By this time you've probably seen more than enough Frank Sinatra tributes to last you a lifetime. There will no doubt be a host of new compilations on the CD shelves soon featuring the rich legacy of the charismatic singer. But if you're looking to listen to some classic Frank right now, and don't know quite where to turn, Capitol Records released a three-disc collection called The Capitol Years in 1990 which includes the majority of Sinatra's best recordings, from "Chicago" to "Witchcraft." Sinatra's 1990s Duets albums were throwaways, but his late '50s-'60s output defined an era...
TV show soundtracks have come more into vogue of late and some of them rival big budget movie soundtracks for entertainment value. There's currently an "Ally McBeal" show soundtrack out featuring Vonda Shepard. Now we get Cleveland Rocks! Music From The Drew Carey Show from Rhino Records which manages to capture the offhanded hilarity of the show quite well. The soundtrack is a mix of cast musical moments - from Carey's own title sequence "Moon Over Parma" and the rip-on-Drew Christmas carol sequence orchestrated by Mimi and a "boys choir" - to the classic rock backdrops to the show's two main opening sequences The Vogues' "Five O'Clock World" and The Presidents of the United States of America's remake of Ian Hunter's "Cleveland Rocks." Hunter's original version closes out the disc, which also includes funky rock from Tower of Power in "What Is Hip?" The Rocky Horror Picture Show's "The Time Warp," Peaches & Herb's "Shake Your Groove Thing" and Iggy Pop's "Lust for Life." The show's cast also takes shots at "Working In A Coal Mine," "Tomorrow" and "High Hopes."...
Rhino Records also gets high marks for a collection of Elvis Costello songs recorded over the past two decades by other artists. Bespoke Songs, Lost Dogs, Detours & Rendezvous, Songs of Elvis Costello collects Dave Edmunds' AM radio guitar hit version of "Girls Talk," Paul McCartney's take of "My Brave Face," and 'Til Tuesday's "The Other End (of the Telescope)" (a song that served to close the band's career). Robert Wyatt's version of "Shipbuilding" appears, although Tasmin Archer actually recorded a more moving take on that song. Archer, however, appears here with her stirring piano-based cover of "All Grown Up." The breadth of Costello's influence is easily seen in the variety of artists and sounds that appear here. There are Irish, folk and country artists here, as well as rockers. For Real offer a '60s girl-pop sounding track with strings and organ in "Unwanted Number" and other artists range from luminaries like Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison and Nick Lowe to Zucchero, Was (Not Was) and Ruben Blades. There are 21 songs in all, and serve to show the amazing versatility and popularity among other artists of Costello. Of special interest to fans is a 28-page CD booklet which includes notes from Costello on how all of these songs came to be.
My Way or the Highway
If I could just stop listening to the first four
tracks on this album, I might be able to enjoy the other 10 smart, sharp, hook-happy
rock tracks. But "Queen For A Day," "Paper Dolls" "Freak Magnet" and the call-response
gem "Not My Johnny" are hard to stop playing over and over and over. There's
just something intoxicatingly sweet in the bass and guitar-led rock of Tuscadero.
Their sound has the staccato, rubberband guitar crunch of Elastica and the offhanded
dual female vocals that made Dance Hall Crashers and Veruca Salt so irresistable.
But Tuscadero is more "Teen Beat" in attitude than ska or alternative rock, despite some big grinding guitar riffs. The band borrows extensively from the chirpy bubblegum pop styles of the '80s. Lead singer Melissa Farris lifts the high hiccoughs of new wave girl pop bands like Missing Persons but never sounds affected. On most of the tracks, she sings with a confidential quality that makes the listener feel like Farris is right there in the same room, sharing secrets.
And her secrets are, well, a little more grown up than last time around. She actually has a social comment or two to make, while on the band's first CD, The Pink Album, Tuscadero acted as the ultimate culture vulture, talking about "deep" subjects like brands of candy, "Barbie and Ken," Nancy Drew books and Pinkie Tuscadero from "Happy Days." With My Way Or The Highway, some of that junior high name dropping is gone, replaced by a focus on the dangers of self absorption.
There's a forceful "woman be yourself" anthem in "Paper Dolls" ("Don't let what
they advertise/make you something you don't recognize/because they don't know
you at all/with their carbon-copy-cookie-cutter-phony-little paper-dolls/beauty
takes all kinds/especially if love is blind.") On "Not My Johnny," one of the
album's hookiest cuts, Farris paints the picture of the ultimate narcissist,
a rocker who sits upstairs listening to his own album all the time.
She hits on the devastating effects of ego in "You Got Your Pride" and in "Temper Temper" she offers a finger-shaking self-critique on the dangers of temper to a relationship.
But the sugar-coated subject matter of The Pink Album isn't all replaced by beat happy self-help tunes on My Way or the Highway. "Tiny Shiny Boyfriend" is a hokey homage to one of those little figurines mounted on a spring that people put on their car dashboards. And in "Dr. Doom" and "Evil Eye" the band takes a "creature feature" approach to pop songwriting. ("She's a little princess at a quarter after eight/but you'd better watch your back if you stay up late" she warns in "Evil Eye")
This is a chimey, happy album whose treasures really do extend far beyond the first four songs that I keep playing over and over in my car. Give it a spin when the sun's shining and the windows are rolled down.