Oh Yes We Can Love: The History of Glam Rock Boxset

Oh Yes We Can Love: The History of Glam Rock is a five-disc, ninety-one track boxset, which will be released on October 28th in the U.K. and on November 5th in the U.S. As the title suggests, the boxset is intended to bring together the entire history of Glam Rock in one handy collection. I’m a big Glam Rock fan, so I expected to love this set and was a bit shocked that I didn’t at least like it more than I do. While I admire the concept of tracing the roots of Glam Rock as well as exploring its subgenre spawn, I wonder what exactly the criteria was for most of the songs included here. Glam Rock can describe a sound or a visual style (preferably both) and the majority of the bands on this compilation don’t really fall into either category.

The first disc especially stretches the definition to questionable boundaries. Who would ever call Chuck Berry a Glam Rocker? He was as pure rock ‘n’ roll as it gets. I’d think there’d be a better case for including Elvis than Berry.

Even the acts that most definitely do belong here – Adam & the Ants, Dead or Alive and most notably David Bowie – aren’t represented by their most iconic, Glam Rocky songs. Bowie’s “London Bye Ta-Ta” is not the song that brings his glittery Ziggy Stardust persona to mind. More puzzling is several Bowie covers are presented rather than the Bowie originals – such as Mott the Hoople’s cover of “All The Young Dudes,” Lulu’s take on “The Man Who Sold The World” and Bauhaus’ cover of “Ziggy Stardust.” Elton John’s original “Benny & the Jets” is included rather than a cover, but I hate that song so it does me little good. The one track they clearly got right was “Looking for a Kiss” by The New York Dolls.

I’m guessing licensing rights have a lot to with all of my complaints, a truly definitive cross-decade Glam Rock boxset would have to be culled from many major labels and that’s not even considering its subgenres. Or perhaps it’s an age difference between myself and the set’s compilers, though it’s difficult to discern whether I’m too young to understand their choices or they are. Some of the songs seem to have been selected simply for including the word “glam” or “glamorous,” even if they belong to an entirely different genre. Others are an obvious attempt to pay homage to the multitude of styles influenced by Glam Rock, but that just results in several glaring omissions…

The inclusion of Little Richard is understandable and welcome. He is, at least in my opinion, the grandfather of Glam Rock. But if Little Richard is here, where is Prince? If Adam Ant and Ultravox, why not other noteworthy New Romantic and New Wave bands like Culture Club, Duran Duran, Depeche Mode and INXS? Brit Poppers like Pulp and Seude made the cut, so why not Placebo – who, after all, covered T Rex in Velvet Goldmine?

Granted, Blondie and ELO did have origins in the Glam Rock scene and Blondie has straddled many a genre in its long career, but both bands are far better known for their bland disco hits. The bawdier, much more glammy sounds and styles of Grace Jones and George Clinton would have been more appropriate. And between such disco-esque inclusions and the apparent attempt to capture Glam Rock subgenres, why not Art Rockers like Lene Lovich or Cyndi Lauper?

Then there are the occasional detours into Goth, Industrial and Shock Rock (Morrissey, Sisters of Mercy, Bauhaus, Marilyn Manson) without even a hint of makeup maven Siouxsie Sioux & the Banshees, original Shock Rocker Alice Cooper or anything from The Rocky Horror Picture Show (the pinnacle of Glam Goth and actually referenced in the liner notes essay) or Hedwig & the Angry Inch (Punk’s answer to Rocky Horror). Perhaps musicals don’t count? And why bother with Briel, but not his exquisite punk cabaret progeny The Dresden Dolls?

Nazareth slips in and Kiss is understandably included, but not Queen, Aerosmith, Meatloaf or any of the late 80s/early 90s hair bands (the true heirs of Glam Rock) like Motley Crue, Guns ‘N’ Roses, Poison, Ratt or Warrant.

Goldfrapp and The Darkness are appropriate modern picks (though again I’d have chosen different songs by both bands), but absent is the most Glam Rockiest album of the past decade, The Rise & Fall Of…Butch Walker.

And despite some very loose ties between Glam Rock and the early Punk Rock scene, I’m pretty sure pure punk rockers Patti Smith and The Ramones would be insulted to be called Glam Rockers. Of course, I’m glad to hear those favorite bands on any album. But if the point was to include androgynous bands (as the liner notes confirm), that just leaves empty spaces where The Eurythmics, The Cure and Garbage should be.

