RELEASE TUESDAY: July 29, 2014

July 27th, 2014


Various Artists: Beck Song Reader (Capitol)
File Under: Pop, Rock

One of the most unique ideas for releasing new music was brought forth by Beck, who originally released it as sheet music only Now, artists like Jack White, Fun, Norah Jones, Jason Isbell, Swamp Dogg, Jack Black, and even Beck himself have recorded the tracks.

James Brown: Get On Up: The James Brown Story Soundtrack (UMe)
File Under: Soundtrack, R&B, Soul, Funk

Back in 1991, Brown’s box set entitled Star Time received a Grammy for Best Album Notes with contributing work from Harry Weinger on the liner notes. Over 20 years later, and Harry is still helping to preserve the man’s legacy.

A couple of tracks here are previously unreleased including “Please Please Please (Live)” and “It’s A Man’s Man’s Man’s World (Live).”

The film opens nationwide on August 1st.

As only James Brown could do…

Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers: Hypnotic Eye (Warner Bros.)
File Under: Rock

Tom Petty returns for his lucky 13th album.

N’Sync: The Essential (Sony/Legacy)
File Under: Pop, Compilation

In the late ’90s/early ’00s, Justin Timberlake, Lance Bass, JC Chasez, and the rest of the gang ruled pop radio and the album charts. This 2-CD compilation chronicles their success.

Marc Broussard: A Life Worth Living (Vanguard)
File Under: Pop, Soul

The album cover looks like it could have been on the cover of the Saturday Evening Post. Marc’s new album is streaming in full over at his official website.

Eric Clapton & Friends: The Breeze: An Appreciation Of JJ Cale (Bushbranch/Surfdog)
File Under: Rock

Clapton pays tribute to the man who inspired him throughout his career. Other artists paying tribute to Cale include Tom Petty, Willie Nelson, Derek Trucks, Mark Knopfler, and John Mayer, among others.

Cassandra Wilson: Traveling Miles (Blue Note/Universal)
Donald Byrd: Blackbyrd (Blue Note/Universal)
Joe Henderson: Mode For Joe (Blue Note/Universal)
Kenny Burrell: Midnight Blue (Blue Note/Universal)
Kenny Dorham: Afro-Cuban (Blue Note/Universal)
File Under: Jazz, Vinyl

For their fifth installment of jazz vinyl reissue series, Blue Note offers up some new(ish) (Cassandra Wilson) and some classics (Kenny Dorham, Donald Byrd, Joe Henderson, and Kenny Burrell).


July 25th, 2014

Dom Flemons may be most recognized as a member of the Grammy-winning group Carolina Chocolate Drops, but he is no stranger to solo work. On his latest project, Prospect Hill (which we’re also happy to see was released on vinyl), he continues blazing down the folk path that made many music fans fall in love with him but also expands his comfort zone with extremely positive results.

It’s readily apparent that this album – and this career – is a true labor of love for him. As you scan through the album booklet, where most artists only cobble together a Thank You’s section, Flemons has taken the time to give a full paragraph commentary on each track presented on this 14-track opus. It’s this attention to detail that breathes added life into each track but also helps to bring understanding and sense of community to the folk craft that he is both trying to shine a light upon its past while also paving a road for its future.

There are tracks that harken to the styles that were prevalent on albums like Genuine Negro Jig by the Carolina Chocolate Drops like “Polly Put The Kettle On,” a traditional that he has arranged here, or “But They Got It Fixed Right On” with its well-placed jug playing (by Flemons) and Brian Horton’s sax. However, Flemons also pays tribute to the jazz of New Orleans on “‘Til The Sea Runs Dry” with some fantastic clarinet work (also by Brian Horton). On the studio version of “I Can’t Do It Anymore,” he cites Fats Domino, Carl Perkins, and Hank Ballard as influences and with an electric guitar sprinkled throughout the track played by Keith Ganz, there’s a nod to ’40s and ’50s rock and roll. On the acoustic version shown below, it oozes a ’40s postwar blues feel. Both versions are sensational.

The full album was premiered via USA Today and is still available for a limited time.

He’s on a handful of tour dates through mid-August before joining up with Pokey LaFarge on the Central Time Tour as a special guest and master of ceremonies, which is sure to be a fantastic time for those who are into the American roots music scene.

With Prospect Hill, Flemons proves that his professed American Songster title is well-earned. The genre couldn’t ask for a better spokesperson, from the standpoint of an artist who is well-versed on its history and one that is well-equipped to keep carrying its torch.

