Previewing new albums from New Order, John Mellencamp, Andrea Bocelli, Ozzy Osbourne, and more.
'Heads' Or Tails
"'Cuttin' heads' is what the old blues guys used to do to each other," says John Mellencamp of the phrase from which his new Columbia album draws its name. "They'd play on street corners. One would have one corner and one would have the other, and the guy who drew the biggest crowd would be the winner." That rough and ragged spirit pervades "Cuttin' Heads," which Mellencamp describes as "a little bit of rock, a little bit of soul, and a little bit of country."
Highlights include the groove-rich first single "Peaceful World" (featuring Indie.Arie), the title track (with a rap by Public Enemy's Chuck D), "Crazy Island," the melodically strong "Worn Out Nervous Condition," and "Deep Blue Heart," a duet with Trisha Yearwood.
Mellencamp admits the ghosts of his past albums, especially his recent ones, haunt him still. "My records have gotten too musical, with too many melodies," he says. "They're too intricate. [1996's] Mr. Happy-Go-Lucky is so sophisticated. If I hear a song from that on the radio, I think, 'Was I in Yes or something?' I just wanted to make a very simple record and get away from loops and all that crap."
How does one explain the success of Andrea Bocelli with Latin audiences? The Italian tenor does not speak Spanish (unlike Laura Pausini) and has yet to record an entire album in that language (unlike Pausini, Eros Ramazotti, and Nek). Yet Bocelli's past two albums have sold millions of copies in the Latin region on the strength of merely a few Spanish tracks each. And he is expected to repeat that feat with the upcoming "Cieli di Toscana" (Sugar/Polydor), due this week worldwide.
The version being released to the Latin region, including the U.S. Latin market, will include four Spanish-language tracks. The Latin-region release of "Romanza" in 1997 included five Spanish tracks, while 1999's "Sueno" included two.
"I've recorded in Spanish because Italian songs work well in Spanish, given the similarities between the two languages," Bocelli says. In choosing what songs from "Cieli" to translate into Spanish, including the single "Melodrama," Bocelli says he focused on those "which lent themselves better to Spanish and those that had a more significant text, a richer content."
'Earth' To Ozzy
Ozzy Osbourne is in good spirits these days and for good reason. Thanks to the love and guidance of his wife/manager, Sharon, the 52-year-old singer is reigning supreme over the metal nation 31 years since his debut with Black Sabbath. The Osbourne-headlined Ozzfest is still going strong after six years; his solo album "Down to Earth" is due this week from Epic; and the singer has not only reunited with his Sabbath pals several times in recent years, but they've also begun work on a Rick Rubin-produced studio set.
Indeed, Ozzy is just a regular guy these days. And that's the point of first single "Gets Me Through," a letter of thanks and explanation to his fans, in which he sings "I'm not the kind of person you think I am/I'm not the anti-Christ or the iron man." "I've had kids come up to me at Ozzfest, saying, 'Ozzy's bigger than God.' I'm not bigger than God," Osbourne insists. "I'm just a guy whose had a great gift of entertainment bestowed upon him.
A collaboration with songwriter/producer Tim Palmer (the Cure, Tears for Fears), "Down" -- which includes songwriting contributions by Foreigner's Mick Jones -- features longtime axeman Zakk Wylde, former Faith No More drummer Mike Bordin, and Suicidal Tendencies bassist Robert Trujillo. A U.S. tour with Rob Zombie and Mudvayne begins Oct. 31 in Tucson, Ariz.
'Ready' Set Go
New Order's "Get Ready" (Reprise) includes "Crystal," which is No. 1 on Billboard's Hot Dance Music: Club Play chart. "Time's a great healer," frontman Bernard Sumner says of the group's first album since 1993's "Republic." "It made me remember the good things about being in New Order, not just the bad."
A nod to the group's rock roots -- New Order formed in 1980 from the ashes of hallowed post-punk act Joy Division -- "Get Ready" is more guitar-inflected than New Order's previous two sets, which were dominated by synthesizers and club beats. Ex-Smashing Pumpkins frontman Billy Corgan and Primal Scream members Bobby Gillespie and Innes guest on the album.
The group rocks hard on likely second single "60 Miles An Hour," the dark "Primitive Notion," and "Rock the Shack." A North American tour is planned for early next year, but Sumner refrains from looking too far into the future. "When the group started working again, we decided we'd take it one day at a time. We'd do one concert, if we liked that, we'd do another. If we liked the concerts, we'd do an album. If we like the album, we'd tour, and so forth. We've never been a band to plan too far ahead."
Additional titles hitting stores this week include modern rock act Lit's "Atomic" (RCA); afro-beat mainstay Femi Kuti's "Fight to Win" (MCA); punk pioneers Fugazi's "The Argument" (Dischord); country act Pat Green's "Three Days" (Republic/Universal); rapper T.I.'s "I'm Serious" (Ghet-O-Vision/Arista); the soundtrack to the 'N Sync film "On the Line" (Jive Electro); the 12-CD Grateful Dead box set, "The Golden Road (1965-1973)" (Rhino); an archival live album from the Who's Pete Townshend and multi-instrumentalist Raphael Rudd, "The Oceanic Concerts" (Rhino); pianist Cyrus Chestnut's "Soul Food" (Atlantic); Squirrel Nut Zippers principal James Malthus' album with the Knockdown Society, "National Antiseptic" (Mammoth); the hunger benefit compilation "Groundwork," featuring tracks by Madonna and David Gray (Groundwork 2001); the four-CD Quincy Jones box set "Q: The Musical Biography" (Rhino); a two-CD reissue of Bob Marley's "Exodus" (Island); the sixth installment in the live Phish series, "11/27/98 Worcester, Mass." (Elektra); and the three-CD live Velvet Underground set "Bootleg Series, Vol. 1: The Quine Tapes" (Polydor).