All that being said, there are quite a few gems, both Glam and not, to be found here. The highlights are:

Little Richard: Ooh My Soul
Jacques Briel: Amsterdam
The Velvet Underground: I’m Waiting for My Man
Curved Air: Back Street Luv
T Rex: Hot Love
Lou Reed: Walk on the Wild Side
Dana Gillespie: Andy Warhol
Suzi Quatro: Can the Can
New York Dolls: Looking for a Kiss
Sweet: Ballroom Blitz
Sparks: This Town Ain’t Big Enough For Both of Us
Hello: Tell Him
Bryan Ferry: The ‘In’ Crowd
The Glitter Band: Angel Face
Arrows: I Love Rock & Roll
The Runaways: Cherry Bomb
Sisters of Mercy: Emma
Morrissey: Glamorous Glue
Suede: Metal Mickey
The Fall: Glam Rocket
Pulp: We are the Boys
The Darkness: Growing on Me
Goldfrapp: Strict Machine

So there are plenty of diamonds in the rough and I’m sure many will love this boxset without being so nitpicky as I. I just think either a smaller, more specifically Glam Rock collection or an even larger, more extensively experimental multi-genre one would be more interesting.

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Frog Trouble: Free Mp3s by Ryan Adams & Ben Folds!

Children’s author Sandra Boynton penned the 12 country and children’s songs on the new compilation, Frog Trouble, then she gathered several country and rock stars to record them. Among the singers on the album are Allison Krauss, Ryan Adams, Ben Folds, Brad Paisley, Darius Rucker, Dwight Yoakam, Fountains of Wayne and Linda Eder. You can download free, legal mp3s of the tracks “Heartache Song” by Kacey Musgraves, “When Pigs Fly” by Ryan Adams and “Broken Piano” by Ben Folds at Noisetrade and buy the entire album at Amazon.

Frog Trouble 3-Song Sampler (mp3 download page)

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Various Artists: Ready for the Sunshine

It’s always a nice bonus when a good album also benefits a good cause. Ready for the Sunshine is a charity compilation CD featuring fifteen indie bands from various countries – including Sambassadeur, Au Revoir Simone, Matt Pond PA, Taken by Trees, Jens Lekman, Camera Obscura and The Submarines. All of the album’s proceeds will go directly to Smile Train, a charity which provides free cleft palate surgery to children in developing countries. The album was sent to me by Ralph Gonzalez of Luminet, who appears on and helped organized the recording.

Ralph Gonzalez originally intended to record the Luminet song, “Pieces of the Puzzle” (which you can download below), as a fundraiser for Smile Train. But the idea gradually grew from that one song to a compilation featuring local and regional bands into this international project. The theme of the charity CD is hope in the form of accessible indie songs and the album flows seamlessly together as a bright, buoyant whole.

Sambassadeur’s “Between The Lines” and Club 8’s “Spring Came, Rain Fell” are shimmering, dreamy Swedish girl pop tunes. Matt Pond PA’s atmospheric pop-folk “Sparrows in the Rafters” and the exotic, eclectic arrangement of Taken By Trees’ “Watch the Waves” are also highlights.

Ready for the Sunshine Tracklist:
1. Sambassadeur (Sweden) – Between the Lines
2. Luminet (USA) – Pieces of the Puzzle
3. Au Revoir Simone (USA) – Stars
4. Matt Pond PA (USA) – Sparrows in the Rafters
5. Club 8 (Sweden) – Spring Came, Rain Fell
6. Lloyd Cole (UK) – Why in the World
7. Taken By Trees (Sweden) – Watch the Waves
8. Jens Lekman (Sweden) – The Opposite of Hallelujah
9. Telmarine (Sweden) – Comfortable Tears
10. Shugo Tokumaru (Japan) – Suisha
11. Camera Obscura (Scotland) – Country Mile
12. The Submarines (USA) – Brightest Hour
13. Jaywalk (USA) – Making Sense
14. Hasta La Otra Mexico (Germany) – Turana Hott Kurdis
15. Lullatone (Japan) – Bedroom Bossa Band

Luminet – Pieces of the Puzzle (mp3 expired)*

*mp3 posted w/ permission of the artist

Ready for the Sunshine Official Site

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Rufus Wainwright: House of Rufus

