The bad news first. These albums are only available in digital editions. That means no physical CDs you can hold in your hand and keep stored along with the others in your stash. Times are a-changing. Ours is becoming an all-digital world. So accept it and adapt.
Then the good news. Digital is still better than nothing at all, especially in the case of these albums which a few years ago might not have even been released locally.
So here they are, the new albums that I think are among the best gifts for the music lovers in your list this Christmas season. And goodie, you do not even have to do the wrap and deliver it. They are all online. Just get the link and then send it to the lucky receivers.
Diamonds by Elton John. This is a greatest hits collection commemorating Elton’s 50th anniversary with lyricist Bernie Taupin but also boasting of other tracks. That means it also encompasses some of the best pop tunes ever created over the past 50 years.
There are 34 cuts including Your Song, Tiny Dancer, Rocket Man, Honky Cat, Crocodile Rock, Daniel, Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, Candle In The Wind, Bennie And The Jets, The Bitch Is Back, Someone Saved My Life Tonight, Don’t Go Breaking My Heart, Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word and the songs from the musical The Lion King, Can You Feel The Love Tonight and Circle Of Life.
Jazz Loves Disney 2 by Various Artists. The first Jazz Loves Disney released a year ago turned out to be so good, they just had to come up with a Volume 2. And it is even better. This is a very light jazz collection that I believe is an excellent way to introduce the kiddies to jazz music. Why not? They are already familiar with all of the melodies and can surely appreciate the little changes in the arrangements.
Tale As Old As Time by Bebel Gilberto; Someday My Prince Will Come by Imany; Be Our Guest by Jamie Cullum and Eric Cantona; Under The Sea by Jacob Collier; Try Everything by Angelique Kidjo; Steamboat Willie by The Amazing Keystone Big Band; J’ai vu voler un elephant by Thomas Dutronc; So This Is Love by Selah Sue; The Golden Touch by Madeline Peyroux; You’ll Be In My Heart by George Benson; and Stay Awake by Laura Mvula.
Seal — Standards by Seal. The album took a long time coming. I think Seal should have done this long ago. I am of the belief that every singer who has made it to the top should come up with his interpretation of the standards at some point of his career and Seal has finally done his bit. So this is better late than never. Do not look for his usual passionate style as in Kiss From A Rose or Prayer For The Dying and Future Love Paradise. He does this all as easy listening. The relaxed stance shows that this is surely a fun project where he enjoys his chance to sing familiar tunes from the great American songbook.
Luck Be A Lady, Autumn Leaves, I Put A Spell On You, They Can’t Take That Away From Me, Anyone Who Knows What Love Is, Love For Sale, My Funny Valentine, I’ve Got You Under My Skin, Smile, I’m Beginning To See The Light, It Was A Very Good Year, The Nearness Of You and because it is now the season of Christmas, he has included Let It Snow Let It Snow Let It Snow and The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire).
Nat “King” Cole & Me by Gregory Porter. This is one I eagerly looked forward to hearing. It is today’s foremost jazz stylist, the Grammy-winning baritone Gregory Porter singing the songs made popular by the true legend Nat “King” Cole. Porter has this incredible voice, powerful but with a velvety touch and he has made every cut his own. Tying up the package with a beautiful ribbon is the swinging accompaniment by the London Studio Orchestra.
Mona Lisa, Smile, Nature Boy, L.O.V.E., Quizas Quizas Quizas, Miss Otis Regrets, Pick Yourself Up, When Love Was King, The Lonely One, Ballerina, I Wonder Who My Daddy Is and again, The Christmas Song.
Sad to say though, the major casualty in this development is rock music. It is not really dead but rock, once the dominant form of popular music for over 50 years has ceased to matter in the hit charts. The major acts are still around, their classic recordings classified under catalogue sales, but hot new albums have become a rarity.
