Previewing new albums from Dave Matthews Band, Flaming Lips, Robert Plant, and more.
If at first you don't succeed, try again. That's just what Dave Matthews Band did after sessions with producer Steve Lillywhite were abandoned in the fall of 2000, in favor of all new recordings with producer Glen Ballard that produced the chart-topping album "Everyday." Soon enough, tracks from the Lillywhite sessions appeared on Internet file-swapping sites and in the band's live setlists, with fans clamoring for their official release.
The leaks were a frustrating experience that Matthews likens to "a painter finding his painting for sale in a gallery before he's finished it. It was a huge violation." But earlier this year, the band returned to the source material and re-recorded a host of the tunes for "Busted Stuff," due this week from RCA. The collection finds Matthews offering far more soulful vocals than he has previously, his rich baritone and warmly conversational tone particularly effective on the jazz-kissed "Grace Is Gone" and the gentle first single "Where Are You Going."
"This record captured a precious time for this band," Matthews says. "Throughout the process, there was a deep sense of caring between us. It was a reaffirming experience for us, on both musical and personal levels. The bond among us always felt strong, but we realized that it was unbreakable. It was fantastic." DMB is on tour in North America through the fall.
Some of the best music is the kind that can't be easily described, or better still, even described at all. Over the past two decades, Oklahoma City's Flaming Lips have produced plenty of it, guided by an offbeat creative yearning with seemingly boundless ambition. "Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots," due this week from Warner Bros., is the latest superlative sonic salvo fired by a band responsible for everything from an enduring alt-rock anthem (1994's top-10 airplay hit "She Don't Use Jelly") to 1997's "Zaireeka," a single album split onto four separate CDs.
Indeed, since the late-'90s departure of guitarist Ronald Jones, Lips principals Wayne Coyne, Steven Drozd, and Michael Ivins have operated less and less like a traditional band. For one, a song must be finished from beginning to end (including recording and mixing) before work on another commences. Idea fragments are paired with outlandish and complex counterparts, with no regard for the difficulty of eventually reproducing them live.
"We decided, let's think of us as being a studio creation," Coyne says. "For better or worse, I think our best moments are something intangible that comes out of the speakers. It's not a performance. I think in a sense, because we work with Dave Fridmann and he's our friend, he freed us of worrying about reproducing it. He said, 'look fellas. Let's make music. It's your problem to present it to people later.'"
"Yoshimi" is crammed with curious details (a booming announcer's voice, a live audience that repeatedly applauds for no apparent reason, the hyper-active chirping of Boredoms drummer Yoshimi P-we). Yet somehow, the songs overflow with beautiful melodies, from the gently grooving artificial intelligence rumination "One More Robot/Sympathy 3000-21" to the heart-heavy "It's Summertime" and "In the Morning of the Magicians" and the endearingly playful "Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots pt. 1." The group joins Cake, De La Soul, Modest Mouse, and Kinky July 31 on the Unlimited Sunshine tour.
For the soundtrack to the third Austin Powers movie, "Goldmember," due this week, Maverick Records is recreating the series' '70s-meets-the present vibe with songs from classic artists of yesteryear (Rolling Stones, Earth, Wind & Fire) and today (Dr. Dre, Angie Stone, Smash Mouth). The film, starring Mike Myers as Powers, Dr. Evil, and Fat Bastard, arrives July 26 in U.S. theaters.
Britney Spears' "Boys" -- which also appeared on her third Jive album "Britney" -- was remixed by the Neptunes' Pharrell Williams for the soundtrack. The Neptunes also produced the set's first single, "Work It Out" by Beyonce Knowles of Destiny's Child, who also stars in the film. Knowles makes a second appearance on the disc, in character as Foxxy Cleopatra featuring Devin and Solange (Knowles' younger sister) on "Hey Goldmember," a tribute to Shirley Bassey's "Goldfinger" theme song from the James Bond movie of that title.
Other material making its first appearance on the soundtrack includes Smash Mouth's "Ain't No Mystery" and Dr. Dre's remix of the Rolling Stones' "Miss You," formerly a No. 1 hit on Billboard's Hot 100 in 1978. DJ superstar Paul Oakenfold turns in "1975," while Angie Stone contributes her version of King Floyd's classic soul cut "Groove Me." Soul Hooligan drafts Diana King for a remake of Electric Light Orchestra's "Evil Woman."
Perchance To 'Dream'
"My ability and vocal chords are all in good shape, but I haven't really felt substantially relevant as a lyricist for a long time." A stunning admission, but one characteristic of Robert Plant, the disarmingly honest voice of Led Zeppelin, whose new Universal album, "Dreamland," is essentially a set of covers.
In addition to delivering versions of Bob Dylan's "One More Cup of Coffee," Tim Buckley's "Song to the Siren," and Jimi Hendrix's "Hey Joe," the set also includes "Skip's Song" -- penned by troubled Moby Grape singer Skip Spence -- and Arthur Crudup's "Win My Train," in which Plant includes passages from Crudup's "That's Alright Mama," Robert Johnson's "Milk Cows Calf Blues," and John Lee Hooker's "Crawlin' King Snake."
"They were songs that I've always loved, and I didn't see them as covers because I was there when they were being written," Plant explains. "It was just this period in American music [that] I'd never really got near [to] vocally in my adventures up to now. So I thought, 'I'm dry as a bone, but these songs are still vibrant.'" The artist will open shows on the East Coast leg of the Who's North American tour this summer and returns for headlining dates in the fall.
Additional titles hitting stores this week include:
-- Australian rock outfit the Vines' hotly tipped debut album, "Highly Evolved" (Capitol).
-- U.K. rock act A's "Hi-Fi Serious" (Mammoth/Hollywood).
-- An archival concert set from Simon & Garfunkel, "Live From New York City 1967" (Columbia/Legacy).
-- Inspirational act Mary Mary's "In the Morning" (Columbia).
-- A new album from country star Darryl Worley, "I Miss My Friend" (DreamWorks).
-- An expanded reissue of David Bowie's seminal "The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars" (Virgin).
-- U.K. dance/electronic trio Morcheeba's "Charango" (Reprise/Sire).
-- A reissue of roots rock act Drive-By Truckers' "Southern Rock Opera" (Lost Highway).
-- Philadelphia-based rock outfit Marah's "Float Away With the Friday Night Gods" (Artemis), featuring a guest appearance from Bruce Springsteen.
-- R&B vocalist Jerzee Monet's "Love & War" (DreamWorks).
-- A collaboration between Space Monkeyz and Gorillaz, "Laika Come Home" (Astralwerks).
-- Rock act Pulse Ultra's "Headspace" (Atlantic).
-- Beat Happening principal Calvin Johnson's "What Was Me" (K).
-- A best of from veteran country vocalist Randy Travis, "Trail of Memories: The Anthology" (Rhino).