Previewing new albums from Sheryl Crow, Phish, Michelle Williams, the Band, and more.
After walking away from the record for a spell, and at times contemplating bringing in an outside producer or even setting it aside to make a record of covers instead, Crow finally completed "C'mon, C'mon," due this week from A&M/Interscope. Despite her inner turmoil, Crow believes she ultimately accomplished what she set out to do: "I wanted to make a rock record that I could play in the summer, in the heat, that just rocked like the old classic rock records."
First single "Soak Up the Sun" is a bouncy toe-tapper with Liz Phair on backing vocals, and is No. 8 on Billboard's Adult Top 40 Tracks chart this week. Another song sure to draw attention is "It's So Easy," a beautiful duet that reunites Crow with Don Henley, for whom she used to sing back-up. In addition to Phair, Henley, and Stevie Nicks -- who sings on the title track -- the album features a pack of other high-profile guest stars, including Lenny Kravitz (on the swaggering "You're an Original"), Dixie Chick Natalie Maines (the country-tinged "Abilene"), and Emmylou Harris ("Weather Channel").
"I didn't think about it until it was almost finished, and then I thought, 'It's almost like a duets album,'" Crow recalls. "People who are on the record are like family to me. Most of the time I can't believe I'm singing with these people." Crow will headline the Jeep Outside festival, which will hit North American amphitheaters beginning July.
Hibernating jam band Phish issues the next six shows in its ongoing Live Phish series this week via Elektra. The performances, each covering three discs, are: 8/26/89 (Townshend, Vt.); 8/14/93 (Tinley Park, Ill.); 6/22/94 (Columbus, Ohio); 8/13/96 (Noblesville, Ind.); 11/17/97 (Denver); and 7/10/99 (Camden, N.J.). This time, four of the titles will feature assorted "filler tracks" from concerts around the respective dates of the original shows.
"We got nice E-mails and we got frustrated E-mails," guitarist Trey Anastasio says of fan response to the first volley in the Live Phish series. "One of the common frustrated E-mails was [that we released] too many from 2000 and not enough from [older eras]. And they would say, 'why don't you put one out from summer of such and such?' So we did. Because our theory about it, among the four of us, is that they know much more about what's good Phish and what's bad Phish than we do!"
The shows in the second batch feature multiple versions of such Phish staples as "The Divided Sky" and "David Bowie" alongside such covers as jazz organist Jimmy Smith's "Back at the Chicken Shack" and the bluegrass favorite "Rocky Top." The 1996 Indiana show boasts an unusual second set of numbers performed solo by keyboardist Page McConnell, as well as songs played by the full band on a mini-acoustic stage. The hometown 1989 Vermont gig, held at a park in front of several thousand fans, drew what at the time was one of Phish's largest crowds.
'Heart' To Heart
With Music World/Sony's release this week of "Heart to Yours," Destiny's Child member Michelle Williams hopes to strike a gospel chord with the gushing fan base of teens who have made the group R&B's reigning female superstars. "There is a song for everyone-[of] every age," Williams says of the inviting collection of tightly synchronized harmonies that span inspirational and contemporary urban gospel to hardcore traditional.
Album highlights include guest vocals from Mary Mary, who groove with Williams on the Mervyn Campbell-produced cut "Glad to Be Here (So Glad)"; Men of Standard, who back her on the rousing "You Cared for Me"; R&B crooner Carl Thomas, with whom she teamed for a remake of BeBe & CeCe Winans' classic "Heaven"; and lead single "Heard a Word." Williams' duet with Shirley Caesar on the traditional "Steal Away to Jesus" was previously featured on Caesar's Grammy Award-winning "Hymns" album.
"Some people will do gospel when their career fails, but I chose to do it at the height of the popularity of Destiny's Child," Williams explains. "And I didn't want to do it because it was a fad. I wanted to do it because it's in me. It's in my heart."
One 'Last Waltz'
Rhino Records, United Artists, and MGM Home Entertainment have teamed for a variety of projects to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the final concert by the original incarnation of the Band, later released as an album and a film under the name "The Last Waltz." United Artists is re-releasing the Martin Scorsese-directed film for a limited theatrical run beginning April 5, while Rhino will issue a four-CD boxed set version of the album on April 16. A special edition DVD from MGM arrives May 7.
The five-hour show, held on Thanksgiving Day 1976 at the Winterland Theatre in San Francisco, found the Band's Robbie Robertson, Levon Helm, Rick Danko, Garth Hudson, and Richard Manuel backed by a dazzling array of guests, including Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, Ringo Starr, Joni Mitchell, Muddy Waters, Emmylou Harris, and Van Morrison. The original 30-track album documenting the show was released by Warner Bros. in 1978.
The new boxed set, supervised and remastered by Robertson, tacks on 24 more tracks from the concert and rehearsals. Among them are Band performances with Mitchell, Clapton, Dylan, and Young; Robertson's demo for "The Last Waltz" theme; two previously unreleased jams; and more. "Watching 'The Last Waltz' again, I get blinded by the same thrill that music gives you when you realize it's your passion," Robertston says. "It's that thing that gave you chills."
Additional titles hitting stores this week include:
-- Industrial rock act KMFDM's "Attak" (Metropolis).
-- Motown legends the Temptations' "My Girl: The Very Best of" (UTV).
-- New MCA albums from punk-influenced rock outfits Midtown ("Living Well Is the Best Revenge) and Legends Of Rodeo ("A Thousand Friday Nights").
-- A best-of from singer/songwriter Jane Siberry, "Love Is Everything: The Anthology" (Rhino).
-- A new album from Chicago bass-and-drums trio Dianogah, "Millions of Brazilians" (Southern).
-- Veteran underground rock act the Melvins' "Hostile Ambient Takeover" (Ipecac).
-- Singer/songwriter David Bazan's latest set under the Pedro The Lion moniker, "Control" (Jade Tree).