Alice Cooper - The Eyes of Alice Cooper: TBH the only reason I listen to these albums is Cooper himself: I'm not that big into simple hard rock, preferring metal for my loud/aggro needs, but the Coop is one of the all-time great frontmen. This isn't nearly as good as the previous two; many of the songs seem like they could be filler on better albums. "Man of the Year" and "The Song that Didn't Rhyme" are highlights and quite clever (in an alternate universe they could have been by the Jazz Butcher). There's a conspicuous pop-punk (or just post-alt-rock) influence, natural for 2003, that wasn't there before, and "Be With You Awhile" is the kind of ballad he hadn't attempted in some time. The album is better experienced than described so I'll stop there.
The Jazz Butcher - Waiting for the Love Bus: I take it the later albums aren't looked on so well, but this is actually one of my favorite Jazz Butcher records. I swear, Pat Fish is the jankley indie-pop Mark E. Smith in the ability of his lyrics to burrow into your head. Hey, the Fall did do indie-pop in the '80s! If there are patchy spots on the album it's that most of the first half sounds samey at first, though with a few listens they'll sort themselves out in your head and are excellent. "Rosemary Davis World of Sound" is one of the loveliest things they'd ever record (I have no idea who Ms. Davis is, and neither does Google). The CD closes with a six-and-a-half-minute electronica version of "Do You Wanna Dance" and it's... okay? but worth hearing once. "Penguins" is heavenly when you're high; I'd say the same of "Angel Station" but that would make a weak pun. Each are longer tracks with creamy rich atmospherics that are like sinking into a marshmallow armchair and blissing out.
The Jazz Butcher - Illuminate: Pronounced like "desolate", not "imitate". The opener (after an instrumental), "Sixteen Years", is the angriest song they've ever done, about privatization under Thatcher. There are several anti-Thatcher songs on here (I suppose sixteen years is the length of her term?), in fact, but the album as a whole is the lightest they've done since the '80s. This isn't a bad thing. There are more melodies than in the last few discs ("Cute Submarines", with a great chorus that for some reason isn't dropped until halfway through, is great) and the vocals/lyrics are more intelligible than they have been. "When Eno Sings" is a tribute to the man's "big four" '70s albums and is packed with references. It's otherwise not a highlight. It doesn't sound a thing like Eno, but Eno fans ought to check it out. I've written a few times that certain albums are a bad choice for those getting into the band, but this is actually a decent one, if not as good as Fishcotheque or A Scandal in Bohemia.
Glen Campbell - Rhinestone Cowboy: The Best of Glen Campbell: Not to be confused with the 1975 Rhinestone Cowboy album. This is one of those artists who really work best in compilations -- I have six Campbell LPs, so I know what I'm talking about -- and there are 27 golden greats here. Yeah, this rules, though about 20 of the tracks are easy-listening/country ballads, which can get monotonous unless you're familiar with the songs. "Your Cheatin' Heart" really suffers in comparison to the Hank Williams, with strings, harp runs, wordless backing vocals, and big key change. "Let It Be Me" is fine enough, but the 5th Dimension's version can't be topped (though they're really apples-and-oranges, easy-listening/country against R&B; the Everly Brothers' version is comparable and the two are close, but the Everlys' is prettier (it's one of my favorite songs regardless of who does it). Their "All I Have To Do Is Dream" obviously beats the Campbell).
Marvin Gaye - What's Going On: (Have heard "Let's Get It On" and "Sexual Healing", and about a five-second clip of "What's Going On".) If you stare at the cover and unfocus your eyes he kind of looks like Ruhollah Khomeini. I was inclined to dislike this record because Rolling Stone made it their #1 album at a time when it just happened to be perfect for the times, so it was an obvious political statement. But then I listened to it and, after a couple of listens that made me think some of the songs went on way too long and that the first-side medley was a disagreeable mash-up of tunes at least a minute too long, mostly moodily wallowing in themselves and going nowhere ("Flyin' High" and "Inner City Blues", jeez). The title track was always a standout, but the bulk of the album was a grower and it really did grow. Nice vocals, nice mood; melodies could use some work but I guess this is an album that's impossible not to like? It's a bit of a studio perfect storm like some of the other greatest-ever candidates. I'll have to revisit those Stevie Wonder albums everybody but me loves (and calls as life-affirming as What's Going On actually kind of is, so maybe it'll rub off).
Little Feat - Waiting for Columbus: (Totally unfamiliar with the group.):) Our Pacific Northwest jam-banders Ster and Ken adore this album (I think I've seen Ken praise it but maybe not). It's indeed great high, would probably be an even better drinking album, kind of a dad-rock jam band (in fact my dad actually owned a copy, though I never listened to it) that lay down a great groove with bluesy guitars coexisting somehow with a very 1978-sounding synthesizer. "Fat Man in the Bathrub" sounds like the Dead (one of the backing vocalists even sounds exactly like Brent Mydland) but it goes on its way from there. To be honest Live/Dead is the only double-LP jam-band live album I really like; I really can't get into the Allmans' At Fillmore East and Waiting for Columbus is kind of a middle ground between the two. It's not all that great IMO but it's there, and when you're in the mood it's immensely enjoyable. Two of the tracks run 4:20.