RELEASE TUESDAY: July 22, 2014

July 20th, 2014


Dom Flemons: (Music Maker Relief Foundation)
File Under: Folk, Roots

The former Carolina Chocolate Drop is releasing a solo album of songs new and old. Fans of CCD will not be disappointed with this album.

Back in June, American Songwriter premiered the lovely “San Francisco Baby.”

Common: Nobody’s Smiling (Def Jam)
File Under: Hip-Hop

The Chicago MC releases a brand new album of hard hitting rhymes and partners up with other upcoming talent from the city. A standard and deluxe edition exist, but so does this Target exclusive version which includes another bonus track entitled “City To City.”

Okayplayer is streaming the album in full prior to release.

Common: “Made In Black America”

RELEASE TUESDAY: July 15, 2014

July 13th, 2014


Erykah Badu: Mama’s Gun (Motown, Music On Vinyl)
File Under: R&B, Soul, Vinyl

MOV is putting out the first public issue of Badu’s Mama’s Gun on vinyl. Previously only promo copies were sent out to tastemakers, DJs, etc. The album finds the Soulquarians (who produced albums for The Roots, D’Angelo, Slum Village, and Common) in top form.

Erykah Badu: “Bag Lady”

Puss N Boots: No Fools, No Fun (Blue Note)
File Under: Pop, Country, Singer-Songwriter

After playing together since 2008, the trio of Catherine Popper, Sasha Dobson, and Norah Jones release their debut album that features a handful of originals and the rest are covers of primarily country music. Amazon’s exclusive version features two bonus tracks, a cover of Johnny Cash’s “Cry, Cry, Cry” and the classic “In A Shanty In Old Shanty Town.”

The band performs the Norah Jones original “Don’t Know What It Means” for the Wall Street Journal in the video below.

Jason Mraz: Yes! (Atlantic)
File Under: Pop

An exclamatory album title from Mr. A-Z. He made a short film entitled “We Can Take The Long way,” which can be seen below, to promote its release.

Various Artists: Eccentric Soul: The Way Out Label (Numero)
File Under: R&B, Soul, Reissue, Vinyl, Compilation

The boys in Chicago just keep compiling these impressive compilations of labels long lost, or sometimes never even known, outside of their home territory. The Way Out label was headquartered in Cleveland when another all-time sports talent had a grip on the city, Jim Brown.

Various Artists: Wish I Was Here Soundtrack (Columbia)
File Under: Pop, Indie, Soundtrack

Zach Braff (Garden State) is at it again with a new film and curating a soundtrack to go with it including a number of indie darlings such as Cat Power, Bon Iver, The Shins, Hozier, and The Head And The Heart. A vinyl version will follow on August 6th.

The full album can be streamed over at EW’s site. You can also hear the title track sung by Cat Power and written by Coldplay below.

3rd Bass: Cactus Album (Def Jam/Universal)
File Under: Hip-Hop, Vinyl

A vinyl reissue of the album that spawned hits like “Steppin’ To The A.M.” and “The Gas Face,” the latter of which featured a nice Aretha Franklin sample. Oh shit, another gas face victim! The video features a ton of cameos of Gilbert Gottfried, Flavor Flav, Russell Simmons, Erick Sermon, and more.

Want to see MF Doom unmasked? Check out the 2:50 mark when he was still known as Zev Love X.

Word up to MC Serch, DJ Richie Rich, and Pete Nice!

3rd Bass: “The Gas Face”


July 10th, 2014

Album: The Complete Remastered Keen Collection (ABKCO, 2011)

At Record Racks, our goal is to provide you with the best information we can when reviewing albums or providing news about releases. We’re not above being corrected. In fact, we welcome it. Music buying decisions can be swayed based on reviews, something we don’t take lightly, and even opinions need to be rooted in facts. When we screw up, we want you to know about it and be updated accordingly.

Back in 2011, we reviewed a digital box set of Sam Cooke’s material that was released outside the USA (due to licensing restrictions) covering his earlier pop recordings on Keen. In it, we incorrectly used a term about some of the songs sounding brickwalled, a technical industry term. We didn’t do our due diligence of researching the issue, and for that we apologize to not only you, our readers, but to the mastering engineer of ABKCO, Teri Landi. As it turns out, the sound quality issues in question related to what was on the original master tapes, not something done to them by Ms. Landi.

An update to the original article has been posted.

