Tuesday, September 14, 2010


For those of you who are new to No Expiraton, every Wednesday morning at around 9 am ET-ish, I go on the SIRIUS XM OutQ channel's The Morning Jolt with Larry Flick (also featuring co-host and professional comedian Keith Price) to talk about music. This week, I'm going to be talking about a bunch of albums that are filled with "star studded" guests.  Sometimes these albums kind of work: Santana's first foray into this, 1999's Supernatural, obviously connected with a lot of people and achieved that ever-elusive goal of "introducing an icon to a new generation." Ray Charles' 2004 Genius Loves Company seemed to be very successful as well. Last year, one of my favorite albums was N.A.S.A.'s Spirit of Apollo, which had guest stars galore. What's more, I bet none of them were in the same room when they were recording.  Generally, I think people should be together when they record together, it provides a "vibe," for lack of a better term.

Jerry Lee Lewis just released Mean Old Man, his second album in a row of "all-star collaborations." 2006's Last Man Standing featured some cool collabs and this is like the sequel. I don't get the sense that too many of these were done in the same room (most of the songs credit an "overdub engineer") and many of them sound like they were literally phoned in. But there are some great moments. Kid Rock (sounding like Steven Tyler) and Slash are both on "Rockin' My Life Away," which is pretty rockin'. If Kid wants to join a band, he could make everyone forget about Weiland if he joined Velvet Revolver. I generally don't like updates of songs featuring the original artist, but on Jerry's last album, he did Led Zeppelin's "Rock and Roll" with Jimmy Page, and I dug it. This time around he takes on two Rolling Stones classics: "Dead Flowers" with Mick Jagger and "Sweet Virginia" with Keith Richards, both of which work (but I like "Dead Flowers" better). Another great moment here (available only on the deluxe edition) is the spiritual "Railroad To Heaven" with Solomon Burke. There are great moments with Gillian Welch and an interesting take on "You Are My Sunshine" with Sheryl Crow. This album isn't where I'd start out if I had no Jerry Lee in my collection, but it's fun.

Ronnie Wood was originally going to do an album of duets with the likes of Eddie Vedder and Amy Winehouse. But his new album, I Feel Like Playing, doesn't feature any duets. Amy is nowhere to be found, and Eddie Vedder co-wrote "Lucky Man," but doesn't actually sing on it. Not to say that there aren't a lot of guests here: Slash, Flea, Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top, Bobby Womack and Ian McLagan of The Faces are some of the guests who help out. "I Gotta See" is a sweet soul ballad that prominently features the vocals of Bobby Womack. I think Ronnie is really underrated as a songwriter, singer and frontman, but I guess that's what happens when you are in bands with Mick Jagger and Rod Stewart!

Herbie Hancock's The Imagine Project is his third Supernatural type collaboration album in a row, after 2005's Possibilities and 2007's The Joni Letters, which shocked everyone by winning the Album of the Year Grammy Award. The Imagine Project is all covers and collaborations. I checked out his take on the Peter Gabriel/Kate Bush classic "Don't Give Up" by John Legend and P!nk. It's nice, but isn't classic (the best version I've heard other than the original is a Willie Nelson/Sinead O'Connor duet version). Much more interesting is "Timitant Tillay/Exodus." "Timitant Tillay" is a Tinariwen song, and "Exodus" is the Bob Marley classic. It features Tinariwen, an amazing band of nomads from the Sahara Desert. I need to write a bit more about them, they're excellent. It also features K'naan, a Somali-Canadian rapper and also Los Lobos. Really cool.

The idea of David Byrne and Fatboy Slim collaborating on an album interested me: Byrne is a contrarian from the rock/pop world, while Fatboy Slim (alias Norm Cook) comes from the supposedly hipper world of electronic dance music, but loves to make music for football stadiums. Here Lies Love is a double album about former First Lady of the Philippines, Imelda Marcos, and features lots of guests including Florence (of + The Machine) Tori Amos, Sharon Jones, Steve Earle and Cyndi Lauper. It is interesting, but as is often the case with concept albums, the songs often get weighed down by the lyrics and the storyline. There are some cool parts, especially Sharon Jones' song, "Dancing Together."

Dark Night Of The Soul is a creepy and sad album. It is a collaboration between Sparklehorse and Danger Mouse. Sparklehorse, aka Mark Linkous, was most likely experiencing that around the time of the album. Tragically he committed suicide soon after recording the album. The album was sort of a collaboration between both musicians and film maker David Lynch, who put together a book of photos to accompany the album. In fact, they released the book first, due to problems with the record label - and included a blank CD with it ("someone" leaked the album online). Guest on the album include The Flaming Lips, Frank Black, Iggy Pop and Lynch himself.

Mark Ronson's solo albums are always guest-star packed affairs. He's a great DJ, producer and musician, but he doesn't sing. His albums are always really interesting, but on this one he seems to be more influenced by '80s new wave than horn-covered '60s and '70s soul. The one song I've heard is "Bang Bang Bang" featuring Q-Tip (who has been on both of Ronson's prior albums) and Amanda Warner from a new group called MNDR.

Santana is about to release his fourth guest-star-studden album in a row. This one, Guitar Heaven, features him covering some of Rolling Stone magazine's "greatest guitar songs ever" with guest vocalists. The only song I've heard is The Beatles' "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" with Yo-Yo Ma and india.arie. I really like thier take on it, but most of the album is taken up by guys who I am not a fan of: Weiland of Stone Temple Pilots, Gavin Rossdale of Bush, Scott Stapp of Creed. I am kind of looking forward to hearing Chris Cornell's take on "Whole Lotta Love" and Joe Cocker's "Little Wing."

Next week: some great new records from dude singer/songwriters.

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