Christmas is just around the corner, and the "greatest hits" and special "live" collections are flowing fast and furious from the companies, hoping to capitalize on the gift-giving season.
Maverick offers The Collection from Alanis Morissette. The disc offers 17 of Morissette's hits and favorites, as well as a new single, a techno-remake of Seal's first big hit, "Crazy." Included are "You Oughta Know," "Ironic," "Uninvited," "Thank You," "Hands Clean," and "Still" (from the "Dogma" soundtrack) and "Let's Do It (Let's Fall in Love" (from the De-Lovely soundtrack).
For fans who still pine for the days when Beyonce created hits with the soulful vocal trio Destiny's Child, Sony Urban Music offers Destiny's Child #1's, a collection a dozen top-charting hits plus three new songs.
Warner Bros. has pulled together the key tracks from Dire Straits and its leader Mark Knopfler in Private Investigations: The Best of Dire Straits & Mark Knopfler. The two-disc set includes Straits classics like "Telegraph Road," ""Sultans of Swing," "Romeo & Juliet," "So Far Away," "Money For Nothing" and "Walk of Life" on the first disc, and focuses mostly on Knopfler's solo work on the second disc, from his early instrumental soundtrack work ("Going Home (Theme from Local Hero)" and "The Long Road (Theme from Cal)") to his most recent singles "Sailing to Philadelphia" and "Boom, Like That." It closes with a new duet with Emmylou Harris, "All the Roadrunning," a contemplative, back-porch strummer that previews an album from the two due next year.
Columbia's Legacy arm is going all-out with Billy Joel this season, offering My Lives, a four-CD box set that also includes a DVD with 14 songs recorded live in Frankfort during the River of Dreams tour. The concert includes hits like "Pressure" and "We Didn't Start the Fire" and was first broadcast in 1993 on The Disney Channel. The audio CDs offers 66 tracks spanning Joel's recording career from 1965-2001. The songs range from his earliest recordings with The Lost Souls, The Hassles and Attila to his most recent classical work with the London Symphony Orchestra. The first disc covers the early period. The second disc includes hits such as "An Innocent Man," "Modern Woman," "Keeping the Faith," and his duet with Ray Charles, "Baby Grand," along with live versions of the early song "Captain Jack" and Bob Dylan's "The Times They Are A-Changin'." Disc three is devoted largely to his covers of songs by other artists " as well as a demo of Dylan's "Highway 61 Revisited" that is previously unreleased. The final disc offers a live duet with Elton John the "Tribute to Heroes Concert for NY" recording of "New York State of Mind," three classical compositions and more.
Fans of the local music scene a decade ago will remember Ralph Covert and the Bad Examples, who released a couple of excellent pop-rock albums and performed amazing electric shows around Chicago. Despite a loyal following, they never made the leap to the majors, and ultimately Covert changed his focus to a successful career recording and performing children's albums under the banner of Ralph's World. If you never picked up their last "hits" collection, they've now released an update, Good Examples of Bad Examples: The Best of Ralph Covert and the Bad Examples Vol. 2 on the local Waterdog label that Covert co-founded 15 years ago. The disc takes a revisionist swing at the band's biggest hit "Not Dead Yet" (which was recorded by Styx, as well as in five other versions by Bad Examples). Covert's style ranged from folky balladic singer-songwriter to Squeeze-ish rocker in his prime with the Bad Examples, and the new disc offers key moments from that period, from "One Perfect Moment," "Statue by the Phone," and "A Place of Her Own" to a couple tracks from his post-Bad Examples (but pre-children's albums) solo disc. For more information, see www.waterdogmusic.com.
When guitar prodigy Neil Schon left Santana and formed Journey in the early '70s, he originally had an arty jazz-rock-fusion act on his hands for the first album or two. But then singer Steve Perry entered the mix, and suddenly the band transformed into the quintessential vocal rock band, spitting out hit after amazing hit of complex guitar and harmony work that to this day remains unmatched.
Sometime in the '80s, the band shed members as well as focus, and after a couple lackluster, sterile pop albums with a large gap in between them, Perry finally quit the band for good after 1996's Trial By Fire. It seemed the end for Journey.
But a couple years later, Schon recruited a singer he'd worked with on another project, Steve Augieri, who sounded remarkably like Perry (ironically, Augieri had quit the music business months before, because of criticism that he sounded like a Journey clone!). The band began touring as a "hits" act for a couple years until finally releasing Arrival, a studio album in 2000 with Augieri front and center. The disc was solid, but unremarkable. Now, five years later, the band returns with its 13th studio album, Generations, and it's another mixed bag.
Celebrating its 30th anniversary as performing act this year (though only Schon and bassist Ross Valory reach back to its beginnings), the new album, not surprisingly, looks backwards for inspiration. Its early tracks sound like late '70s/early '80s Journey. The opening song, "Faith in the Heartland," enters the Journey canon as one of the band's best songs of the past 20 years, with pounding drums, a classic Journey vocal line and Schon's trademark anthemic guitar leads.
Likewise the full-rock throttle of "The Place in Your Heart" and the metronomic guitar underpinning of "A Better Life," a slowly building song of melancholy and hope that surprisingly features drummer Deen Castronovo on vocals. Casual listeners won't even notice that Augieri has abandoned the lead mic; Castronovo has a raspy lower register that sounds classically Journey, and with the big harmonies of the rest of the band on the chorus, this could have been a song from "Escape" or "Departure" over 20 years ago. Then it's keyboardist/songwriter Jonathan Cain's turn to sing, as he belts out the piano-pounding soulful ode to onward progress, "Every Generation."
Unfortunately, after the first three or four tracks, the recaptured glory mostly ends on Generations. Augieri contributes the stillborn "Butterfly (She Flies Alone)" and Cain pens the yawn-inducing ballad "Knowing that You Love Me."
But the real downfall of the album (and ironically the point which the band is promoting as a “first”) is that every member of Journey takes a turn as lead vocalist on this album on one song or another. While Castronovo does a fine job, the rest of the members don't fare quite as well. They're all passable vocalists, but none bring the charisma of Perry or Augieri at his best to sell the songs, and so as a whole, the album seems to wander and grow “dull” as it plays on. There's no clear “hit single” tucked in among this baker's dozen of songs, and after awhile, the mid-tempo rock beat and crying guitars all start to sound the same. These aren't bad songs, but neither are they “wake up and take notice” hits, and consequently Generations doesn't re-establish Journey as a force to be reckoned with. Longtime fans will find a comfortably familiar sound and some good jams however, and should check it out.
Journey's current tour brings them to Waukegan, IL on Saturday, December 3 at the Genesee Theatre and Champaign, IL on Sunday, December 4 at the Univ. of IL Assembly Hall.