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Winter 2012 Review Roundup

Jim and Greg kick off 2012 with reviews of some big winter releases by Amy Winehouse, The Roots and The Black Keys.

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The numbers are in for 2011, and not surprisingly Adele has come out on top. Her album 21 sold over 5 million copies, as did her digital single "Rolling in the Deep." It's this combination of being able to push physical product and digital downloads that makes the British singer so desirable to the music industry. Number two of the year was kind of a surprise to our hosts: Michael Buble's Christmas. Over on the live music side, U2 is the touring winner with worldwide ticket sales totaling $231.9 million.

Move over Nina Totenberg, Jim and Greg have also become legal eagles. Increasingly, music trends are being affected by the courts, and according to Variety, there are a number of cases coming up in 2012 that will impact not just the record industry, but the habits of average fans. Here are a few to keep your eye on:

reviewLioness: Hidden TreasuresLioness: Hidden Treasures available on iTunes

Amy Winehouse Lioness: Hidden Treasures

Amy Winehouse fans didn't have to wait long for her first posthumous release. Lioness: Hidden Treasures is a collection of covers and a couple of original works. But the title is completely misleading according to Greg. Are these really the late singer's treasures? If so, that's sad. Greg calls out the people curating Winehouse's estate for allowing this material to be released-material that features Winehouse blurry and slurry. Jim calls the album grave robbing, pure and simple. Lioness gets a double Trash It.

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reviewThe Dreamer / The BelieverThe Dreamer/The Believer available on iTunes

Common The Dreamer/The Believer

After taking a few years to focus on his acting career, rapper Common is back with a new album called The Dreamer/The Believer. He reunites with producing partner No I.D. and subsequently with an earlier sound. Jim is impressed with Common's ability to rap from the heart and be honest about his personal failings. He had no great expectations for this record after the“turd”that was Universal Mind Control, but now he's happy to recommend listeners Buy It. Greg hears The Dreamer/The Believer as a reconciliation record-both with hip hop and with his former style. It's so“90s”that some listeners might dismiss the album. But, while it's not a masterpiece, Greg calls it a strong return. He concurs: Buy It.

JimGreg
reviewLet's Go Eat the FactoryLet's Go Eat the Factory available on iTunes

Guided By Voices Let's Go Eat the Factory

Eight years after the band broke up, Jim and Greg are listening to a new Guided By Voices record. Let's Go Eat the Factory comes to us from GBV's 1993“classic lineup”including the band's main songwriter Robert Pollard and guitarist and songwriter Tobin Sprout. Back in the ‘90s this prolific indie band rode the alternative wave, finding mainstream success with their brand of Brit-pop inspired post-punk. What’ve they got for us this time? No surprises here, Greg says. This is a classic GBV record with the band's trademark mix of arty experiments and proto arena rock. There are a lot of songs here, and they're not all good, but the great ones are really great. Greg credits Sprout and says Burn it. Jim agrees; there are a few good songs on this album, but he's tired of wading through all the filler and failed experiments to get to them. It's about time GBV started self-editing. He says Trash it.

JimGreg
reviewEl CaminoEl Camino available on iTunes

The Black Keys El Camino

Hard rockin' Ohioans The Black Keys are back with their seventh studio album, El Camino, a collaboration with hip hop producer Danger Mouse. Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney signed to Mississippi's bluesy Fat Possum label a decade ago, but Greg notes the duo's since expanded their sound. Jim never thought he‘d say it, but this record is“a masterpiece.”He’d never been a fan of the band's live performances and called them“White Stripes wannabes”on record. But suddenly here they are with an exquisite wall of sound with the songs to match. He says Buy It. Greg always enjoyed the band's jammy live performances but never thought they quite captured it on record. He credits the band's collaboration with Danger Mouse for tightening up their songwriting on El Camino. The emphasis is on the break beat, the choruses come faster, and hooks abound. Greg seconds the Buy it.

