New album releases this week include:
Little Big Town, Wanderlust. A contemporary dance-pop, eight-song pairing with producer Pharrell Williams. Mostly as awful as you’d expect. The first single, One of These Days, even manages to make the glorious, layered LBT harmonies sound generic and grating. But hook-filled, if lightweight, summer tunes like One Dance and Miracle are undeniable fun on what is essentially a glorified EP.
Before you complain “this isn’t country,” the country group’s members have been quite clear about the intentions behind Wanderlust from the start. It’s a lark, a venture into something full-on pop and different that began as an experiment in songwriting with Williams. Little Big Town are currently in the studio working on the official follow-up to Pain Killer with producer Jay Joyce and that album is due later this year.
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Steve Porcaro, Someday / Somehow. First solo album for Toto keyboardist who co-wrote Michael Jackson’s Human Nature. Porcaro’s late brothers Jeff (drums) and Mike (bass) appear on the oldest track, Back to You, a song Porcaro began in 1983 for Toto’s Isolation album but it went unused when the band couldn’t find a way to fit guitarist Steve Lukather (who guests on this album) on the rhythmic, catchy track.
Fans of Jeff Porcaro, one of the most successful session drummers, will love his distinctive work on this cut. Back to You would have fit stylistically on Toto’s subsequent Fahrenheit album and its punchy pop/rock tempo adds some juice to a mostly mellow collection.
Porcaro sings lead on seven of the 13 songs. Michael McDonald sings lead on Swing Street and Night of Our Own. Altogether pleasant, with expectantly fine musicianship, if nothing quite stands out like Human Nature, one can almost hear Thriller-era Michael Jackson on the pop/R&B ballad, Face of a Girl, sung in similar style by Jamie Kimmett.
Kris Kristofferson, The Complete Monument & Columbia Albums Collection. Songwriter-actor’s first 11 albums (1970-1981) are gathered in LP-replica packaging plus five CDs of live and studio rarities for a whopping 16-CD boxed set that is coming out in time for Kristofferson’s 80th birthday.
Long before starring roles in popular ’70s films A Star Is Born and Semi-Tough, Kristofferson carved a sizable reputation as a songwriter. His 1970 debut album, Kristofferson, includes his versions of songs others made famous like Me and Bobby McGee (Janis Joplin), For the Good Times (Ray Price), Sunday Morning Comin’ Down (Johnny Cash) and Help Me Make It Through the Night (Sammi Smith). Under his own name, he scored a sizable Top 40 hit with Why Me off Jesus Was a Capricorn in 1972.
The box also includes Breakaway, the 1974 album Kristofferson recorded with then-wife Rita Coolidge. Breakaway includes Kristofferson’s versions of I’ve Got to Have You (recorded by his former girlfriend Carly Simon in 1971) and the first attempt at Crippled Crow, a song he would redo on the Star Is Born soundtrack. Easter Island, released in 1978, wasn’t a commercial hit but is a worthy addition to the catalog thanks to David Anderle’s smooth production and fine songs like The Bigger The Fool (The Harder the Fall).
Maren Morris, Hero. Country newcomer from Texas is grabbing attention with songs like 80s Mercedes.
Hudson Moore, Getaway. Texan country newcomer is a rarity in the format: he plays all the instruments himself rather than relying on the same Nashville session players. So while his music isn’t far removed from one of his idols, Keith Urban, it’s a bit more distinct. But at 14 songs, Getaway is too long.
Mumford & Sons, Johannesburg EP.
Jon Pardi, California Sunrise.
Thousand Foot Krutch, Exhale.
Paul McCartney, Pure McCartney. Multi-disc solo career retrospective.
Allen Toussaint, American Tunes.
Locash, The Fighters.
Margaret Glaspy, Emotions and Math.