Well, you might find one or two releases in the hit lists. Nowadays, these are by Imagine Dragons or twenty one pilots or from Metallica. And nothing more. This is why the arrival and success of Concrete And Gold by the Foo Fighters is a huge event. Rock is alive anew, thanks to this band led by former Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl, who has given it a massive shot in the arm.
Born out of the death of Kurt Cobain, Foo Fighters has emerged as one of today’s most important bands. Grohl is vocalist, plays guitars and drums and is also the lead songwriter. Nate Mendel is on bass; Taylor Hawkins on drums and percussion; Pat Smear on lead and rhythm guitars; Chris Shiflett on lead guitar and backing vocals; and Rami Jaffee on keyboards and organ.
Concrete And Gold is Grohl’s lament over an America facing a bleak future. But he has clothed this sentiment with the bright regalia that great rock music offers. As always, the songs have easy on the ears melodies but with powerful arrangements. There is metal, Neighborhood, strong arena standouts, Run and T-shirt, Beatles influenced ballads, Sunday Rain.
And guess who played the drums for Sunday Rain? Paul McCartney himself. Concrete And Gold is not just another great Foo Fighters album. It is also starstudded. That voice layered over layers of back-up vocals in the title track belongs to Shawn Stockman of Boyz II Men. Sax wiz Dave Koz plays in La Dee Da with vocals by Allison Mosshart of The Kills. Inara George sings in Dirty Water. And would you believe, that is Justin Timberlake in Make It.
The Foo Fighters is expected to take over the No. 1 slot in Billboard’s Top 200 albums list any day now. You can’t keep good rockers down. Note that producer is Greg Kurstin who did Adele’s Hello album.
In the Hot 100, it is a sure thing that Taylor Swift will be giving up her top berth to fast-rising rapper Cardi B. There is also the formidable Sam Smith who entered the list at No. 5 but is expected to climb higher. Swift may have dethroned Despacito but her Look What You Made Me Do spent only three weeks at No. 3.
Swift’s other single Ready For It, came in at No. 18 but is now down to 21. I guess this proves that people do not really enjoy listening to tirades and recriminations by others, even if done musically by somebody like Swift.
The Top 20 titles in the Top 200 Albums Chart are: Life Changes by Thomas Rhett; Sleep Well Beast by The Nationals; A Moment Apart by ODESZA; Luv Is Rage 2 by Lil Uzi Vert; All The Light Above It Too by Jack Johnson; 17 by XXXTentacion; Current Mood by Dustin Lynch; DAMN by Kendrick Lamar; American Teen by Khalid; Slowheart by Kip Moore.
Southern Blood by Gregg Allman; Everybody by Logic; EvoIve by Imagine Dragons; Project Baby Two by Kodak Black; Ctrl by SZA; Divide by Ed Sheeran; Stoney by Post Malone; Issa Album by 21 Savage; More Life by Drake; and Hitchhiker by Neil Young.
The Top 20 tunes in the Hot 100 this week are: Look What You Made Me Do by Taylor Swift; Bodak Yellow (Money Moves) by Cardi B.; 1-800-273-8255 by Logic featuring Alessia Cara and Khalid; Despacito by Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee feat. Justin Bieber; Too Good At Goodbyes by Sam Smith; Wild Thoughts by DJ Khaled feat. Rihanna and Bryson Tiller; Unforgettable by French Montana feat. Swae Lee; Attention by Charlie Puth; Believer by Imagine Dragons; There’s Nothing Holding Me Back by Shawn Mendes.
Slow Hands by Niall Horan; Strip That Down by Liam Payne feat. Quavo; Sorry Not Sorry by Demi Lovato; Feel It Still by Portugal: The Man; Bank Account by 21 Savage; Rake It Up by Yo Gotti feat. Nicki Menage; Shape Of You by Ed Sheeran; That’s What I Like by Bruno Mars; Mi Gente by J. Balvin feat. Willy William; and the XO TOUR Llif3 by Lil Uzi Vert.
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