It’s Robert Plant New Vinyl Thursday at The Vinyl Underground at 7th Heaven. Check out this week’s list of new vinyl arrivals:
2Pac- Greatest Hits
Alela Diane- Cusp
All Them Witches- Nothing As The Ideal
Ari Lennox- Pho
R&B singer Ari Lennox has built a reputation as a performer to watch through her collaborations with rapper J. Cole and her sultry, neo-soul album Shea Butter Baby. Now, Lennox’s debut EP PHO is finally issued on vinyl along with a companion LP of instrumental versions.
PHO is brief at seven tracks and 22 minutes, but it is hardly slight. Lennox has no trouble establishing herself as a singer who can channel Ella Fitzgerald, Whitney Houston or Erykah Badu with ease. Lennox keeps the mood laid-back and seductive, while keeping the tempos pushing forward.
“Backseat” is an R-rated collaboration with labelmate Cozz that details an adult rendezvous in the titular location. “Backwood” uses smoking as a metaphor for the same activity in “Backseat.” On “Night Drive,” Lennox incorporates horn samples and namechecks Herbie Hancock.
The EP’s brightest track is “La La La La,” an enthralling interpretation of how bad relationships can still feel so good. Lennox shows her poise as a singer on this nearly six-minute track, knowing just when to hold back and when to put it all out there.
Five years after it was released, PHO remains a compelling capsule of a captivating singer and is an essential addition to any neo-soul library.- Joel Francis
Art Blakey & Jazz Messengers- The Big Beat
Billy Strings- Renewal
Not yet 30 years old, Billy Strings has become a sensation in the old-time world of bluegrass music. Strings has been earning accolades and awards for years, leading to worries that Strings might grow restless and stray from the genre. Strings stoked this fire a bit himself when he said he didn’t know if his music could be called bluegrass any longer.
So far, these fears have been unfounded. Strings’ third album, Renewal, is a straight-up bluegrass album that crackles with creativity and vitality. The album emerged after a period Strings spent in isolation with his bandmates.
Across Renewal’s generous 70 minutes and 16 songs, Strings processes his past, growing up in a central Michigan town ravaged by the opioid crisis, the addiction that touched his parents and other tragedies and romances (musical and otherwise). These are weighty topics to be sure, but Strings’ crack band know just when to lean in for added poignance or inject some buoyancy into the performance.
Between Strings’ Grammy-winning album Home in 2019, last year’s pair of Cutting Grass albums by Sturgil Simpson and now Renewal, it is clear we are living in a bluegrass rebirth. These albums have been celebrated by bluegrass fans but are accessible enough for all music fans to embrace. Anyone sleeping on Renewal because of old stereotypes needs to shake off their own dust, grab a copy and join the revolution. – Joel Francis
Black Pumas- Black Pumas
Bob Marley- Legend
Bobbi Humphrey- Fancy Dancer
Brand New- The Devil & God Are Raging Inside Me
Brandi Carlile- In These Silent Days
Bruce Springsteen- The Legendary 1979 No Nukes Concerts
Cage the Elephant- Melophobia
Cat Stevens- Teaser And The Firecat
Charles Mingus- The Black Saint And The Sinner Lady
Cold War Kids- New Age Norms 3
Colter Wall- Live In Front Of Nobody
Courtney Barnett- Things Take Time Take Time
Australian singer/songwriter Courtney Barnett has established she’s more likely to hang out at the perimeter of a party and take notes than be in the center of the dance floor. On her third album, Barnett is feeling her way back into a world that is just now starting to reopen.
The album opens with Barnett ruminating at a window, watching a garbage truck and taking note of other happenings in the neighborhood. With a lyric that could turn Bob Dylan green, she muses “Well time is money/and money is no man’s friend.”
Things Take Time Take Time finds its pleasures in the minutia. Barnett’s unadorned performances often sound like demos, with this stark background bringing the small details into further relief. Singing against a programmed drum beat on “Turning Green” a tired-sounding Barnett sings “lethargy is kinda forcing you to see the flowers in the weeds” before unleashing the only guitar solo on the album, an angular feat that would have been at home on Wilco’s Star Wars album.
A couple songs later, Barnett sounds positively exuberant on “If I Don’t Hear From You Tonight.” The portrait of love Barnett paints here is touching in its practicality and self-confidence.
“Stars in the sky are gonna die eventually, it’s fine/You know that every morning/I’m rising with you on my mind,” she sings.
Later, Barnett ends her day singing “If I don’t hear from you tonight/I know you probably closed your eyes/And everything will be alright.”
Fans of strong songwriting who can appreciate subtlety and nuance will find lots to soak up on Things Take Time Take Time. There aren’t any immediate earworms, but the entire album adds up to a gratifying experience.- Joel Francis
David Bowie- Diamond Dogs
David Bowie- Pinups
David Bowie- Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps)
The eighth album from rapper DMX, was supposed to start his comeback. Instead, X’s first release since 2021 also became his first posthumous release. The disappointment of Exodus becoming a period at the end of X’s career, rather than an ellipsis leading to a new chapter is compounded by the album’s frustrating unevenness.
There is a good album trying to get out in Exodus, but it is consistently shouted down by inane cliches and squandered star appearances. Nas and Jay-Z ended their beef more than a decade ago, but the two iconic rappers still rarely appear on the same track together. The pair use their features on “Bath Salts” to brag about their wealth, which seems especially callous since DMX, who’s first five albums debuted at No. 1, died with debt and legal issues.
