Entertainment

Mitchell: Smurfs an international industry unto themselves

Trying to research Smurf related albums is a numbing prospect.  The Smurf franchise has so much ‘product’ on the market with much of it released only in Europe that I gave up after stumbling upon Smurfs Vol.18 Joulubileet.

Anyway, the last Smurfs feature film was a big hit for parents and kids alike.  The Smurfs 2 is bound to do the same big box-office while this “Music From and Inspired By” soundtrack is going to get a lot more attention than it deserves because of the lead off song Ooh La La sung by Britney Spears.

She is proven money in the bank but the song is overly simple and little more than a short pop/chant which makes you wonder why it needed seven writers (none named Spears) as well as four producers.

There are also better family-friendly pop songs here especially from up and comer Cady Groves and her fresh and hooky dance pop gem Forget You that is uncommonly guitar-driven.

The other feature track here is Vacation by G.R.L. as written by Euro-pop master Max Martin and produced by Dr. Luke and it is yet another breezy dance/pop track although it sounded a little like it was poaching on The Chipmunks territory.

Vintage material from Nelly Furtado and Buckwheat Zydeco (a nifty cover of Little Richards’ Tutti Frutti) rounds this album out to the final track which is a new remake of Right Said Fred’s ’80s smash I’m Too Smurfy done by the lads themselves.

Safe family fare.

C

Preservation Hall Jazz Band: That’s It (Sony Legacy)

The Preservation Hall Jazz Band have been staples on New Orleans music scene since they were established in the early 1960s. Their back catalog is large but That’s It! marks their first ever album of all original songs although many of their past releases have featured their own compositions.

Hopefully, this new CD will help create a new and larger fan base for this venerable ensemble who are keeping the traditions of New Orleans and southern pop alive.

I love this album. It draws me back to the good old days when New Orleans was a major musical hub of worldwide hits from the likes of Fats Domino, Robert Parker, Carla Thomas, Al Hirt, Ernie K-Doe, The Meters, Alan Toussaint, Lee Dorsey, Loius Armstrong—just to touch a tiny tip of the iceberg.

But time, trends and Katrina has cost New Orleans its proper place in the musical scheme of things but

That’s It! is a wonderful reminder of just how vital and important New Orleans music remains.

The album was produced by Ben Jaffe, scion of his parents’ formation of the group, and My Morning Jacket’s Jim James.

The sound is pure live off the studio floor and the songs are uniformly stunning. My fave track is August Nights and its haunting, far-off horns that really evoke the song title, while the humorous and ghoulish Rattlin’ Bones (shades of Screamin’ Jay Hawkins) would make a superb entry on your next Halloween mix tape.

There are also some fabulous yet aged and creaky vocals on the superb The Darker It Gets (all eight members of this group sing) while the instrumental Yellow Moon evokes a grand Duke Ellington suite.

The Preservation Hall Jazz Band are simply masters at mixing old school New Orleans jazz with pop song structures so that the swinging Come With Me hits home like a well-loved Armstrong original while the closing lone echoed piano of Emmalena’s Lullaby will send shivers down your spine.

My only complaint is the album had to end but it is the best 38 minutes of music I have heard in a along time.

A-

Lou Bega: A Little Bit Of 80s (Ariola)

No wonder Lou Bega wants to return to the ’80s.  It was the decade in which he had his only North American hit with Mambo Number 5 but in retrospect Bega has had an interesting life. He has a world scope, considering he was born and raised in Germany to Italian/Ugandan parents.

As a teen he discovered Afro-Cuban music while visiting Florida and this set his course for a love of Caribbean music and a much bigger following overseas than he has in America.

A Little Bit Of ’80s is full-on beach party music that mixes the ridiculous with the sublime and a whole lot of meh.

There are loopy takes of Olivia Newton John’s Physical and The Pointer Sisters’ I’m So Excited done with plenty of horns and Bega’s gruff vocals.

But Bega also delivers a credible take of Sade’s Smooth Operator, an OK version of UB40/Neil Diamond’s Red Red Wine (more of the former than the latter) and a fine remake of Eddy Grants’ anti-apartheid nugget Gimme Hope Jo’Anna (as in Johannesburg) which gives this disc a little meat.

You don’t want to know about the so-so/meh songs from Boy George or Wham.

C

 

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