Green Day is one of the most electric live acts on the planet, and the punk-pop band has finally unleashed a live album. Bullet in a Bible was recorded this year at a massive outdoor arena on its American Idiot tour, and the set features both a CD of the live recordings and a DVD of the concert footage, interspersed with interview footage of the band. Included are the recent hits "American Idiot" and "Boulevard of Broken Dreams," as well as classics such as "Longview," "Brain Stew," "Basket Case" and "Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)."
It's been 11 years since Steve Winwood and Jim Capaldi, the remaining members of the '60s seminal band, Traffic, reunited for a series of live concerts. The results of that 1994 tour have finally been issued as The Last Great Traffic Jam, a three-disc set crammed onto two. The second disc is double-sided, with audio on one side and DVD footage and audio on the other. The songs include "Pearly Queen," "Medicated Goo," "Mozambique," "Gimme Some Lovin,'" as well as "Dear Mr. Fantasy," which was recorded in Chicago's Soldier Field and features the Grateful Dead's Jerry Garcia joining the band on guitar.
Of more recent vintage is the new live album from Aerosmith, Rockin' the Joint, on Columbia. Lately, Aerosmith has been rediscovering its early '70s blues-rock roots, as evidenced by its last roots-rock-oriented studio CD, Honkin' on Bobo, as well as guitarist Joe Perry's recent solo project that covers the same ground (albeit without the charismatic vocals of Steven Tyler). The new live Aerosmith 12-disc set, surprisingly doesn't touch on the songs from Honkin,' but it does continue to rediscover the band's classic blues-rock roots, focusing not on the band's '80s and '90s pop hits, but rather covering old rockers such as "Rattlesnake Shake" and "Train Kept a Rollin'," "Big Ten Inch Record,"as well as its own "Same Old Song and Dance," "Draw the Line," and "Walk This Way," as well as its pop hit from a few years back, "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing."
If you're a fan of the popular stage show Rent, you can now pick up the cast recording from the new film version of the modern rock musical, produced by longtime Green Day producer Rob Cavallo. The new Rent Original Motion Picture Soundtrack recording on Warner Bros. also offers a bonus track not in the original production, "Love Heals," that also was written by the writer of the musical, the late Jonathan Larson.
Also on the soundtrack front comes The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, from EMI. The soundtrack collects songs from the kids film that includes Jars of Clay, Steven Curtis Chapman, Chris Tomlin and more.
If you're feeling like "looking back" during the holiday season, there are two CDs of new recordings of classic hits by Bette Midler and Steve Tyrell. Columbia offers Bette Midler Sings the Peggy Lee Songbook, including lightweight swing and slow string versions of the songs "Fever," "Big Spender," Mr. Wonderful," and "I Love Being Here With You," a duet with Barry Manilow, who also produced the album.
Tyrell offers Songs of Sinatra, a sedate, hotel-lobby-ready quiet swing orchestra collection of some of the most famous 'Ol Blue Eyes tracks, from "I Get a Kick Out of You," "Fly Me to the Moon," "Witchcraft," "(I've Got You) Under My Skin," "All the Way," and "All of Me," among others.
Canada punk popster Bif Naked burst on the scene a few years back with I Bificus, a catchy, rockin' major label debut on Atlantic Records, but seemed to fade away just as quickly — at least as far as the major labels go. She released a couple discs before 1999's I Bificus on her own Her Royal Majesty's Records (HRMR) label and has issued a couple more since on that homegrown label.
This year, she paired with gaming company Bodog.com and Warner Bros. Canada to issue her latest, Superbeautifulmonster.
The new CD doesn't break new ground for the singer, who has consistently managed to meld pounding drums and guitar riffs with plaintive, emotional songs about love, loss, anger and, as the first track on this disc explores, "Abandonment."
If anything, compared to her previous discs, this one has the least edge and the most pop polish. She jogs from sing-song punk-pop melodies to yearning ballads with equal fervor.
While Naked's manic live shows, dark makeup and heavy tattoos brand her as a punker at heart, and she does a solid soft rock cover of Metallica's hit "Nothing Else Matters" on this CD, she has always tempered her alternative rock roots with a calming dose of keyboards, and this album continues that trend. While she growls Joan Jett-ish on the pounding single "Let Down," the keyboard work in the background lends the song a more accessible sheen. Then on "Everyday," she lets down all the guards and strums quietly for a sappy, but well-meaning ballad ("everyday/live it like it's your last one/every kiss/kiss it like it's your first love").
While she looks counter-culture, Bif Naked's sultry vocals — somewhere between the aforementioned Jett and No Doubt's Gwen Stefani — brand her as a misplaced pop star. The only really punk-rock pounders on this disc come in "I Want," a headbanging celebration of desire, and "The Question Song," which struts with a Marilyn Manson-esque verse falsetto before its numbingly stomping chorus.
But those are balanced by the disc's strongest dose of tease in "Funeral of a Good Grrl," where she sings "do it to me now/I can't believe I just said it out loud."
Superbeautifulmonster is not Bif Naked's best album, but her style is edgy and unique, her songs rockingly memorable and, if you like punk-pop with a mild tease factor, and missed her Chicagoland show a couple of weeks ago, you need to discover her on CD. For more information and song samples, check out www.bifnaked.com.