JimGreg
reviewUndunUndun available on iTunes

The Roots Undun

After over a decade of music-making, Philadelphia quintet The Roots have earned a reputation as the best live band in hip hop. They've put out ten studio records, backed artists like D'Angelo and Erykah Badu, and rule the airwaves every night as Jimmy Fallon's house band. Has this caused the quality to drop off on the group's latest release Undun? Greg says not a bit. He named the record his second favorite of 2011 and he's not backing down. He especially wants to call out DJ Black Thought for some overdue props; Greg ranks him up there with Jay-Z. He says Buy it. Jim agrees, but unlike Greg, he's not loving the four-part classical suite that closes the album. It's beautiful, but out of place. In fact, the self-consciousness of the whole story underlying Undun - the rise and fall of a street kid - puts Jim off. It's a Buy It album, but not the band's best.

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“Killing Floor”Hubert Sumlin

The great Chicago blues guitarist Hubert Sumlin died last month and Jim and Greg didn't get a chance to send him off with a full obit. With his turn at the Desert Island Jukebox, Greg now has his opportunity. Sumlin was twenty-one years younger than Howlin' Wolf when he joined the elder bluesman's band in the 1950s. Wolf was like a father to Sumlin, and Sumlin eventually became his right-hand man. Sumlin was briefly booted from the band in ‘56 for playing over Wolf’s vocals (no one plays over the Wolf!), but adapted his style by dropping his pick and plucking with his fingers. This signature style would make him an icon to later guitarists like Clapton and Hendrix. The 1964 track "Killing Floor," Greg says, is Sumlin at his best-like a second voice in the song.

Featured Songs

  1. Adele, Rolling in the Deep, 21, Columbia, 2011
  2. Warren Zevon,“Lawyers, Guns and Money”Excitable Boy, Asylum, 1978
  3. Peter Frampton, Show Me The Way, Frampton Comes Alive!, A&M, 1976
  4. Amy Winehouse, Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow, Lioness: Hidden Treasures, Island, 2011
  5. Amy Winehouse, Like Smoke, Lioness: Hidden Treasures, Island, 2011
  6. Amy Winehouse and Tony Bennett, Body and Soul, Lioness: Hidden Treasures, Island, 2011
  7. Amy Winehouse, A Song For You, Lioness: Hidden Treasures, Island, 2011
  8. Grimes, Genesis, Visions, 4AD, 2012
  9. Common, The Dreamer, The Dreamer/The Believer, Warner Bros., 2011
  10. Common, Lovin' I Lost, The Dreamer/The Believer, Warner Bros., 2011
  11. Guided By Voices, Donut for a Snowman, Let's Go Eat the Factory, Guided by Voices Inc., 2011
  12. Guided By Voices, The Unsinkable Fats Domino, Let's Go Eat the Factory, Guided by Voices Inc., 2011
  13. The Black Keys, Lonely Boy, El Camino, Nonesuch, 2011
  14. The Black Keys, Hell of a Season, El Camino, Nonesuch, 2011
  15. AFX, Analogue Bubble Bath, Analogue Bubblebath, Mighty Force, 1991
  16. The Roots, Sleep, Undun, Def Jam, 2011
  17. The Roots, Stomp, Undun, Def Jam, 2011
  18. Howlin' Wolf, Killing Floor, Killing Floor, Chess, 1964
  19. Brian Eno, Over Fire Island, Another Green World, Island, 1975
  20. The Mothers of Invention, You Didn't Try To Call Me, Freak Out!, Verve, 1966
  21. Jesse Sykes and the Sweet Hereafter, Pleasuring the Divine, Marble Son, Station Grey, 2011
  22. Radiohead,“Feral, ”The King of Limbs, self-released, 2011
  23. Bruno Mars, The Lazy Song, Doo-Wops & Hooligans, Atlantic, 2010
  24. Jimmie Vaughan, How Can You Be So Mean, Plays Blues Ballads & Favorites, Shout! Factory, 2010

Footnotes

reuters.com Adele On Top in 2011 variety.com 2012 Court Cases nytimes.com Peter Frampton Reunited With Guitar amywinehouse.com Amy Winehouse thinkcommon.com Common gbv.com Guided By Voices theblackkeys.com The Black Keys theroots.com The Roots