Even three years later, a number of Sam’s recordings are still only available in this set (beyond its initial vinyl release in the ’50s and ’60s, of course), which makes this set indispensable for lovers of Sam Cooke and pop music in general. We’re ecstatic that ABKCO put forth the time, effort, and resources to get these recordings to market for a new generation to discover and an older generation to reacquaint themselves with.


July 6th, 2014


Sia: 1000 Forms of Fear (RCA)
File Under: Pop

Sia’s latest album includes the hit and lead single “Chandelier.”

Maxi Priest: Easy To Love (VP Records)
File Under: Reggae

It’s been a few years since we last heard from Maxi Priest, but with his return he is as easy to love as ever.

Maxi Priest feat. Beres Hammond: “Without A Woman”

Richard Marx: Beautiful Goodbye (Target Exclusive Version) (Zanzibar)
File Under: Pop

Even longer away from the scene, hit songwriter and artist Richard Marx returns with an album of new material. Target is offering an exclusive version with 2 bonus tracks. The title track, embedded below, was co-written with Daisy Fuentes, the former MTV VJ, who is rumored to be dating him.

Leela James: Fall For You (BMG)
File Under: R&B

The husky voiced R&B star releases her fifth album. The title track is featured below which is a beautiful acoustic ballad.


June 29th, 2014

Ninety miles outside… New York? Well, the city is different this time around. Back in 1998, New Radicals frontman Gregg Alexander co-wrote “Someday We’ll Know” with Danielle Brisebois and Debra Holland. Although “You Get What You Give,” from the same album, found Top 40 success on the charts with its punchy, pop sass, “Someday We’ll Know,” its followup didn’t have quite the same impact. It’s been covered several times, most notably by Mandy Moore on A Walk To Remember as well as by Hall & Oates, but it’s largely forgotten on 90s radio playlists. With its cleverly played metaphor of the unanswered mystery of lost love compared with other things we’ll never know the answers to – Did the captain of the Titanic cry? – it was a master class in pop songwriting.

Over 15 years later, Alexander and Brisebois have teamed up again to cover similar ground with the linchpin song to the new Keira Knightly/Adam Levine film Begin Again entitled “Lost Stars.” This time around, instead of their own band performing it, they get megastar Adam Levine to take center stage and have it wrapped inside a summer movie. Maybe this time, their tale will get more notice. Some concepts are worth being revisited.

Thematically, they’re the same song, looking back on love that flowered but only saw a short season and trying to cope with the loss. One line defines that best: “I’ll be damned Cupid’s demanding back his arrow.” Even lyrically and stylistically, some of the same ideas are broached: conversations with God and celestial wonders alongside rhetorical questions. However, “Lost Stars” as a whole has a new maturity to it. Instead of ending on “I told you so’s,” it’s daring enough to set what can’t be captured free. It’s willing to ask the questions and be content with no response and to focus on the positive. At one point Levine pleads, “Don’t you dare let our best memories bring you sorrow.”

With all the success that Levine has had over the past several years outside of music including being voted People’s Sexiest Man Alive and becoming a fixture on a hit primetime television series (The Voice) along with his band taking on a less organic sound, it may be easy to forget just what a unique and commanding voice he possesses. It’s welcoming to hear him tackle a pop tune that is a hit versus trying hard to be one. Switching effortlessly from his natural to falsetto voice and then unleashing fury on the bridge, on “Lost Stars” he absolutely nails it. For Alexander and Brisebois, the second time around is just as rewarding.

(Levine singing a snippet of an acoustic rendition, not available on the soundtrack, of “Lost Stars”)


June 28th, 2014


Various Artists: Begin Again Soundtrack (Deluxe Edition) (222/Interscope)
File Under: Pop, Soundtrack

Gregg Alexander and Danielle Brisebois (New Radicals) reunite as songwriting partner for a number of tracks on this soundtrack to the movie directed by John Carney (Once). The lead single is the beautiful “Lost Stars” by Adam Levine. The deluxe version contains four additional tracks.

Old Crow Medicine Show: Remedy (ATO)
File Under: Folk

The band reunites with producer Ted Hutt on their latest album.

Robin Thicke: Paula (Target Deluxe Edition) (Star Trak/Interscope)
File Under: R&B

Robin Thicke once again partners with Target for a deluxe edition. The three bonus tracks included are acoustic versions of “The Opposite Of Me,” “Too Little Too Late,” and lead single “Get Her Back.”

Vic Pitts & The Cheaters: The Lost Tapes (Secret Stash)
File Under: Funk, Soul, Vinyl

This Milwaukee band see its late ’60s/early ’70s album finally see the light of day. Aside from original material, they also offer soulful covers of Neil Young’s “Down By The River,” Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come,” Sly & The Family Stone’s “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin),” and Herbie Mann’s “Comin’ Home Baby.”


