We've got quite a backlog of CDs we've never gotten around to, so we're going to try to chip away at the pile with this regular feature. The plan: to take a few at a time and play each CD for as long as I can stand it.
Bryan Adams (Ontario, Canada)
Bare Bones (Decca)
If Bryan Adams hadn't have been around for so long, the notion of a live acoustic album would simply be superfluous. But, while it's not clear as to whether this product actually rises above that distinction regardless of his veteran status, at least the man has a copious catalog to draw from so he can give his fans something relatively unique. Many of the songs that birthed Adams' image as a tough-guy rocker with a heart are featured here, as well as the 1990s tunes that made him the lord of the sappy soundtrack song. The stripped-down treatment of these tunes indeed reveals the innards of some seriously catchy pop-song craft, even if that doesn't make them any more interesting than they were when performed with the instrumentation fully plugged-in. If one hasn't bothered to get into what this guy does over the past 20 plus years, though, it's hard to imagine this album will be the one that does the trick.
I made it: track No. 6, "(Everything I Do) I Do It For You."
Brian Hudson (Austin, TX)
Into the Black (Strong Woman Records)
Unlike rock music, folk tunes have the burden of captivating the listener with words and not musical bombast. Given the limited room for lyrical error, it's understandable that many artists dabbling in forms of folk today tend to lean towards a more rocking sonic direction. Perhaps the idea of thoughtful, vulnerable lyrics being laid out into the open to handle the heavy lifting is one that sends many an acoustic-guitar wielding performer running away. Brian Hudson doesn't seem to suffer from any such anxiety, however. At times throughout the first several tunes, the breezy vibe shuffles dangerously close to the beachy-keen sun splashes of Jack Johnson, but it never quite slathers on the SPF-30. Instead, it follows a reliably solid course of steady folk artistry.
I made it: to track No. 7, "I Was a Fool."
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The New Dance Mix USA (Phase One)
Allow us to draw you a picture: In the mailroom sits a pile of records that we don't really understand why we were placed on a list to receive. The epitome of that group of albums: This one. Wow. Most of the tunes on this double-album are already cheesy pop-filler to begin with. Throw them through a shitty laptop or a Casio keyboard or, well, any other outlet for making songs more annoying than they ever were to begin with, and you have an idea of what has been done to the year's most head-scratchingly popular tunes. For a prime example: The opening tune of this album is a hilarious remix of Train's "Hey, Soul Sister." What's that? You don't need us to explain anything further about this disc? Didn't think so.
I made it: four minutes into track No. 1, "Hey, Soul Sister (Karmatronic Remix)."