DMX puts the album’s thesis on full display two songs later, on the chorus of “Money Money Money.” “Money, money, money,” X growls. “Bitches, bitches, bitches.” Did he really need to come out of retirement to gift us with this insight? Reinforcing the album’s pointlessness, the previous song, “Dogs Out,” with Lil Wayne, is built around the dated Baha Men hit “Who Let the Dogs Out?”
A glimpse of humanity finally starts to appear on the gentler “Hold Me Down,” featuring Alicia Keys. X takes another step down this introspective path on “Skyscrapers,” which finds Bono offering his best Chris Martin impression, cooing platitudes on the chorus. Unfortunately, these songs are followed by an inane skit that sounds like a 14-year-old trying to write a Quintin Tarantino scene.
Exodus’ final stretch reveals the album this could have been. “Walking in the Rain” features X looking back on his life and his best bars on the album. “Letter to My Son (Call Your Father)” is a tender portrait of parental advice and regrets. If Exodus had more moments like this, it could have been a significant artistic statement. Instead, it is a wasted opportunity with a few buried gems.- Joel Francis
Donald Byrd- Places And Spaces
GA-20- Does Hound Dog Taylor
Gorillaz- Song Machine, Season One
Greta Van Fleet- The Battle At Garden’s Gate
Halsey- If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power
True to its title, If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power radiates strength and intensity. With a production assist from Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, Halsey layers dark, industrial elements over her sound.
Horace Silver- 6 Pieces Of Silver
Idles- Ultra Mono
Jimi Hendrix- Are You Experienced
Jungle- Loving In Stereo
Kendrick Lamar- Good Kid, M.A.A.D City
King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard- Live In San Francisco ’16
Kiss- Destroyer: 45th Anniversary, (Deluxe Edition, Anniversary Edition)
Makaya McCraven- Deciphering The Message
My Chemical Romance- Black Parade
Nathaniel Rateliff- The Future
Neal Francis- In Plain Sight
Neil Young- Homegrown
Nina Simone- Hits
Primal Scream- Live At Levitation
Primus- Miscellaneous Debris
Prince- Welcome 2 America
Robert Plant- Raise the Roof
Sam Cooke- The Best Of
Sarah Jarosz- Undercurrent
Silk Sonic- An Evening With Silk Sonic
Pop star Bruno Mars and rapper/singer/producer Anderson .Paak have been burning up the internet since they released their first song online last March. The slow trickle of singles since then has built plenty of anticipation for a full-length collaboration. Now that it’s finally here, An Evening with Silk Sonic doesn’t disappoint.
After an introductory track narrated by P-Funk legend Bootsy Collins, the Evening kicks off with “Leave the Door Open,” a smooth slice of Marvin Gaye-inspired R&B that leads straight to the bedroom. Other songs borrow liberally from Rick James, the Delfonics and Isley Brothers. Playing spot-the-influence with Silk Sonic is child’s play. What makes the album so irresistible is hearing how much fun the pair is having putting together their throwback party mix.
Silk Sonic’s evening is delivered with a broad wink. On the playful “Smoking Out the Window,” Mars complains that “badass kids runnin’ ’round my whole crib like it’s Chuck E. Cheese.” The James Brown pastiche “777” is filled with tongue-in-cheek boasting about how much fun the pair plans to have. The upbeat party only pauses for the Philly soul-styled heartbreaker “Put on a Smile.”
If there is any flaw in An Evening with Silk Sonic, it’s that it ends so quickly. At eight songs (plus the intro) and barely more than half an hour, the party is just starting to heat up when the album ends. At this point, there is no choice but to flip the album over and start the whole celebration over again.- Joel Francis
Snail Mail- Valentine
St Vincent- Daddy’s Home
Taylor Swift- Red (Taylor’s Version)
The War on Drugs- I Dont Live Here Anymore
The Weeknd- The Highlights
Twenty One Pilots- Scaled And Icy
Ty Segall- Harmonizer
Umphrey’s McGee- Mantis
Various Artists- Dr. Suess’ The Grinch (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
There have been several Grinch movies over the years. First came the beloved half-hour cartoon from the the 1960s, voiced by Boris Karloff. In 2000, a godawful live adaptation was made starring Jim Carey. This soundtrack, however, is from the much-improved computer animated version released in 2018.
This 13-song collection kicks off with a pair of songs from Tyler, the Creator. (Parenting pro-tip: This probably the best way to introduce your small child to this artist.) Tyler playfully rhymes across the familiar melody of “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” and performs the R&B original “I Am the Grinch” with Fletcher Jones.
From here the soundtrack turns into a holiday sampler, delivering both of Run-DMC’s yuletide classics, a pair of cuts from the Brian Setzer Orchestra and reliable chestnuts from Jackie Wilson, the Supremes and Nat King Cole. Buster Poindexter and Pentatonix round out the set with updates of a couple solid – if unsurprising – Christmas tunes. The soundtrack concludes with two pieces from Danny Elfman’s enchanting, energetic score.
The Grinch soundtrack doesn’t contain anything you can’t easily found elsewhere, with the exception of the Tyler, the Creator and Elfman cuts. It’s a fun collection that relies on safe choices, making the soundtrack a good option for family gatherings with young kids or relatives who turn up the Christmas tunes before Thanksgiving.- Joel Francis
Velvet Underground & Nico- The Velvet Underground & Nico
White Zombie- La Sexorcisto: Devil Music
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Enjoy the music and we will see you soon. Your loving Vinyl Underground at 7th Heaven staff:
Sherman, Gordon, Cat, Matt, Dylan, Doyle, Heather, Dave and Max