Rufus Wainwright’s House of Rufus boxset was released by Universal Music on July 20th. The 19-disc set spans Rufus Wainwright’s entire career and is the most complete and extensive collection of his work to date: all 6 of his studio albums (with bonus material), 2 live CDs (with previously unreleased songs), 4 discs of previously unreleased songs, demos and rarities – including all of Rufus’ movie soundtrack recordings together on 1 CD, a collection of collaborations with friends and family members (including Leonard Cohen, The Pet Shop Boys, Rufus’ father, Loudon, and his sister, Martha), 6 DVDs of live performances and album commentary, and 2 feature-length documentaries.

Encased in a lush, red, velvet-covered, 90-page hardback book, the discs are accompanied by rare and previously unreleased photos, Rufus’ early hand-drawn tour posters, handwritten lyrics, four art prints and other memorabilia. The detailed liner notes also feature interviews with Neil Tennant, Martha Wainwright, Linda Thompson and Lenny Waronker as well as an introduction by Rufus himself. So you’re pretty much getting Rufus’ entire life and career all wrapped up in a pretty box…

First, the studio albums. House of Rufus contains all 6 of Rufus Wainwright’s studio releases: his self-titled debut, Poses, Want One, Want Two, Release the Stars and All Days Are Night: Songs for Lulu. And each album features previously unreleased bonus material.

Rufus Wainwright

I first bought Rufus Wainwright’s self-titled debut in the Poses era and was disappointed that it didn’t instantly captivate me as the followup album did. The debut is still my least favorite of the studio releases, but jaunty multi-instrumental wonders “April Fools” and “Beauty Mark,” the murky ballad “Barcelona,” the retro-pop choir rendition of “Goodnight Sweetheart” and the exotic whirl of “Matinee Idol” certainly make it a worthy addition to this grand collection.

The Original Demos bonus disc, the tape of which secured Rufus’ first record deal, features many of the same songs eventually recorded for Rufus Wainwright, in their raw, demo form. Sadly, though, the best song on the disc ended up on the cutting room floor of Rufus’ studio debut. “Keep Cool Fool” is a jazzy little ditty that shows off Rufus’ piano skills and hints at the more theatrical side of his personality that we’d all come to know and love through subsequent releases.

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Poses

Rufus Wainwright’s 2001 sophomore album, Poses, was selected for Muruch’s Classic Albums Appreciation Club. I enjoyed listening to it again so much that I was compelled to write a proper, in-depth album review, which I’ll repost here. Though it was a favorite of mine when it was first released in 2001, I hadn’t listened to Poses in several years. What a wonderful, unusual, consistently brilliant piece of art it is. I think it sounds even better today than it did when it was a newborn.

The opener of Poses, “Cigarettes & Chocolate Milk,” is still a charmer with its lyrical list of various vices and irresistible indulgences all wrapped up in a jaunty piano tune.

Despite its title, “Greek Song” has more of an Oriental style with lush piano snaking through the intricate, exotic arrangement beneath Rufus’ warm voice. The song was on nearly every mix CD I made in 2001 and remains my favorite on the album.

The title track dances in elegant circles, while the sensual downtempo beat of “Shadows” gently rises and falls with Rufus’ graceful falsetto.

Catchy, quirky “California” rattles, clinks, bounces and purrs a perfect pop melody replete with backing “oohs.”

Rufus’ melodic, wistful “Grey Gardens” predated the renewed interest in the reclusive Beale family stirred up by Drew Barrymore’s recent film. The song begins with a short audio clip from the 1975 documentary that inspired the film.

A gentle jazz pluck and rhythm floats through the slinky piano number “Rebel Prince,” and the sinister edge of “Evil Angel” is softened by lovely classical horns and strings.

“In A Graveyard” is a pure, pretty piano ballad that probably earned Rufus all those soundtrack covers that followed.

Buy Poses @ Amazon

Want One

Want One opens with the delicious hum, stomp and clang of “Oh What a World” – a modern classic covered by Sonos. “Movies of Myself” finds Rufus exploring a bigger pop band sound and he gets a little Elton John meets ELO (which I love) on “Go or Go Ahead.” The horn-adorned space circus “Beautiful Child” is another delight, but I do love Rufus’ low key, jazz piano croon best as in “Harvester of Hearts.”

