Beck, "The Information"
On sale at All That Jazz for $15.98
I don't even know where to start. Perhaps it shouldn't come as a surprise that Beck made homemade music videos for every song on the album - and included them on a DVD packaged with the CD - or that the album includes six pages of stickers so buyers can design the cover themselves.
Beck's beautiful, bizarre and complex mind translates in this album's new sounds that reflect his entire career in a visually metaphorical way. But Beck has left behind the melancholy of "Sea Change" days for a spacey-go-lucky attitude.
His retro/'80s-style music videos could have been filmed in a college dormitory at 4 a.m. Each is like a mini acid trip featuring strange, reoccurring characters, cross-dressers, ballerinas and singing bears. I guarantee you'll laugh out loud.
Beck's hard-to-explain, funky musical style is apparent in "Elevator Music" and "Nausea." "Cellphone's Dead" captures his electronic head-bobbing vibe, and "Dark Star" features his tight, sexy lyrics. He stretches his horizons on "The Horrible Fanfare/Landslide Exoskelton," with its tripped-out, spacey monologues, and he sells the softer side in "I think I'm in love" where he sings, "I think I'm in love, but it makes me kind of nervous to say so." I'm not nervous. I love Beck.
Rating: Everyone should love Beck. If I had to pick one CD to buy in the past 10 years, this would be it.
Jerry Lee Lewis, "Last Man Standing"
On sale at All That Jazz for $16.98
As soon as you hit play, this CD imports you back to the time of sipping milkshakes with your girlfriend, driving hot rods and worrying about neighborhood bullies like Biff from "Back to the Future."
Jerry Lee Lewis, now older than 70, has shown that age doesn't have to compromise talent or the popular trend of collaboration. Here's the name-dropping part: Jerry performs 21 duets with other big players in the history of the music industry. Just to name a few: Bruce Springsteen, Willie Nelson, Mick Jagger, Eric Clapton, Kris Kristofferson, B.B. King, Ringo Starr, Buddy Guy and Kid Rock. (Why is Kid Rock in there?)
Duets like this have a tendency to go wrong, but these tracks prove that isn't always the case. We probably didn't need to hear another rendition of "I Saw Her Standing There" or "Pink Cadillac" or "Rock and Roll," but to hear Jerry's fingers roll across the piano keys is worth it.
I would think this CD is more marketable to an older generation because I'm probably on the cusp of people who have seen the movie "Great Balls of Fire." The stark image of Jerry has been burned into my mind with his wild hair and almost spastic movements in front of a flaming piano. Jerry might as well have signed the Declaration of Rock 'n' Roll, because he is an American legend (who married his 13-year-old first cousin).
Regardless, as Peter Guralnick stated in his mini book about Jerry that comes with the CD, "He is one of the four great stylists in American music history who now lives in a world populated by ghosts."
Rating: Don't be the last man standing in line to buy this CD. Get it while it's hot.
Ludacris, "Release Therapy"
On sale at All That Jazz for $15.98
If you are wondering whether this CD will make you shake your moneymaker, Ludracis, a self-proclaimed "bedroom gangsta," says he will take you to a level you've never gone to before in "Girls Gone Wild." That is one of the hits along with "Money Maker" and "Grew Up A Screw Up."
But there are no clearly identified big radio singles on this CD.
Ludacris has proven himself to be consistent throughout his career, but there is a lot of criticism of this CD among reviewers. He is scrutinized more for his desire for mainstream appeal, rather than a decline in talent. But Luda declares on the album, "I don't worry about the haters."
He's trying to keep it real by addressing real life issues and struggles in "Runaway Love," "Mouths to Feed" and "Do Your Time."
Guest stars on the album include Mary J. Blige, Bobby Valentino, Pharrrell, Eddie Lee Long, Field Mob and R. Kelly. His son is also on the CD - a trend I've noticed appearing as these rappers and emcees are getting older and settling down behind the scenes.
"Release Therapy" is as solid as a group session, but don't expect any personal revelations.
Rating: I can shake my moneymaker to this.