Joni Mitchell - Blue: (Heard a cover of the "fake paradise put in a ####ing loft" song): Wasn't she on death's door a few years ago? What happened? I don't really like '70s singer-songwriters in general, much less female ones, so it was much to my surprise I like this one. Its flaws are manifest: the songs are mostly middling, often neither poetic nor witty; glass-shattering vocal leaps (that are most unpleasant when you're not in the mood) to make a coloratura soprano proud; the melodies are pretty weak. Yet for all that it kind of works. I know I just trashed the lyrics, but they're good enough to keep you listening. I dig the stripped-down, solo guitar or -piano and voice, and don't care for the more fleshed-out arrangements ("California" is barely tolerable, but for other reasons). It's a good disc just to spin and relax to. I might check out more Mitchell sometime down the road; I think much more of her than I did, but it's not a priority. Sorry, Alpha Hammer.
Mahler - Complete Symphonies (New York Philharmonic/Leonard Bernstein): Still making my way through this one, therefore no real classical writeups this time. The third movement and the finale of the Third are sublime, though the work as a whole is kind of disjointed.
Herbie Hancock - Man-Child: Have you ever gotten high and just sat back in a comfy armchair, put your feet up on your computer desk (mine is actually my dresser but a computer desk by any other name), put on an album over your phone speaker (because your stereo amplifier was in the shop), and then just had a quasi-religious blissed-out 45 minutes? ell I just had one of those listens for the ages with this album. A continuation of Head Hunters and Thrust, this has intricate little grooves that wash over you like something that washes over you. The fifth track is a total ripoff of "Chameleon" but it would take more fussiness than I'm willing to give right now to affect this song (that is,t rack five). It's a good groove and it doesn't detract from the whole album.
Joe Henderson - Warm Valley: Okay, this isn't actually a Joe Henderson album: the 1993 disc is credited to a piano trio of Louis Scherr, Tommy Cecil, and Tony Martucci, with Henderson playing on only five of the seven tracks. I had never heard of the players except, possibly, Tommy Cecil, though I could just be mistaking him for Cecil Taylor. Scherr is obviously influenced by Bud Powell and Bill Evans in swingingness, harmony, and melodic sense. The disc is pretty far from anything avant-garde and is consistently enjoyable across its 63 minutes (which isn't overlong), though at times it seems a bit too safe, even sterile, as if it hasn't ventured past the '60s. Still a good disc, if not at all essential. "Who Knows" is actually an Ellington original; I was surprised since it sounds pretty beboppish in this recording. "Escapade" kicks off with some Brahms, but not obvious Brahms (the piano's entrance in the first concerto). "Sarabande" is indeed a sarabande, with a cello part. Despite these classical influences the album is straight-up jazz.
Johnny Hodges - With Billy Strayhorn and the Orchestra: Another one of those over-the-hill-jazz-titan albums that I like so much. Surprise, surprise: I like this one, too. Hodges is obviously the star here and takes the lion's share of the solos. This is largely the Duke Ellington band with the usual heavy-hitters, but they're almost entirely in the background: the big names get a few bars each in the spotlight (over the whole album), but not more than that. Hodges, though, is obviously very good and carries the load comfortably.
WWF: Just watched the July 2001 Raw with Booker T and Buff Bagwell in the disastrous main event (the crowd was very hostile, not only to both wrestlers but to the very existence of WCW, and the match ended with both WCW guys getting literally kicked out of the building by the WWF) so I guess this is officially the beginning of the Invasion era (and the end of the Attitude). It's obvious now that this is a case of dog-catches-car. This was the opportunity of a lifetime and Vince blew it like one of Billy Gunn's singles pushes. To be fair I don't know what I would have done any differently: WCW couldn't run as a separate promotion; as we saw with Booker/Bagwell, you can't interlace the two brands on shared television (not that that was workable in the first place). (Okay, I guess they did try WCW-as-a-separate-promotion for a little while longer. They had no answer for the most foreseeable problem of faces-and-heels; the whole dynamic breaks down altogether and there's no real feel for who the "good guy" is in a match, that can leave you annoyingly hanging.) Another problem was that the WWF had contract problems with the top WCW guys, so all that was left to do the shows right then were the small fry. I do know that after the Invasion angle had settled they split the overflowing roster into Raw and Smackdown. I remember the last World Wrestling show I watched (until last year) was the first one as WWE. Something about the change just pissed me off. It pissed off like 500 million other fans into no longer watching, too. The MTV reality show Tough Enough was going on at this time. I was philosophically opposed to reality television and to giving actual WWF contracts to some schlub who won an MTV casting call. In retrospect the show's graduates did nothing at all so it all just kind of falls into late-WWF-mega-popularity decadence. It was probably really interesting and would have been fun to have watched, if I hadn't been so contrary. LOL at the "X-Factor" stable of X-Pac, Albert, and Justin Credible. They really put themselves on the map, though I've always liked Albert. I'm not an ECW fan, but they did know how to name their talent. Balls Mahoney is the greatest name -- not just in wrestling -- ever. Paul Heyman kicked ass as a color broadcast guy. I wish they had kept him, but they just had to put him in the storyline.