Beyonce: 4 (Parkwood)
Beyonce is a bona fide diva and if you need extra proof check out the many fetish photos and loopy fashion notions that adorn this CD liner.
But Christina Aguilera is also a pop diva and her album last year, Bionic, more or less bombed by her own past hit and sales standards. Bionic did hit as high as No.3 in Canada and the USA but it scored only one low-level hit and was quickly forgotten.
I predict the same sort of fate for Beyonce’s album number four. It is ballad-heavy and OK if she wants to turn into a neo-soul singer, but none of the songs stick with you. There have already been two singles released from disc four with 1+1 and Best Thing I Ever Had and both failed to enter Billboard’s top 50.
So look for big early sales in her native USA before this disc quickly sinks out of the collective conscience.
Musically, the material just isn’t memorable, but check out the lighthearted and breezy track number eight, Love On Top, and hear how the rest of this too-serious album could have sounded.
Alicia Keys: Songs In A Minor, Deluxe Edition
This is the 10th anniversary edition of Alicia Keys’ breakthrough debut album recorded when she was 19 and released when she had just turned 20. The album made its debut at No.1 in North America because the gorgeous No. 1 charting ballad Fallin’ was released a few weeks prior to the album and tastes were certainly whetted.
This Deluxe Legacy Edition has two CDs with the full album re-issued on disc one while the treasures on disc two are only so-so at best.
There is the Grammy Award ceremony (where Keys took home five) live version of the hit A Woman’s Worth, sung with Nas, and the greatly altered and cinematic, dreamscape version of Fallin’ as it appeared in the film Ali.
There is also a ‘funky demo’ of If I Was Your Women recorded when Keys was only 17 while the only real eye-opener here is the jazzy version of Butterflyz that has a cool improvised guitar solo from Carlos Alomar. In fact this jazz version could easily be an indication of Keys’ future when the pop/R&B music fades, as she is a superb jazz performer too.
54-40: Lost In The City (Smilin’ Buddha)
54-40 celebrate their 30 year existence as a band with this new nine-track CD that stands up with the superb level of most of their huge back catalogue. Main songwriter Neil Osborne usually comes up with insightful songs and the rest of 54-40 always locks into an interesting, propulsive and often rootsy groove.
There isn’t a bad cut on Lost In The City but to my ears the ultra hooky Feast Of Ida and the R.E.M.-ish Good Man Feeling Bad really stick with you and demand repeated listenings.
Osborne’s sly sense of humor is also found on the solid This Is The Way The World Ends (cool descending bass lines) with the lyric, “I coulda had religion but I didn’t pray, thank God for that,” but for the most part old 54-40 fans will delight in this new release.
The band will be performing July 16 headlining at the Peachland festivities. And for trivia buffs, who knows you might even see Vancouver TV news anchor Tamara Taggart on scene as she is married to one of the blokes.
Peter Tosh: Legalize It (Columbia)
Peter Tosh: Equal Rights (Columbia)
At one time in the late ’60s and early ’70s there was no Bob Marley and The Wailers. There was just The Wailers and they were one of a dozen or more classic Jamaican ska-soul vocal trios, although they were also the most successful.
When Island Records came along they figured they needed a band leader to allow the media to focus and hence Marley was chosen as the figurehead. But Peter Tosh was also a great songwriter with a commanding presence and a superb voice and after a few years forced into the background (except on stage if course) Tosh turned his attentions to solo work in the mid-’70s. His first two albums, shown above, are considered his best and groundbreaking reggae releases although they may sound somewhat quaint nowadays with their honest roots-driven flavours.
But Tosh penned and reproduced his old Wailers hits such as Get Up Stand Up, 400 Years and Why Should I Cry which are, to this day, still only considered in the camp of Marley leading the Wailers.
Both these original vinyl albums had only nine tracks apiece but these legacy re-issues feature two CDs and 32 tracks on Legalize It and 30 tracks on Equal Rights. There are demo versions, extended takes, alternate renditions, dub plates and the original Jamaican albums before they were spiced up for world wide release.
Both re-issues come with huge essays and extensive notes and are must owns for roots reggae fans and the tremendous legacy of Peter Tosh.