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|Written by Mike Cullen|
|Tuesday, 09 February 2010 00:00|
The Beatles - The Beatles Stereo Box Set
There's no need to get into the nitty-gritty of each album - they are nearly 50 years old at his point, and anything that can be said of them probably has. Nevertheless, in getting these albums digitally re-mastered for the first time, they were probably never meant to sound this good. There is something almost sinful about hearing these albums in such incredible high quality; you lose the essence of what it would have been like hearing these albums on vinyl, but gain so much when you consider just how much we and future generations will benefit from this set. There has been so much care and effort into preserving and re-mastering these recordings, and it does not matter if you buy the full box set or even just your favourite album - you really need to do yourself the service of listening to The Beatles like you've never heard them before.
Alicia Keys - The Element of Freedom
This is quite possibly Keys's finest album since her debut. Whether she pulls at the heart strings with a rock beat in "Try Sleeping With a Broken Heart," shares the spotlight with Jay-Z on "Empire State of Mind Part II," or lets her heavenly voice shine through along with her piano in "Doesn't Mean Anything," Keys has certainly shown that, not only does she have the staying power that many female vocalists from the beginning of the last decade do not, but that she has true star power.
I was a random Alicia Keys fan before this album. "Fallin'," "No One," and "You Don't Know My Name" have demonstrated her talents in the past, but it was this disc that cemented me as a fan. In a way, she reminds me a lot of Corinne Bailey Rae, whom I adore, and with a cross-comparison such as this, you can guarantee that I'll be making up for a lot of lost time with Ms. Keys. For anyone else who has either been an Alicia Keys fan for a while or a casual observer like me, The Element of Freedom is the perfect showcase of an incredible talent.
Kylie Minogue - Kylie: Live in New York
Recorded during the last show of her North American tour, this digital-only release features a 26-song set spanning her 20-year career. It is damn near impossible for me to remain objective when it comes to Kylie Minogue as each live release by Minogue seems to be better than the last, and this is no exception. For a casual fan who did not attend a show during the tour, this will be a fantastic showcase of what she is capable of during a live show: energetic, sexy, and thoroughly enjoyable. For fans who managed to see one of the nine shows, it will feel like a walk down memory lane - guaranteed you will relive the night you spent watching her on stage. Regardless of which of those two groups you fall into, the $16.99 price tag on the live album is hard to beat considering you not only get the live concert, but also a lush digital booklet and three studio mixes of the live tracks. Money well spent.
Robin Thicke - Sex Therapy: The Experience
Male R&B singers are not usually my thing, but for Robin Thicke I will make a very notable exception. The son of actor Alan Thicke, Robin has clearly demonstrated that there is pure talent in the family genes. His song-writing abilities are strong, but his voice is truly the big selling point. Throughout the years critics have commented that Joe Cocker has a gritty and soulful voice - a description most often reserved for his African-American musical counterparts. Robin Thicke has this same soulful quality, and there is probably nothing silkier sounding on the radio right now.
It's too bad that he's not a little more well-known because Thicke could be a major music contender - not that he isn't trying. Sex Therapy, his third full-length studio release, features a plethora of guest stars including Estelle, Kid Cudi and Jay-Z to name a few. So why is he is still relatively unknown? I'm not entirely sure, but considering how overcrowded the R&B/Hip Hop genre is with singers and wannabes at the moment, it is probably just a case of people having not been exposed to Robin Thicke enough. Sex Therapy may just change that.
The deluxe edition of this album contains 18 tracks, seamless both in terms of theme and sound. Sure, Thicke sings about love and sex in a way that we have probably heard a million times before, but he does so with a new and updated vigour - it is not only his voice that sounds slick, the whole album is so highly polished that if there are duds on this album I can't hear them. In fact, I can't even suggest standout tracks because I'm so thoroughly impressed with the entire package. If you're a fan of R&B or just looking for something new, you need to do yourself a favour by getting this album. While you're at it, get his other two major releases as well - The Evolution of Robin Thicke and Something Else.
Madonna - "Revolver"
Don't waste your time. It's actually not Madonna's fault. It's not a bad track, but when you slap Lil' Wayne on for supposed "good measure," it really loses its appeal as a song. In fact, it should never have been a single in the first place. An album track solely reserved for the Celebration compilation yes, but released in full single glory? No. It's a dance track with a Lil' Wayne rap thrown in to appeal to the Urban/Hip-Hop crowds. Big deal - it's just another throwaway song in the end.
And as I have said, it's not actually Madonna's fault. A lot of artists release two tracks whenever they have a new greatest hits album out. The idea is that the album, with the support of that second single, will shift a few more copies before the album is relegated to the discount bins. Unfortunately, the second single from a greatest hits project almost always is a second thought; "Celebration" was a great single, one that took Madonna to her dance roots while also looking forward. "Revolver" on the other hand doesn't really do anything. Sure, the album will shift a few more copies, but this song will be quickly forgotten, and you can guarantee it'll never end up on any "Madonna's Top 20 Songs" list.
U2 - "Winter"
Originally recorded for No Line on the Horizon, this track did not make the cut. Instead it was released as an exclusive with Anton Corbijn's black and white film, Linear, which was included on deluxe editions of No Line on the Horizon. "Winter" is frustratingly good. I say frustratingly because this song was strong enough to be on No Line on the Horizon in the first place, but was either cut due to length of the album, or cut in favour of another song. This song isn't really available commercially yet, but it is used in Jim Sheridan's latest film, Brothers. This makes a lot of sense considering the film involves a soldier serving in Afghanistan, and Bono uses his character of a soldier serving in Afghanistan in his narration for this song. One can only hope that this track will become widely available because it certainly deserves some attention.