundtrack wallpaper. Indeed, tracks as disparate as Joni Mitchell's hauntingly autumnal remake of "Both Sides Now" and the Pointer Sisters' effusive '80s hit "Jump" function somew...
Manufacturer: Warner Bros.
Brand: Warner Bros
The Soft Bulletin is the most accessible album that psychedelic-noise-pop stalwarts The Flaming Lips have ever released. The album is different and new, courageous and accomplished, as unique as ever and yet more listenable than ever. Rhythmic, piano-laden, exploding with intelligence and sonic texture, The Soft Bulletin, the band's ninth album, continues the trio's adventure into other-worldly pop. The Flaming Lips' particular and peculiar genius comes to full fruition on the stupendous The Soft Bulletin. Anyone who had the gumption to actually listen to Zaireeka, a song cycle that could only be heard by playing four CDs at the exact same time on different stereos, knows that head Lip Wayne Coyne and his Oklahoma City brethren had it in them. That album, along with the Lips' Parking Lot Experiments, offered proof that Coyne wasn't playing by the same rules as everyone else. He was growing up and away from the splenetic psychedelic freak-outs of earlier albums and emerging as a first-rate composer--perhaps the first alt-rock star to earn such status. The Soft Bulletin is absolutely colossal, a testament to their position as the vanguard of a movement that includes Spiritualized's Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space, Mercury Rev's Deserter's Songs, and Olivia Tremor Control's Black Foliage. As with those albums, Bulletin shares a love of cosmic, vaguely psychedelic pop and a closet full of pet sounds. But the Flaming Lips only uses these as a launch pad for rocketing into ethereal sonic space. Although Bulletin steps back from Zaireeka's over-the-top indulgence, it manages to be symphonic, bombastic, outrageous, and damned catchy--while still oozing the band's unique weirdness. The sound is massive and complex; gongs, harps, grand piano, bells, pipe organ, strings, oboes, choral harmonies, and, strangely, very, very little guitar squall all merge into one wall--no, wall of sound doesn't do it justice. It's a cliff of sound, propelled by drummer Steven Drozd's tremendous pounding. On top of it all, Coy...
Manufacturer: Epic /Sony Music Soundtrax
Soundtrack to eagerly anticipated 2004 film features music from Coldplay, The Shins, Zero 7, Colin Hay, Cary Brothers, Remy Zero, Nick Drake, Thievery Corporation, Simon & Garfunkel, Iron & Wine, Frou Frou, & Bonnie Somerville. Writer and director Zach Braff does a masterful job matching the charming, heartfelt tone of films like The Graduate and Rushmore in his motion picture debut, Garden State, so it only makes sense that the music he personally compiled for the soundtrack plays just as of big a part here as it did in those films. Simon & Garfunkel's languorous "The Only Living Boy in New York" is an obvious thread, but aside from Nick Drake's "One of These Things First," Braff is able to carry the mood without getting tripped up in the past. Frou Frou's "Let Go" and Zero 7's "In the Waiting Line" supply soft techno touches, while Iron & Wine's "Such Great Heights" and former Men at Work singer Colin Hay's "I Just Don't Think I'll Ever Get Over You" offer understated angst. It's the pair of emotionally racked contributions from the Shins ("Caring Is Creepy," "New Slang"), however, that really make this compilation a must-have. --Aidin Vaziri