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Want Two

The best of Want Two are the classical arrangement of “Little Sister,” the folk-influenced instrumentation of “Hometown Waltz” and the live performance of “Coeur De Parisienne.” Otherwise, the album doesn’t appeal to me as much as his other releases.

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Release The Stars

With the possible exception of Poses, Release The Stars is probably Rufus’ most commercially accessible album due to its pop sheen. Lyrically, however, it’s one of his more personal works and layers of brilliance lurk beneath the smooth surface. “Slideshow,” “Do I Disappoint” and the album’s brassy title track are the prime examples – each burst from a pretty but standard piano pop melody into a cacophony of vocals and instrumentation. The elegantly somber, Cohenesque ballad “Leaving for Paris No. 2” is another standout.

Buy Release the Stars @ Amazon

All Days Are Night: Songs for Lulu

A concept album equally inspired by Shakespeare’s Sonnet 43, silent film star Louise Brooks and the death Rufus’ mother, Kate McGarrigle. Highlights are atmospheric French ballad “Les Feux D’Artifice T’Appellent,” the heartbreaking “Martha” – with its opening lyric “Martha, it’s your brother calling, time to go up north and see Mother, things are harder for her now” – and the crashing classical piano of “Sonnet 10” (wow, I’d love to hear Rufus try some Chopin) and “What Would I Ever Do With a Rose?”

Buy All Days Are Nights: Songs For Lulu @ Amazon

Next, the concert CDs: Milwaukee at Last!!! and the 2-disc Rufus Does Judy at Carnegie Hall, both also featuring previously unreleased songs from the respective shows.

Milwaukee at Last!!!

Recorded live at Milwaukee’s Pabst Theater in August 2007, Milwaukee at Last! is one of my least favorites in the collection. But it isn’t a total loss. There’s another pretty version of “If Love Were All,” a fine rendering of the traditional “Macushla” and a splendidly horn-accented “Rules and Regulations.”

Buy Milwaukee At Last!!! @ Amazon

Rufus Does Judy at Carnegie Hall

Aside from Poses, this 2-disc live tribute to Judy Garland was my most anticipated part of the boxset. Recorded live at Carnegie Hall on June 14, 2006, backed by a 36-piece orchestra and arranged by Broadway composer Stephen Oremus (Wicked, Avenue Q), Rufus recreated Judy Garland’s legendary 1961 “The Greatest Show of All Time” concert song-for-song in its original venue.

I listened to the original Judy Garland album recently and I actually prefer many of Rufus’ covers to Judy’s, but that’s more due to my own preference for July’s earlier recordings to her latter cabaret work (aside from “The Man That Got Away,” nobody sings it like Judy) than the strength of Rufus’ album.

My personal favorites on this album are Rufus’ beautiful, melodic renditions of “A Foggy Day,” “Every Time We Say Goodbye,” “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love” and “Over the Rainbow” (my all-time favorite song). His soaring vocals on “Alone Together”and “If Love Were All” and the torchy renderings of “Stormy Weather” and “Someone to Watch Over Me” by his sister, Martha Wainwright, are also highlights.

Sadly, many of the faster tempo songs (“Come Rain or Come Shine,” “Chicago,” “Get Happy,” “Just You, Just Me,” etc.) just aren’t flattering to his voice. The brassy, bombastic “Puttin on the Ritz” is the exception. And regardless of any weaknesses, I really respect the concept of recreating Judy’s concert, the good songs are really great, the instrumentation is impeccable throughout, and you can hear in Rufus’ voice how much the evening meant to him and also how much he enjoyed it.

Buy Rufus Does Judy @ Amazon

Also in the boxset are more discs of previously unreleased songs and rarities:

Rufus at the Movies features all of Rufus’ movie soundtrack songs, including “Hallelujah” from Shrek, The Beatles’ “Across The Universe” from I Am Sam, “Bewitched, Bothered, Bewildered” from The History Boys, “Complainte de la Butte” Moulin Rouge, “I’ll Build a Stairway to Paradise” from The Aviator and, of course, “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother” from Zoolander. His deadpan take on Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” falls flat compared to the original or the Jeff Buckley and Allison Crowe versions, but then those are lofty heights to climb for anyone. Otherwise, I love this collection.

