· One of the greatest eras in power pop has recently been honored in tasty tribute fashion with The Stiff Generation, a 24-track salute to Stiff Records and its stable of breakaway stars in those nutty, new-wave days of the late 1970s and early 1980s.
Issued by the Grooves Disques imprint, the CD boasts contributions by Matthew Sweet, Bill Lloyd, and The Bigger Lovers, but it's really the songs that shine. Culling from the original Stiff releases of Elvis Costello, Nick Lowe, Wreckless Eric, Lene Lovich, and Ian Gomn, the brilliance of the songwriting is blinding - clever, brave, and enjoying the post-punk sneer of the outside looking in. Highlights include the Photon Band's take on Rachel Sweet's "B-A-B-Y," Pat Buchanan & Thundermug's romp of Nick Lowe's "I Love the Sound of Breaking Glass," and Lisa Mychols' step into Madness' "Baggy Trousers." Highly recommended.
· In case you haven't heard, the new George Harrison album, Brainwashed, is simply terrific, and refreshing amidst the din of life's discord. While these songs were in various stages at the time of his death last year, modern technology and an uncanny spiritual vibe have combined to produce a masterpiece swan song. Carrying on the work they began together as a threesome in the studio, son Dhani Harrison and longtime collaborator and friend Jeff Lynne chose to find closure and comfort by finishing the project as unobtrusively as possible. Eerily rich with themes of one's journey through the human condition and the afterlife, the Capitol Records' release reverberates with integrity and grace. Highlights include the ukulele-fueled cover of the standard "The Devil & The Deep Blue Sea" and the title track, in which Harrison lashes out at our corporate suckle and industrial desires. On Friday, Eric Clapton and Olivia Harrison are staging a tribute concert on the one-year anniversary of his death in London's Royal Albert Hall, with guests Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Jools Holland, Tom Petty, and Ravi Shankar.
· Next week the Music Video Distributors label releases Redefinitions, a documentary DVD on the more cerebral elements of hip hop and the spoken-word tradition. Filmed at a recent hip-hop summit in Madison, Wisconsin, and the Hip Hop & Academics Conference in Berkley, California, the 40-minute DVD is a soul-stirring affair, with nasty puffery checked at the door. Boasters and toasters get ready to be floored by true lyrical prowess as pioneer Grandmaster Caz comments on free-styling and "going round and round." Just as passionately well spoken is Afrika Bambaataa, weaving from his nightclub roost a fluid manifesto on the oral tradition and the cross-cultural elements that branch from the tree of hip hop. Other highlights include the urban poetry of The Last Poets' Umar Bin Hassan, the hypnotic imagery of Abstract the Rude, and Raheem DeVaughn's beautiful "If I Could Talk to Marvin Gaye," a Cincinnati-riots-themed solo vocal.
· Also this Tuesday is the Pioneer Entertainment release Come Together: A Night For John Lennon's Words & Music, a DVD document of the October 2001 concert hosted by actor Kevin Spacey. Highlights include Alanis Morissette's cover of "Dear Prudence," Dave Matthews' take on "In My Life," and son Sean Lennon's interpretation of "Julia." Other artists involved include Craig David, Billy Preston, Rufus Wainwright, Cyndi Lauper, Stone Temple Pilots, and Lou Reed.
· Speaking of Reed, his new album is due in late January and sounds wonderfully ambitious - a two-CD, two-hour affair channeling the works and spirit of Edgar Allan Poe. Entitled The Raven, the Sire Records set features spoken-word readings by actors Steve Buscemi and Willem Dafoe, and guests David Bowie, Laurie Anderson, Kate & Anna McGarrigle, and The Blind Boys of Alabama.
The Tonight Show with Jay Leno hosts Faith Hill tonight and Christina Aguilera on Monday; The Late Show with David Letterman gives it up for The Strokes on Thursday and Pink on Monday; Late Night with Conan O'Brien welcomes Snoop Dogg this evening overnight, Chris Robinson of the Black Crowes on Thursday overnight, The Roots on Friday overnight, Filter on Monday overnight, and Sparta on Tuesday overnight; The Late Late Show with Craig Kilborn features Sugarcult on Thursday overnight; Last Call with Carson Daly sits down with Michelle Branch on Monday overnight; and Saturday Night Live's musical guest this weekend is The White Stripes.
New Releases Coming Tuesday, December 3:
... and like the winds, young grasshopper, are subject to change
8 Mile - More Songs from the Motion Picture (Shady/Interscope)
California Show Story - One Good Summer (Shelf Life) five-track EP from this Glasgow, Scotland, acoustic band
Mariah Carey - Charmbracelet (Monar C/Island) featuring her cover of Def Leppard's "Bringing' on the Heartache" and guest Cam'ron
Billy Childish - 25 Years of Being Childish (Damaged Goods) two-CD or three-LP set
Chris Connelly - Initials CC (Underground, Inc.) new from the member of Ministry, Pigface, and the Revolting Cocks
Mark Dwinell - Nonloc (Ba Da Bing!) new solo classical album from the singer/guitarist
Evergreen Terrace - Burned Alive by Time (Eulogy) brutal music from Jacksonville, Florida
Hentchmen - Three Times Infinity (Norton) all new featuring covers of DEVO and Big Joe Turner
The Jam - The Complete Jam (Interscope/UME) 53-track DVD collection of videos and live television appearances
Kid Brother Collective - Highway Miles (One Day Savior) emo pop from Flint, Michigan
Nighthawks - Nighthawks (High Times) re-interpretation of the 1980s Sly Stallone crime-fighting film soundtrack by Cage and Camu Tao of MhZ and Definitive Jux
Second Story Man - Pins & Needles (Landmark Recordings) full-length debut from Louisville, Kentucky
various artists - Rai Superstars (Mondo Melodia/Ark 21) featuring Cheb Mami, Chade Zahouania and Khaled