Previewing new albums from Vince Gill, John Mayer, Kenny Lattimore/Chante Moore, and more.
That 'Thing' He Does
After years of working with producer Tony Brown, Vince Gill decided to produce his new MCA album, "Next Big Thing," on his own. "I didn't want politics and business to dictate where I would wind up or who I would work with," Gill says of his decision to self-produce with the help of engineer Justin Niebank. In setting out to record the album, Gill says he was in "a great creative place."
His vocal guests on this new album include his wife Amy Grant, Emmylou Harris, Lee Ann Womack, Leslie Satcher, and Michael McDonald. His studio band included such luminaries as Al Anderson and Mac McAnally. In addition to producing, Gill wrote or co-wrote every track on the album. He co-authored one of its best tracks, the beautiful ballad "Someday," with Richard Marx.
The title cut, which is No. 18 on Billboard's Hot Country Singles & Tracks chart, is a tongue-in-cheek look at the artist turnover in the country-music business. But Gill tackles the same subject again in the more serious ballad "Young Man's Town." Says Gill, "I think people's first impression when they hear ["Young Man's Town"] is 'Well, this guy is bitter,' and it couldn't be further from the truth. The real crux to that song is [that] it's kind of like [parenthood]. You know your kids are going to screw things up, [but] you have to let them."
Gill began a 16-date tour of small North American venues last week in Minneapolis. In the summer, the artist says he plans to hit the road again for some acoustic shows "with just me and my guitar." Venues for that part of the tour will include West Coast wineries and some small, outdoor pavilions. For those shows, Gill says, he won't have a set list and will just play songs that fans request.
It's A 'Given'
Fresh off news of a pair of Grammy nominations, John Mayer this week unveils "Any Given Thursday," a Columbia/Aware DVD/VHS and double-CD document of a Sept. 12, 2002, concert at Oak Mountain Amphitheater in Birmingham, Ala.
The release features Mayer's breakthrough hits "No Such Thing" and "Your Body Is a Wonderland," the latter of which is No. 5 on Billboard's Adult Top 40 chart and No. 21 on the Billboard Hot 100. Mayer also tackles the Police's "Message in a Bottle" and offers up the previously unreleased originals "Something's Missing" and "Lenny/Man on the Side."
Beyond the show footage, both the DVD and VHS editions of "Any Given Thursday" feature a backstage sequence titled "Any Given Soundcheck," and an interview segment dubbed "The Morning After." The DVD boasts such bonus items as a photo gallery and an audio commentary from Mayer.
Continuing a time-honored tradition of R&B duos that includes the couplings of Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell, Peaches & Herb, and Rene & Angela, husband and wife team Kenny Lattimore and Chante Moore celebrate love on "Things That Lovers Do," due this week from Arista.
While the album primarily is a tribute to classic duets (i.e., Billy Preston & Syreeta's "With You I'm Born Again," Rene & Angela's "You Don't Have To Cry"), it also features two new songs by Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis: the title track and "Loveable." Among the standout tracks are two classics by another famed duo, husband-and-wife team Nick Ashford and Valerie Simpson: "You're All I Need to Get By" and the pair's own 1978 hit "Is It Still Good to Ya." Besides Jam & Lewis, producers include Daryl Simmons, Jamey Jaz, Jamie Hawkins, and James Poyser.
"You can be in love with someone all you want, but it's a whole different thing when they're also in your work space," Lattimore observes. "So one of the first questions we considered was how it would work once we recorded and were asked to perform together. We actually did a few appearances on awards shows to see how it would be."
The pair also play the leading roles in a play that shares the album's title. During its first run, "Things That Lovers Do" is stopping in Washington, D.C. (Feb. 10-16), New York (Feb. 18-23), Detroit (Feb. 24-March 2), Philadelphia (March 3-16), and Baltimore (March 17-23). West Coast dates may be added later in the year after Moore gives birth to the couple's first child in the spring.
The long-delayed Ramones tribute album, "We're a Happy Family," finally arrives this week via DV8/Columbia. The project, which includes Ramones covers by such artists as U2, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Kiss, Rob Zombie, Tom Waits, Rancid, and Metallica, was supposed to come out early 2002, but, as Johnny Ramone tells it, "the delay was because of contracts, record companies, and lawyers. There were so many things, like how much time before [the artists] can use the songs on their albums, and I'm going, 'Who cares?' "
Ramone says his favorite tracks include Kiss' "Do You Remember Rock 'N' Roll Radio" and Vedder's [with Zeke] "I Believe in Miracles." "Eddie did the version I would have liked to have done as the Ramones," Ramone says, "but we were trying to make a single and took all the guts out of it."
Zombie hopes the project brings more acclaim to the group. "With two of the main guys passing away [Joey Ramone died in April 2001, Dee Dee Ramone in June 2002], it's coming kind of late, but at the very least, I'd like this to be the biggest record the band ever had so Johnny could have a platinum record," he says. "There are so many bands who have platinum records by stealing everything he invented. It would be nice if he could reap the rewards."
A limited-version Digipak designed by Zombie carries a $13.98 price tag. Both it and the standard jewel-box edition include a 24-page booklet with previously unpublished photos and an appreciation written by Stephen King. Partial proceeds from the album will go to the Lymphoma Research Foundation in honor of Joey Ramone, who died of the disease.
Additional titles hitting stores this week include:
-- The first new studio album from U.K. electronica/soul outfit Massive Attack in nearly five years, "100th Window" (Virgin).
-- A new album from New Age pianist Yanni, "Ethnicity" (Virgin).
-- A concert set from country veteran George Strait, "For the Last Time -- Live From the Astrodome" (MCA).
-- The fourth album from U.K. rock quartet Supergrass, "Life on Other Planets" (Island).
-- Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds' "Nocturama" (Anti/Epitaph).
-- A retrospective from renowned DJ Paul Van Dyk, "Global" (Mute).
-- A new set from '80s pop stars Daryl Hall & John Oates, "Do It for Love" (U-Watch).
-- Bluesman John Hammond's "Ready for Love" (Back Porch).
-- An album from late guitar legend John Fahey, "Red Cross" (Revenant), featuring interpretations of George and Ira Gershwin's "Summertime" and Irving Berlin's "Remember."
-- The Red Storm/Epic debut from underground luminary DJ Envy, "The Desert Storm Mixtape: DJ Envy Blok Party Vol. 1."
-- The Curb multi-artist tribute set "The Songs of Hank Williams Jr. (A Bocephus Celebration)," with songs by Trick Pony, Montgomery Gentry, Alan Jackson, .38 Special, and Lynyrd Skynyrd.
-- A new album from former Chisel frontman Ted Leo & the Pharmacists, "Hearts of Oak" (Lookout!).
-- Kings Of Convenience principal Erland Oye's "Unrest" (Source/Astralwerks).
-- Reissues of the Al Green albums "Gets Next to You," "Green Is Blues," "I'm Still in Love With You: Anniversary Edition," and "Let's Stay Together: Anniversary Edition" (The Right Stuff).
-- A collection spanning the first half of the career of Canadian rock trio Rush, "The Spirit of Radio" (Mercury/UME).
-- DVD-Audio editions of R.E.M.'s "Document" (I.R.S./EMI) and the Band's "Music From Big Pink" (Capitol).
-- A collection of previously unreleased Willie Nelson songs, "Crazy: The Demo Sessions" (Sugar Hill).
-- Expanded reissues of Australian pop act Men At Work's "Business As Usual" and "Cargo" (Columbia/Legacy).