Friends & Family is a collection of collaborations with Leonard Cohen, Antony, Joan Wasser, Rufus’ father, Loudon, his sister, Martha and many more. Rufus’ live acoustic cover of “Chelsea Hotel No. 2” and his live tango version of “Everybody Knows” are among my favorite versions of the Leonard Cohen classics. The moody pairing of “To America” with Joan Wasser (of Joan as Policewoman) and “What Can I Do” with Anthony Hegarty (of Anthony of the Johnsons) are also stand out tracks. Rufus and Kate McGarrigle harmonize as only a mother and son could in the folk ballad “Lowlands Away” from Rogue’s Gallery and his sister Martha joins them for “What’ll I Do.” His plucky duet of “Tired of Wasting Time” with Sloan Wainwright shows his folk music roots.

Rufus Rarities seems a bit uneven due to the hodge podge nature of the disc, but it does feature the slinky, bluesy number “A Bit of You,” quaking “In With The Ladies,” a lovely croon of “Miss Otis Regrets” and a fantastic plucky take on “St. James Infirmary.”

There will also be 6 DVDs in the set (I was only given music to review) – Live at Fillmore, Rufus Does Judy at the London Palladium, Milwaukee at Last!!!, and a Release The Stars album commentary and live performance – and the 2 feature-length documentaries All I Want and Prima Donna, the Making of An Opera.

As much as I loved Poses, I always thought before that a little bit of Rufus went a long way. But this new box set rekindled my joyful enthusiasm for Rufus Wainwright’s music, immensely increased my appreciation of his talent and artistry, and left me in awe of the sheer amount of work he’s done in the past decade.

Buy House of Rufus @ Amazon

Rufus Wainwright

Rufus Wainwright Official Site

Various Artists: Rave On Buddy Holly

Rave On Buddy Holly will be released on June 28th and you can stream the album in its entirety below. With a cast of superstar singers like Florence + The Machine, Fiona Apple, Patti Smith, She & Him and Lou Reed, I’m not at all surprised that I love this new tribute to rock ‘n’ roll pioneer Buddy Holly.

First, the spectacular: I would’ve written this review much sooner had I not been listening to Florence + The Machine‘s cover of “Not Fade Away” on repeat. The Machine saves Buddy Holly’s trademark quirks for their clanging, banging-industrial-sized-pots-and-pans arrangement, allowing lead singer Florence Welch to unleash all the unearthly wails and gorgeous vibratto of her magnificent voice.

Fiona Apple and Jon Brion opt for a simpler, splendidly tinkling, truer-to-original rendition of “Everyday.” Who knew Fiona Apple was a folk singer?

Nevermind that, who knew that Kid Rock was a soul singer? I do now thanks to his wonderfully brassed up cover of “Well…All Right.” He needs to drop the country-rap stuff and collaborate with Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears.

Julian Casanblancas’ moody “Rave On,” Jenny O.’s cooing “I’m Gonna Love You, Too,” She & Him’s retro dance party “Oh Boy!,” and the legendary Patti Smith’s soulful rendering of “Words of Love” are also stand outs.

Elsewhere, Cee Lo Green reminds me why I loved Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy,” but couldn’t stomach his tepid new solo pop album. Cee Lo’s unusual pipes can be so powerful, but he requires an interesting and solid arrangement to bring out the best in his voice. The Caribbean chimes and percussion of “(You’re So Square) Baby, I Don’t Care” is the perfect song for him.

Other highlights on the tribute include Karen Elson’s “Crying, Waiting, Hoping” (featuring Elson’s husband Jack White), Nick Lowe’s “Changing All The Changes,” My Morning Jacket’s “True Love Ways” and The Detroit Cobras’ “Heartbeat.”

But, ugh, Modest Mouse’s dreary, deadpan “That’ll Be The Day” reminds me why I always referred to that surge of irksome, post-Death Cab “indie-rock” boy bands as “mouse rock.” It’s the only track on the album I skip every time.

Rave On Buddy Holly gives a solid finish, however, with a trio of covers by Lou Reed, John Doe and Graham Nash.

Rave On Buddy Holly by concordmusicgroup

*SoundCloud Album Stream Uploaded by Concord Music Group & Posted w/ Permission of Label’s PR Rep

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Rave On Tribute Official Site