June 22nd, 2014


Ed Sheeran: X (Deluxe Edition) (Atlantic)
File Under: Pop

You’ll find this one in stores on Monday. The deluxe version of this album tacks on an additional 4 tracks. “Sing” has been blowing up radio for a while now. Not sure how we missed that Pharrell produced the track, but that would stand to reason since some of the beginning guitar notes remind us of Timberlake’s “Like I Love You.” And in the middle we’re hearing a bit of the Doobie Brothers!

Ed Sheeran: “Sing”

Bobby Hutcherson: Total Eclipse (Blue Note/Universal)
Jimmy Smith: Back At The Chicken Shack (Blue Note/Universal)
Lee Morgan: Cornbread (Blue Note/Universal)
Dexter Gordon: Go (Blue Note/Universal)
Medeski, Martin, & Wood: Combustication (Blue Note/Universal)
File Under: Jazz, Vinyl

These will be the 16th through 20th releases in the massive Blue Note 75th Anniversary initiative. We’re enjoying the spotlight being cast again on Blue Note. Be sure to keep checking Wax Poetics for your chance to win a batch of these.

Public Enemy: Yo! Bum Rush The Show (Def Jam/Universal)
File Under: Hip-Hop, Vinyl

Who knew when this album came out in 1987 that Public Enemy would become one of the great classic hip hop bands of all time? “Public Enemy No. 1″ gets a lot of the shine from this album, but our favorite is probably…

Public Enemy: “You’re Gonna Get Yours”

Various Artists: Eccentric Soul: Capitol City Soul (Numero)
File Under: Soul

Capitol City Soul continues the tradition set forth by Numero’s first entry into their Eccentric Soul series: expanding upon the musical heritage of Columbus, Ohio. As described by Numero on their WordPress page:

“Capitol City Soul paints a more detailed picture of what was really going on in Columbus, Ohio from the late 1960s to the mid-1970s. It starts before Capsoul, with groups like The Soul Partners and The Chandlers, and continues on past Capsoul’s untimely demise, following artists like The Kool Blues, The Four Mints, Dean Francis, and Jeff Smith through the later dimensions of their unsung careers. All of this material was unearthed in the ten years since our Capsoul project launched the label, and almost all of it was previously unreleased (or at least barely known.) While it may not have the fanfare of the original release, it was a truly unique document that only Numero (and co-producer Dante Carfagna) could ever be in a position to unearth.”

RELEASE TUESDAY: June 17, 2014

June 15th, 2014


Willie Nelson: Band Of Brothers (Legacy)
File Under: Country

When I’m 81 years old, I pray that I’m still doing what I love like Willie Nelson, whose voice still sounds as perfect as it did 50 years ago. NPR is streaming the album in full.

Here he is performing the title track on Letterman last week.

Karl Hector & The Malcouns: Unstraight Ahead (Now Again)
File Under: Global Grooves

Following multiple EPs (which have exclusive tracks on them) leading up to its release, Jay Whitefield and cohorts release their new full length album. Now Again recently posted the song below from the album.

Karl Hector & The Malcouns: Push Na Ya

Jaded Incorporated: The Big Knock (Republic/Universal)
File Under: Dance, Electronic

Mayer Hawthorne and longtime pal Kendall Tucker team up for a dank album combining elements of electro, new wave, and booty music. The album is streaming in full via KCRW.

Jaded Incorporated: “Coconut Sofa”

David Gray: Mutineers (Deluxe Version) (+180 Records)
File Under: Pop

David Gray releases a new album featuring lead single “Back In The World.” The deluxe version includes a previously unreleased live album (2 CDs) for a few bucks more. Completists may want to note that the vinyl version of the album contains an exclusive track called “Nearly Midnight,” although it also appears to be on available on iTunes as well.

David Gray: “Back In The World”

Sam Smith: In The Lonely Hour (Target Deluxe Edition) (Capitol/Universal)
File Under: Pop

Haunting music from newcomer Sam Smith. The Target version includes 3 bonus tracks including a duet of his big hit “Stay With Me.”

Sam Smith: “Stay With Me”

Sam Smith: Ultraviolence (Target Deluxe Edition) (Interscope)
File Under: Pop

Lana Del Rey teams up with Dan Auerbach from The Black Keys to produce her new album. Target’s deluxe edition includes a bonus track, “Flipside.”