Simultaneously more accessible and ambitious than any of the Cure's previous albums, the double album Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me finds Robert Smith expanding his pop vocabulary by tentatively adding bigger guitars, the occasional horn section, lite-funk rhythms, and string sections. It's eclectic, to be sure, but it's also a mess, bouncing from idea to idea and refusing to develop some of the most intriguing detours. Even if Kiss Me doesn't quite gel, its best moments – including the deceptively bouncy "Why Can't I Be You?" and the stately "Just Like Heaven" – are remarkable and help make the album one of the group's very best.
Heathen Chemistry is the fifth studio album by the English rock band Oasis, released in 2002. The album was written and recorded with a back-to-basics sound with a more rock feel to it; the more crude and simple sound differs from the musical grandiosity of their previous records, Be Here Now (1997) and Standing on the Shoulder of Giants (2000), being more comparable to their early work.
For American audiences, the phenomenal worldwide success of Oasis was a little puzzling. That's because they only had part of the picture – unless they were hardcore fans, they didn't hear nearly three albums of material released on B-sides and non-LP singles. Critics and fans alike claimed that the best of these B-sides were as strong as the best moments on the albums, and they were right. None of the albums had a song that rocked as hard as "Fade Away" (cleverly built on a stolen melody from Wham!'s "Freedom"), "Headshrinker," or "Acquiesce." There was nothing as charming as the lite psychedelic pastiche "Underneath the Sky" or the Bacharach tribute "Going Nowhere"; there was nothing as affecting as Noel Gallagher's acoustic plea "Talk Tonight" or the minor-key, McCartney-esque "Rockin' Chair," nothing as epic as "The Masterplan." Most bands wouldn't throw songs of this caliber away on B-sides, but Noel Gallagher followed the example of his heroes the Jam and the Smiths, who released singles where the B-sides rivaled the A-sides. This meant many American fans missed these songs, so to remedy this situation, Oasis released the B-sides compilation The Masterplan.
A strange phenomenon with anthemic hard rock bands is that when they begin to mature and branch out into new musical genres, they nearly always choose to embrace both the music and spirituality of the East and India, and Pearl Jam is no exception. Throughout No Code, Eddie Vedder expounds on his moral and spiritual dilemmas; where on previous albums his rage was virtually all-consuming, it is clear on No Code that he has embraced an unspecified religion as a way to ease his troubles. Fortunately, that has coincided with an expansion of the group's musical palette. From the subtle, winding opener, "Sometimes," and the near-prayer of the single, "Who You Are," the band reaches into new territory, working with droning, mantra-like riffs and vocals, layered exotic percussion, and a newfound subtlety. Of course, they haven't left behind hard rock, but like any Pearl Jam record, the heart of No Code doesn't lie in the harder songs, it lies in the slower numbers and the ballads, which give Vedder the best platform for his soul-searching: "Present Tense," "Off He Goes," "In My Tree," and "Around the Bend" equal the group's earlier masterpieces.
At their best, cover albums have a strange way of galvanizing an artist by returning to the songs that inspired them; the artists can find the reason why they made music in the first place, perhaps finding a new reason to make music. Robert Plant's Dreamland – his first solo album in nearly ten years and one of the best records he's ever done, either as a solo artist or as a member of Led Zeppelin – fulfills that simple definition of a covers album and goes beyond it, finding Plant sounding reinvigorated and as restless as a new artist. Part of the reason why this album works so well is that he has a new band – not a group of supporting musicians, but a real band whose members can challenge him because they tap into the same eerie, post-folk mysticism that fueled Led Zeppelin III, among other haunting moments in the Zep catalog. Another reason why this album works so well is that it finds the band working from a similar aesthetic point as classic Zeppelin, who, at their peak, often reinterpreted and extrapolated their inspirations, piecing them together to create something startlingly original.
Seventy-one minutes of live Pearl Jam plus an unreleased song? It's aural nirvana for fans of the reclusive, integrity-driven Seattle quintet. Pearl Jam are nothing if not passionate and unabashedly rocking, and this 16-track offering, recorded during their Yield tour, illustrates why the mumbly voiced rock deity and his band of merry men inspire such ardor in their followers. Eddie Vedder's emotive vocals, Mike McCready and Stone Gossard's raw and raging fretwork and edgy, catchy, whisper-to-a-scream dynamics are deftly and inspiringly captured. Though a few staples (including "Jeremy") are missing, songs running the gamut of the band's seven-year career–from "Corduroy" to "Nothingman" to the Neil Young-penned "F*ckin' Up"–more than make up for any exclusions. The breadth and scope found on Live on Two Legs (a take on the Queen song, "Death on Two Legs"?) proves the once über-"alternative" Pearl Jam have struck a loud chord in the mainstream…and that's not a bad thing.
Of all the post-Fathers & Sons attempts at updating Muddy's sound in collaboration with younger white musicians, this album worked best because they let Muddy be himself, producing music that compared favorably to his concerts of the period, which were wonderful. His final album for Chess (recorded at Levon Helm's Woodstock studio, not in Chicago), with Helm and fellow Band-member Garth Hudson teaming up with Muddy's touring band, it was a rocking (in the bluesy sense) soulful swansong to the label where he got his start. Muddy covers some songs he knew back when (including Louis Jordan's "Caldonia" and "Let The Good Times Roll"), plays some slide, and generally has a great time on this Grammy-winning album. This record got lost in the shuffle between the collapse of Chess Records and the revival of Muddy's career under the auspices of Johnny Winter, and was forgotten until 1995. The CD contains one previously unreleased number, "Fox Squirrel".
Chick Corea's Elektric Band II found bassist John Patitucci, drummer Dave Weckl and guitarist Frank Gambale going out on their own and being replaced by Jimmy Earl, Gary Novak and Mike Miller. Saxophonist Eric Marienthal was the only sideman from the first Elektric Band to stick with Corea. Although the new members are not as distinctive as their predecessors, the high-quality material played on this release (which includes Jimmy Heath's "CTA," "Blue Miles" and a variety of Corea originals) is very jazz-oriented and occasionally there are straightahead sections. This set is recommended even to listeners who have not yet acquired a taste for fusion.